Tuesday, February 28, 2006

AFOE Satin Pajama winners 06

Didn't check if I was even mentioned this year, but here they are: the winners of the Satin Pajama 2006!

WoW and golf, again

Another interesting discussion over at Terra Nova, this time about if you can really learn something about the people you play with, and do you want to draw conclusions based on their gaming style?

I have drawn quick conclusions about people online, and quick conclusions about them offline. Which is worse, to decide I don't want to cooperate because they can't hold aggro, or because they can't raise their voice enough to hold attention?

On the other hand, I have come to deeper understanding of relationships through playing with the people in question. Where I have been blinded by contextual data in dealing with a person offline, making constant excuses for their inability to communicate, seeing the issue transplanted into a MMOG crystallises the problem in ways endless face-to-face conversations did not. Also playing with people I have felt I should like, but where contextual data have kept us both reserved - well, there's something about cooperating in a battleground which shows me if I like how the other person reacts under pressure, and cheering about a victory together is bonding indeed.

But then somebody throws the issue of class into the discussion:
My point is that golf is golf because a certain social strata says it is.
This is of course true. WoW will not be the new golf until it also is the new opera. When you can rub shoulders with only the other WoW afficinados who have the same sublime understanding of the art as you - or are willing to pay a LOT to pretend they do - WoW will be a low status activity. At the moment it rides on the wave of innovation: To not know about WoW is to be slow and out of touch with certain trends. Once WoW and other MMOGs are firmly mainstream there needs to be some kind of development, or those who see themselves as the opera audience will never start to play.

Does that bother me though? No, I am a scholar of pop culture and mass media. Seeing the stacks of Ibsen-studies in Norwegian Academia makes me slightly nauseous. I want to understand something new, the dirty massproduced mire of low art is exactly where I want to be. So here's to seeing the lawyers move back to golf, leaving the dirt to those who knows that a bit of grittiness enhances both flavour and texture.

Blog Hui

Approaching fast - I leave for New Zealand Sunday, which is a little early, but hey, got to see the place when I am travelling to the other side of the planet, right?

The presenters look interesting, topics exiting, and I am in a state of intense intellectual confusion while preparing, so this has to be fun and great!

Corpse camping in Dragon Realms

Corpse camping in the MUD I used to play was really bad. Thinking back, that was one of the really contested practices, then as it is now. In WoW you at least don't have to move all the way up to your corpse, and you resurrect with your equipment on you. In DR you had to run naked through enemy territory, all your weapons still in the corpse you had abandoned. The trip could be very, very long, no convenient nearby churchyards. And when you got there the enemy would be sitting right on top of your precious corpse and equipment, waiting to kill you while still naked, before you got your stuff back. If this happened often enough your original corpse would deteriorate, your equipment would be all over the ground and free for the enemy to steal, and you would have to start over again.

In WoW you are a ghost as you run, you can resurrect as soon as you are a certain distance from your corpse, but you are free to find a safe spot, and you resurrect with all your equipment on you. Also, you can choose to resurrect at the graveyard. There will be a penalty, but at least you're not right under the nose of your enemy. I think that particular adjustment is a much better way to deal with death and ressurrection, but I guess the hard core gamers think it's whimpy. This is expressed through culture: resurrecting (ressing) at the graveyard is whimping out.

Zeppelins and war

Esther MacCallum-Stewart, whose weblogs I have followed for years, has written a wonderful post about zeppelins, WoW, Indiana Jones and war.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Environment PvP

I am writing an article which draws clear parallells between MUDs and WoW at the moment, struggling as I feel it's so obvious and I want to look brilliant, but at the same time: Somebody needs to do it, and this time I guess it's me.

BUT I can't just write, need to play some too. So I log into Argent Dawn with Agirra and set off to drop off some quests. PvP is on, but I am in the middle of Horde territory, and don't expect trouble. On the way, what do I see? I come just in time to see a member of my guild being killed by a paladin. He is standing over her body gloating. As I show up he immediately attacks. I get off the wolf and start hitting him with what I have, and as shamans actually have a bit in the book, I manage to take him down. Wait for my guildmate to resurrect, and hang out to see if he comes back spoiling for a fight. Which he does. Again he attacks first. Now we are two pissed and prepared shamans, so he dies in very little time. We decide enough is enough, and ride on to see what we can do about those quests, keeping PvP on just because turning it off right now would be cowardly and bad sport. We had after all just been corpse-camping and ganking, even if he did attack first both times.

We got into the quest area and started doing our stuff, who came back? Our paladin friend and a gnome mage, again attacking first. The mage was specced to the ears and all epic, so we were quickly toast, something the paladin just could not stop himself from gloating over. He gloated long enough for a friend to show up, and soon we were three. With some help from a friendly hunter we became four, and they were dead - again. Now we were getting a little more than annoyed, so we were actively corpse camping. When they both ressurrected close by, we immediately hit them again. I hardly noticed that I killed the mage, and the paladin was dead before the other shaman had gone through half her mana. No honourable waiting for regenerating anything now. Mext round they had turned PvP off, and fled towards the Undercity. We tried to catch them, but they snuck off. That is, until we asked on the local defense channel. The paladin had turned from ganking level 60ies to ganking level 12s.

So of course we found him again. And again. And when he turned PvP off again, we stuck around until he just couldn't keep himself from attacking, at which point he died again. And after I logged off, the guildmates had him on th Kill On Sight (KOS) list, so he kept being killed all over. Lucky for him PvP doesn't ruin equipment like PvE (Player versus Environment).

I normally don't like environment PvP. I don't sneak around in enemy camps looking for vulnerable strays to attack for honour kills. But when I can catch somebody else doing that they are fair game in my book. And then getting them feels good, really good!

Just as good as it felt 8 years ago during the wars in the MUD at the time, blinding a lev 100 ranger when I was lev 75. (The trick was blinding him and surviving.)


Thursday, February 23, 2006


I am looking at Henry Jenkins' article on 8 myths of video gaming, and trying to cite it. There is however no date on the site for the article or the production of the television program it obviously links into: The Video Game Revolution.

Does anybody have a clue for me?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Guilded Lilies

By way of Hilde I found the Guilded Lilies: Grown Women Playing Games, and through the Guidled Lilies I found New Game Plus and a survey on women who play world of Warcraft. This qualifies as a good day's catch on the net!

I found myself getting involved in the gamer's comments, some of their experiences were revolting. But some of it may be our own fault for beign too accepting. In one guild the other players happened to use the word rape - as in "we totally raped them in the battleground, it was great fun." When I pointed out that the words "rape" and "fun" did not belong in the same sentence, there was a long akward silence on the guild channel, and the word was then never used again in my presence. Now, they knew I was a grown woman, no little gamer chick, and that probably made it a lot easier for me to not worry too much about the reaction if they disliked me speaking up. But I did get my share of respect when I pointed out that they were disrespectful, and they were wonderful companions for playing a game despite their occasional thoughtless choice of words.

Travels this year

It's that time again, when the college asks which conferences we plan to attend. As I am going to the other side of the planet and back in a couple of weeks, I have been a little distracted from planning other conferences, so I don't really know. Brilliant suggestions are received with thanks.

But one conference I would like to check out if it is arranged again is State of Play. It's wonderfully convenient in New York, I get to meet a lot of the game scholars whose work I often read and enjoy, and it's a different perspective from what I otherwise see in games, so I'd like to know - does it happen again? What will the focus be? Who are they inviting? Yes, I know, I was a little unimpressed this year, but hey, I am not that hard to impress and the potential for interesting presentations and presenters is large!

If I am a very good girl and write a lot this year, the college is a little flexible about additional conferences, but I really should get around to it soon for other planning. There's teaching too, people tell me.

Norway, what Norway?

The internet is great, particularly for ordering tickets and making travel plans... all the way up to the point that you need to actually order the ticket. I have now tried three different carriers for tickets from Los Angeles to San Jose. The kind of errors I run into are:

They count Norway as part of the European Union, and don't distinguish between EU and EEC. Understandable error, and no big deal, until...

Provide your home address. Norway is not on the list, because Norway is not part of the European Union. And I can't say no, we are not part of the European Union, because through EEC we are covered by the same rules as EU, so legally, to a US carrier, we are. I guess they think we all use German area codes.

Provide phone number: see above.

I could slink around those by using my NYC connection's numbers - that's a tested way to get around it, and the only way for me to book railroad tickets in the US. But I can't use those when I try to use my credit card. That is really surprising, because normally credit card companies help their customers provide for payment from all over the world. But the same flaws were repeated, and here I could not enter my customary cheats - as they would be considered fraud.

So, thank god for local travel agencies. Same tickets, same prices, I got to speak to a nice helpful guy for 10 minutes and the ticket will be mailed tomorrow and be here Wednesday, paper versions so I have something to hold on to and show off when I get upset at the airport because somebody didn't register my reservation. Not everything is better online.

At least when your country doesn't really register on anything but the "safe to launch violent demonstrations against"-meter.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Seperate Channel

An interesting observation: Last patch of WoW contained a seperate channel for promoting guilds. What a coincidence.

Patch 1.9.4
A new Guild Recruitment channel has been added. This channel will be off by default.

I for one am glad. Guild promotions on general chat can be bad spam, no matter what sexuality they relate to.


And I am not moving anytime soon. OK, not until 5th of March. Presentation went fine, exept that at first nothing worked, and some intense hacking was needed to bypass a firewall and be able to show the things I wanted. Thank the Goddess for a gamer audience. I also met two sisters, 2 1/2 nephew/niece, three former study mates (now professors/candidates), a handful of old professors, a couple of game researchers and wannabes, same number of people who want me to be involved in their projects, a lot of friends (several with overlapping roles in earlier cateories), a roomful of interested students and gamers, my daughter, her friends and several busdrivers in helpful supporting roles.

Now I am exhausted, have injured my hips (probably from running constantly on asphalt for two days) and need to change gears from teaching to writing.

Perhaps killing owlbeasts in Winterspring helps...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Trapped by the game

Tonight I am speaking in Bergen, at the student comunity. So if you are in Bergen at 19.15, have nothing else to do and an overwhelming urge to hear somebody ramble on about games, be at Kvarteret and we'll see what we can do.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"No, that's not my property"

The student who had asked a lot of questions concerning Volda College, our education and how we are thinking about marketing and promoting the study refused when I wanted to read the final work for which he was to use my answers. Why? BI, which is a commercial college, claims that the student paper is their property and they can't let the student give it out. Why not? Because they are planning to use it for their marketing.

That changed the entire situation for met. Had I known I was answering to research BI was going to use to develop their marketing strategy I might very well have refused to answer. I thought I was contributing to something which would be available to all the relevant colleges, in a general pool of knowledge to develop further understanding and cooperation. No such thing.

The student was a dear, he understood that I was upset and will do what he can to give me what he is permitted to give out. But if his work is an independent student work he should retain the rights for it, and be permitted to give it out freely (of course after suitable anonymisation of respondants). If it is something BI pays him for, he should have told me right away that it was not a student paper, but marketing research for the school. As a researcher, I am upset about the bad and dodgy ethics of the methodology, as a person I feel used.

And who will asess this? By refusing to give the information in that paper out to anybody connected to the information educations in Norway, they are effectively isolating the paper from being assessed from any of those working at or connected to the same educations. This means they will need to use assessors who are not in touch with the general level of student work at the other educations. They will of course find competent people outside of the colleges, but this sounds like unhealthy tactics: to be so competitive that they can not let they students be compared to the students of other relevant educational institutions.

Come here, public educational system, let me hug you!

Speaking in Bergen February 14th

I have been invited to talk to a student group - "Studentersamfunnet" - in Bergen next week. I am very happy about that, as I used to be a member way back when, and remember the intensity of some of those discussion nights. I hardly think my speech will be the most controversial presentation though.

What is of some concern is however the blurb they wrote up to draw people. I worry some may be really disappointed. That's why I am now switching to Norwegian, to give people with special interests - sufficiently that they actually find my blog - a heads up on what I will NOT address.

Det jeg har mest problemer med fra Studentersamfunnets side er dette avsnittet:
Dataspillere nevner både mestring, status, fryd og forførelse som grunner for å spille. På den andre siden hører vi historier om personer som har blitt så hektet på slike spill at de forsømmer jobb og sosialt liv i den virkelige verden. Spillavhengighet blir sett på som et problem på lik linje med andre former for avhengighet - det er ikke uten grunn at spillene blir kalt “cybercrack”.

Jeg har ikke gjort noe forskning på spillavhengighet. Jeg har ikke tenkt å gjøre forskning på spillavhengighet. Jeg tror ikke på noe så enkelt som avhengighetsskapende teknologi. Det kan vi for så vidt gjerne diskutere, men ikke opplyst av noe forskning jeg har fokusert på, mer på et generelt grunnlag. Her snakker vi om ting jeg tror, ikke ting jeg vet.

Det jeg helt sikkert kommer til å snakke om er puttet pent inn i siste avsnitt:
Kveldens innleder, Torill Elvira Mortensen, skal se på hvordan World of Warcraft inneholder elementer fra gamle data- og rollespill. Hvordan kan oppdrag løses individuelt og i samarbeid med andre for å gjøre spillopplevelsen så positiv som mulig for alle deltakerne?

Straks mye kjedeligere, men dette vet jeg i det minste noe om. Og hvis du har lyst til å høre meg si noe om ting jeg faktisk kan uttale meg om håper jeg vi sees i Bergen.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Should we have been offended?

No, no pictures of Muhammad here, I would not have put them in before this discussion - my main flirt with blasphemy was seeing Life of Brian while it was still outlawed in Norway - so I am not ready to do it now. I do however respect the Norwegian blogger Vampus, who did exactly that. She has received threats on her life afterwards. Also, her blogg provider, VG, has censured her blog and removed the original picture.

The events since a large Danish paper printed a cartoon of Muhammad have been surprising. Two embassies have burned down, and children in several muslim countries eat local, but expensive cheese since the governments have stopped all import of Danish produce. Obviously, caricatures have immense power. This makes me wonder: should we have been offended long before this? When the muslim fundamentalists rant against the western decadent pigs, were they expecting us to torch their embassies? Bomb their gathering places? Persecute the muslims in our countries?

Democracy is based on rational debate. You cannot have democracy unless the minority is allowed to speak. Yes, the freedom of speech has limits in the west: In Norway racist expressions and blasphemic expressions are outlawed. We are however allowed to discuss this, and continously do. When the extreme right protests, demanding the right to harass others due to race, they are not arrested for discussing the right to freedom of speech. If they burned down a synagogue, they would be, though.

Seen from a world where you can persecute minorities without being punished, this may however look like weakness. Muslim fanatics in Norway insist that they need to defend their honour with violence. This culture of violence has not been common in Norway for 200 years. Before that knives were easily drawn to prove a point, so to speak - and Norwegians still treasure their knives. They are even a part of the national costume: dainty, silvered and ornamented, but functional. And both men and women knives exist. How deep is our layer of rationality, our culture of discourse and non-agression, when we are faced with the challenge: Fight, or live with dishonour?

Let us just hope nobody starts playing Fanitullen.

Norwegian cultural note: Fanitullen is a tune for Hardingfele, and the words describe how the fiddler learned to play from the devil in the basement, while the others were knifing each other upstairs.

Danish cultural note, from Lisbeth: Jyllandsposten, the offending paper, reaches about 500 000 danes. It is one of the largest Danish newspapers, and it is very conservative and is considered to lean towards right wing views on foreigners and foreign culture. Sadly, as Lisbeth says, the issue of this debate is not their conservative views, but a silly cartoon.


In case somebody missed it: WoWporn, a music video with a surprising take on porn, modern technology and taurens.

Thanks Knud!

Monday, February 06, 2006

UI mods and HUD

The most used add-ons (user created programs modifying the gameplay) to World of Warcraft have as their main goal to make more of the information available in the game visible to the player. CTraid assist works to make the health, buffs and aim of each player visible to all and particularly to the raid leader, auctioneer gathers information about the auction houses and makes a lot of additional information available about each object you pick up, atlas offers maps of the unmappable instances, other options displays the time of spells put on you, benvolent or malicious, flightpaths, or your readiness to role-play or not. All of these and many, many more, are addons created by gamers using information which is hidden by the regular WoW interface but available behind the skin.

This is exactly the opposite effort of what some game designers appear to desire. Off with their HUDs is an article describing how designers want to improve immersiveness through giving the players less information: interface free, supposedly.

What can I say but: I hope the designers make it an add-on friendly game.

Inspired by Gonzalo

UI: User Interface
HUD: Heads-up Displays
First, it's important to answer the question, “What is a HUD?” A HUD is simply a collection of persistent onscreen elements whose purpose is to indicate player status. HUD elements can be used to show, among many other things, how much health the player has, in which direction the player is heading, or where the player ranks in a race

Friday, February 03, 2006

Donnie Darko

I didn't know anything about the movie Donnie Darko until this morning, when a colleague sent an email to all on the department to check out the website. Now I know a little more, and can repeat what he said: check out the website! It is an elegant story told with flash, game elements and little clues you need to find in the text. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

True flattery

Although I am not sure I'd use the word Nemesis. Can't see that I wronged anybody, or if imitation is vengeance. But who knows - I may learn different when I go to New Zealand, the land of the latest thinker with something approximately the same bodyparts as me. She even lives in Wellington, where I will be speaking in little more than a month. Nice, anyway, to see that people are people even on the other side of the world.