Saturday, September 29, 2007

But They're Only Virtual...Right?

Greetings. A long story short, I am Akmalla. The Mayor. The child of Hall and Clive. And now, on to my actual post.

Lately, as you no doubt know, Via, Hall, Clive, and Twink were invited to a researcher's guild on a different server. Namely, Etrigg. As soon as the researchers mouthed their long-term goal, money changed hands and pretty soon Hall, Via, Twink, and Clive were checking banks and emptying bags...of new characters. Vilemedia, Grimnar, Hellgrima, and...Althaea?...are now romping gleefully in fields of dead bodies in Sethekk Halls and soon, the flying bathtubs (Tempest Keep). And let there be no confusing, Clivenar was still a druid, abeit a hairy one; and Hallgrima was still a rather strange-looking warlock, and so on. As one would naturally assume, Akmalla was unable and unallowed to make the switch. First and foremost, she was Alliance. Secondly, the transfer would cost cold hard cash...the real-world version of it anyway (You Papery?). I found myself feeling, strangely, deserted. Perhaps you've heard of some friends come and gone through your browsings here? Names like Cyrinic, Sage, Owlune, Felison, Skuggan, Nicci, Nemi, and Cela. All gone. And now Twink, Via, and my parents. One would think, "No problem. You still know them. Their characters still exist. Why worry?" Well perhaps what worried me was not so much the logical game-sense of the massive exodus to Etrigg, but the sense of a lost community. I had long since lost the warming gift that was green chat. And blue chat was few and far between. Then why did I feel so angry?

When the others, Nicci, Cela, etc., were online and active players, the game seemed to take on a different aspect. In retrospect, I often did not move more than a few inches, sometimes guild-chatting for hours. Parties were common and not frowned upon. The game here was a big dysfuntional family game, with a tightly-knit community. When I finally severed the connection (impending as it was) between myself and Phantasmagoria, it killed that community. I lost a lot of yellow names on that 'O'-Panel, and for a while the game repulsed me. Now the game was less of a family thing, and more of a...should I say...'cult' thing. Now it was really only Via, Twink, Clive, Hall, and myself. I was pulled back in, and this unsocial version of the game became the norm. And when these, the final four, were pulled to a 'realm' that I could not follow to, I became annoyed. Why? I asked myself. They're only virtual avatars...right? Why did I feel an emotional connection between myself and Akmalla? Why, when I was offered a lvl 70 warrior toon to be bought for me on that server, did I feel attracted AND repelled?

A month passed and I thought I had the answer: The old server had nothing more for me. The community that had bolstered her XP gain was gone, and she was figuratively, 'Alone'. The game had stopped. But, no, I told myself. I wanted to play there. That couldn't be it. Another month passed and now I think I have the real answer. Akmalla, to this day, is not a level 70. I believe that it is anger in many forms that makes me feel 'stuck'. First and foremost, I think it is anger at myself. For example, when the expansion was released, Hall, Clive, Via, and Twink were all 60. And now they are all 70. They walked through the portal together. I could only watch. This anger at myself is because I couldn't be 60 with them. And now, with the newest expansion coming in May, I feel that I may not reach 70 with them. I feel anger at the researchers, who enticed my final four friends to their ranks with the savory scent of book chapters and grants. I feel anger at Nicci, Cela, Felison, and all the others, for leaving without hardly any notice at all. I feel anger at my parents, Via, and Twink, for even joining that place I could not go in the first place.

I suppose what all of this text is trying to prove relates directly to the title. Why am I so angry? Why am I so deeply desturbed by what is, essentially, a video game character? My question to Twink, Via, Hall, Clive, and any others whom might have an answer is...why is there such a strong bond between character and human? Why do we pay gold to move them with us, packing them up and bringing them on all our trips? Is it our hard work, our months of effort put into actually leveling them? Or is it perhaps the learning process taking effect on it that we have learned so much that to delete them or move on would be like throwing away knowledge? Or is it pride in our work, our willingness to show off? Above all of these things, (and as impossible and silly as it sounds), I think the reason I am having this problem is because we love our toons. We love them like children, we love them like people we can go to when reality is just too gritty to chew. We love them like we love ourselves, like they are a piece of our lives, and our my case, a piece of my childhood? You tell me. They're only virtual.......right?


Monday, September 17, 2007

Disney Did It Better

you have no idea how much it hurts to say that.

but, what i want from a nextfest is a plausible next. what i got was a lot of mental masturbation. oh how cool. i can make a tube that makes music. i can make a robot that swims in shallow water like a snake. i can make clothing that hugs you from a distance.

my vision of nextfest would have been more like the old Disneyland Monsanto house. damn that thing rocked. i loved this place, and it wasn't even a ride. but it was a vision, and the vision was the ride. i just didn't see any vision at nextfest. nothing i could imagine myself participating in in the future.

monsanto house ftw!


So, went to Wired NextFest yesterday. To say I was underwhelmed would be an understatement. Should have been the Radio Shack NextFest and held in the parking lot of a dirt mall. The Hammaker Schlemmer catalog has cooler stuff. The Brookstone catalog has cooler stuff. Hellfire and damnation, the SkyMall Shopping Magazine has cooler stuff! What is next according to the Wired fest is a combination of behavior modification applications and "co-existence" with robots that require two Asian servants. Ugh! Everyone knows the future will both be shiny and have jetpacks . . . NextFest lacked both.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Why I Study WoW

This is from Pardo, at the Austin Game Dev conf. this month:
... decisions guided by a series of mantras, the first of which is "easy to learn, difficult to master."

This is harder to do than to say. But here's a great tip:
"The first thing we always do is we design depth first and accessibility later," Pardo said. "And I think this is kind of unintuitive... We try to come up with [answers to] what are the really cool things, the things that are going to attract players to this game and get them to play the game for two to three years? Where's the depth coming from? And then we think about accessibility."

more to come...gotta go