Friday, June 22, 2007

Response to LindaX

“We had community for a good stretch, then it committed suicide. I used to look forward to hopping on and chatting with Feli or Owlie or Nemy or Kaen or Cerwyn or Cyrinic or Sylvander or ...”

And I managed to pick a fight with each and every one of them. For some reason, I just can't help tapping on the fish tank.

“I consider Ruleviolator a member of my community . . .”

OMFG! You consider Ruleviolator part of your community?!? So, Twink and I are running an instance and we pug him. Now, he was 70, so we figured it was o.k. The warlock makes a soulwell and he marvels at it and asks what it is. Seriously! About 10 minutes later we have a bad pull and wipe [it happens . . . especially with me]. His response is to tell us something to the effect that we aren’t a good enough group for him and quits.

“Another difference between me and you and Twink (and yeah, I put Twink in this category I think) is that you guys ran through the content as quickly as possible to reach the goal. I stopped to smell the ogres more than you did . . . “

And that difference, if I can speak for Twink here, isn’t just that we felt the need to consume content. There is some of that, but the greater impetus is folks expect us to lead [I have no fucking idea why] . . . and you can only lead if you are out in front.

Once upon a time when I was first rolling my first toon, I picked “warrior” as the class as it was the best suited to protect Hallgrima. Now, not blaming her because I think it is my personality regardless, but the choice from then to now was to protect. Twink rolled a healer for, I am assuming, the very same reasons.

I wish I could post all the conversations that Twink and I have had privately. They would reveal two men who take the obligation of servant leadership seriously. Leveling a warrior or a priest are at the bottom of the list for ease. Living them is equally uneasy as every wipe is one of our faults. And as ViaMedia becomes more surly and Twinklheal more silent . . . it makes sense to me.

We failed to run Old Hillsbard last weekend. I was the one to call to put the tag on its toe and the first to log off, but it didn’t just end there with me. I felt like I had failed my friends. My play was sloppy and . . . [I can always find ways to criticize my own play]. Back to the “ViaMedia is a Bad Player” post, since then it weighs heavy on me [and I know on Twink] when we can’t compensate enough to overcome the obstacles.

As a warrior [and I am assuming as a Priest], I have a belief that I am the margin of error. If I had just pulled agro off one more guy . . . If I had just popped that talent . . . if I had just switched stances one more time . . . If . . .

This isn’t a boo hoo . . . I picked my roll [rolled my roll] and I try to fulfill it [again, as I think Twink would agree]. I’ve spent many hours outside the game studying and researching because that is my roll. I’m supposed to know the pulls. I’m supposed to know the bosses. Why? Because I’m supposed to be the guy on point . . . at the front of the group. And I think that is what leads us both to consume the content and to the brink of burnout. It is a heavy burden sometimes, but one we took upon ourselves.

I am also assuming that guild leaders experience the same frustration and burn out. Not just the burden of command, but I think the tools to do both . . . well . . . suck. It's always pushing the rock up hill . . . it's always an effort even for the simple things. For a game that is supposed to be communal, it is often only so in spite of the game tools.

Anyway, I ran tonight with The Mayor and loved every moment. I ran the other night with Saami and loved every moment. There is just nowhere forward for me to go [Correction: ViaMedia . . . plenty of places for "me" to go] in the game that holds any interest. Until the next event or expansion, I'm content with just helping folks out as they need, but no longer feel the need to play . . . or to push.

Random Thoughts

So, I logged in to make sure Twink wasn't . . . two hours later . . .

Trillbur [my god, someone shot me!] asked if I would help with Durn. So, I headed to NaGrind as he assembled his crew . . . in Tanaris. So, he meant Old Hillsbard and Durnhold. I had to bow out because I wasn't up for that type of time commitment and chalked it up to another Trillbur misadventure.

Then The Mayor shows up. Man, I've missed her. I've had the pleasure of The Mayor's company on the top floor of a hotel in Alaska and under the ground in Montreal. I find it near impossible I've known her for three years. And, she's as good a partner to run with as there is.

So, we ended up on a world tour as we got her all the flight paths possible in the Outlands. And I got two distinct pleasures. The first was taking someone to a new land and sharing that WOW moment. The second was seeing her ding for 62.

Anyway, the point here is that I know The Mayor is a third my age, but she is pretty amazing to converse with [either that or I've had a lobotomy that no one informed me of]. And I must juxtaposition this against my 15 year old nephew who is leveling up a rogue who is . . . well, I just keep sending gold and not answering the phone.

I have over 20 years experience in text based communication [my god, someone shot me!] and there is a rhyme and rhythm to it. There is a turn-taking, yes, but there is also something harder for me to define. Whatever it is, some are a pleasure to chat with and some . . . err . . aren't.

As I ramble here . . . I recall lessons from my father about boxing. "Styles make fights" as it was taught and observed. And styles make dialogs as well. The Mayor converses without any hint of self-consciousness. She's comfortable regardless of the disparity in age or level. There is a confidence in her that I don't see in her peer, my nephew.

From Planetside to World of Warcraft, I've known a number of teens that were already seemingly my peer and I wonder what they'll be at my age? A generation self-taught to think . . . experienced in trial and error . . . comfortable with the losses success requires . . . collaborative and communal and communicative . . .

I can't wait to see . . . and I worry about those, like my nephew, left behind.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Virtual Stage and the Absurd

So, why does the below speak so much to me about my WOW experience? Err . . oh, sorry . . . yeah, go down and read then come back . . . I'll wait. It's from "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are dead" by Tom Stoppard for any of you unwashed masses out there [STOP THE DAMNED YEARNING!]. Just change "Actor" to "Player" and then don't confuse that "Player" with "The Player". You'll want to go reread that now, but I can't wait this time. Trust me . . . it all makes sense . . . to me.

PLAYER (to GUIL): Are you familiar with this play?
PLAYER: A slaughterhouse-eight corpses all told. It brings out the best in us.
GUIL: You!-What do you know about death?
PLAYER: It's what the actors do best. They have to exploit whatever talent is given to them, and their talent is dying. They can die heroically, comically, ironically, slowly, suddenly, disgustingly, charmingly, or from a great height. My own talent is more general. I extract significance from melodrama, a significance which it does not in fact contain; but occasionally, from out of this matter, there escapes a thin beam of light that, seen at the right angle, can crack the shell of mortality.
ROS: Is that all they can do-die?
PLAYER: No, no-they kill beautifully. In fact some of them kill even better than they die. The rest die better than they kill. They're a team.
ROS: Which ones are which?
PLAYER: There's not much in it.
GUIL: Actors! The mechanics of cheap melodrama! That isn't death! You die so many times; how can you expect them to believe in your death?
PLAYER: On the contrary, it's the only kind they do believe. They're conditioned to it. Audiences know what to expect, and that is all that they are prepared to believe in.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Light at the end of the tunnel . . .

Twink asked me last week what it looked like when someone was done with a MMOG . . .

Well, I'm done.

70 levels . . . geared . . knowledgeable . . . etc . . . still . . . done.


Well, there is just nothing to hold me in the game. I've done everything worth doing and . . . well, after 70 levels there are mostly just folks who want me to do for them. Ain't no one doing me any favors. Ain't no one wanting my company just for the sake of fellowship.

WOW is designed as a communal game, but what do you do when you have no community? Now, I have friends, no doubt. Love Twink and Hall and Clive and Aka and others . . . Trubs and Assa . . . , but, that is not a community. I find WOW lately to be very painfully lonely and I can do that in real life. WOW actually makes me feel lonely.

Folks can take offense or whatever. The simple fact is I don't feel it anymore. For me to leave is a huge thing as most of my closest friends are there . . . but . . . not me anymore. I'll keep the account active. My friends know how to find me. I'll still come when called, but . . . only when called.

The odd thing is how bitter I feel about it . . . like I failed. Somehow, I got to the highest level without the community connections required to continue. It's a very odd odd thing for me, yet . . . an honest one.

I wish all of you the best of luck and virtual lives.

What is our story or the story?

Ugh! Dammit, Hall . . . that last post . . . still trying to digest. Now, as someone who has seen you do a number of un-smart things and stood over your corpse more than once [and you the same], I applaud you on it.

Now, my thoughts [when not in comps which is almost always] lately on WOW, which I am more or less done "playing" and growing more bored with daily] are to the storytelling element.

So, Illidan was killed last night . . . for the first time, but certainly not the last. Like so many bosses we have killed and rekilled . . . or not yet killed, but will . . .

Well . . .

What is the story of WOW? I mean, so even though we did not kill Illidan [and except for Twink are not likely to] . . . he does die. Now, last week I spent two hours straight just reading the summary of the history of our lil' world . . . and it has just dawned on me that we are making and remaking and reremaking the . . . err . . . current history of WOW.

We did go through the Dark Portal [side-by-side] . . . we did this and that and . . . well . . . Illidan does/did die. What context do we put the current history into? Frodo, Leoglis and Gimil were part of the "Fellowship of the Ring" or was it Hall, Twink and Via? What is the truth of the fiction of it . . . virtual as it may be?

Now, fearless of revealing very geekish knowledge, it always makes me think of D. C. Comics now abandoned concept of Hypertime . . . it all happened . . . it's all true. It's the weight of the events and not the who of the participants that moves our history on and on and on, yet . . .

Friday, June 01, 2007

School is a FedEx Quest

As I'm starting the lit rev framework for my game study work I've been asking myself many questions to help me more sharply focus on a complex subject. While most game studies folks are interested in the potential of games to carry school content (e.g., Squire, Gee), others are interested in them as labs for studing social phenomena, such as economics (Castranova) and social engagement (e.g., Malaby). I fall into the latter category. My interest is in knowledge co-production and sharing, i.e., cultural work. To the extent that learning is a consequence of cultural engagement, virtual world gaming, i.e., MMO gaming, and specific game play are viable settings for study.

Q: Is knowledge constructed and shared in MMOs? >> If so, this might be a great lab for studying that.

Since knowledge production and sharing clearly happen in these settings, and quite successfully across a fair amount of diversity, these settings offer a chance to understand in concrete terms, the propositions of sociocultural theory.

Q: Is the complexity of MMO game worlds sufficient to warrant a need to know? >> If so, games can stand in for other complex contexts requiring intentional learning, e.g., work.

Ironically I was about to say, work and school, and then I caught myself. Is school really that complex? That's how I got to school is a fedex quest. In public schools in California at least, school is still about porting information and basic skills into kids' heads. But I don't want to rant about that. That's old news.

People playing WoW turn to sites such as Thottbot, Allakhazam, and WoWwiki when they have a problem. They want to find an NPC or a quest giver, or they need help strategizing how to succeed at the given quest task. The help available there is both user-generated and site-generated. The site offers a fairly deep database on items, quests, factions, professions, classes and so on. However, on Thottbot and Allakhazam, that databased knowledge tends to be static description, that is, amost a dictionary of information. However, both sites allow game players to post additional information in forums and threaded discussions, and they do, based on their personal experiences and insights.

Look up Legend of Stalvan in Thottbot and you get a Thottbot generated entry that contains oodles of information about the quest: location, level, rewards, start, finish, and a listing of the 13 step chain that *is* The Legend of Stavan. Much of that information is hotlinked to more detail on location and items. The interesting and most used portion of the page is, however, the user postings, i.e., commentary on the quest and the quest chain. Here's a sampling:

THE QUEST in abbreviated form:
Obtained at level 22 -- Travel to the Moonbrook Schoolhouse and bring back any updated information about Stalvan to Clerk Daltry.

Before I offer the user commentary, note that it falls into a few neat categories. First is the explicit help: go here, do this, it's at these coordinates. The second focuses on strategies or obstacles that make the quest a challenge, and how to get around them. This is by far the most interesting category because, like the proverbial cat, there are many ways to skin a quest. The third category addresses this with class-specific pointers. The fourth category is straight out brag, not interesting and yet, if a level 20 hunter did it, maybe you can too.


Explicit Help: It was 41,67.. When you enter moonbrook it's straight ahead from the road, on the right. There is a hearse out front. The box is in the back room, on the right siode right before you go up the stairs. Ghost was lvl 26.. took her down, no problem.

Quest Obstacles Here's something worth noting that isn't mentioned above: the undead has a predilection for polymorph. I did this quest as a lvl 29 Hunter and she sheeped me as soon as the fight started. As soon as the first wore off, she did it again, and I wasn't able to get a single shot in. Fortunately my pet was able to take her down. I would guess that she prefers to keep the fights one-on-one. If you fight her alone, you probably won't notice it, but be warned if you're in a group (or have a pet).

Class Pointers As a lot of people posted, she will sheep you if you have a pet. Did this as a 26 warlock, Voidwalker should be able to solo her shes not that bad. You do have time to get some DPS spells on her in between her turning you into a sheep. It takes about 10 seconds for her to aggro so I think you can just accept the quest for the box and leave.

Brag Very simple; beat it as a lvl 22 priest.

This is just intended as a sampling. There is much more to code in this thread, for instance, some comments are directly in response to prior ones, others are posted as a general broadcast. Some include links or images, and so on. Some help references the original quest text either to clarify or to point out how n00b you must be to not read it carefully and not realize the quest is in Westfall not Duskwood. LOL.

Now as cool as that is, it gets better. The sites support reputation management. YOu get to vote, if you wish, on the posting, based on whatever criterion you choose. I was going to say based on usefulness, but I have seen some postings get bumped up because they are funny or because they rant against Blizzard because the quest drop rate is awful. I, myself, have voted up a few entries for those reasons. They deserve to be read by others. I guess that's the criterion we're all working on.

I"m adding a picture here, as is my new habit. THis one is not a shot I took, but is an image a player posted on this Stalvan thread. Note the user went to the trouble to markup the picture to help others find the elusive box.