fredag 5. desember 2008

Big Brother Sees You!

Riskcalculation is a central part of playing MMOs like WoW: Will the reward be worth the time? Is the cost justified by the reward? And more importantly: Will teaming up with this person be beneficial or dangerous?

Even in smaller groups, players depend on each other to fulfill their role. If someone isn't performing at their best, the group is at risk to ALL have to spend more time and money to accomplish something. In guilds this is enhanced as new members are risky; they get a chance to reap the benefits, but you don't know them and how can you trust them not to screw things up or run away after they have gotten their part?

A commonplace practice in serious guilds (as well as less serious ones) is to make applications, usually on a forum/website. They are in most aspects similar to a work application with questions like; What are your previous experience? What do you bring to this community? Are you a team player? What are your goals?

The problem ofcourse is that this is The Internet (tm) and it's possible to forge this. To claim to have more experience or brush over earlier misgivings. Reputation is a key element for players to ensure success, the name sticks with the character and a rocky reputation will exclude you from many a community (See Taylor 2006: Between Worlds). So, how do you ensure that people are telling the truth?
The Armory: a online database which holds a copy of your WoW character with both it's gear and spec (skill specialization) put some pressure on this when introduced about 2 years ago (?). Now everyone could see what gear the character had, and thus what part of the game this toon had explored and overcome.

The Armory is now an integrated part of the game, a chance to look up guilds, servers as well as battlegroups to get an impression of what standard and achievements have been done. But, apparently that wasn't enough... With the 3.0 patch the Amory was extended. In game an achievement system appears (will log if you complete instances, do x amount of quests, make x amount of gold, train professions, explore zones, get many pets etc.) similar to that of LOTRO and WAR. In addition a statistics function appears which tells how much money I have made, how many potions I have drunk, how many kills, how many times I have died and more.

For some obscure reason, this achievement and statistics system is now also available in the Armory. So - anyone can basically log on and find out fairly intimate details about what I have been up to since last patch. Is this really necessary?

Is there really a need for other players to find out how many bandages I have used? Its like your boss keeping track of how many pencils you have used, or your partner wanting a graph over how many sheets of toilet paper... Why is this posted in public?

My character isn't excellent by any standards. It's actually an old character I have revived. In early vanilla WoW she kicked some ass, but in WoW terms that's so long ago it might just as well be during the Second World War.

Looking at her achievements and statistics, it tells the reader about how much I have done on her since patch 3.0. However, it doesn't tell much about me as a player. It doesn't tell what other characters I have been lvling or playing with. Am I just sulking cause now everyone knows she sucks, or is it still OK to be angered when the illusion of privacy is broken?

One good thing is that you can access the in game calender through Armory, so you won't forget what you are raiding tonight.

torsdag 4. desember 2008

Misconceptions about gaming and gamers - More addiction...

A highly misinformed article in Dagbladet told us on 30th of November, that WoW now had a netpoker function that could be linked to virtual gold, but also real net poker sites. Reading the article it was clear that this was actually a crazy cooked up story about an old addon (player programmed software addition) that allowed players to play poker in game.
Fortunately today Martin Eide put the facts right: this has nothing to do with Blizzard, gambling is NOT encouraged and kids are NOT the majority player base.

Reading both reactions to these articles on Dagbladets commentary field, as well as related blogs - I am constantly shocked over the misconceptions around. Statements like "the biggest problem we are currently facing" and "we all know this is a danger to society". What? Who? Where?
So a bunch of kids and young adults who cant manage their time is the biggest threat to society? Did I miss a memo?

When portraying game addiction there are several key elements: excessive time use, conflict with family, neglecting other responsibilities such as work/school and aggression. Also, this seems to concern primarely young boys. Going by this standard there are several things I have issues with.
Firstly, there has been no studies linking gaming as the cause for any of this, and when there are - you will find equally as many stating the opposite. A scientific community is dissent holds no "truth".
Secondly, that a teenage boy is not enthused about school, is in conflict with his parents, don't go to bed at time and can be agressive - might have very little to do with World of Warcraft of any other game. In fact it sounds very much like the state most teenagers are in. And to be honest, is it really THAT bad having your teenage son at home on a saturday night?

Ofcourse, there is always a minority that has severe problems linked to gaming. However, it is not necessarily addiction and its not necessarily something the game hsa caused.