T.L. Taylor: Reconsidering Emergence
T.L. Taylor’s talking about “Reconsidering Emergence” here at the dirn workshop at HUMlab, and it’s being streamed, so if you want to follow my live blogging and watch the video stream, you can. This post’ll be updated as I go.
Oh, and bloggers: this talk is really interesting for its parallels to blogs and the “game” of blogging, with ranking and referrals and trackbacks and comments and “mods” to the software, which TL doesn’t specifically mention, because she’s looking at MMOGs, not blogs, but which I kept thinking about and which Lilia asked about too, so it wasn’t just me.
The kind of character you choose in an online environment affects the data you can collect. In a game like WoW or Everquest, the class you choose affects your experience of the game. These early methodological choices we make shape how we can understand any multiuser space. We need to watch for how these choices affect the stories we tell about the space later on.
When she studied Everquest, there was no specific “European” or player-versus-player (pvp) server [see TL’s correction to this in her comment to this post]. When she moved to Europe and starting playing WoW with her students, she was playing on a European English-speaking PvP server. This is what her WoW experience is based on. Also playing on a RP server (with The Truants), which gives a very difference experience of the game.
We’re using the word emergence more and more – but often only use about the “nice” stuff – how people are collaborating, creating, etc. However things like regulations, stratification, policing and limitations and hierarchies can also be part of emergence, not just positive social constructions. Intent is not to come off as being very negative, but to show a full picture of how people play.
The social labour of players makes these games playable and fun. Forming guilds, sharing knowledge, assisting each other in
European: E.g. all the discussions about trying to get everyone else to speak English – someone speaks in a language other than English, and instantly gets reprimanded, always told that that’s the rule, English only except in tell. Interestingly, Blizzard does NOT have such strong rules about this. Also, in the midst of the policing of the language, there’s national identity in Danish-only guilds, etc. Leads to more complicated questions like “What is an English language European server?” For instance, you have Middle Eastern players, because there’s no dedicated Middle Eastern server.
This conversation about English/non-English goes to a bigger question players always have: who’s allowed to be here? Who’s a legitimate player?
This can also be seen in the discussions of gold-farmers. Nick Yee wrote on TerraNova: “Players who pass the “English test” aren’t “gold farmers” even if they farm all day. But ironically, players who don’t speak fluent English (i.e., French) are at risk of being branded as “Chinese gold farmers”.
So the question of whether or not someone can speak English becomes a litmus test of whether or not you’re a legitimate player or a farmer or a bot. [This reminds me of when I discovered a silent player was actually Ukrainian]
Moves on to player revenge on farmers or perceived farmers – groups who move through an area attacking any other players they think are farmers. Shows short machinima of this, and quotes Steinkuhler on farmers, saying that people who like the idea of the productive player generally take pause at things like this.
Another interesting issue: collective knowledge, coordinated action to solve complex problems, voluntary formal organisations (guilds). Really impressive social support of each other. However, also a lot of hierarchy and stratification within the guilds etc.
High end raiding – a lot of investment, almost like a whole new game. Incredibly competitive – you can only see this content if you’re in a guild or raiding community that can take forty people and do it again and again. Therefore there are applications, trial periods, evaluations, very filtered process, ranking etc. Collaboration but also an immense system of stratification to make it happen.
Age – with Everquest she was amazed at the cross-generational play. However, on teh pvp server, guilds will have age requirements, etc, a lot more wrangling over age.
The ways players in WoW create software and technical artifacts that enhance their play. E.g. CTProfile – third party application that lets you take a snapshot of your character, puts it on a website and lets it be reviewed.
Players as producers – interesting how the boundary between developer/player is blurred. Interesting that WoW has an open user interface, so players can modify how game operates. Can radically change the UI – and this is not just icing on the cake, it fundamentally changes game play. Can make the same argument for the social. E.g. damage metres – they track and rank players according to how much damage they’ve done to other people. Often ambivalence about the use of this mod among raid leaders. Can give infomration, but some people will rush to be at the top of the ranking list, so they’ll rush to attack the dragon or whatever foolishly which can put the group at risk. This is modified in some raids, socially. Others are upset that their contribution isn’t as easily measured as damage, and becomes invisible.
Many mods work because they watch what people are doing – they’re surveillance. Also, Blizzard watches your RAM to watch you’re not using cheats. PlayOn project is datamining. Etc. Of course, surveillance needn’t be evil, panopticon, can be playful, people sometimes enjoy surveilling themselves –> coveillance = participatory surveillance.
It’s not the same game for everyone. E.g. if I challenge you to a duel, and I have the standard UI and you have it tripped out with every mod – is that a fair duel? Clear that there’s a line, a balance needs to be kept. TL’s particularly interesting in watching the community debate that line.
Lilia: Parallel to blog world – ranking changes the experience, blogging.
TL: Tricky thing about games (and I don’t know how this fits with blogs) is that games are always in part about ranking and competition etc. What’s itneresting is when the different worlds collide.