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Nov 23, 2010



Only 4chan has the answer.

Admittedly it is not a very good answer, but it is an answer.

As a side note, I once moved into a flat that had previously been rented by an indian family. They left a swastika symbol on the kitchen table as a good luck / welcoming present.

Or maybe they really where just Nazis.


WE.... are the so called " baggage"

im sure the computers playing computer games will be much better "people".

good luck with that delusion as well:)


Symbols lose none of their power when traferred between frames. In face, they often gain magnification since symbols are more important inside a magic circle.


Isn't the idea that the virtual and the actual are separate or competing worlds outdated? I find it difficult to imagine how we could escape or transcend our geographical, social, and historical circumstances, by merely logging on.

What I find interesting about this topic is the possibility that virtual worlds, and the internet in general, are spaces in which symbols and shared meaning can be renegotiated; and if so, can the new established meanings find roots in the 'real' world as a consequence. Considering that leetspeak is slipping into the everyday speech of gamers, and perhaps further afield, I am somewhat optimistic of these prospects.


i agree with Dean; this notion of the virtual being completley separate and different than the "real" is sadly outdated. Virtual worlds will always have connection to the "real" world, because those who create them are in the "real" world, and their RL experiences influence the creation of the virtual. The person navigating the avatar is also situated in the "real world" and their RL experiences will influence their virtual life as well. One cannot abandon the "real" fully for the sake of the "virtual."

The two can influence each other as Dean suggests, but they will never be separated as two completely unrelated realities.


Just to point something out that isn't necessarily obvious: Swastikas are forbidden by the German constitution, unless used in a documentary context. Being a pretty large market, I can see why the publisher wouldn't want to compromise its position. It's not uncommon for games to be banned altogether there.


You're asking this in a language derived primarily from Germanic with significant French and Latin influences and an odd assortment of borrowings from a hundred other world languages, every word of which is a symbol indicating some particular collection of concepts, the juxtaposition of which carry strange meanings that make puns possible, and when brought together can create even more concepts with only distant relation to their constituent parts?

Sure. It will be possible. Will you be learning Quenya or Klingon first?


Not only will we as players carry over "baggage," as you put it, but so will game developers, artists, and moderators.

The "magic circle" was never completely magical, and it never will be.


Yes, yes let us just ban everything we're uncomfortable with.


Being a pretty large market, I can see why the publisher wouldn't want to compromise its position.


Dean>Isn't the idea that the virtual and the actual are separate or competing worlds outdated

Not while there are people with imagination.

Yes, these are real people running a real computer program on a real computer, sitting in the real world interfacing with the computer using real peripherals. However, it's what's going on in their heads that's important. They like the concept that the virtual is separate from the real, because it gives them a freedom that they don't have except in that context. They are therefore prepared to will away all the evidence to the contrary, just so that they can treat the virtual as if it were a separate reality.

Whether you personally do that or not is immaterial. Whether the real and the virtual are actually separate concepts or not is immaterial. There is a sufficient number of people who do treat them as separate concepts for our theories of virtual worlds to have to account for such a separation.

>What I find interesting about this topic is the possibility that virtual worlds, and the internet in general, are spaces in which symbols and shared meaning can be renegotiated

Any community or cultural group can "renegotiate" or "appropriate" or "invent" symbols. Usage bleeds across, carried by people who operate in different cultures simultaneously. We got the mainstream word "newbie" out of MUD1, sure, but that's nothing to do with MUD1's being a virtual world, you can get new terms from any community. Originally, "gay" meant joyous and happy; the homosexual community adopted it to mean homosexual, much to the annoyance of those who liked the old meaning; younger people have now readopted it to mean sad, much to the annoyance of those who liked the second meaning. Words come and go. The word "sophisticated" used to mean the diametric opposite of what it means today.

The magic circle acts as a frame - a cultural context. It grants the players permission to "make believe". This means that symbols can be stressed more than they can in a non-pretend context, which allows new meanings to be tested there more often than in most other circumstances. This wouldn't be possible if the players didn't regard the real and the virtual as distinct, though; if they did, then we'd see no more renegotiation of meaning than we see in any other non-artistic context. (Perhaps we don't?).

Symbols are only symbols; they mean what you want them to mean, and their meanings can change. Because one group of maniacs adopted a symbol that had been used for millenia to mean luck, right now it doesn't mean luck in many parts of the world. Who knows what it will mean two centuries from now?



Just because it's not physical doesn't mean it's not real. We've been virtual since the telegraph. (Suggest The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage) Before even. Myths, stories, epic poems - don't they all transport both speaker and listeners (oral histories) or readers to 'new worlds'?

Look, Salman Rushdie said it:
"A book is a version of the world. If you do not like it, ignore it; or offer your own version in return." (Imaginary Homelands)


Wow, Richard, I like that notion of reality/virtuality as a continuum. I think of it differently, as modalities: some more expansive, some more limited, each augmenting the other.


We can do a six point reality/virtuality scale like the Kinsey folks did for sexual preferences. Bartle 1 is a completely physical reality person, Bartle 2 eschews Facebook and Twitter, barely emails. Bartle 6 is the so-virtual-they've-lost-their-jobs-and-are-wearing-Depends types. I think most people in the U.S. are 2-3.

I also think we have no idea what virtual ubiquity means. Or maybe we do, as it's likely everything we perceive as real is some kind of virtuality, at least if you believe The Holographic Universe guys and loved the Matrix.


@ Richard:

Though it may seem as though we are at odds, we are actually in agreement on quite a lot. I am not disputing that people like the concept that a virtual world is distinct and separate from the real world and that this is part of the allure to be virtual. It is also true that we cannot theorise the two as simply being one and the same, for although philosophically there may be no problem with this, it does not align with our experiences of the virtual. To set the record straight, I am not claiming that there is no magic circle. However, it seems equally clear that we cannot entirely separate the two, the magic circle is after all at least semi-porous, and not all of which that is virtual can be confidently said to be within its confines. For the purposes of engaging and getting to grips with Ed's chosen topic we may have to stress the connections between the virtual and the real.

As a kind of thought experiment we may imagine a MMO similar to WoW, and a new player starting on their 'Hero's Journey' (I use this term solely to emphasis the player's otherworldly experience). After completing the quests in the nursery zone they are sent off by an NPC to their factions capital city for the first time. Being low level they have no mount and must walk, but the world is huge and filled with many wonderful things; they are completely immersed in their play experience. After what seemed like a long and epic journey they finally arrive at their destination, only to discover that the city is decorated with banners all bearing swastikas. Despite the fact that in the lore surrounding this world the faction is a paradigm of virtue and the symbol has a noble meaning, the player is appalled, offended even; their magic circle is broken and they quit immediately. We can imagine that they would meet other liked minded individuals on the internet or RL and that together they would express their discontent. We know that a real world controversy would surround the game.

I apologise if this hypothetical scenario seems patronising, its only purpose is for clarity of expression, and I do believe that it is useful. When we consider the player's reaction it does not seem unreasonable, we accept and understand that they will carry their real world interpretation of that symbol into the virtual. We can imagine this scenario happening, but simultaneously we know it never will:

John Beety>Not only will we as players carry over "baggage,"... but so will game developers, artists, and moderators.

So not only will meanings from the real world cross over to virtual worlds, they will also inform the creation of these virtual worlds, if not for any other reason but to avoid such a controversy. In a previous post, Intended and Unintended Consequences (or the Nightmares of Dr. Bombay), Lisa asked where do we draw the line concerning a number of important issues. For me the interesting question wasn't a moral and philosophical enquiry, but rather, why where the lines being drawn already? Why did the LambdoMoo community deem virtual rape a crime? And why was the chat filter not deemed an adequate solution? The answer lies in the symbolic meanings that are associated with actions. It was not enough that players could remove the wrong doer from their interface, the 'act' itself must never be witnessed on any other interface, least the meaning derived would impact upon how others felt about the victim. Our response then to virtual 'action' is based largely on our meaning and interpretation of its real counterpart. Interpretation and meaning in the virtual therefore has always some basis in the real.

Richard> Any community or cultural group can "renegotiate" or "appropriate" or "invent" symbols.

I of course do not deny this and had assumed it in my original comment, but perhaps I was not expressing my point very well. What I meant was the possibility or the potential for virtual worlds and the internet to more readily facilitate this process. The non-virtual community implies in itself some level homogeneity, and this would include the meanings and interpretations that its members hold. By contrast, the internet has the potential to bring people together from many parts of the world, and bond them together as a community in a virtual environment. In this context, we could imagine multiple meanings and interpretations coexisting, and through their interaction the emergence of new meanings which could then be exported to RL. The problem however, is that many MMOs have servers that are based on geographical regions, and as is evident in Ed's post, have codes of conduct that often reflect values and meanings that are distinctly western.


I can understand how careful people have to be before making a game in these types of circumstances, but the worst part is even if the majority of people are okay with something someone will always do something to screw that up.

One little slip up as a game developer and you could have a whole lawsuit on your hands, its like people suing McDonalds for being fat, its just ridiculous the shit that offends people.

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