Azeroth: Confessions and emotional investments

The first game I ever played was Pong. It was 1978, and I was twelve years old. My father worked for the Ford Motor Company and flew a lot between Dagenham (Essex, UK) and Detroit, and on one particular trip he arrived home with an Atari 2600. That’s when everything changed. After that it was the ZX81, then the BBC B and an Amiga. The first pay cheque my boyfriend earned after graduating University went on buying a 386 PC with a copy of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Nearly thirty years on we’re still married, and gaming is a part of everyone’s lives in this house: my 14 year old son and 10 year old daughter are playing Trove together as I type this article.

However, these days I spend quite a lot of time in Azeroth playing World of Warcraft, and that’s what I’ll be talking about during my tenure here.

The MMO was bought initially in order to help me through long nights breast feeding the youngest, and in the end it saved me from myself, after I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression. It became a space where I could allow myself to just kick back and relax, and evolved into something more significant as time went on: becoming a GM in a small but committed Guild gave me confidence in the virtual world where none existed in reality. It was a vital first step back on a road to recovery which pushed me to write daily as a means of helping to rationalise how I felt and to deal with the issues I had. In February 2016 I will celebrate seven years of my Warcraft Blog. I know that without this particular game in my life, I’d not be the person I now am.

It’s odd when people ask me to describe the journey I’ve had with games since those early days. Being a woman in what was back then very much a man’s world was always difficult, especially when I could make my 10p last longer in a Galaxians machine than most boys my age.

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Cyberspace is a small world…

Yet another sleepless night. Tonight I am finding myself pondering over the complexity of chance. Coincidence. Some believe that the probability of a certain set of circumstances coming together in a meaningful or tragic way is so low that it simply cannot be considered mere coincidence.  Some believe in destiny. Some might say we don’t create our destiny but participate in its unfolding. Others, like Ernest Henley would undermine the power of chance and famously say “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul”. Albert Einstein said that coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.

I personally don’t believe in divine intervention. I don’t believe in destiny. I believe in randomness. A beautiful mess of constant occurrences in this huge space known as “the present moment”. Right now is happening all across the world and in this enormous collage of “now”, collisions happen. We only find these collisions strange when they are of a certain character which is somehow meaningful to us.

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Asheron’s call Part 2: “Carebears”

Follow this link to read Part 1 in this series.

Before the story goes any further, I really need to explain the key mechanics at play. Without understanding them, it’s impossible to see the fascinating behaviours exhibited by the player population.

Carebears

The most commonly used insult and an accurate description of most people. As in real life a Carebear is someone who wants to play if they are on the winning team, who wants to fight if the odds are in their favour, who wants to progress without obstacles. They are followers rather than leaders.

Whilst Asheron’s Call had an economy (based around cash and loot and player trades for rare items) on Darktide the currency was Carebears. Available in their thousands, Carebears were the worker bees that powered the XP Chains and the cannon fodder that won or lost wars. The only information anyone could see about a Monarchy was the total number of members, by viewing the character sheet of someone in that monarchy. Therefore, in a time of war, the only measure for the progress of that war was whether the Monarchs concerned were gaining or losing members.

Because Carebears don’t stay and fight for the losing team.

Second, Character Builds & Leveling

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SWTOR PvP: What to expect from 4.0

This blog post will briefly discuss the current state of PvP in the game Star Wars: The Old Republic, as well as delve a bit deeper into the expectations the players have for the future. PvP in SWTOR has been struggling for a long period of time and I have watched the playerbase grow increasingly frustrated. Considering the amount of time this has been going on I was curious to know how much faith there is still left in the community for an improvement, especially with the upcoming expansion and its promise of an influx of players. In order learn more about this I’ve interviewed four players (Igor, Zherio, Snave and Mosh) and asked them about their thoughts and feelings about the current state of the game as well as their expectations for the future.

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Games that blur the boundaries of work and play

Video games are often framed as sites of play and entertainment. Their transformation into work platforms and the staggering amount of work that is being done in these games often go unnoticed. Users spend on average 20 hours a week in online games, and many of them describe their game play as obligation, tedium, and more like a second job than entertainment.

So begins Nick Yee’s study “The Labor of Fun“, an article about the work like duties that come along MMORPGs. Today I wanted to give a quick shout out to this study which I think you might find interesting if you are an MMO player like me.

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Plato’s virtual cave

As gamers we are used to switching between alternate realities by immersing ourselves into the games we play. In my article “Does gaming impact my dreams?” I discussed this subject further while musing over the reasons why gamers more often experience lucid dreaming than their peers. I ended the article by saying:

When we then enter the world of dreaming, do we [as gamers] then recognize the signs of fiction and fantasy more easily than others? It is indeed an intriguing idea and the philosophical implications of this is fascinating to me. But more on that another time.

Well, my friends, it’s “another time”. It’s about to get deep!

When I hit the play button and enter a new game I am very much aware

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The story of finding your guild

In an effort to encourage you all to tell GD the brief story of how you found your main guild I here present to you my own story! This blog post was inspired by a reader commenting on my blog post “Social Identity and Guilds in MMORPGs“. After reading the comment I thought it would be interesting to read your stories so even though I’m really cagey when it comes to writing about myself I will try to start this off!

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Asheron’s Call: PVP SRS BSNS – Part 1

PVP is pretty sterile in many MMOs, in my opinion, because it lacks consequence beyond things like rating or titles. You can name change, server transfer or reroll. There is no long term impact on the game or its landscape based on whether you win or lose. and it largely takes places in instanced arenas and warzones whilst open world PVP has safe zones and unkillable guards. Even if you manage to kill the unkillable guards, nothing changes. The map will be the same tomorrow as it was today.

There was a game where, partially by design and partially by the driving force of player ingenuity where this was not the case.

Asheron’s motherf***ing Call. Darktide Server. Unlike the other servers, Darktide was unique. It was 100% PVP, 100% of the time. No housing, no safe zones, no NPC guards. If you died then the guy that killed you took your best gear from your corpse. Cheating and hacking was rife and progress in the game was achieved through grinding in dungeons, meaning if you wanted to level you joined a ‘Monarchy,’ got some mates, got tooled up and went to fight for it.

What unfolded on Darktide between 2000 & 2002 was a complex geopolitical hurricane that could have proved the basis for a thesis by a Sociologist. In fact, it did. More than one. It was the best game I have ever played and that had nothing to do with the game play.

First, some context.

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Are Exploits Cheating?

Of all of the topics to ponder in the world of multiplayer games, the one with perhaps the most grey area is the subject of exploits. In MMO’s specifically, some exploits and bugs are left unpatched for years, allowing enterprising players a simpler path to victory than intended. Other exploits, however, result in account suspensions and outright bans.

The question of “are exploits wrong?” has been explored at length by more qualified gamers than myself, and the answer that we always seem to land on is “it depends”.  In fact, it depends on several things. Does using the exploit give the gamer an unfair advantage in a PvP situation? Does using the exploit wreak havoc on game systems (such as the economy)? Does using the exploit degrade or disrupt the experience of other players in the game? Even the answers to these questions are seldom black and white. After all, a player might contend that my constant kiting or jumping during combat is ruining his/her immersion, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m doing anything wrong. Likewise, is gaining high-level gear more quickly than intended truly putting a player at an advantage if they haven’t also gained the PvP experience that goes along with obtaining said gear?

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My love for online communities

I began playing SWtor at launch and was utterly new to MMO’s. In fact I had no intention of spending much time interacting with other players. I had a few real life friends who had expressed mutual interest in the game and that was cool. I intended to play the game for the story alone as I was already a fan of Bioware & Obsidians outstanding Knights of the old Republic games. Obviously this all changed and I soon became part of an online community within the game. I was just casually minding my own business, levelling on Voss as I recall and a guy asked me to group up for a heroic quest. This was pretty alien to me at the time, mingling with a complete stranger in a virtual environment, but was very rewarding! The sense of accomplishment and teamwork was great and something which I had yet to experience in video games.

After completing the quest, the player who invited me to the party offered me a place in his “guild”. This was another concept I was unfamiliar with, but the last novelty went ok so I said “sure” and took my first gm ‘Ruuk’ up on his proposition.

Being part of the guild certainly had a positive effect on my time in game, advice and help was always offered and there were always people around to just hang out with. It’s funny how someone just saying “Hi” can put you in a good mood when you log into a game. Which brings to mind the question, are there other online communities outside of gaming that can induce a strong feeling of interpersonal bonding? I ask this since the competitive nature of playing video games and the immersion factor appears to enhance the connection.

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