Monday, January 30, 2006

Conflict in the Guild - WoW as a Social Space

The back story begins with an incident between two widely known members of the guild:

A few nights ago I was playing late in WoW. As is my habit, I gave a shout out to the guildies when I logged on, and continued to monitor the chatter among guildies on the guild channel. It was pretty darned late at night, and the regulars were the main folks online. A group was forming up to do the SM instance (Scarlet one refers to an instance by name, just initials.). I was asked, and declined the offer as I was midway through a really long and frustrating quest specfically for warlocks. I noticed that one of the core guildies online seemed to decline too as he said, I'm busy in a quest right now. I remember this because I noticed he was in Desolace and since I had quests there and since this quest I was on was dogging me, I considered asking him to partner with me to knock off some quests there.

As it turned out, a party for the SM instance was formed without our questing friend, who apparently finished up his quest and headed back to the SM area. It was a long trip, as can sometimes be the case in WoW if you are not in handy gryphon route reach. Apparently when he got there, or as he got there, or as he announced he was about there, he learned that he wasn't needed, a group of five (that's the max allowed in a party) had been assembled, mostly of the other regulars.

This person felt wronged and insisted he had laid claim to being interested but had to wrap up his quest first. The party leader disagreed with the interpretation. Unfortunately the disagreement took place on the guild chat channel, for all logged in guildies to see, and unfortunately it got heated. Before the night was over, one person had quit the guild and others followed the next day. The guild began to split aruond two key players: one, the GM of the guild who had happened to be in the party, and two, the allegedly wronged individual who was, until he quit, a guild officer. Both people are very much liked among most of the guild. By the very next day, the member who quit in anger was solicted others to quit and was starting up another guild.

In the days that followed, everyone in this group (GamerX: Holly, Eric, James, Vicki, and myself) as well as other friends we have in the guild, Sarianna, Bany, Dimentia, and others, were faced with the need to take sides. To stay in Night Shift was to deny one person's experience, and to leave Night Shift was to ascribe blame to another. Some folks jumped right away. I waited a couple of days. Sure enough, a second guild emerged and folks began to join that one. I was not happy with things and resented having to choose. I ended up making an alt, another toon, that could play in one guild whilst Hallgrima played in another. What a drag. Others did the same though.

Of course I kept all my old guildies on my friends list and continued to interact with them no matter which guild they were in. I discovered the pleasure of creating a second character that was different from my first. I tried my hand at being a mage with the complementary professions of herbalism and alchemy.

But wait, this ain't over...

Yesterday, while running some quests with the GM of the old guild, I learned that the two people in question had made up (his words). In fact, I found out that one had lent the other 80 Gold to buy his mount now that he was a level 40 and eligible for a mount. At first I was incredulous, then amused, but finally pissed...pissed at all the needless energy wasted trying to accommodate friends who seemed to be going separate ways. Yes, pissed that I had to make choices and waste time creating and grinding levels on a new character. Pissed at the whole dramatic pile of b.s.

I guess if you acknowledge that social life thrives in virtual environments, you have to also acknowledge that it is susceptible to the same whims and madness of real world social life. Arg.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Affordances and Constraints

I don't want to get in to Gibson's definition or Norman's extension of the yin/yang concepts of affordances and constraints and how they mediate our experience. At least, not here, not now. I want to tell an illustrative story.

Last night, late, I was in WoW with Felison. We were whacking moles up in Arathi Highlands. We got the quest done easily; and it was one I'd had for a while and been unable to do alone. Then we decided we wanted to do more, and we opted for a shot at Stromgarde Keep. PIck up badges as drops from bad guys there.

Pretty quickly we realized we couldn't do that alone and we called for another guildie in the area. His name slips my mind at present, which is kinda sad actually. I remember everyone else in the eventual party. We headed into Stromgarde and did fairly well in the courtyard, but we were having enough trouble that everyone agreed when I suggested we summon Brudie. Brudie popped in, full of energy and pep, and we proceeded to do a nice clean up in the courtyard. Then we charged the steps of the castle. And died. Complete party wipe, twice. So I suggested we get a fifth, but no more guldies were on that were above lvl 27. The guy who's name I forget suggested a friend, Addida (yeah, no S), and we summoned him. To my surprise he was a 6" gnome warrior. Very cool guy.

We really wiped up the courtyard and headed inside. We were making great progress and found the final room. It was a blind turn, and even with Brudie/Datta sneaking ahead, we got blind sided by three elites. We tried three times; wiped all three, and Brudie suddenly said, "So uh does anyone actually have the quest for these guys' heads?"

To our amusement we all answered, no, we needed the badges. "So why are we here instead of successfully killing in the courtyard?" We offered sarcastic replies, and then headed to the courtyard.

My point is that we went into the castle and fought our way all the way up without thinking because the game culture and the presence of a castle, guarded by bad guys, and with interior stairs leading up, shaped our behavior. Like trained seals we did as we assumed, without even conscious acknowledgement, we were meant to do. Now it was fun, but it was a waste of time. But it WAS fun, but it was not useful. We made a mental note to come back with a posse and clear the place cause we don't like losing.

and oh yeah...DING! level 36!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Pro-social aspects of WoW

I've been thinking a lot lately about the pro-social aspects of Wow; being someone who actually likes solo play (I like to do a lot of wandering around and exploring on my own as an herbalist) I am learning how well the game has been designed to depend on cooperation and collaboration. I wonder if this environment is what leads to such helpful behavior?

In the last couple of days, I was helped in a class quest (Druid getting bear shape-shifting abilities) by another Druid just slightly above me in level (who had already done so). The player walked me through the whole process. In response to my thanks the player said - "That's what its all about, isn't it?" In return, he asked that I help someone in the same way.

I also just got invited to a joined a guild that very deliberately fosters an environment of respect, sharing, and collaboration. I watched one person get booted from the guild for too much cursing (so there are strong group norms), and I was helped by another through the process of using an auction house for the first time to buy better armor. (I am still somewhat mystified by weaponry tho - perhaps it is my 60's pacifist nature that is raising my unconscious resistance to learning).

I was then inspired to go on a quest with someone else who was about half my level. The quest (relics of awakening) is a somewhat difficult one, with high experience points (over 800), but the monsters are only 8-10 which isn't a problem for me at 12 but would have been for my partner at 6. I led the first half of the trip, serving mostly as healer so Ii could practice healing and he could practice fighting (although I would pitch in if it looked like my partner needed help, or if he was getting ganged up on.) I'm proud to say he only died once (and I died once when I got ganged up on by the 10 and several 9's). We found the first two quest items. Then he led the second half of the trip, and we found the last two quest items (meanwhile, he leveled up and got half-way through the next level). The whole experience was very satisfying.

Less satisfying was my first guild run, but only because I spent most of my time in a daze trying to keep up. The lead player was very helpful, but also pretty busy, and my role was just to watch. As the very lowest level player in the game by a longshot (the leader said, Perrenelle is just too little, she'll get eaten up), I had to watch from under a protection spell, but I wasn't ever sure I understood what I was watching, and I am sure that I wouldn't know how to do it myself after the lesson. I did get to watch how a close-up fighter teams with a more ranged fighter with a pet, and that was helpful.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

BULLETIN - Night Shift Website

The Night Shift Guild has web page/portal.

It's kinda funky on the splash page, but the forum seems active. Register to post.

Building Guild Culture - New Profession

For whatever reason, Brudie has made me an officer in the guild. While I am flattered, I am also wary of my responsibilities, which include posting notes about new toon members and getting tabards to them. I have already failed on the first count since I missed the name of the first person to whom I was supposed to send the tabard. Oy. Pressure.

On the other hand, being an officer seems to have given me some sense of license about shaping the players. I have seen Brudie and Felison at work. I think I have internalized the role to some extent. Here's my evidence.

This morning I logged on, the way one flips the radio on in the car, casual and unfocused. Then, as I might fix on a station in the car, I pulled up the social panel to see who was on and where. I found Cerwyn, whom I adore, in Stranglethorn, where I have quests. I did the WoW version of page and asked if they were up to something interesting. Bany was there too. I like Bany. How can you not like a guy who has a pet cat trailing along behind him while he slays raptors? Leishman was also there. They invited me, and after a long trip down from Southshore, I joined them at Nessingwary's camp.

Ah Leishman. Eric, this will ring a bell. At first we were a decent party. Then Bany had to leave. Cerwyn and I continued on with Leishman, doing tigers, panthers, and raptors. Leishman kept commenting in the party chat: 10 hrs to level up. 10 hrs to lvl 40. At first I shared his glee. Sweet ride at 40. But then, he went un-leished.

Cerwyn was trying to skin the dead, and distribute the loot, (as was Bany while he was still in the party), but Leishman kept running off and pulling aggro. At one point he drew five raptors down on us. Yeah, we knocked 'em down. It was a little touch 'n go, but not bad. Still, it wasn't how a party plays. If folks are kneeling down skinning, or making potions, you don't surprise them with a load of aggro. After Bany left it got worse. I stayed back with Cerwyn so she could skin, and Leishman ran off. When Cer had skinned the pile of raptors, we got a message on the party chat from Leishman to come join me.

I could see on the mini-map that he was not particularly nearby. In fact, he was across two bridges on the other side of the river and down a ravine. When Cerwyn and I got to the second bridge and looked down the ravine we were faced with a nest of panthers, beautifully distributed to cover every possible sneaky square inch of the terrain.

I chatted to Leishman, in a quick series, Dude, don't ever leave your party like that.

To which he responded, Use the mini-map.

That pisssed me off as I am neither stupid, nor making a comment about being lost. I responded, It isn't about the mini-map, it's about the aggro we have to face to get back to you.

Cerwyn was pretty pissed off too, as she was actually questing. I was just in for the fun. Car radio, remember? She joined in with me trying to give some feedback to Leishman. I said, Hey, it's cool if you just want to solo, but tell us. Don't party up and then play it solo style.

His reply was Hey, I'm helping you do your quest.

Cerwyn said, I didn't ask for your help, and whispered to me This isn't fun. I'm logging.

My last remark to him was, No one will want to instance with you if you act like a wildman. He said he didn't act that way in instances. Okay, the dude can't tell when he's soloing and when he's in a party. I tried to straighten him out.

But my point was this, I not only felt the need to shape Leishman, and the right to shape Leishman, but more interestingly the obligation to shape Leishman. He needed to know that, to paraphrase James, that's not how we roll in this guild.

btw, LVL 34, babes, LVL 34 and 35 by the time you read this!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Twink Is A Good Player, And I Don't Want To Be Like Him

I disagree with Twink’s assement, but not his perspective [I can’t believe I’m getting grief from a guy who calls himself Twink]. Yet, I do think he makes an interesting point [for a cloth-monkey].

In all honesty, I’ve not really played with him all that many times and not much in a long time. The two major adventures I recall did not go well and I had not played a lot with him since. I never thought he was a bad player, but just not the player that fit well with me.

I actually have only down four instances [DM, BFD, Stockades and that Gnome one]. Regardless of level, I will stand aside for Twink’s social assessment as he has far more experience than I in such matters.

What interests me in his post is how the roles we play in the game effect our experience within the game. I’m assuming you have to be far more sociably aware when you’re wearing nothing more protective then the fall line from Fredrick’s of Hollywood.

As a warrior, the experience is very different. You can be down to about a quarter health with a mob and you sense it is going wrong you can still run away . . and live. If anyone approaches the cloth-monkey’s you insert yourself the best you can. You try your taunts and your yells and swing the best you can.

The part of the game I only began to learn in my 20s was how the other professions worked. Rage and Mana operate very differently. Warriors have no ability to help anyone with any spell. All they got is the ability to draw the wrath of monsters. As I read Twinks post that is what went through my mind . . . the absolute difference in perspective.

“I want to make Balamor a better player, and it's interesting to see how much fun I anticipate that goal being.”

Bah! I welcome your attempt. Your success however will most likely come form making yourself a better player.


Glitters Sweat on the Cyberserf's Brow

Gold . . . from venerable to virtual times, it is what drives us. It drives us hairless apes to no end of machinations monstrosities in pursuit of it. With gold comes power and prestige and in the world of World of Warcraft . . . gear! If the clothes make the man then gear makes the gnome . . . I mean duds make the dwarf . .. or maybe it is epilates make the elf . . . wow . . just had a nasty Michael Jackson vision . . wow . . . just had an even nastier Michael Jackson vision.

[Pausing for comic or dramatic effect depending on your personal reaction to the molestation of juveniles drunk on “Jesus juice”.]

WOW is about leveling. . The better your gear the better you can hang in a fight the better you get XP the more you level. Gear gives you an edge and speeds your progress. The game is based on the economics of this gold. Yet, the game has spawned a greater economy then the one internal to this virtual land.

We may grind for levels, but few seem to grind for gold. I know I don’t. Day one in the game, G-Money comes prancing up on his pony and gives Hallgrima and I 10 gold each and some bags. I tell you, that made us the richest level 1 characters in all the land. We had the wealth that many level 30 characters never achieve. It bought us early training and travel and thwacking stuff.

It wasn’t until I was forced to do a Matrix reboot on my virtual life that I realized the true value of having this gold. Actually, I realized the value of not having it. The game was harder. The rewards more . . . err . . . rewarding. I had to earn my way . . . which is what set me out searching out where to buy gold.

As I’m looking through the Google results where I come across the option to ‘power grind’ This is basically for a fee you let someone else play your character. And by someone else, let us be clear . . . we are talking about folks being paid less then we give the guy on the corner to NOT wash our window. Somewhere out there there are . . . well, they aren’t sweat shops . . . what should we call them? Regardless of the name, there is now a class of cyber-serfs.

Most good folks reactions and even those of folks like me standing within ear or rifle shot of a good person, are negative to this cyber-serfdom. Twinky’s first response was that he would never speak to me again if I engaged in this cyber slave trade. Twinks a nice and squishy liberal so I expect no less and no greater than for him to have a conscious in such matters.

Reading the fineprint and doing some math on the $299 package to ‘power grind’ [not cause I ever would . . . really, I was just read the articles] I noticed an interesting line. All you get are the levels. You don’t get the gear you would earn. You don’t get the gold you would earn. Where does it all go, you might ask?

Well, it goes to those who pay for the gold. If you have bought gold you have tied your karma to the crime of cyber-serfdom. It’s what in the good ol’ days we called, “blood money’. Someone paid a price for it, but now it is with a Visa card.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A definitive guide to grouping

Freakin' awesome. Should be required reading for players and non-players alike, either as information, or as an example of community knowledge building.

A definitive guide to pulling

Balamor Is A Bad Player, And I Don't Want To Be Like Him

Hehe. As promised, I'm posting about the thinking I've been doing on what makes a "good" or a "bad" player.

One of the things I don't think we've touched on directly, but seems to get sideswiped by Gee and the author of Creating Virtual Worlds, is what motivates players to play a game. If we agree that it's the search for a fun experience, we're left with the question of what is it that the players identify as fun.

There are surely lots of answers, but the one I've been thinking about, is my own motivation to transition from being a noob, to being good at the conventions of the game and the game community.

The number of times that I've been in an instanced dungeon is now climbing to the point that I'm not sure I remember the exact number. It's not that great, it's just that the experiences begin to meld into a perception, not a distinct memory. What comes out of that is an impression of what type of companions I've enjoyed working with.

Balamor actually wasn't the worst of the companions - I like needling James - but at the time I was running with him, he was so advanced and I so much lower that he could literally run through the instance without pausing much. I, on the other hand, was struggling to keep the mana up, the buffs up, and remember to avoid the mobs. It was disconcerting to feel like someone I liked was killing me with his enthusiasm.

In another situation, I got in with a couple of folks who unilaterally decided to jump ship once we got a ways into the instance, leaving us to die rather abruptly. That wasn't a pleasant experience.

On the other hand, yesterday, Brudie, Felison and I ran Deadmines. Deadmines is getting a little low for us. We started with 5 in the party and we just killed. Then the non-guildies had to go, and we were left to continue on. Things slowed down, got a bit more deliberate, I began to play a pure healer rather than a hybrid, and we worked our ways in. Brudie seemed to be surprised how we made it in, but in the end, we got all the way to the big boss, and just as we took him on, I got jumped and died - but Brudie and Felison cleaned up the boss and all the minons. I couldn't get back to the party - I rezzed just as I came in the instance - but even so, it was a clear win. And it was a good example of what it was like to play with good players.

What became clear was that "good" and "bad" in the context of MMO becomes defined by the social context the actions take place within. Balamor was "good" to be able to grind solo, and I was "good" in my ability to keep Brudie and Felison buffed and healed.

Which led me to think about what sort of player I want to be - I want to be the sort of player people want to roll with in instances. I want them to see an expertise in how I manage the care of the party, and that they don't have to worry, that when they most need it, the heal will arrive. I want to be the sort of player who doesn't inadvertently pull the mob Brudie's sapped before the other mobs are finished off (I'm not quite there yet on this one...), and I want to be the player who gives the necessary cues to the tanks to pull back, to hold on, and to help the cloth monkeys when they need it. In short, I want to make Balamor a better player, and it's interesting to see how much fun I anticipate that goal being.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

EA Checks In

I'm trying to get Blizzard's attention with regard to research. They seem oblivous.

But meanwhile, here's a link to an EA project in the UK, found by a Cadre XI student.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Game playing and identity exploration

This is a hard post to make, because it is self-revelatory, but it seems to me if I am to have an honest experience as an ethnographer, self-reflection is essential. Also, I am spending all this time in serious WoW play because as a doctoral student, I agree with Gee's assertion, "Video games recruit identities and encourage identity work and reflection on identities in clear and powerful ways. If schools worked in similar ways, learning in school would be more succesful and powerful. . ." (What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, p. 51). I don't think I would do this without that motivation - my choices for leisure hours tend toward gardening, grandkid and reading.

So, as to identity work so far, my personal understanding of what Gee calls the "tripartite play of identities (a virtual identity, a real-world identity, and a projective identity)" is unfolding as follows:

My doctoral student identity would be what Gee calls my "real identity," and, upon reflection, I find my behavior in this experience to be completely characteristic of my previous sense of my self, but even more extreme. I am a researcher first, I want to know as much as possible before going in to a new experience, so I get the official strategy guid, read it carefully, with highlighter in hand (and use those little sticky post-it tabs for the bits I'll want to refer to later). I am a planner - I use the strategy guide to plan an itinerary for a session, so I organize my quests in a very efficient order so as to minimize travel and maximize the value of looting (and yes, I make a list). And I am almost pathologically reflective - I have lost myself in the gaming experience from time to time, but most times I do not lose my observer stance. I even dream about it this way - I leapt up from bed this AM to this post; I can't remember the dreams, but apparently these ideas are what my brain was musing upon for most of the night.

My current virtual identity was a carefully constructed identity, in how I choose to design the character in the beginning. First, the world faction I chose was Alliance, because, as a Tolkein fan, those Horde guys looked like bad guys to me, and I didn't want to be a bad guy. I chose the name Perrenelle VERY carefully, because there is so much in a name. First of all, Nelle is my grandmother's name, my middle name, and a name that I reclaimed when I came back to school (from Vicki the Director-type to VickiNelle, the student). Secondly, I am a father's daughter, so perre (a mispelling of pere) appealed to me. And finally, Perrenelle was a real person, a 14th century alchemist. Upon reflection, my choice of character's sex as female was pretty easy. I'm in my mid-fifties, studied a lot about gender identification in my earlier most radical feminist years, and that wasn't one of the more intriguing choices for me. It seemed a comfortable given. I chose the race, Night Elf, because of how I deeply value nature and the environment, and I could identify with their commitment. I chose Druid as my class because I could experiment to some extent with how it might be to be another class, since Druids can play so many roles (from healers to casters), and can have good solo play as well as group play. The professions I chose were healer (because of my real-world interest in botany, and because it is a positive role, rather than a role focused on damaging others), and alchemist (because transmutation and transformation appeal to me, in the Jungian sense).

It is in my "projective identity" that things get really interesting. This is where I increasingly see Perrenelle as my own "project in the making, a creature whom I imbue with a certain trajectory through time defined by my aspirations for what I want that character to be and become (within the limitations of her capacities)" (Gee, p. 55). This is VickiNelle as Perrenelle. First of all, I discovered myself feeling oddly guilty and apologetic to Perrenelle when I chose not to play during the holiday. I wasn't "exercising" her. Then, in the past week, I've noticed that Perrenelle is too darn stubborn for her own good (when she couldn't find her corpse, she kept looking for it way too long instead of just giving up and paying the toll to the spirit healer to be resurrected). And she's way too solitary - she wanted to try to tackle Fell Rock all on her own (Twisted Hatred), and there's almost no way that can be done as a Level 9 Night Elf. And she's just a little too passive and well-socialized, because she feels pressure to follow the suggested sequence of quests from the "official strategy guide," rather than just being spontaneous. And finally, she gets distracted at the most inopportune times by the scenery and pretty flowers (she's an herbalist, don't forget).

My projected identity in WoW is highlighting my preference for solitary or very small group play, and giving me an opportunity to reflect on how deep it is, and the implications of choosing to be solitary or pushing myself to join with someone else I don't know (which I have been also trying out). Pretty deep stuff for something that's just a game.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

This is not my IF!

Of course by IF, I mean Iron Forge...

I was concerned about forgetting to jump to the new server so I did it today. Fairly easy. The directions don't quite jibe with the reaction of the interface, but hey, since when is that a novel experience for the end user. LOL. (After you jump servers via the web page account management on WoW, the actual WoW interface asks you what realm you want to change, log in on, ie, what's your new realm.)

So after I jumped I logged in to see if all my precicious bits and bobbles came with me, which they did. As it turned out, I had last logged out in IF, right by the gryphons. So there I was...and it was...really, really...quiet. I mean, there were the gyphons and the gryphon master...and me.

About then I noticed on the general chat channel a remark that I wished I'd written down. It went something like this: This is not IF, this is not my IF. And he was right. No lag. No slow-mo crashing about into people and objects that are so thick they overlap. No ambient noise of spells being cast behind me and duels and voice emotes all around, no clopping rams or whizzing snowballs. There was no LED-like crawl from the trade channel hawking various blue and purple goods considerably over-priced; only a few, intermittent LFG for SM or LFM for Scholo. WTF?! Where was I?

Now, I know that I'm walking around the same IF; it's the same software app. sitting on a different server. But I can feel the difference. It's like a bad sci fi movie where you wake up and everyone looks the same but something's not right and you know, you sense, these are replacements and something evil is going down...and you want to run. LOL. Seriously.

Sure, it didn't help that my social panel (!) didn't show any friends, or that my guild slate was empty. But still, this was a palpable vibe...out of phase, ersatz IF, nature out of joint... I want to think about this some more.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Walking in another's shoes

So, over the weekend, Holly opened up a whole new realm of thinking for me when she let me play as Eddiva.

I was surpised that this was an option - I assumed that somehow Blizzard had tied my login UserID and Password to my installation media, so that people couldn't play as themselves on a computer other than their own. Turns out, if you know a login and password, you can be anyone.

It turns out to be quite illuminating to see what someone else is seeing. As a noob, not having played a hunter, I couldn't get a mental picture of what Holly was seeing, and now that she's embarked on having a pet, that added a layer of uncertainty to helping answer questions. I've also never played a character with a bow, and that has some quirks too. It only took an hour or so to get comfortable with those options, and I feel more able to comment now.

What surprised me was how uncomfortable I felt playing as someone else. Eddiva had run all of her equipment down to 0 durability, and was in need of new stronger armor. I took the liberty of repairing and replacing as needed. I freed up space by selling vendor trash and banking other items. I visited the First Aid and Fishing trainers to start those training paths. But all along, it felt wrong - not cheating, necessarily, but uncomfortable because of the individual nature of the decisions.

The more I play (and this popped up again last night as I finished Gee), the more personal the expression a character represents. I personally don't care to be called by my "outside world" name inside the game, and I don't care to be identified by my character name(s) in the outside, either. To play as someone else's expression - even for a short while - well, it was illuminating, but probably not something I'll do again.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


Yeah, mostly news and info.

First, the guild most of us belong to in WoW, Night Shift, is jumping servers to Khaz Modan. Folks are getting hinkty about the queue time on log in. Must jump before Jan 11th. Remember, this is just a server switch. Everything else will remain the same. ...allegedly...

Need to join Night Shift? First quit your old guild. Go to the social panel (!) and click the guild tab. Then right click on your own name and select leave guild. Then just ask James, Eric, or me to invite you to the guild. The guild has kids and adults, levels 2 to 52, very friendly and helpful folks.

Second, if you're like me and you forget which cities have which connecting transpo, you will love this map. Bookmark it. I'll also list it in links on the left.

Saturday, January 07, 2006


Tonight Sarah joined the guild. She was whining about wanting to play, and i was on with Brudie and Dimi and Felison and I thought oh hell, I'll let her play. So she commandeered the machine. She asked me to input their names on her friends list, which I thought odd, but agreed to do. She just wanted to see what they were doing because I talk about them.

She whispered to Brudie, Hi I'm Hallgrima's kid. Just wanted to say hi.

I explained that Brudie might be in the middle of something so he might not reply right away. Of course, he did reply pretty soon thereafter. He asked if she wanted to join the guild. I told her to go ahead. She was kinda shy and worried about leaving her other guild. Sarah is very chatty with her "friends" list. They all know her and greet her when she comes on. I explained that that would still be possible. I explained that the upside was that this guild would really help her move forward in the game. It was her decision. I told her I didn't care either way.

She decided she wanted to join, but didn't know how to leave her old guild. I said, ask Brudie. I did that because I wanted her to learn to ask for help and to see that the guys were very patient and knowledgeable. So she asked. He explained how. And presto -- Sarah was in the guild.

That was about three hours ago. Felison took her under his wing. He asked her to show her armor in the chat window area. She didn't know how and asked me. I said, ask Feli. She did. He explained. She learned a new trick. When next I stuck my head in the kitchen, Sarah said he had made a list of what she needed and was on a mining mission to make it. Then he put her in his party and took her along as he went on a few quests. She got XP and loot.

What struck me was that I can recall being in a dungeon, my first dungeon and my first outing with the guild, and Brudie and was doing the same thing for Feli and I. It was so striking to see the same actions and hear/read the same words. I realized it was the community doing what it does best: passing along knowledge to apprentices, in action, on tasks, co-constructing.

Even before the night was over the generation began to turn. Sarah was monitoring guild chatter and saw a new person on the guild chat saying, "I think I'm too low a level for you guys; you're all really high."

Sarah then typed: three things: 1) i'm a level 11, 2) i'm in the guild, and 3) hi and welcome.

How cool is that.


DING! lvl 32

Monday, January 02, 2006

Signs, Symbols, Tools - Revisited

I'm rereading James Gee for my Cadre CXi course and was pondering his chapter on semiotic domains. He talks about expanding notions of sign systems beyond language, the obvious one and powerful one. He mentions visual literacy. N'kay, yeah, that's good. Old, but still true. I can recall having visual literacy classes in grad school.


I have already been pondering the visual literacy of the digital life: games and online chat, blogs, etc. Huge amount of symbolic transactional work: colors, symbol sets,

Yeah, I was thinking about how neglected audio is as a symbol system. Yet when I play WoW, if I don't have the sound on, I miss when my ass is getting chewed on by some nasty NPC I've picked up whilst running behind James (whom they never touch). Audio cues let me know when I've crossed boundaries of regions. Audio cues let me know when a blow has landed on the opponent, when a spell has been cast in my vicinity, when looting is happening behind me, when my buddy has stopped to do skinning, and so on. Sound provides me with useful, sometimes redundant but often critical, information. You see, while the pop up image of the bad guy chewing my ass does give me info that I'm under attack, I often miss it because my eyes are busy elsewhere, e.g., on the map or in my loot bags, or on enemies ahead. But my ears aren't busy. They can listen . There is nothing as creepy as the sound of a murloc approaching from the back. Those are some nasty sounds. gets propers in the digital game age.

Symbols too. The amount of info on the lower horizon of my screen is impressive. Six rows of icons, representing everthing from the comfort of the hearthstone to the valuable potions and bandages, to the cruel curse of hellfire. (Yes, I can crack the earth with hellfire, unfortunately I burn as well. It's more of a suicide bomber move than an attack.)

Add to that the x,y coordinate system used in the world (if you don't have the addon, at least try typing /loc to find out where you are. Some WoW databases offer clues with x,y info.).

And in other games, such as Sonic the Hedgehog or Zelda, there are other, similar symbol systems and iconographies mediating the information in the game world.

The complexity is NOT JUST in the game narrative, but also in the interface. I've noticd that in some games, language as we think of it, is pretty rarely used. Yet clearly a lot of knowledge is available for consumption.

I wonder if Sarah would find it more compelling to take notes with iconic headers rather than word headers. Her soc'l sci teacher is deep into making them do Cornell notes. I could see icons easily for the left margin headers.