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Apr 19, 2005

Comments

1.

Is there any evidence that Chinese hackers are involved in the DDOSing of Square/Enix besides racially charged attacks on gil sellers?

2.

If I remember my experience at Origin correctly, launching the Asian UO servers was a real adventure, primarily because the three cultures over there (Korea, China, Japan) don't like each other at all. It was fairly common, on those servers, for someone to ask you 'Do you speak Mandarin?' in Mandarin, and if your response wasn't in Mandarin, to kill you immediately. Hopefully, someone who was working on UO at the time can confirm these vague memories.

3.

I have seen this sort of thing in World of Warcraft as well. Groups of people get together and go to well known farming locations. They talk to the people playing in that area and if they can not answer in decent english they kill that player repeatedly. Racial profiling happens in video games too.

4.

The comment "Maybe it -would- be a good idea if opposing sides took up virtual arms – anything is better than stones and bombs" makes me quite uneasy. I understand the sentiment, and it does make sense, but I just see it as a presage to the REAL conflict. Psychological conditioning is the first step to producing unfeeling killing machines. If there is a cultural hatred (or a nationalistic feeling) and it is supported by a medium, whether it be television, cinema, art, books, or video games, it's one step toward actually using those bombs and guns.

5.

Actually looking at the threads on the bulletin boards can be painful, because of the mix of crude prejudices, youthful myopia, and poor historical education.

A note about the textbook controversy: the problematic textbooks were, in fact, written by right-wing nationalists who do, in fact, believe that Japan has "apologized too much," and support a more assertive foreign policy. However, these books are used in very few schools (specifically, those run by the right, analogous to some of our more conservative Christian schools.) Nonetheless, the Ministry of Education did approve these texts (as I understand it, all schools, public and private, must have their cirriculum reviewed and approved.) This approval is the basis of the controversy.

The antipathy between the nations should not be over-essentialized. Much of the attitude towards Japan comes as much from the (historically supportable) perception that it acts as a proxy for American interests in the region, as much as for earlier events. (The anger at the inadequacy of Japanese apology for wartime atrocities has its basis in the decision of the American occupation forces to minimize the scope of the war trials, in order to create a strong bulwark against the only major institution in Japan to truly oppose the war and the militarist regime: the Japanese Communist Party.)

The evidence that links these DDOS attacks with the current dispute is not rock-solid, but it does have some merit. The attacks began the very same day as the mass protests in China, on April 9. And there are Chinese players who are placing anti-Japanese slogans in their search fields. There have been other DDOS attacks against Japanese sites in the past week.

Is language the new "skin" of race/nationality? Many English-speaking FFXI players complain about the exclusivity of Japanese players who refuse to form groups with non-Japanese speakers. (Insofar as the most vociferous of these people complaining often express xenophobic sentiments themselves, one wonders how many of them are supporters of "English only" laws).

But going back to this incident: can we see virtual worlds as colonial spaces themselves? Is Vana'diel (FFXI)Japan? Is Ragnarok Online Korean territory? etc.

6.

The question posed at the end of Huber's post is interesting. In short: yes, I believe we can see this spaces as being colonial. But in what nature, and how do they become so? I would suggest that, just like a piece of turf, those who stand upon it assert their colonial ownership, transferring culture, language, values, et cetera to it. How easily, though, can these virtual worlds change once "claimed"?

7.

Kyle Karthauser > "Maybe it -would- be a good idea if opposing sides took up virtual arms – anything is better than stones and bombs" makes me quite uneasy. I understand the sentiment, and it does make sense, but I just see it as a presage to the REAL conflict.

I was assuming a pre-existing conflict and combatants. Though in reality I don’t think that ‘war buy other means’ will replace actual war at this stage of humanities development.

I guess the more serious point is whether MMOs are legitimate sites of political struggle. Though what ever we happen to think about it seems that this is one way that they are going to be used so we better just get used to it and try to hold onto the optimistic thought that at least range of artists and others are using games as positive means of political expression.

8.

"I would suggest that, just like a piece of turf, those who stand upon it assert their colonial ownership, transferring culture, language, values, et cetera to it. How easily, though, can these virtual worlds change once "claimed"?"

Well, these games are businesses, and therefore they are dictated by the market. If there's a USA-based game that is played by a majority of Japanese people, the game's creators (will) should maintain a greater degree of support for the Japanese people playing the game than any other group.

9.

Ren>I get an uneasy feeling when actual conflict spills over into games of conflict. But I’m not sure why. Maybe it -would- be a good idea if opposing sides took up virtual arms – anything is better than stones and bombs.

One of the problems is how the virtual shrine might undermine the MAD (mutually assured destruction) concept that has saved the world from falling over the precipice of nuclear armageddon. See my January 17 post on Egratz about this.

10.

In our games, we actually have a rule that all game communication must take place in English. There are two main reasons for this:

1) Rule Enforcement: Since our games are RP required, it would be difficult to enforce this if people could talk OOC in game by using a different language.

2) Improve Interaction: If people login to our games with a friend and only play with that friend (speaking in whatever non-english language they share), that does not have a net-benefit to the game world. Each member of the game world benefits the whole if interaction with everyone else is at least POSSIBLE.

If there was sufficient demand, I would definitely consider servers for other languages, but even on those servers there would still be a required language.

11.

To twist an old adage: It's all fun and games until your game starts a war...

Movies and television have been very instrumental in starting wars. Just look at how the media was manipulated to get Americans behind the invasion of Iraq. (I'm referring to the fact that a large proportion of Americans thought Sadam had something to do with the WTC bombing despite the lack of supporting intelligence. Faulty intelligence about his WMD is a different issue.)

Maybe some muck-raker will get thousands of people to pretend to be nationalist Chinese and send them into Japanese VWs to fester conflict between Chinese and Japanese. Hearing that "the other side" is is a bunch of liars and cheaters is one thing. Actually experiencing their (fabricated) lying and cheating would make an international conflict much more personal, much as wondering if any of my NYC friends were in the collapsing WTC made international terrorism pertinant to me. (Of course, the WTC was worse than any VW conflict.)

12.

I don't know that we can see any MMOGs as purely mono-national anymore (and don't know if that's a word either). From the interviews I've been doing here in Japan, just about everyone (these are college students) is playing Ragnarok Online and not Final Fantasy XI. Their other choice: Lineage.

News coverage has been pretty much all-China-all-the-time, and there's been another interesting thread of talk about revising Article 9 of the constitution, which prohibits the use of war and only allows for a Self Defense Force.

That said, I think it would be nice to be able to work these things out in the context of a game, but I think that our current games, even with auto-translators, are still not up to the task of allowing for serious discussion across language and/or cultural boundaries (except for the most determined few).

So maybe that's the hope of the future--spaces where we can come together and there's an expectation of serious discourse and tools to help us. But I think the bottle throwers they showed outside the Japanese embassy weren't interested in serious discourse, just like some Americans I know aren't either.

13.

Just out of curiosity, has anyone taken a look at the "Worlds at War" concept that Guild Wars is promoting? The basic idea is that the geographic region that is doing the best in their PvP ladder competitions gets special perks, including exclusive content.

It boggles my mind that they're actively encouraging nationalism, but I'm chalking it up to the 'looks good on paper' theory.

14.

I have seen this sort of thing in World of Warcraft as well.

Actually this sort of thing (targetting players because of their language) CAN'T happen in World of Warcraft since there is no way to communicate between factions. This makes the game a good deal less "impersonal" since there is no way for you to communicate with your kill, but it eliminates discrimination based on RL issues.

15.

Rich wrote:

It boggles my mind that they're actively encouraging nationalism

The entire educational system of most countries actively encourages nationalism (flags in classrooms, pledge of allegiance, etc). Some of the biggest events in the world (Olympics, World Cup, etc) promote nationalism. It's not surprising that others might do the same thing.

--matt

16.

Talking about Guild Wars, if you check their site they're listing the top 20 ranked guilds from their beta. The interesting thing is that the #1 guild is called "Dokdo Belongs To Korea" which is a referrance to an ongoing dispute with the Japanese over the Liancourt Islands.

17.

The conflict between the two nations is deeply cultural, while VW's reach relatively few people in those cultures. People will always bring their cultural views into their VW's, but rarely will the VW make a real impact on their actions in their culture.

That being said, the far eastern mindset is also fundamentally different from ours in certain ways. For example, from my stay in China I learned that they do not consider the loss of life in conflict to be a high price. They are also a proud people wanting to flex their new muscle and their knowledge of the world is very (very very very very very very) strictly regulated.

If the government decided that there would be conflict, any VW's that encouraged peace would be outlawed. Games have been outlawed for similar reasons before. Giving the people someone to hate and preaching reasons to hate them diverts resistance to the government. From my conversations with Chinese friends, it's common knowledge that there will be fighting (and that China will win, of course). This is something that has been in the making for decades.

18.

I wasn't going to comment on your remark, Jim, but I have decided it must be said: it's problematic to characterize the conflicts there as "deeply cultural." The very heart of Orientalism is to claim that the East has culture, while the West has history. There are real historical conflicts with political nuances to them. Rather than being "deeply cultural," they are part of the history of, largely, the last 130 years.

The US has had enmities at different times with Mexico, Spain, the UK, Germany, and dozens of other countries. We have gone to war twice with Germany. But if a (not-from-the-West) historian said, "the conflict between Germany and the US is deeply cultural," they'd be pretty wrong: there is no sense of conflict, there's more resentment to a country with whom the US has never warred (France).

Even the sense of "the value of life" depends on a variety of factors, historical, economic, and political, and it is by no means universal. The US places a low value on non-American life (an asymetricality that is by no means universal) - is there something about the "fundamentally different American mindset" that makes it that way? No, it is a social and historical development that has more to do with media practices than with some sort of essential national character.

I apologize for what feels like a digression, but insofar as I'm very interested in transnational aspects of game culture, I'm somewhat over-sensitive to this.

19.

In more mono-national homogenous online worlds, real-world nationalistic overtures are generally accepted by the players and even provide a popular rally point for otherwise disparate groups. Although personally I do not condone the usage of real-life nationalism in online games, my peers at our Korean headquarters have used it on several occasions.

One interesting instance was immediately following the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in which Apolo Anton Ohno won a Gold medal in the short track after Kim Dong-Sung was disqualified for an illegal block. This caused a great uproar in Korea as it seemed to cement a shared sentiment among some people there that American's were not playing fair. In response to the controversy, the game operator for Tactical Commanders Korea (an almost exclusively Korean populated PvP online world) came up with an event where players could cooperatively destroy a monster named "Anton Ohno". This nationalism fueled cooperative event came out as the single most successful event in an otherwise pvp focused game.

Game operators there have also used other national events as in-game event and seem to have no problems letting the realm of reality enter into some of their fantasy worlds. During the 2002 World Cup, it was fairly popular to see Korea World Cup related items being patched into the games for special events. Of course, much of this was fueled by economic benefits, as these items proved to be extremely popular, more so than purely nationalistic pride.

20.

William Huber wrote:

>>
I wasn't going to comment on your remark, Jim, but I have decided it must be said: it's problematic to characterize the conflicts there as "deeply cultural." The very heart of Orientalism is to claim that the East has culture, while the West has history. There are real historical conflicts with political nuances to them. Rather than being "deeply cultural," they are part of the history of, largely, the last 130 years.
>>


I'm not sure how you're trying to disagree with me here. I never claimed that it was not historical. However, with a government that controls access to information (and therefore history) and a culture that is willing to resolve problems over a period of 50 years, the line between history and culture is very grey. I'm not ignorant of the history of the situation; I heard quite a lot of the history as known by Chinese friends.


>>
The US has had enmities at different times with Mexico, Spain, the UK, Germany, and dozens of other countries. We have gone to war twice with Germany. But if a (not-from-the-West) historian said, "the conflict between Germany and the US is deeply cultural," they'd be pretty wrong: there is no sense of conflict, there's more resentment to a country with whom the US has never warred (France).
>>


This is true, but irrelevant in that there has been continued deep resentment for the Japanese by the Chinese ever since the war, and the stated reasons for that hate are the actions of the Japanese during the war. It has been an ongoing facet of their culture, while American hate of Germans has faded away. You can't compare the two cultures in such a way because the Chinese cultural sense of time is very different from our own. I know, I *saw* it firsthand.


>>
Even the sense of "the value of life" depends on a variety of factors, historical, economic, and political, and it is by no means universal.
>>


I never claimed otherwise. I merely repeated what I was told by Chinese friends. I don't know what your experience with Chinese culture is, William, but I was immersed in it for about a year. I'm working with a better understanding of the culture than I can possibly fit into a post here, so if my thoughts seem incomplete I apologize.


>>
The US places a low value on non-American life (an asymetricality that is by no means universal)
>>


As an American, I can vouch for myself that I place a high value on life outside of the US. I assume you would say the same of yourself. I won't pretend to judge anyone else; let me point out, though, that we spend hundreds of millions of USD every year on humanitarian aid for people that have nothing to offer us (i.e. no oil) and we don't carpet bomb our enemies' cities. Perhaps you heard as I did the occasional remark after 9-11 that we should have "nuked 'em all" or "loaded up our bombers and killed 'em all" (them being the peoples of the Middle East). I'm sure you did as I did and kindly informed those people that they were absolute idiots.

We might not take special interest in life outside of the US, but that is a far cry from saying that we hold little value in non-American lives.

21.

It is interesting that the fading of American hate towards the German people started very early, even with the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction after the war. The Germans have stayed beloved villains of Hollywood, but most rational people have long since moved on. But then the situation in Asia was very different - China did not defeat and occupy Japan, instead it came under Western supervision for a time. That alone probably did much to deepen the divide.

Still, I totally agree with the previous poster that this kind of thing is a very bad sign, and nationalised factions warring online in MMO games are only going to reinforce entrenched attitudes and heighten tension in the region rather than providing a positive outlet for aggression. Let's have them all play World of Warcraft on an english-language PvE server instead ;)

22.

Would Kyle Karthauser please explain what he is thinking when he discusses opposing sides taking up "virtual arms"?
Angelika T.L. Byorth

23.

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24.

Russia and Korea invaded and attacked to Japanese islands half a century ago. Korea shot at Japanner and abducted a lot of Japanese and demanded ransom money.
However, curiously the Japanese self-defense force avoids fighting because the Japanese Constitution prohibits war.

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