Posts Written On November 2015

Parasocial relationships and the future of Gamers Decrypted

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Have you ever been saddened when coming to the end of a game you truly loved? The other day I was having a conversation with a friend who told me he just couldn’t make himself finish The Witcher 3. He has connected to the character and doesn’t want to let it go. He explained to me that he has had the same problem with a number of games he felt greatly immersed into. I have experienced this many times when reading. I get very invested in the characters of the books I read and when I get to the end of a new series I’ve grown to love the last pages tend to sadden me. I know I can reread the book but unless I know more of the same will be released I cannot be satisfied because I will never have new experiences with these characters again. It turns out however that caring about the disappearance of a fictional character is normal and even healthy according to scientists.

During the television writers’ strike of 2007–2008 a study called “How Do We React When Our Favorite Characters Are Taken Away? An Examination of a Temporary Parasocial Breakup” was carried out to examine reactions to the many television shows taking temporary breaks in their airtime. Moyer-Gusé (assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University and co-author of the study) said the results of this study suggest that the relationships some viewers have with their favorite television characters are indeed like what they have with real friends.

“While some participants felt real distress at the loss of their favourite TV shows, the distress is not comparable to the distress that comes from real breakups,” she said. “There are some aspects of relationships with TV characters that may be comparable to real relationships, but the intensity is generally much lower.”

What happens when we immerse ourselves in these fictional worlds is that we form real but parasocial relationships with these character who are not real. Strange, huh? A parasocial relationship is a one-sided relationship where one person extends some level of emotional commitment, interest, time or effort whilst the other person remains unaware of their existence. These parasocial relationships are most common with celebrities and even organizations such as sports teams.

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The Winner Takes it All, or Collecting Things in MMO’s

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A lot of social media space this week on my feed has been taken up by a Moose. This Warcraft Mount was going to be purchasable at some point before Legion. Instead the designers have decided that actually, this is too good an opportunity to pass up. So, as of Patch 6.2.3 that launched this week? You can only get one by defeating the End Boss of the Expansion on the two hardest Instance difficulties, Heroic and Mythic. The playerbase’s reaction to this has been nothing short of revelatory: groups of people offering to help the less geared and qualified with runs under the Twitter hashtag of #FriendshipMoose. Players who hadn’t even played organised content weeks ago are now touting Heroic Achievements and a new found sense of belonging. However, for some of us, this whole sequence of events is nothing new. There’s been Meta Achievements in game since Wrath of the Lich King whose rewards you can still gain. Blizzard now take the mounts away from Instances at the start of each new Expansion to maintain the ‘unique’ nature of the achievement. However, what people don’t realise is that it isn’t the pixels they collect to begin with. The ‘reward’ isn’t what you gain from defeating Archimonde, it’s what you find within yourselves that matters more. You’re not passing over money for a plush or a badge, this is simply a virtual nod to the time you took to go to Hellfire Citadel and make an effort.

So, why does anyone bother collecting anything virtual to begin with? If you have no real proof of your efforts, if there’s nothing to sell in X years or to leave to your grand-kids… really, what’s the point? A lot of this is tribal, of course, that for a new generation of players it’s just the same as sticking a band poster on a wall or sewing patches onto your jacket. Wanting to belong is a vital part of human behaviour, as is being able to use what you collect as a means of showing your worth. Every Moose that appears in my timeline (and trust me, there are many) is a sign that players have ‘completed’ one of the most poorly-received Expansions in Warcraft’s history. This is undoubtedly a good thing for a company who lost 40% of their sub base in 12 months over their inability to make compelling content. Suddenly, everyone’s in the one bit of the whole package nobody really had any complaints about: raiding. Maybe more of these people will raid come Legion: that has to be Blizzard’s hope as a result of the exercise.

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SWTOR: A New Hope

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Saturday afternoon and I’m sat at my desk playing SWtor once again, when there’s a knock at the door…
“Uncle Marty!!!”, my nephew exclaims enthusiastically as I open the door, before he bounds in with a barrage of information specifying the events of the past few hours from the wonderful perspective of a 5 year old’s fruitful mind.

After going to shut down my pc to prepare myself for the obligatory Lego building session, I hear from behind me Layton’s curious enquiry when he glances at my screen. “Is that Star Wars?, now you can imagine I’m totally ready to nerd out now, already a fan of other things all star wars related I ask myself the question “Is he ready to play an mmo?”
I hit escape, go to settings>enable profanity filter. “So you wanna make a character Layton?”, the high five and grin that stretches across his face in response is genuinely heart-warming!

“So what character do you want to make?” I ask, “A Jedi!!” he replies, and proceeds to wave his arms around making the clashing & humming sounds of his ‘Air lightsaber’ moves. We make some modifications to his characters appearance, which he is keen to make look like a grown up version of himself. “Time to name him now dude, what shall we call him?”, “erm…. I like painting, so let’s call him ‘Paint’”. Seems as good as any other name I think so we enter it but the name is unavailable… I suggest that as play on his surname we call him “Bringonthepayne” after trying many more taken character names, he agrees and proceeds to vocalise his new creations name with glee!

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Maintaining a Gaming Community

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What makes gaming communities strong? Why are we drawn to them? How do they tie in with culture and sub cultures? These are questions I’ve found myself wondering about lately. When I entered the world of online gaming I got to discover an online community that fascinated me. Gamers are very interesting and often a lot of fun to be around. These are educated, clever and entertaining individuals with wit and they keep things fresh when the games you play sometimes get a little stale. The stereotype of a sweaty, smelling basement dweller has, or should have been extinct a long time ago. Their creativity is not just evident from the innovative use of abbreviation and curses these players use to insult each other. Look at Minecraft and the worlds that these gamers create. Look at the fan art, the dedicated blogs and the YouTube channels made about games. I repeat: gamers are creative. They are also helpful. For every immature troll there is a friendly person who is always willing to lend a helping hand to someone who’s stuck or is looking for advice. As for the immature ones who are so very creative with their cursing, trust me, they have their place in this community as much as anyone. This is something I have recently come to understand.

THE CONTRADICTION

For online multiplayer games especially there needs to exist strong (ideally conflicting) sub cultures and personalities. Why? Because most of these games are built upon winning or losing. The community’s part in this is to define the value of  victory or success in relation to the rest of the player base which is vital for maintaining interest in the game. That’s why competitiveness plays such a large role in how strong these gaming communities are. A perfect example can be found in Mylex Asheron’s Call post:

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Mad Max – A Good Game For A Bad Day

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We’ve all had them kind of days, days where you just want to cry, scream and sleep, all at the same time. For some people talking with friends or loved ones, venting about the utter tripe that is your day, is a great way to unwind, while others prefer to be alone and indulge in a hobby, such as reading, or if you’re like me, play video games. I usually play the same type of games when I’m in a bad mood: Call of Duty, Battlefield, anything with a shooting element, my frustrations being taken out on the right trigger. To people that don’t play video games, the fact that blowing virtual heads off helps me to unwind after a stressful day, probably sounds quite psychotic, the Daily Mail having a field day with my admission. However, they’re are definitely many like me, and it’s probably you people that can imagine how much relief Wolfenstien: New Order brought me, after playing it on the day my grandad died. Shooters, especially online ones, have, for quite a while, been my go to place when I’m royally peeved, but last week, I found a new kind of game to make me feel even better.

With a release date that seemed a little nonsensical, Mad Max was pitted against MGSV when both came out in September, the excitement for the last Kojima game overshadowing Avalanche’s foray into the desert. I saw thoughts on Twitter about Mad Max, I read how people were both enjoying it and how some were finding it an overall, mediocre experience, but I tried to stay away from any reviews, wanting to formulate an opinion on the game myself. When I finally got round to some extensive playing, I found myself agreeing more with the latter of the two above opinions, boredom setting in after just a few hours.

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The Cult of Celebrity In MMO’s (but especially Warcraft)

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In the interests of full disclosure, I should admit before we begin today that I’m at the more mature end of the MMO demographic. I remember when that Lara Croft lass was all pixelated breasts, for starters, not the realistic and clearly rebooted young woman she’s become. In between then and now, a lot has changed in gaming. Back in the day, streaming was what you did with a fishing net and Wellington boots (or possibly as a result of an allergic reaction) while the World Wide Web was merely a twinkle in Tim Berners Lee’s fertile imagination. Now it’s all Twitch and Kappa, plus that bloke who’s been dead for a decade still painting pictures. On top of it all, there’s a cult of celebrity that frankly puts early Norman feudalism to shame. And today I am here to stick my head in the mouth of a beast that frankly scares so many people I know into swearing they’ll never go near You Tube even if paid.

For a title like Warcraft, there are streamers now for everything. You have players of both sexes, Lore, PvP, questing, pet battles, farming vanity mounts and that’s even before I get started on the Gold Farmers or the Role Players.

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Knights of the Fallen Empire and how we got here

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As I step into the story-driven adventure SWTOR has provided me with I can’t help but fall in love with the plot of this new expansion. Through BioWare-style cinematic storytelling we are offered a high quality narrative filled with well rounded characters, comic relief, dynamic conflicts of interest and many twists and turns in the story. This kind of single player like story telling is new for an MMO and we are all watching with excitement to see what happens once the chapters are completed. Will people stay for the end game? For the community? Is SWTOR taking a chance on a new brave concept or just repeating old mistakes? Before we return to dig deeper into the new expansion, bear with me for a minute while I quickly reminisce over how we ended up where we are in SWTOR today…

Developed by BioWare Austin, SWTOR was first announced on October 21, 2008. In 2009 the game’s first cinematic trailer “Deceived“, made byDeceived Blur Studio, was presented at a press conference and in September the same year BioWare began accepting applications for testers from the gaming community. Within minutes, the official website was down due to the high traffic. The increase in visitors was accommodated and a second  and third cinematic trailer (“Hope” and “Return“) were released. Books were also published to increase the hype. This was a great way to promote the game to Star Wars hungry fans and within three days of its launch SWTOR had one million subscribers, making it the fastest growing MMO ever seen. However, this thrilling success did not last long and in the following months the game lost a fair share of its subscribers. What happened?

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