Tired of facing the same old myths about games being the direct cause for real-world violence, about the antisocial nature of game playing, of digital games being a child’s plaything? Well, Henry Jenkins of all people must be, but still he continues to set things right. Please check out his column “Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked” in PBS.org.
For anyone interested in researching gameplay experience, there is much of interest in the download area of MS Game Studio’s User Research.
Ted Castronova has an interesting post in Terra Nova, titled “The Horde Is Evil”. To summarise shortly, he claims that we cannot wipe out the age-old associations of evil imagery, and thereby to engage in World of Warcraft activities as an Orc or Undead character is not simply an aesthetic choice, but also an ethical one.
I have been doing my fair deal of study of the evil and the demonic imagery (see Demon 2005), and basically I agree with Ted: to adopt some of the clearly ‘chthonic’ (underworld) imagery in a game does mean getting involved with the antisocial or ethical associations these traditions carry with them. The age-old stories, our mythical heritage, is crafted from a human perspective, and creatures who kill, mangle and eat human flesh are the traditional opponents of everything hold as good, acceptable, or indeed, human.
But engaging with stories of evil, or with fantastic game worlds with evil characters, is not the same thing, as exploring such evil in one’s own life. We know the difference, and even if engagements with fictional “evils” become more and more complex as the realities we inhabit become multiple and their ‘reality-values’ relative rather than absolute, we just need to learn how to negotiate the consequences of one’s in-game choices, as much as we need to recognize different contexts of life in other daily arenas. And I know that becoming a Horde or Alliance character is currently by no means a neutral choice for many people: some dislike the other alternative for clear, ethical-aesthetic reasons. (In D&D, these choices in character selection were related to two axis, the good-evil [altruistic-sadistic], and lawful-chaotic [systematic/orderly-hedonistic/associative] ones. The Horde-Alliance dichotomy seems to be carrying the echoes of both axis.)
You might as well start making the new year’s promises already. Since my server started losing connection to the main disk drive, I have got some creeps. All electronics will fail, sooner or later, and always in a bad day. So, why not promising to better your ways, and regularly back up your data? Finally today I got around to getting a USB 2.0 disk drive (‘Fujitsu-Siemens Storagebird XL’, a 250 GB model with a funny name). Now, Windows XP contains a backup utility (‘Backup’, ditto), the only trick is to get it automatically do the thing. You can take a look at how this is made in this article at the Microsoft site. The test run seemed to go fine, but the real test involves being able to recover some of that data too, I guess…
[Edit: Of course it did not work without some trouble. This time, the Windows Scheduler encountered the notorious ‘keyset does not exist’ error. Or, the scheduled backups just quietly did not happen. Luckily, at least the scheduler keyset issue can be fixed, see this link: http://www.experts-exchange.com/Operating_Systems/WinXP/Q_21317289.html]
Here is a little gift to all of you geeks wondering what to do with this Xmas thing, anyways: FaLaLaLaLa – Switched On Santa by Sy Mann (the entire vinyl album & artwork in c. 45Mb zip download).
Interested in the gameplay strategy issues, I came across this flash “101” strategy guide into WoW group dynamics. Any other interesting ones out there?
Now, during the Christmas period, there is of course an excellent opportunity to open that thick fantasy novel, and spend relaxing evenings, long into the night, immersed in an adventure. Or, then you can also spend also those precious moments by grinding in WoW. This night was actually rather fun, thanks to Aludra and Siedga who helped my poor old Dur Ût-Thure to get along in the hard road of saintly paladinhood. And the full moon is always perfect in the virtual world. I wonder how those weather effects will change the situation in the extension release? In any case, it will be a hard choice: an entertaining book, or entertaining adventure with your friends are both good ways to spend your holidays, even if very different ones.
On the BBC’s Click Online site, you can find this fun snippet on Microsoft’s vision of the future. Some of these concepts actually sound useful (“Whereabouts Clock”, your basic social context awareness tool), but some are just plain silly. Interactive bowl?