Browsing Category Noctua

Ex Machina analysis

Ex Machina, Alex Garland’s directorial debut, is a truly thought provoking film with a fitting ambiguous ending which should leave your mind racing. Though the film’s premise is not original (considering Spielberg’s AI, Pinocchio, Blade Runner – the list goes on) there are characteristics which separates the script from others of it’s kind. The story is set in the middle of nowhere in the isolated state of the art home belonging to the AI-creator and tech-billionaire Nathan. Caleb, who starts off as the protagonist, has been brought there to serve as the human part of a kind of Turing Test. Ava is the AI which will be examined. Her ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human will be determined by Caleb, a coder at a Google-esque company called Bluebook created by Nathan. Ava is also the enigma at the heart of this film and the philosophical problems that it presents.

SPOILER ALERT

Various thought experiments are referred to in the film but also experienced first hand by the viewer. The question we ask ourselves is, can Ava,  (as in the thought experiment ‘Mary’s Room’ mentioned by Caleb in the movie) ever really know the world if she is only ever kept in the room Nathan prepared for her? For as she is kept in this prison she could be seen as stuck inside Plato’s cave where she can only see the shadows of reality dancing on the wall of the cave. She cannot experience them first hand.

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Language, pls! Gaming slang, offensive?

When I started playing SWTOR my past gaming experiences were very limited. I remember playing a bit of Sonic on my uncles old SEGA but at the time I must have been about nine years old. Over ten years later I ran into SWTOR. Since reading and writing has always been a passion of mine I found this new medium of storytelling fascinating. I eventually found the little button on the minimap which lead me into warzone queues and that was that. I no longer cared about story content, I could beat people up in warzones instead. Well, get beaten up mostly really but for some reason I still enjoyed it immensely.

Needless to say at this point I was clueless about half of the things being said in chat. I was quite proud over having grasped the concept of the different roles (tank, healer and dps) but on a daily basis I was looking up acronyms like “ikr”, “aoe”, “pug”, “gg” and “fps”. Expressions like “casual”, “rekt” or “grind” were as incomprehensible to me. Urban dictionary was my best friend while unsuccessfully trying to camouflage myself as a real gamer like the rest you. I have to admit, the first time someone called out they were getting raped in a warzone I was confused.

After having played the game a little longer and thankfully gotten at least a little bit better at it the language too started coming more naturally. Urban dictionary and me no longer needed each other. Without thinking of it I was using the terms that had once been so alien to me.

One day when I was on TS with a few friends something interesting happened that I could not have predicted.

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The strange case of an online friendship

Another sleepless night. I told myself I would stay in bed and try to sleep. I told myself I’d be good this time and stay. But I never do. There is something uncanny about sleep. I’ve always felt it. Even though I’m tired, the thought of parting with consciousness always makes me weary. “A waste of precious time” I tell myself, and it’s true. Something happens when the rest of the world is sleeping. My crowded mind seem spacious just like the abandoned streets outside. Thoughts and memories come to me in a way that suddenly makes sense. That’s what happened tonight. As I lay in bed, deluded by sleep, the memories of the strangest friendship I ever made came suddenly to me all at once. It of course all started in the most peculiar of places; the MMO called Star Wars: The Old Republic.

To make the long story of how we became friends short lets skip over the exchanging of guards, peels and heals necessary when securing a new in game ally. Let’s skip over the many warzones that followed, the PvP drinking nights, the laughs and the somber 3 am conversations. Almost a year after we made friends we decided to meet up. At this point we had actually already met once before together with a few other in game friends. This however would be different. We’d both had a crazy couple of weeks and needed a break from everyday life. So it would be.

I met her at the airport. As fitting our personalities I was instantly comfortable and she the opposite though I knew she was happy to see me.

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The Psychology Behind Character Creation

In real life there is no appearance modification station and in order to alter the way we are seen by the rest of the world we have to resolve to less flexible means. We can change our clothes, get tattoos or piercings. We can colour our hair, style it or choose to shave it. We can even go down a “body size” or two by changing our diet or going to the gym yet it’s pretty clear that our real life customization tools are far more limited than those in game. When we enter the virtual world of online gaming it is so easy to make the avatar representing us look however we want them to. So what lies behind the choices we make when we create these in game manifestations of ourselves?

Recent research is telling us that when our choice is not effected by in game mechanics (for an example choosing to be a certain class for a stat increase) we are prone to want to create slightly idealised versions of ourselves. This said we don’t necessarily seek perfection. Often a flaw or other resemblance to our own physical selves helps us relate to the character we are playing.

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Ranked PvP and why Bioware needs it

Every day millions of people all over the world interact with each other in online environments known as MMORPGs. Asking these players why they play reveals a wide variation of motives. Nick Yee made a study of this subject. Using this I will tonight write down a short and (hopefully) easy to read analysis of the long term benefits that could be gained from a functional ranked PvP scene.

Let us start by asking why people play these types of games. If we can first articulate the motivations then this provides a foundation to explore the methods of creating a satisfying in game environment. For game developers finding out more about player motivation is important since it can emphasise how certain game mechanics may attract or alienate different types of players. Though Bartle’s Player Types is a well-known player taxonomy it would be hard to use on a practical basis unless it was validated with more verifiable data. I will instead use the paper by Nick Yee: Motivations for Play in Online Games. In this study three main components emerged as the principal incentives.

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If we now take a closer look at rated gaming in SWTOR we have two types of ranked PvP queues available (even if they are highly dysfunctional due to reasons like imbalance between classes and poor matchmaking resulting in the existing population feeling discouraged to queue).

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Hiding behind a virtual mask

The world wide web is filled with people behind masks. What do I mean by that? One of my favourite writers once said:

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth.”
– Oscar Wilde

This sentiment seems to be both true and untrue at the very same time. Oscar Wilde’s aphorisms often makes a person think “Yes, that is very true. Wait… Is that really true?”.

There seem to be things that people are more willing to reveal only when hidden behind the mask of animosity.

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Red pill, blue pill

You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

Existentialist Jean-Paul Sarte said “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”

Sartre was of the belief that ours is a godless universe. Thus there are no absolute guide or understanding in life, neither is there a moral code for us to follow. Sartre meant that we are all radically free. Free to the point of feeling abandoned and forced to take full responsibility for everything that happens, even though we probably don’t really want to.

He also famously said “Existence precedes essence” meaning one first exists, then invents oneself through the choices we make.

The responsibilities that come attached with this freedom can be quite intimidating.

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Hello, I’m Noctua

Here I find myself, one little night owl in a great big world called the Internet. Though I’ve found my way here many a time before, the world of gaming is still new to me. Maybe that is why my fascination with online gaming and the communities that dwell there was so striking.

Having always taken a great interest in human behaviour and interaction I was intrigued. I often find myself examining people around me, not just in my everyday life, but in game too.

Though a surface can be a beautiful thing, I’ve always found that what lies underneath it is far more compelling. To increase my understanding of people around me and human nature in general has always been a slight obsession of mine. In this blog I will write down my thoughts on everything from gaming to psychology and philosophy. Most likely I will be up typing away in the middle of the night when all decent people are fast asleep in their beds.

That’s me and my story of how I ended up in this little corner of cyberspace tonight. Feel free to comment, say hi or introduce yourself below. Sweet dreams everyone.

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