Game talkGDC08: Worlds in Motion keynote coverage

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Feb 182008
 

Virtual Worlds News has a liveblog of “High Windows”, my keynote talk at the Worlds in Motion Summit this morning here at GDC. I was, uh, philosophical. 😉

There is also a Gamasutra article which seems to manage to capture an almost entirely different set of quotes.

I also see a few blog reactions.

As usual, I will try to get the slides posted later today.

Edit: more blog reactions. Brenda Brathwaite. Prokofy, based on the liveblog.

Edit 2: 3d on the Web Cheap. Jeff McNab. e-Clippings. And Massively’s coverage comes the closest, I think, to capturing the tone and narrative of what I said; lots of folks are reading this as being about Darfur, when it in fact is more about expanding our horizons — which is more the virtual horizons, and not just social activism.

  37 Responses to “GDC08: Worlds in Motion keynote coverage”

  1. Totally out of context since i didn’t hear what led up to it: “VW’s are a lot of windows” ” Don’t only think of the hammer, but what you can build with it. ” Luckily Raph Koster is a master documentalist, so i could update myself on his site:/gdc08-worlds-in-motion-keynote-coverage/I also hopped into… Entertainment Content Convergence in Online Worlds Speaker(s): Reuben Steiger (Millions of Us) …and… Heeding the Lessons of Bartle in Socially-Driven Spaces Speaker(s): Erik Bethke (GoPets.com)

  2. Why do you politicize everything, Prokofy? No, don’t answer. I don’t care.

  3. Yeesh…. Raph, just when I think *I’m* getting too far removed from the cold hard realities of actually figuring out how to build games (check this site), you have to go and jump the shark by telling everyone that we’re irrelevant because we’re not doing anything about Darfur.

    Okay, I’m making a resolution. For every political post I make from now on, I have to make at least one “nuts and bolts” post. There’s way too many unanswered basic questions about how to build games (like a more complete definition of “fun”) to be getting our knickers in a knot over political and ideological questions *far* outside the scope of our ability to address. How about we figure out how to consistantly make good games (how many Katrina refugees could be housed with the $106M making Tabula Rasa?) before we start trying to feed the starving masses?

    –Dave

  4. Sir I just about spit my drink out when I saw you’d linked to me linking you. I realize it’s just good timing teamed with Technorati, but even so, I am ordering my shirt right now.

    Are you going to be track-downable at the GDC later this week? I have only a humble expo pass but I’d love to be able to shake your hand and wheedle for a spot in the Metaplace alpha at the very least.

  5. Prok, I think you are entirely missing what new media has been and is doing to reverse the drought of intellectual input in the U.S. that has been going on for 20+ years. It will take time for issues to reach critical mass, but *A* forum is better than *NO* forum.

    Print, radio, and television media…have no significant outlets for average people to express themselves. We’re told for 12+ years in school to sit still, be quiet, and answer as instructed. The scary thing is, right about the time thats done, you get to start voting! Disagreements are settled with witty retorts, ultimatums, or any combination of logical fallacies and character attacks. If you had told the average user 10 years ago the internet would have places available for a wide range of people to express their feelings on politics, race, religion, world affairs, or any of hundreds of interest topics *meaningfully* and in reciprocal ways, they’d have laughed saying, “have you been on an internet forum?”. Now those same people blog several times a week and respond to other bloggers. Yes, the trolls still exist, but the tide of rational voices is rising. You don’t have to agree with everything they say, but at least they can say it to more than just face on the TV screen.

    Why do you politicize everything, Prokofy? No, don’t answer. I don’t care.

    Since you opened the door to snarky comments, why do you feel the need to bully?

    Disagree? state your position.

    Don’t care? ‘back’ works better than ‘submit comment’ in those cases.

    Not trying to do the “lions circling” dance with you again (:9), I just think that dissent is opportunity for debate, not division.

  6. From what I read on Virtual World News, it was a great speech, long overdue and well framed. I think many gamers and game creators are woefully underestimating the power of this medium to bring awareness and change to some very big problems facing us at this moment in time. There is no argument that games and video games are powerful teaching tools. Games can’t do it all, but they certainly have a role to play in shaping the future of our worlds, both real and virtual.

    The fact that you spoke about, and now have many others talking about it, is a welcome addition to the conversation about video gaming and where it can take us. Keep raising these issues Raph. These things need to be talked about at the very least. Well done and thank you.

  7. Ast I responded to the blog you linked to above. I think you’re getting the cart before the horse. The technology needs to be the focus for now because it is not advanced to it’s final evolution yet. As it continues to evolve people will find ways to use it on their own. If they decide that it’s just easier to get the job done another way, then Virtual Worlds just aren’t the right tool for the job.

  8. >I think many gamers and game creators are woefully underestimating the power of this medium to bring awareness and change to some very big problems facing us at this moment in time.

    There’s a basic underlying presumption here: that because games and virtual are powerful, addictive, compelling, influential, therefore “somebody” must “harness them for good”. The game manufacturers themselves must do this — or else it will be regulated and governments will do it (people will demand they do it, because games are so powerful).

    It’s not reliably established the games are this influential and have this power, but even if we concede that, people will disagree about how good or bad they are for you

    >There is no argument that games and video games are powerful teaching tools.

    To teach what? Maybe it will turn out that they are only powerful for teaching game skills, killing, guilding or hustling virtual land or building pixelated houses. Maybe these skills aren’t transferable. Or if they are, maybe they aren’t desirable.

    Sometimes people want to ascribe a social role to the media, to tie it down with educational or ideological functions because it is so influential; because it is needed by those in power to influence. People get angry that media aren’t “being positive” or are “such a bad influence on young people”. As soon as governments or groups in society ascribe a social function to the media, they begin to remove or even kill its freedom.

    Are games merely a form of media, and to tie them down with useful social functions like “solving the problems of our day” merely a bid to kill them, not make them fun, not make them useful in the more subtle ways that they can only be if left free (like media in general)?

    Are gaming companies now to embark on a feel-good expedition, taking on a cause like Africa, like clothing companies, which made red t-shirts and dresses “for the cause”?

    What is it that people would have them do, drop messages into game play?

  9. “There is no argument that games and video games are powerful teaching tools.”

    Games like chess and Go have been used to teach strategy, etc, for many centuries. A quick google of the works of James Paul Gee, David William Shaffer, to name just a few, will present you with many arguments that video games have the potential to teach.

    Any person who values free-market capitalism will see that creating new applications for a medium like games does not “remove or even kill its freedom”. It merely adds another product on offer to the consumer. Games that are designed to raise awareness or empower players into action can co-exist with games that don’t without anyone’s freedoms being killed. If they are made well and fun to play, they might succeed.

    Personally, I’m just happy to see that someone with such a high profile in the gaming industry as Raph decided to speak openly about these issues.

  10. Sure. Games should not be coerced to convey some social desirable meanings, to be useful, productive or whatever.

    On the other hand, the fact one meets people from all over this planet in virtual environments, that there is plenty of opportunity for serious but also fun discussion about stuff like education, collaboration, art, religion and philosophy, incites me to believe virtual worlds can be indeed windows to other (“real”) environments, people and societies.

    Virtual worlds can be places where prejudices can melt away and where people, even hiding behind avatars (or because they can hide), finally dare speak out and express themselves and collaborate. And yes, even dare to dream about solutions for some pretty terrible problems and try to actually do something about it (like the wikitecture project, building healthcare infrastructure for Nepal).

  11. I have updated the post above with more blog reactions and transcripts. I think the Massively summary is worth reading to better frame the discussion.

  12. liam, strategy *for what*? Other games. You can’t reasonably argue that learning chess is going to make someone a great statesman, unless you think Machiavelli is the model for great statesmanship.

    Roland, if people *use* virtual worlds for social causes (I don’t think they can reasonably be expected to use skill-based quest-oriented games for these functions) then that’s up to them, and they will have taken advantage of a free media for this purpose, as they would for any feature of the Internet or new media. Then it’s up to the makers to provide as much flexibility and elasticity into the platform for various collaborative users, and not impose politically-correct visions.

    I tend to think that prejudices don’t melt away in virtual worlds, but become more entrenched, as many people exaggerate or unconsciously amplify their national traits, so to speak, in this setting, and become more and more tribalistic to defend turf, etc.

    I took on the wikitecture thing on virtualworldsconnect.com — my point was that the people of Nepal didn’t ask a group of tekkies in the Valley to come make them for this, and had no reasonable way to participate in any representative way in their society. As a kind of oddity and a sort of “proof of concept,” I suppose it doesn’t hurt, but if there’s a job like “let’s build a healthcare *building* (they weren’t so ambitious as to say they were building the entire healthcare *infrastructure of Nepal!) then you could ask yourself — is this cause really best served by having 30 middle-aged white guys in California who like to play with 3-D modelling tools accomplish this? Or is building the building and finding the resources and means to do this effectively part of what that society needs to do on its own to recover from civil conflict, and could the only reasonably thing that the white dudes could do is just send them a check?

    I think you need to pick a better example than wikitecture (ugh, another “wiki”) for your point, which is a valid one.

  13. I wouldn’t argue it is about Darfur, just that where it is assumed to be, one has to ask how many people that can affect that situation directly can actually hook up to a virtual world? In the camps? In the surrounding country side? That is where, AFAICT, Prok isn’t too far off the mark.

    If entertainment is getting the bucks and you want it to be relevant, it has to be entertainment that makes them think AND feel. Thus the comparison to The Prisoner which burst like a nuclear fireball in the minds of the 14 year olds with TV sets at the time.

    I’m not saying devs have to do that. I’m saying it can be done. How fast such a thing might have positive effects is unpredictable. Any sufficiently compelling expression can do this. But then what to do? Pick leaders well, I say, and not just reflectors.

  14. Prokofy Neva, I think you’re trying to jump to far there. No, playing chess won’t make someone a good statesman. But it will train a person to plan ahead. This is a useful skill in many ways, from time management to…yes, politics. Maybe it’s just too basic and you discount it for that reason?

    Games aren’t going to make someone anything. They only help people practice common conceptions. But they can go farther than that. They can help people learn to innovate. They can teach people specific skills.

    UO, for as much as it was maligned, the first thing I thought about it was how good it was at teaching people basic economics and business practices. That was before the days of level grinds and set prices, and people used to wheel and deal allot.

  15. I tend to think that prejudices don’t melt away in virtual worlds, but become more entrenched, as many people exaggerate or unconsciously amplify their national traits, so to speak, in this setting, and become more and more tribalistic to defend turf, etc.

    I walk away from that bleak outlook still encouraged by the fact that at least people are being far more genuine. If you’re a bigot, be a bigot. I’m tired of trying to decode people’s secret intentions as they hide behind a wall of political correctness. If they hide behind pixels but act as they are truly inclined, thats an improvement to me!

    Why this war on the concept of ‘tribes’? I’m addressing Len Bullard somewhat, as well. If you don’t provide enclaves for like-minded people to collaborate on their commonly held visions and dreams, very little ever gets done to achieve them. That is how you end up with mediocrity, a mass of disconnected individuals without validation or direction, no cohesive sense of purpose. Yes, there should be shared social spaces, in abundance. It is not the ‘Village’ if people can choose what they wish to conform to. Telling everyone they have to exist in a panacea of diversity is pushing a certain kind of conformity on them. We don’t necessarily need walls to separate everyone, but some fences would be nice (and come in many varieties :9). You can see what is on the other side, communicate across or over them, enter and exit, or withdraw further when you want some insulation and focus.

  16. I agree, Kerri. I’m a tribal guy (Theatre Tribe, Music Tribe, XML Tribe, VRML Tribe) with more than a few badges. As I said, walled gardens are not an abberration. They are normal.

    The problem is substituting dreams and feel niceties for acts that can work. It is easy to tell a good story because we mostly share the good feelings, sociopaths being an exception. It is hard to get consensus and buy in on tough choices where some win, some lose, and some just can’t compete. The greatest good for the greatest number is the hard act.

    There are and will be shared spaces. Even in the Village, people did decide to conform. The question is, would they if given alternatives? The very good point about virtual worlds is that there can be as many as one can afford or has the time, talent and tools to build. The VRML dream was about that. X3D continues that a bit more formally. Areae is, as far as I can tell, about providing tools for doing that in a more proprietary way, but Raph says, given time they will open it up too. We have options, we have choices, we need time and we have to be willing to learn.

    If dark matter powers a star until the self-identifying forces anihilate one another freeing up particles , then perhaps we are still in the time of the dark stars waiting for the forces of self to give way to community identity and begin to shine. At my age, I’ve gone through many periods of this from Camelot through the beginning of the web to the current emergence of virtual worlds as a real means of communication. I remain hopeful and patient because I am not interested in being a hero of these events. I am interested in leaving a body of work. I can only speak for myself as to motivation. Everything else is just stuff. The work, however, and this is where I think Raph is going, can have an effect but virtual artists can keep increasing their awareness and make that part of that work. Really, isn’t that what we do?

    IME, what people share most productively is values first, then plans of action. What terrifies me or perhaps disgusts me is the feel good words without the can-do plans and then the will to act, observe and adapt so that the values are not corrupted by the reactions to the observations.

    Something I said some years ago: the dilemma of the 21st century is to see to the truth of the need to choose the choosers of our choices, that is, to become third order instead of second order controls.

  17. […] I just think, ‘Goddamn we’re irrelevant,'” he said.Edit: whoops, holy cow, this entry just got linked by Raph Koster himself. This is awesome, because it means I’m entitled to wear this shirt […]

  18. You can’t reasonably argue that learning chess is going to make someone a great statesman, unless you think Machiavelli is the model for great statesmanship.

    Not all by itself, no. But it will make someone a better thinker, and a better thinker will make for a better statesman.

  19. Rik, WoW is not chess.

  20. Oh, we definitely need a war on tribes, because you are all re-tribalizing in the worst sort of way. People spent centuries trying to break out of the confines of their tribes, and the constraints of their villages, where everyone knew their business and where marriages were arranged, and rituals prevailed, opportunities thwarted. They spent a long time making their way to the city, to urban life, where they could be themselves, find others on their own terms in a large enough space — being in a tribe precludes doing that.

    It would be nice if we could think of virtual worlds as the new urban space where people break free of village constraints, but it isn’t, it’s often worse than a village — just take a look at the forums.

    The drive to impose reputation points and affiliations and identity checks on people online is awful, and is actually a regression to the village of the past, nothing revolutionary about it at all, it’s profoundly conservative.

  21. Raph, I went and read the massively.com version and I haven’t changed anything I would say, because I still think you’re trying to shock the affluent with pictures of misery and impel them to action through your chosen form of media craft. And that’s ok, but you have to do more than shock, you have to have an ask, and other than telling them to put avatar rights into their games (I won’t rub that one in just yet lol), or maybe shifting their VC capital to real-life projects, I don’t here a recipe.

    I also see all this frustration with gaming and game worlds and MUDs and stuff that is perplexing to me, because it’s just not sensed in SL.

    Come to Second Life, Raph, we have flying cars!

    Come to Second Life!

    We have waterfalls…

    poverty…

  22. Rik, WoW is not chess.

    When was that argument ever made? I don’t disagree at all with your statement, but you voiced it in the negative, as if refuting someone. Rik was putting forth the idea that chess can exercise your critical thinking, strategic, or asset management skills. When I used to stay up until 3am doing Alterac Valley matches in WoW with a guild that opened up use of their ventrilo, I exercised those same skill sets. There were about a half a dozen of us who took turns running the group.

    I learned a lot about supervisory responsibility, even as someone who has worked in that field very effectively in real life. Quite humbling when you find yourself having a ‘what went wrong’ meeting after tempers flared between leaders ‘in a game’. I learned quite a bit about trust, support, and making decisions from remote/second-hand assessments after I led us into a bad loss because I was acting on what was in front of me instead of placing the same emphasis on what others were seeing as well. I made too many assumptions about the ‘enemy troop movements’ based on our players’ positions on the map rather than eyewitness reports. What they were saying didn’t agree with my experience of what our current positions meant about the enemy’s positioning. I made decisions blindly, based on habit rather than reliable data that defied trends. Yes, this has helped me in the real world, shocking!

    Oh, we definitely need a war on tribes, because you are all re-tribalizing in the worst sort of way.

    who?

    you…all

    Stop generalizing.

    People spent centuries trying to break out of the confines of their tribes, and the constraints of their villages, where everyone knew their business and where marriages were arranged, and rituals prevailed, opportunities thwarted.

    Glad you took the time to ascribe negative social stigmas to the concept of tribes.

    it’s often worse than a village — just take a look at the forums.

    Did you read my post?!

    They spent a long time making their way to the city, to urban life, where they could be themselves, find others on their own terms in a large enough space — being in a tribe precludes doing that.

    You need to support your last statement there. Clearly we haven’t lived in the same cities, I find tribes all over the place in mine. Finding others on your own terms….sounds like identifying or establishing a tribe to me. We’re not talking about literal third world groups of people living in tents fearing lightning and new ideas, we’re just using it metaphorically to describe people of similar tastes, backgrounds, employment sector, or combinations of those or other groupings.

    The drive to impose reputation points and affiliations and identity checks on people online is awful, and is actually a regression to the village of the past, nothing revolutionary about it at all, it’s profoundly conservative.

    I find efforts to shirk reputations and affiliations gets abused by people to victimize those who willingly identify themselves. You should know that from experience, I’d think. I want to know if that person who gave my well thought-out review a -5 rating just spammed every review they could find with the same, if they targeted everyone with similar thoughts, or have some other agenda. Site moderator/owners want these tools, as well, so they can protect their reputation. Further, teaching people that consequences for actions are optional is not good stewardship of designers. Reputations can change, they are dynamic. I’ve known people in both real and virtual settings that started out as obnoxious but a year later were best friends, the opposite is also true. As I said in another thread, if you’re going to be a bigot (not *you* :9), be a bigot (and I don’t mean only when nobody is looking).

    Why did you model your SL avatar (I don’t know what term to use, everyone is picky!) the way you did? You attached certain significant meaning to the presentation you chose, decided it was consonant with your idea of what you wanted, and accepted it, right?

    Reputation works the same way, you choose goals and activities that align with your interests. You should not be able to simply hide behind anonymity. Another major concern from my SWG mayor days was that we had a person with in the neighborhood of 30 accounts manipulating trusting individuals into letting their guard down and finding their cities taken over. Without the concept of reputation, how do you identify other people of like interests? What about ones with repeatedly proven incompatible or even malicious interests? Should we blindly stumble through our game experiences running into an unending series of ‘disharmonious’ social exchanges?

    Why do you rally on about different interest communities like the w-hats or goons? You’re identifying them, calling upon your knowledge of previous encounters or actions, right? That’s reputation.

    Again and again I’ll say, both extremes are bad. Lack of identity leads to careless decision making, there are positive aspects of social identifiers. Excessive use of identifiers leads to labeling, simplistic caricatured portrayals, ‘lumping’, and other negatives. It gets to a point where people want to have their cake and eat it, too. The bad boy who loves the bad boy appeal but cries when told he isn’t welcome where he’s rubbed too many the wrong way. I run into variations of this all the time.

    With any community allowing for a great deal of user content creation, these kinds of systems need to be in place, lest you discourage creators from expending their energies for others to attack without recourse. Sand castle builders will not build where shadowy figures who refuse to be identified lurk about waiting to kick them over. Okay, some may stay and fight the good fight, others will simply fold up shop, and others still will find (or create?) a better venue. What you’re left with is a drought of input, miles of empty beachfront. This continues until, deprived of their victims/targets/amusements, even the trolls leave.

  23. When was that argument ever made?

    It wasn’t. But Prokofy Neva disagrees with people as a way of life, and if she can’t find fault with what you say, she will randomly assign you another viewpoint, which she then finds fault with.

  24. The drive to impose reputation points and affiliations and identity checks on people online is awful, and is actually a regression to the village of the past, nothing revolutionary about it at all, it’s profoundly conservative.

    What my rant didn’t say was what this series of questions should:

    What are team logos splashed across thousands of Myspace pages?

    What are groups, networks, and apps in Facebook?

    What are IRC channels and networks?

    What are forum and blogging sights (*HELLO!*)?

    Why are you logging in as Prokofy Neva instead of anonymous if reputation doesn’t matter and shouldn’t be imposed? Are you benefiting from it, too? Be honest, now :9.

    and finally,

    Who is this mythological evil imposer of reputations and affiliations?

    Oh, its just us.

    Try human society without any means of identifying who you’re dealing with. It’ll either work brilliantly or fail utterly. Which do you think will really take place?

    The answer to that question probably ties in very closely with how you’d finish this sentence:

    My experiences in life have taught me that when nobody is looking,…

    I can’t put my answer, Raph would frown at it in the moderation queue and write me an email!

  25. Here’s an odd thought: propaganda during and since World War 2, when it came to our countries foes, focused on “dehumanizing the enemy”.

    Can we distill some of this discussion of the benefits of online socialization to, essentially, the opposite of that? Humanizing people we would otherwise never meet or see?

    Anyone here ever find out a guildmate of theirs is from a country they didn’t expect? Years from now, if you were to hear that there’s (say) riots breaking out there, how would you react compared to if you never met or knew anyone that lived there? Or, what if there’s trouble there right now, how does that change how you experience it, otherwise so far removed?

    Anyway, just an odd thought.

  26. Not odd at all, Peter. I’d say it’s right on the mark.

  27. Rik wrote:

    It wasn’t. But Prokofy Neva disagrees with people as a way of life, and if she can’t find fault with what you say, she will randomly assign you another viewpoint, which she then finds fault with.

    Truer words were never spoken.

  28. […] I just think, ‘Goddamn we’re irrelevant,'” he said.Edit: whoops, holy cow, this entry just got linked by Raph Koster himself. This is awesome, because it means I’m entitled to wear this shirt now. (5 Comments |Comment on […]

  29. Yes, tribes have a social negative attached to them, precisely because they restrain — even kill — the individual. Nobody who wants to accentuate the positive of group *collaboration* uses “tribalism” to describe that cooperation.

    Indeed, Rik was trying to salvage the reputation of games by saying they help “build logical minds”. If that were true, we wouldn’t have the posts we have on this blog — hello?

    Raph puts out a picture of a corpse in Darfur. Raph then comes on my blog and says “This isn’t about Darfur.” Ok, well, then, put out a corpse from WoW then, Raph. Seriously, I think that’s just too facile a sleight of hand. It’s as if Raph, by saying this is a “Rorschach blot” is ascribing the ultimate arbitration of meaning to himself, and saying everyone else is doomed to partial Rorschach-like warped interpretations that only say something about their own psychology. Seriously, time to page Heroclitus: “While reason is common to all men, most men act as if they have their own private understanding.”

    Peter S. has an interesting idea, but I don’t think you can make a blanket statement about all social media online as somehow being “good” and “humanizing”. Paging Kathy Sierra.

    >we’re just using it metaphorically to describe people of similar tastes, backgrounds, employment sector, or combinations of those or other groupings.

    Please. That kind of tribe doesn’t have to be in a tent with a campfire to be the restraining, awful thing I’m talking about, and I guess that’s how villagers recreate their villages. Howard Rheingold, in the other conversation, was emphatic about this: that all this niching of social media would merely make lots of tribes of people who stuck with their “similar taste” comrades and like-minded and never had to hear from anybody with a different point of view, who stood by that point of view.

    Quite a few people on game boards like this think the job of social media is to “bring around” those people who aren’t comforming to The Group, to tribalize those lingering hold-outs who refuse to go along. My God, it’s awful stuff.

    IRC channels? God, the awfulness of IRC culture. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

    I really think there’s a BIG difference between having some affiliation, like “I’m in the tenants’ committee or the parish council” and the kinds of horribly rigid and binding cult-like brands that people wear today in places like this:

    “I’m for net neutrality”
    “I’m against creationism.”
    “I hate SUV drivers”
    “Bush is a war criminal”.

    Rik if you are “Rik Riel” (not sure which Rik you are), I’m pretty certain that any “viewpoint I’ve ascribed to you” comes out of reading your actual pretty predictable opinions. Oh, well.

    So let me say it again:

    The drive to impose reputation points and affiliations and identity checks on people online is awful, and is actually a regression to the village of the past, nothing revolutionary about it at all, it’s profoundly conservative.

    People find it very irritating to be declared conservative when they imagine they are revolutionary. Social media isn’t revolutionary. It’s largely regregressive, and is conserving elements of past culture that is threatened by media.

  30. >Yes, this has helped me in the real world, shocking!

    yes, um, soldiers always move in formation, in uniform, using plans and logic. And a good thing, too, so that all these millions of hours spent on WoW raiding will be useful, eh?

  31. yes, um, soldiers always move in formation, in uniform, using plans and logic. And a good thing, too, so that all these millions of hours spent on WoW raiding will be useful, eh?

    1) What soldiers?

    2) Don’t start sentences with ‘and’

    If I could make sense of this and how it relates to the ongoing discussion, I’d love to respond.

  32. The drive to impose reputation points and affiliations and identity checks on people online is awful, and is actually a regression to the village of the past, nothing revolutionary about it at all, it’s profoundly conservative.

    Those are naive attempts to create order without imposing authority. I don’t think they will succeed. Social media are overhyped. To an extent, I agree with this. What I disagree with is the villages or tribes are per se bad. They are a natural development of the use of any system of sustained communications (not occasional encounters).

    If the game or virtual world doesn’t have a built-in dev-originated village, the users will create one. Some will be remarkably open and others less so. There is a founders effect and the effects of neighboring villages.

    Having the computer impose the authority is bad because it can be gamed. Worse yet will be standards for worlds that can share those reputation points. There are some significant legal dangers here. Sad but so, history both ancient and current reveals the willingness of tribes to demonize one considered other for reasons not limited to appropriate local mores. Enabling such to become digital concrete can destroy lies. That is why laws against libel and slander exist. I sense a tragic naivete in some of these discussions.

    Games shouldn’t use them at all, or at least, they should be part of the game.

    We are not our avatars. We should be able to dispense with a digital personna as easily as Delete *.*, but if we choose to keep them we should become very aware that the network is an amplifier. That is why I sign my real name, don’t use personna names, and don’t go into worlds or sites that require them. Anonymous/pseudononymous contributions are not only a sign of fear, they are a symptom of lack of discipline.

  33. I have to chuckle to myself that all these copylefters and opensourceniks and wikinistas are here stumping for villages and tribes. And that’s just it: they reveal that open source=closed society. Because it’s open…only as long as you fit the very niched and honed criteria and are fiercely loyal to the groupthink. Then you get to be in the village/tribe. All that the Internet did was make it easier to make that village be your ideological twin rather than have to make do with the people you were physically born next to. But it’s still the same effect of having everybody at the barber shop know your business and having 4 churches on each of four corners.

    What people left villages for in real life was to have urban settings with permeability, where they could join — or leave groups — at will. Where they could be themselves or somebody else. Where they could have diversity and variety and choice. The affinity group they might make isn’t something they are stuck with (and if the “open idenity” freaks have their way, soon we will all be stuck with one IP-welded identity that they will impose on us for the sake of “openness” but will actual close off membership arbitrarily to everyone who harvests your IP and doesn’t like you).

    Thank God for Times v. Sullivan, which gives you the right to call a public figure a name even, in the interests of democracy and open, critical discussion. Thank God.

    I disagree that there is something inherently evil about an avatar with a different name or unlinked to your real name. Somebody who crabs about this doesn’t someone acquire greater authority or trust for me than somebody who appeared to me in a fox costume with a fake name who I could reliably track with transactions, speech, behaviour *deeds* over three years. That’s simply more important in a digital world than your RL credentials and name linking.

    I personally don’t permit anonymous contributions on my blog, and insist on a SL name. I wouldn’t insist on a RL name, however, because I do think you should have the right to a second life. It’s like the right to get out of the village and go to the big city.

  34. I didn’t say it was evil, Prok. You’re overreaching. I said it is a symptom of fear and lack of discipline. Evil is intensional. Fear and the inability to put a real name beside an opinion are reactive.

    I don’t let them sign with fake names because too many jerks and sociopaths use the web to get away with behaviors that would otherwise get them in prison or a mental ward, or just punched out in a bar. My only means to resist that digitally is to insist that at least when they are on ground I control (and yes, this is about control), if they can’t exercise self-control then I deny access. This is no different than hosting a large party where strangers attend. One might throw such out, but if well behaved and interesting, then there is no reason. IOW, it comes down to manners and self-respect. Somehow the web is enabling those without manners and self-respect and those who are at the edge of losing them to thrive.

    And that is bad for the rest of us.

    Best of luck, Prok. I hope somewhere someone is making you dinner tonight and you rented a good movie in exchange. Take the time.

  35. Rik if you are “Rik Riel” (not sure which Rik you are)

    For the record, no.

  36. […] long lists of contributors and participants, alongside virtual worlds, have the capacity to effect social change. Furthermore, if we consider that massively multiplayer online games are really virtual worlds, the […]

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