Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Jedi is Making Me a Better Person

I am, sad to say, learning to be a better person because I play  one in a virtual world. Think about what that means. But first, some background:

Context -- I've started playing Bioware's Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO (SWTOR). It's my fourth or fifth MMO and I wanted to play it in part because of the Star Wars theme but mostly because I was curious about how Bioware's ethical decision making approach to lore would work in an MMO, as opposed to a single player game like Dragon Age. I was in the beta; loved that and decided to play. I rolled on the Republic side because I was feeling that the Star Wars lore really compelled me to roll light side. I've got two Jedi toons: a Consular Sage (healer) and a Knight Sentinel (dps). I have since, of course, added a couple of dark side Siths to the family. This entry is about the two Jedi, which I play the most frequently.

Vygotsky -- Yah, I'm going to drag his dead ass into this. Why? Because Vygotsky tells us that we do in order to learn. That is, first we behave, we act. Then, from that we learn. Now typically learning theories tell us that we have to develop some capability to learn first, or we need to be taught or instructed in order to learn. With social learning theory we roll up our sleeves and engage in real activities, with others, and from that engagement, from working it through, we learn. Learning is the product of experience.

Jedi and the whole light side thang -- Okay, so at various decision points in the game, as various quests entail choosing to be mean and snarky, and vengeful and destructive or patient and supportive, and thoughtful and other-directed, I have chosen to go light. I don't kill the bad guy I've just subdued, I give him another chance or I urge that s/he be treated justly. At first it was a combo of wanting to level my light side points so I could wield higher level lightsabers, and realizing that if I were truly RP'ing (role playing) a Jedi, I needed to be true to the Jedi principles. But now, by level 45, something strange has started to happen to me. I am feeling the vibe. In real life I am more patient, urging calm and negotiation, listening before deciding... not that I NEVER EVER did those things. I mean I'm not a complete jerk, but certainly those would not have come up on the short list of my strengths. But now, in a kinda of creepy way, I realize I'm trying to engage reality using some of those ideas from the Jedi side of the game.

It's freaking me out a little. As we look into game studies we don't typically look for this! We look at kids acquiring scientific habits of mind from playing games like Quest Atlantis or River City. We look at kids acquiring collaborative teamwork skills from games like WoW or networked FPS. So, here I am playing a game without any overt educational intent on my part or on the part of the game devs., but voila, by agreeing to engage with these pro-social -- oh, let's use the schooly expression and call it character ed. -- principles, I am engaging in a new behavior pattern, and from that, learning  (becoming aware) to be intentionally or thoughtfully different in my actions/reactions. That was my point.

Now I wouldn't just say this is some weird thing happening to me. I had a conversation early in my SWTOR playing days with an old buddy of mine, OrneryBob, whose name says it all. He was a real hothead/meathead in WoW, not that I ever minded but other people did. He actually TOLD ME that the SWTOR Jedi knight he was playing was making him choose to be good, to go with the light side choices, to be nicer. I lol'd of course, assuming it was a sarcastic and snarky joke. But ... dude, I get you now. I feel it. It's real. It's creepy but it's real. I wonder if it will stick after I stop playing some months or years hence.

A Trooper Looks at 50 . . .

Into the room the Jedi come and go . . . speaking of nothing.

Fleet isn’t exactly empty, but it is quiet.  The friends list is empty. The guild list is empty. The galactic market kiosks are empty.  The last three plants for the daily quests didn’t have enough folks to form a cue. I spent two hours running the Corellia Run (11 chests in 20 minutes for about 125,000 credits) Didn’t see a soul or a Sith the entire time.

Someone shows up in the guild list, but looking their location is “Space”. It is the only other active part of the guild besides me . . . they never chat and spend all day in “Space” and just add levels. Part of me is fascinated by this process and wants to ask them about it. The more dominate part of me however has no interest in a discussion with someone who can level playing the crappy rail missions over and over. Besides, anyone who could isn’t really someone I expect is into narrative.

1.2 came with a fair share of things worthy of note mostly for the fact they weren’t included in the vanilla. The interview with the developer was they were waiting to consider the population issue until after 1.2.  Everyone who had drifted out to see other games would suddenly come flooding back. Yeah . . . with a flood like this I am in imminent danger of the soles of my shoes getting moist.

However, there is something interesting about 1.2 that I can comment on . . . and shall! At legacy level 25 for five million credits you can get a neutral galactic market kiosk on your ship . . . and on any ship of any toon you ever roll. This, if the game were either alive or reanimated, could lead someplace interesting. How long in a game with higher populations that matured would it take until the majority of the committed players had on the ships of whatever toon they played a neutral galactic market? What does that mean for the faction galactic markets? Could make for some interesting evolving for the environment.

All in all, the legacy stuff is a nice piece to add to the MMO existence. Hope it survives into other iterations of 
MMOs. Of course, I’d prefer the existing sinkholes of stupidity like the current market’s interface for an example would be perfected before we add more things that need to be perfected.

Anway . . . and . . . If you give the run faster talent to level one is it still a talent?

Hopefully . . . soon . . . The Boss and The Don and maybe The Mayor might could be 50 . . . and we can at least explore some of the higher content together. Otherwise, until they address the population issues . . . it is just another ghost town . . . sans ghosts.

Well . . . here I am . . . in good faith (as opposed to bad?) . . . waiting for Godot.
(Whedon, Sartie and Beckett . . . for those of you playing at home.)

Monday, April 09, 2012


So if you have the flu, what to do? Rack up some SWTOR hours!!111!

On the weekend, feeling miserable and looking for something to keep my mind off my cough, I decided on a SWTOR marathon. I really want to hit 50 before the patch, with at least one toon. old MMO problem kicked in. Somehow I manage to end up on the friends list of middle school boys who need help with a quest and then never leave me alone. /cry  Just ask my friends and family, it happens a lot. Usually I end up trying to change my toon's name, which stopped working on WoW when WoW made it so that the change tracked over onto the other person's friends list. I'm not mean enough to tell them to sod off, which I really need to learn to do. [My daughter, reading over my shoulder, said, "yah mom, you really do.]

So on the weekend I was helping this kid do the Jedi class quest on Belsavis. It's a beautiful lore chain, really worthy stuff, and this kid was blowing through it like it was ... just so much Kleenex. Gah, and I was running along healing his pathetic Jedi warrior ass. So I made a note. I'm coming back to do this slowly. Finally I shed him after he said, I put you on my friends list. I'll help you when you need to this 'cause you can't do it alone.  No, pathetic young padawan, YOU can't do it alone. But I... I am a master Jedi Sage. It might take Qyzen and me six or seven days to kill a bad ass boss, but that boss is going down. I love Q. He's my bff and I want to have his lizard babies. [No, wait... I used to have pet lizards. I know how that works. =grimace=] My other companions are weak. Well, the pocket healer, Tharan, is okay but he's got a fetish for that blowup doll, er I mean holo-chic, Holiday, and she's really annoying.

So anyhow, after I dodged the kid [I logged on and got spammed with "you wanna do a heroic?" six times in a row within a space of five seconds, so I waited till after his bedtime] later that night I ran the quest chain. It took several hours, and here's the real point of the entry: It was delicious in that Bioware lore-fic way. The Esh-kha and I are pals now. I echo Hallow Voice, as he echoed Broken Scar. Yesssss!!!1!! Someone at Bioware has some RP juice.

After Q and I downed the final boss (yeah it was hard; yeah we died twice; but we did it...alone.) I took the name Ember Fist. Apparently everyone takes Sky Hunter which is so ... unimaginative. I was tempted by Silent Teeth, but it's just too funny. Ember Fist is what I'm aaaaall about. Don't let that Jedi Consular healing thing give you the wrong idea.

I can't really say much about the chain cause you'll want to enjoy it yourself. As soon as I scrape the pictures off the Windows lappie I'll add them here. [I only game on that confounded machine.]

More to come...