Monthly Archives: May 2005
Can’t Keep This a Secret
Anything that makes me laugh this much cannot be kept a secret. For anyone who has played video games to any serious degree .. click … read… and laugh your ass off =)
Recent favorites for your listening pleasure:
But Why Games?
I am (still) working on the paper for the upcoming DiGRA conference, and for the first time (in about 3 months of writing on and off) i let someone else read it. The feedback was not as scarry as I had imagined (isnt that always the case?) But one question that keeps coming back to haunt me thanks to my professor – why games? what is it about games – mmog’s in particular – that makes this worth talking about.
I am writting on functional roles designed into the game, the expectations that surround that role and the actualized, played role. This process is nothing new outside of the world of games. Social theory that deals with the social stucture of functioning systems (bureaucracies and society itself!) talks about individualization of roles, how this is allowed within a fixed (or necessary) functional structure.. so my question is – what is it about mmog’s (and EverQuest in particular) that makes games more then just an example of sociological role theory?
This is the question i am faced with heading into this conference. Although i am quite happy with the direction my paper is heading – is there more to it then example?
While working on my DiGRA paper, I realized that everything I write is always compartmentalized into three sections. Every theory, every example.. and i wonder .. why 3?
The structure of my papers are always the same: Intro, three key concepts/ideas and conclusion. Even my Honours thesis was triadic in a way of sorts.. with three key themes, each with three key concepts (fixed, negotiated and fluid identity, each divided into three parts; construction, commitment and perception)… point is, why 3′s?
Making a Comeback
I have mentioned before that the game of EverQuest has changed enough to make anyone who takes a lengthy vacation feel like a first time player. Over the last few weeks, I have transfered my character to a new server to play with some old friends. Even though we are only 5 levels apart, the differences are drastic. The guys who always took care of me back in the day have once again taken up the role of caretaker. After looking at my gear, and a few chuckles later – the adventure (re)begins. I have committed to logging in every day for at least 3 hours. Today, those three hours were filled with asking stupid questions and getting lost.
Nonetheless, I am excited to be back. I got a few OMG YOUR BACK tells today, and thats what makes my moments of public stupidity worth it.
Simmel, Sociability & Fun in Games
I am re-reading an article by Georg Simmel called The Sociology of Sociability. Quite an interesting piece that deals with the question of fun, play, and the sociability that surrounds it. The jist of what I get out of the article is that in order for true sociability to exist in the context of fun, it cannot be content or purpose-laden. As Simmel states “sociability, in its purest form has no ulterior end, no content and no result outside itself, it is oriented and completely about personalities“, I am led to ask myself how does Simmel’s concept of sociability fit into the (often structured) form of play. Simmel goes on to say that once content and purpose is introduced, pure sociability is lost. Play then loses its ‘fun’ and becomes an “association determined by content“. Is that how we are to see goal oriented games? As nothing but a replica of the ‘tit for tat’ social interaction of ‘real life’?
When I play table top “social” games with friends, although there is a purpose or goal surrounding the act of play, most of us will agree that the game is an excuse to be social, this kind of reverses Simmel’s sociability, in that the social is instigated by the goal, but through the act of play, the goal gets lost and the purpose becomes the social.
Looks like a decent MA program in Digital Culture in Finland. Application has been extended to May 31st. I wish I had the finances to apply (well, to actually move the family there if I were to apply and get accepted).
The dichotomous debate within Game Studies is more often then not, one between narratology and ludology, but lately, another – less formal – debate has come to mind. The one between gamers are researchers and non-gamers as researchers in the field of game studies. There are pros and cons from both perpespectives. A gamer who draws on their own experience can be biased in terms of their opinions based on their past and how they see games, and what they consider to be what ‘its all about’. This side of the debate often accompanies the ‘how can you study something if you’ve never experienced it’, and therefore tends to disregard research done by outsiders.
The other side of the of this coin – the non-gamer researcher, has its place as well, often claiming that their view is a fresh one – not tainted by experience, therefore seeing what the research for what it says, and not a form of reflexive analysis.
Both sides have valid pros and cons that can be read in any anthropological methods text can explain the intricacies of fieldwork, participant observation, autobiographical work and ‘going native’.
I admit, I belong, in many ways, to the first camp. I am a gamer first and researcher second. I research stems from my experience. My personal experience is always my starting point. But as a sociologist (i am told i can call myself that now that i have graduated!) what i am challenged with, what i struggle with every day in my work as an academic, is distancing myself as a player from thinking of myself as researcher. Yes, my experiences are rich ones to draw upon, but i need to keep it in context – that those experiences are points of departures, not the conclusion.
In game studies, i admit, when reading something from an author who played a game to get data, i often find myself saying ‘no, its not like that’ and their role as researcher is painfully obvious in terms of being someone who doesnt get the ‘inside’ of the game. But then, i have been challenged by other gamers (my partner included) as not being a “real” gamer … which puts my role of ‘player’ in question when i am using that experience as a researcher. But not being the same type of gamer as my partner does not discredit my experience playing the same game as him. It merely makes my experience different.
How does this tie into my gamer as researcher and researcher as gamer spiel? Well, my question is – who validates what a “real” gamer is? Whose experiences are “more valid” then others? And who decides? And what does this do to the black and white dichotomy of ‘non gamers’ and ‘gamers’ as researchers? A colleague recently had a similar discussion with a colleague of hers who was accused of not being a “gamer” but in her defence, talked about the games she did play back when… would this academic have to stop being interested in and working on research that pertains to anything past her personal experience?
Back to Games
Over the last few days, my boyfriend has been playing Heritage of Kings: The Settlers. Not a bad game per se, but watching him get frustrated when the game crashed a few times, made me ask a few questions. After checking around online, we found out that there is actually a patch that needs to be uploaded, and there are several known bugs that affect game play, not to mention issues surrounding the ‘supposed’ AI.
This is not the first game that I have witnessed such issues comprimising a game. Sadly, it is not even a rare occurence – it seems to me that out of the umpteen number of pc games we have (not to mention ps2 games!) its is more common then not to have a bug that alters game play. (this is often fully admitted by the game designers at some point after release)
So i ask myself, why is this acceptable? Would such subpar construction of any other product be acceptable? If i bought a table – at full price mind you – i would not accept it having one leg shorter then the other three…. i would not buy a television that works most of the time. Why is this acceptable when it comes to games (and i could even stretch this rant to computer technology – ive lost count how many network cards, bum memory and fizzled hard drives we have gone through – some of them not even lasting 3 months)
I understand that games are released before they are ‘ready’ and that the publishers and financial backers want their return as promised, but by delivering a half broken product, all it does (imo) is give the games bad ratings. Although I understand now why cheats and walkthroughs have become more and more popular .. its not necessarily because gamers are lazy – as was my first thought ;o) , but because when faced with a bug in a game, a gamer has no choice but to check out the walkthrough to make sure there really is a problem.