Saturday, October 30, 2004

Gaming Cultures

Almost too late, that's what I get for trusting a watch, and not any of my many electronically updated and connected gadgets.

Greg Lastowka was opening the first panel, talking about the connection between game and law, and suggesting to his audience that scholars of law before saying anything about how the legislation of games should be constructed, they visit "the foreign country of games".

Betsy Book ran quickly over a few historical overviews about the connection between chat and games, and discussed the difference between social spaces and games, drawing very strict lines and claiming that gaming is very different from social interaction. At this point I itched to protest, but I never needed to, because the next speaker was T.L.

T.L. Taylor talks as I write about the importance of the culture of games, and points out what I wanted to point out during Betsy Books presentation, that games are social spaces, and that the dichotomy of social/gaming is in the way of understanding both games and chatrooms. People play in chatrooms and chat in games. She also points out clearly that players are fundamentally producers, that the labour of other players makes the games playable.

Play is Diverse - same game can be played in many different ways. Players create the game, the game culture and the game life - the structure and design is nothing without the players themselv, and T.L. wars against fine-tuning the game until the structure is so rational there is no space for the humanity of the gamers.

Perhaps most important in T.L.'s presentation is her warning against a dualistic, dichotomous understanding of games. Perhaps my sympathy is caused by our common academic understanding of the human culture as fluid and manysided, not stagnant, simple and black/white,

Constance Steinkuehler opens by saying "ditto". I understand the feeling. She talks about her experience from Lineage II, and the issues of "game sweatshops", in this case in China. The "farming" of certain objects in the game for sale in real life economies outside of the game has caused an inflation of certain parts of the economy, and the characters that have a crafting advantage (girl dwarves) are being treated as symbolic representations of what the gamers assume is chinese players, and racism is expressed as a discrimination of the girl dwarves.

But the community is reacting against the racism, and the issue and the discussions change the gameplay and the community.

Dave Myers is the last to present at the panel. He focuses mainly on the cognitive play behaviour, play as a semiosis, a manipulation of sign and symbols.

T. L. Taylor at the panel.

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