Avatar Abstract

Avatar Abstract

Classes are done and the weather is nice, and finally, I have some time to work on my game studies work – that is essentially, for myself… It has been very hard to write for myself, seeing as I am so used to trying to fulfill someone else’s criteria to finish a paper on this or that subject – It is nice to actually work towards writing something that is purely about what I want to say.

So, here is an abstract that i have been working on the last few days. It speaks to my avatar research that I started doing in my Research Methods class – and will, i hope, develop over the next few years [Honour’s and Master’s i hope]

Keep in mind, it is not my finished abstract – but the gist of it. – any feedback would be greatly appreciated – would you want to read a full paper based on these few paragraphs?

Five years after its introduction, EverQuest is one of the longest running massively multi-user online role playing games. Still being played by an estimated 400,000 players, EverQuest maintains its impressive presence. Beyond its unique game design revolving around quests, role playing opportunities and intricate fantasy storylines, there are other factors that play into the game’s longevity, notably player-created characters represented through avatars and the communities created by players outside of the predetermined game structure.The relationship between an individual and their avatar is one of the player-constructed elements that create a level of depth within the pre-determined game world of EverQuest. This relationship can only be created and sustained by the individual player, from the initial process of the avatar’s physical creation to the long term commitment required to the avatar in order to progress within the designed game world. The relationship between the player and their avatar plays an important role in determining how emotionally invested one is to the overall game experience. Therefore, it can be said that the game experience is partially dependent on these player/avatar relationships. The question then becomes how do varying degrees of the player/avatar relationship influence the overall gaming experience?

The primary factor considered throughout this research is the player’s role in identifying with their avatar within the game of EverQuest and its impact on the overall quality of the game play. Identity issues in virtual worlds have been commonly approached via socio-psychological perspectives, exploring the impact of virtual identity on the individual’s perception of ‘everyday’ self. [Kolko, 1998; Stone, 1991; Taylor, 2002; Turkle, 1995]. While it is important to understand how virtual identity affects everyday life, so is the insight into how it functions within an MMORPG as well as the effects virtual identity has on the game play.

Because of the participant observation I have engaged in within the game as a high level character, I have observed that the relationship with one’s avatar appears to have an important impact on game quality. This hypothesis was further reinforced by way of interviews I conducted with other long term players. By combining the results of the various research methods, I have worked towards formulating a deeper understanding of the link between the player/avatar relationship and its affect on the perceived idea of game play quality.

This research has the potential to affect many communities – from social theorists interested in exploring another facet of virtual identity, social communication and construction of community in video games, to game designers and programmers looking to improve the current state of MMORPG’s. Most of all, this research has the potential to influence the individual’s perception of a game, quality and understand what their role is in making the game successful in terms of both commercial and personal success.

Kelly Boudreau

Concordia University

Copyright 2004, all rights reserved

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The nature of knowledge I’ve been on an odd hia…

The nature of knowledge

I’ve been on an odd hiatus, supposedly studying but in reality dithering away time, trying not to study, procrastinating busily. It is odd how deadlines of this nature affect me – I can be in my office all evening and emerge after 5 hours without having accomplished anything truly concrete and yet somehow feel like I’ve been productive.

Anyway, I haven’t thoroughly reviewed the many new entires here yet — Kelly has certainly been thinking a lot of deep thoughts again. I’m looking forward to catching up to her soon, when this final exam in classical social theory is done done done on Monday night.

In the interim, considering studying for an exam is all about acquiring knowledge, it seemed only fitting fro me to put an entry here to this excellent chewy article about the links between Kant, Hegel and Durkehim, in particular through Durkheim’s idealist conceptions of human knowledge as a collective representations that functionally preserve morality and therefore social order.

After all, that’s all studying is about, really – reading and hopefully absorbing concepts created by others then applying them to the reality of the questions on the final exam.

And Kelly? I will do my best to catch up next week.

Bad Apple Syndrom: Is it all bad? After making …

Bad Apple Syndrom: Is it all bad?

After making my last post on death penalties in games, my topic skewed a little towards the people who – for some – ruin a game. They go by many names – PK’ers, griefers etc., the bad apple syndrom has been around for a long time (well before video games!)

Some games are designed to cater to this type of gameplay, and while persusing my many academic sites on gaming, i found this post. (you can read more here.)

Competitive Socialization. This is, I think, the richest form of interaction possible in multiplayer games, yet ironically it’s more often been seen as a problem than as a potential virtue. Most players see competitive players in the same way that Bartle did, as killers. And that name connotes visions of marauders, there solely to ruin the game. To be honest, killers did nearly ruin many early games. I played Diablo online exactly once, before I got frustrated by cheating killers pretty much overrunning the game. Ultima Online almost went under in its early days because of the same issue (minus the extensive cheating).

In more recent years some multiplayer game designers have tried to channel these same “killer” players. Dark Age of Camelot is, perhaps, the best example of controlled player competition, with specific areas set aside for inter-player combat. Other games like Shadowbane are attempting to market directly to “killers”.

However, I think this all misses much of the point, because direct interplayer conflict isn’t the only way for players to interactively compete. We’ve seen the barest glimmerings of other forms of competition in any game that develops a player-driven economy based on player skills and crafts–because theoretically those players are competing capitalistically. But it really hasn’t been explored beyond that.

As you may recall, I spent much of the start of this year looking into tabletop strategy games. Tabletop designers have spent generations perfecting ideas for controlled player competition. I think a lot can be learned from them as to how multiplayer computer games should be expanding.

Death Penalties The death penalty in video game…

Death Penalties

The death penalty in video games has been an ongoing topic in game studies for a while now. There has been a healthy thread among like-minded thinkers over at Terra Nova about PermaDeath. Its raison d’etre and effects are discussed, with some interesting points.

This morning, we had the chance to feel and think through some of these very issues … mainly what role does death have in a game, and to what extent is the penalty useful in terms of the risk/reward factor.

Lineage2 is a PvP (player vs player) game, and so the design of the game caters to rewards for killing other players. This reward, in the name of PvP is a random chance at losing an armor piece. [I mention this briefly in an earlier post] As discussed with other clan members, this chance of losing armor during battle was implemented to encourage PvP via the potential of an extra reward (on top of the standard pvp reward system). To everyone in our clan, this is a viable payoff for pvp, and so this is not the problem per se.

The problem lies in the fact that the game design cannot distinguish between PvP and NPC killing action. The random chance of losing your gear remains, even when you are simply ‘grinding’ to gain levels to be able to participate in PvP.

This randomness has led to much frustration since it is becoming apparent that there is no play nice rules in Lineage2, and this morning, when Manx died and dropped his bronze breastplate (of which took 3 days of grinding to collect enough adena – in game currency – to purchase this armor upgrade) he called me over to come pick it up for him. Unfortunately, i was 2 steps too far because another player, who was randomly wandering through the forest felt that she deserved to pick it up and run to the nearest village to sell it for a whopping profit.

So, where is the risk/reward factor in losing your gear to greedy people who had nothing to do with your death? The risk/reward in standard NPC combant is greatly unbalanced if this penalty is to stand once the game goes live. There have been some … ok … one nice person who when Velyxia dropped her BP upon dying was nice enough to give it back after i had sent her a nice tell asking politely. This was not the case for Manx, as this person chose not to respond at all.

So, our clan agreed we would play the game and attack her in true PvP style. But again, this system is flawed that in if she chooses to not fight back, the attacker gets penalized in Karma points, turning your name red to advertise how “not nice” a player was for attacking someone who did not fight back. So, where is the colored name for greedy lootwhores (oops! spillover from EQ days!!) Why is the penalty one sided? Should there not be a risk factor for the person who chooses to loot corpses which she had nothing to do with their death? It seems to me that the play nice rules actually do exist, just in an unbalanced manner rewarding one type of player but not another. (ironically, this system stands in contrast to some of the unwritten social rules of game communities such as Everquest)

The finders keepers mentality is rampant in this game, and the more i talk to people, the more it is a source of aggravation and disgust. A pvp game does not necessarily mean screw anyone you can at any chance you get. There is alot of smack talk in the game and alot of people who enjoy the space to be the jerks they cant be in their everyday life (and if they are this bad IRL, i hope they get beat up!)

The shame in the matter is that Lineage2 is potentially a great game, with people with a good PvP attitude. But the bad apples sure as hell outweigh the good ones at the moment, that coupled with the many other design flaws (tradeskill system is poor, chat system is even worse, bad lag and targetting issues) it has caused many to walk away from the game before it even goes retail.

Virtual Nostalgia Over the last 5 years, i have…

Virtual Nostalgia

Over the last 5 years, i have been playing Velixious in Everquest as my primary alter ego. The tall, buxom barbarian with black braided locks, dark eyes and slight brushing of freckles has been my primary self to many who know me in Norrath. When i moved over to Dark ages of Camelot, the name, and identity of Velixious came with me – again as a barbarian – designed as closely to my norrathian self as possible.

Over the last year, my days playing any MMORPG for mass amounts of time have waned as school took more time and energy and many of the community that made these games home to me, moved on in their lives as well. Velixious has lived on as a seperate entity both of and outside myself.

Earlier this month, as i previously posted, i started playing Lineage2 The graphics are stunning and the sound amazing.. last night i sat on a cliff listening to the sounds of the ocean crashing against the rocks .. closed my eyes and i felt like i was back home, on the beach. Point is, i made a new character to play this game, and for the first time in 5 years i did not name her Velixious. Although close. Velyxia is a beautiful character of what i would want to look like if i were anime. I managed to make her with my same haircut, and those who know me see some resemblance – but for the first time, she is not tall, buxom and barbarian.. she is petite, dainty and human.

This transformation has had an incredible impact on my psyche over the last few days, as I play more and more, i become more and more attached to Velyx and less and less a part of Velix. I feel a bit of sadness about the whole deal. It has made my [paid] research in Everquest a little difficult, because the passion of the game has dimed, and now the connection with my character is dwindling.

Sort of feels like looking at an old photograph of yourself in a different time, a different headspace .. when you sit there and try as hard as you can to feel the feelings you were at the time the photo was taken. For Velix, she still lives in the many posts from a time past – before my family, The Chosen Alliance and the fun began to disperse, the more i look at her, and play her – the less i feel i know her.

Political Sociology I am reading Hannah Arendt …

Political Sociology

I am reading Hannah Arendt again, (The Human Condition) for my poli sci final exam, and as i read through it, i keep asking myself where is the political aspect that my professor continuously goes on about when he states (over and over again) “For Arendt, its all political” .. it might be the sociologist in me, but I see so much sociology and very little political theory. Yes, she talks about the dichotomy of man between uniqueness and sameness with all other men, and that it is precisely this sameness that creates the political. But other then that, i see alot of social theory on agency and society and little political theory. If anyone can help me see this article from a purely political perspective, i would greatly appreciate it!