Sunday, February 25, 2007

I except Twink to be conservative. I think Twink expects me to be aggressive

Saturday in Hell’ . . .

Disclar: If you haven’t noticed, my posts tend toward the personal and observational. If are looking for academics, look to Hall’s posts. Mine will remain shamelessly idiosyncratic .

So, Clive was 3 bubbles from ‘ding’ for 60 today. This meant a lot to both Twink’ and myself. We’ve watched him grind his levels out the hard way and him reaching 60 is a testament to the man’s endurance and perseverance. It was a accomplishment worth of praise and pictures.

I know that both Twink and myself would not have choose anyplace else to be as Clive pushed from 59 to 60. That golden glow that enveloped him I found very . . . satisfying. DING and we posed for pictures.

After, still a question of getting him through the long chain. None seem that interested, but I remained. Clive set them up and I took them down. 45 minutes later, we had taken down the end of the long chain and were ready for ramparts.

Twink and I have walked these halls a dozen times. Cy was familiar with the grounds. Clive, new ground, but he had skilled Sherpas. We had some bumps, but

Moving onto the Furnace, everyone was even more skilled and successful. It was a smooth a run as I have had and all performed admirably.

Outside an instance, we all engage the game differently. For me, and Twink, it is important to be there for the benchmark moments . . . 40, 60 & 70. It is part not just of the game, but of being part of the community. Like attending a birthday party for someone you care

I think Twink and I experience them very similarly. He either leads or I do . . . and it is a comfortable compromise. He is a bit too cautious. I’m a bit too . ..errr . . not cautious. He brings his people [who I have o respect [and do] and I bring my people and get the same respect.

Yet, in our leadership . . . I think we both always feel we have not only a voice but a veto and even an opportunity of command. It’s simple to realize that I never get annoyed with him. I think it requires him a bit more to never . . or seldom . .. get annoyed with me.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Must an Educational Virtual World be Just a Cooler Classroom

Okay, this is going to be the first in a series of reflections as I get trained up on Quest Atlantis, Sasha Barab's self-described MMO for science ed. I'm getting formally trained by Bron Stuckey right now. I know Bron, oddly enough, through Etienne and CPSquare (Community of Practice group).

I first encountered Quest Atlantis, or QA as most call it, at the GLS conference two years ago. Sasha ran a mini workshop on it and we all got to have a wee taste. I recall being on a mission to figure out why the downstream part of the river was polluted. I wandered a 3-D virtual world and interacted with NPCs who had info relevant to the problem. Unlike, say, World of Warcraft, this wasn't about just going somewhere to do or get something and then check back with the quest giver. I recall my table group had to weigh evidence from a variety of sources to draw our own conclusion about what was going on. In that sense, an active learning experience was there to be had.

Now nearly three years later, I am training up on what has become a much larger, more fully implemented, virtual world. THere are trading cards, novels, and multiple ways of engaging with the environmnet. So far, I have experienced the content as king, and the virtual world as a stage upon which to engage in problem based learning activity. That is, I have not yet seen the science or society & technology content as embodied in the game. Oddly, I keep thinking back to the workshop at GLS where at least the problem was an in-game virtual world problem. Now it is very likely that this is a matter of time, and that as a beginner in the game I have not yet been offered those sorts of experiences. I reserve my judgment accordingly, but I am curious about whether and how the world itself will come to be an integral component of the content.

I guess as a TV gen. person, I think of content in virtual "learning" worlds the way Gumby and Pokey experienced it: walking into a book. In some ways, their experience was better integrated. Here's a quote from Art Clokey on Gumby's Trip to the Moon: "Well, you know, the spaceship had four modules on spokes like a wheel. The fifth module, that is the central module, was spherical. The idea was that they would rotate in space and create artificial gravity with centrifugal force. I studied physics and chemistry and so on. I taught chemistry and physics in high school at one time. So I had the knowledge at that time, in 1956." The content was IN the world, a part of the world. The world was not a backdrop for conducting education materials, it embodied the ideas themselves.

Also, the QA world raises some interesting problems for the notion of VR world design for education. The graphics are admirable, but chunky and old style active worlds stuff. If most kids are in touch with designs for consoles and for games such as World of Warcraft, QA looks downright funky and old. The avatar idling behavior cycles so often and is so annoying, it makes me wonder if the world is full of fleas. THese people are constantly picking at their clothes. Anyhow.. that last remark is really petty except as a marker of the problem. WoW and console games can afford the investment in art design because of the size of the customer base. Will educational games ever be able to afford the grandeur of a real virtual world game? And if not, won't they always seem funky, dated, and well, boring, even before the kids get into them? This is a real problem. However, we know text book publishers make a pretty penny off the text book market. Why couldn't a massive world game, if it could scale the entire curriculum of a grade level subject matter, pull down the same revenue? Can a Quest Atlantis stand in for the entire 5th grade science curriculum, usurping the textbook? That's a big burden to place on the developers, or is it.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sixty to Seventy – Reflections on the Post Post Progression Era

Back in June I wrote an entry entitled, “Zero to Sixty – Reflections on the Post Progression Era” []. Rereading that post I realized I can't rewrite it for seventy. I'm a sap. I got emotional just rereading and remembering. Yet, the Via' of today is not the Via' of sixty . . . or even sixty-one. The James of today isn't the James of June 27th, 2006 either.

How do I explain? That's the hard part. I could just fall back on my lyrical lines and alliterate approach [see?]. Yet, that would seem forced and fake. I could once again play the provocateur, but please . . . we've all seen that puppet show. So, now what?

From the first time I saw a raptor to Hal’ and I backing away from a dragon in the The Swamp of Sorrows to the Un’Goro Crater and finally to realizing what the Dark Portal in The Blasted Lands represented within the mythology of the game . . . ”

It was only a few short weeks ago that I stood side-by-side with Hall' and Twink' as we walked through that Dark Portal into Hell . . . well, the Hellfire Peninsula. Twink' was instantly disconnected, leaving Hall' and I to explore those broken land alone [with two million other people]. It was only a few short days ago that I stood once again side-by-side with Twink' as I went from leveling to leveled. Both for me are very memorable bookends and once again my adventure that starts with Hall' ends with Twink' . . . I like the symmetry.

Standing there . . . surveying the landscape I noticed something wrong with my interface. I scanned around the edges until I realized it was my experience bar . . it was now missing. The single most important indicator of my progression was gone! My thoughts were to how would I measure my success now?

This time I watched as the experience bar disappeared off my interface, but this time there was no apprehension, only appreciation. Now, I could get back to doing what I love best . . helping others level. Isn't that ultimately the jorb of a warrior? Otherwise, I'll grind out my rep' or mats'. I'll quip and quibble in chat. I'll give out the obligatory 'grats' as others pass benchmarks. And, I'll be ViaMedia . . . dwarf, warrior, alchemist, herbalist, comic relief, bringer of the quick quip, provocateur, naked dwarf, friend to the weak and the wee, tour guide, guild officer, community member . . . and level 70.

Friend!—spoke Columbus—keep
Trust in a Genoese no more!
He always stares into the blue deep —
Is lured out there too far.

The strange is now dear to me!
Genoa, sank, waned into the sea—
Stay cold, heart! Hold the helm, hand!
Before me sea—and land?—and land? ——

We stand fast on our feet!
We can never return!
Out there, the beyond: from the distance to greet
Us with death, glory, fortune!

-Friedrich Nietzsche

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The post formally known as . . .

O.K., here we go . . .

I've been exploring a lot lately ... not that, you sick bastards! I'm all man, baby! Dudes, what kind of sick twisted peeps are you that you imagine me on all fours taking it from behind by a big Swedish guy named Sven who keeps calling me Miss Loreta?

Errr . . . amyway . . .

Guys in the game, just like guys outside of the game, seem to be motivated by the same tune. If I, with skill, insult their manhood or question their sexuality ... they are more willing to bond and be of benefit.

Hall' says I should ask them about it, and I have. Funny thing is, it isn't a question they even understand. I asked Fel' about it and his response was, “Are you hitting on me?” . . . which is exactly the 'guy' response that I should expect. It's jokey and homophobic . . . and totally in the strike zone. My response was equally jokey and pseudo-homophobic [Not that there is anything wrong with that].

Now, I would never joke with a gal that way ... or even Twink. [not comparing you to a gal, Twink ... your just more high-brow in my opinion.]. There seems to be a guydar about it. Fel' and Syl' and others are fair game. Twink and Clive are not.

The point is this . . . leadership is an odd thing . . . and seems to be gender based in some specifics. I can get more out of some gals with praise and more out of some guys with insults. I am not sure why. Yet, I know it is the case. I know I pick the 'voice' based on the person.

Leadership is knowing your audience.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Week of Playing Dangerously . . .

Ding, for 68!

Driving to the home of my professor/mentor/friend/comrade-in-arms and on the phone to my dear mother, she says, “You need to get out and socialize.” I try to explain, but I cannot. How can you? I'm on my way to spend an evening with four people [Hall', Twink', Clive' and Aka'] who I have spent more time with virtually than actually. How do I explain my week started with Twink' visiting me and sitting next to me for over 10 hours with us both staring into the panes of our respective laptops where we stood side-by-side? How can I explain my week ended with hours at Hall's house with us all of us sitting in the same room, but standing in Black Rock Depths?

I have consumed the content of Hell', the Marsh, and the Forest. From the moment I walked through the Dark Portal to now, I have swapped out all my gear and added 8 levels of skill. I have run three separate instances multiple times. I've watched relationship turn upside down and been strengthened. With all of it has come more and more responsibility to those who have not.

Tonight, Felison asked me for help. I said, as a joke, “I preferred it when you babysat me.” His response was quick and quite honest, I believe, “So did I”. More than anyone, Feli' taught me how to be a Warrior. As I worked with Aka', what I mostly taught was what Feli' had taught me. Yet, here I am . . . mentoring my mentor. And every “Thanks!!!!” he gives me I scan for sarcasm . . .yet, I don't think there is any.

Driving from Hall's to Twink's hotel, we are discussing how pervasive WOW is in our lives. Did I mention it is 1am? My phone rings. It is Fell' calling to ask me where to find something in Nagrand. And I know what he is talking about and direct him accordingly. When I get home . .. did I mention it is 2am? . .. he hasn't gotten there yet. So, I adventure with him and get him the chest buff. Then . . . did I mention it is 3am? . . . the east coasters start to log in and next thing I know I am in a new instance. Pervasive? Hellfire and damnation, maybe obsessive!

Backing up a couple hours . . . I walk into Hall's and do the meet and greet. Clive' and I do the stutter handshake/hug that guys do these days. Not sure how intimate to be. Dammit, I should have hugged the man! I have fought and died with him enough times, yet I spoke with him more that night than in all the times I've met him. My affections for these folks run deeper than I like to admit. Clive', Hall', Aka' and Twink' bring me nothing but joy . . . wiping the enemies or them wiping us . . . I'm happy enough to kill or die with my people.

Before this turns to mush and slither, let me reveal, there is a point. My virtual relationship mean something to me. They might mean more to me than my actual relationships. I've known DoubleE longer than any of those listed above . . . at least three years. I've known Twink' for over a year. Yet, Eric? I've only met him a handful of times.

I've known LindaX for a couple years now. The first time I met her was in newsgroups. We spared. Unlike most of my professors, she was quick and witty and willing and wielded her writing instrument well. I've met her meat puppet a number of times . . . and . . . well . . . she can intimidate or irritate me. She is the master of mysteries that . . . well . . . remain mysteries to me. Yet, Hallgrima and Saami are my comrades-in-arms and not for a single moment have I ever felt other than a espirit de corps with them [her].

I'm level 68 now. I have consumed the content of three new lands. My friends . . . who I look to guide me... look to me to guide them. I've lead my first three instances . . . and I HATE leading. I get requests for this and that and to go here and there . . . and . . . yet . . dammit . . O.K. . . . I'll be honest . . . I love it! Questing from question marks doesn't compel me . . . instead, guiding guiladies and guildudes does. My people . . . Hall', Twink, Clive', Aka', Owl, Feli', Nemi'kins, Bany'kins, Cy', and . . . so many more . . . are who and what matters to me.

I don't know Eric and LindaX near as well as Twink' and Hallgrima. I sometimes think I don't know James as well as ViaMedia. What does that mean? And . . . am I the only one who thinks and feels this way?