Posts Tagged ‘Gaming’

Superstitions and MMO’s

The Daedalus Project was an online survey of MMORPG players which is currently in hibernation, but the archives are still available. In relation to the survey Heather Sinclair, a member of the Dungeon and Dragons Online development team, made an interesting comment:

“From beta all the way through months into launch players were CONVINCED that if you used the diplomacy skill on a chest it would improve the loot you got..

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Are pro gamers athletes?

Today I stumbled across the video below on YouTube. It made me wonder. Are gamers athletes? What defines an activity as a sport and a person as an athlete? Is it the physical effort? Strict rules and competition? Does the skill level have to be high? Does the person have to be a professional? The definition seems ambiguous at best. Golfing, dancing, curling and even chess are all activities considered sports yet most people outside the world of gaming would hesitate before calling a PC gamer and athlete based on his performance in a video game.

Oxford English Dictionary defines a sport as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” In this definition video games fall short, but so do other sports that are still socially accepted as an exception to the rule. Other activities such as Cheerleading (which has been determined by a federal judge to not qualify as a sport) should by the Oxford English Dictionary indeed classify and be up on the list together with football and basketball.

What’s your opinion? If you are (or hypothetically were) a professional gamer, would you call yourself an athlete?

Photo attribution: Photo derived from “Ases en la EPS” by artubr licensed under CC by 2.0

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The Virtual Skinner Box

What is a Skinner box? And how can it be related to gaming? In this blog post I will discuss the psychology utilised by MMO game developers to condition a desired gaming behaviour in their costumer clientele.

Skinner boxes are small glass or plexi-glass boxes with levers and drinking tubes. In this box laboratory rats are placed and conditioned to perform different tasks through what is known as “positive” or “negative” reinforcement.

Positive and negative reinforcement according to Sheldon Cooper:

So what is positive and negative reinforcement?
Positive reinforcement means a reward (in the Skinner Box the rat gets a food pellet). Negative reinforcement means the removal of a reward or positive consequence which works out as a sort of punishment (in the Skinner Box the rat gets a small electric shock unless they perform the tasks in time). The method is called “Operant Conditioning”. In the Skinner Box the rat is conditioned this way to perform very basic tasks at first. After a while these tasks become more intricate. Similar techniques are used by game designers to condition players to pursue more and more elaborate gameplay.

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Why do we care about fictional characters?

Have you ever really cared for a character in a video game? There are those that pass us by unnoticed and then there are those we couldn’t detach from even if we tried. The gaming industry has now more than ever shown itself capable of creating bonds and meaningful relationships between us, the players, and the fictional characters we encounter. How do game developers pull this off? How do they make us care?

Researchers of the university of Middlsex mean to say that we are predetermined to care about these fictional characters.

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Extra Life – Gaming and increasing awareness

Throughout the short period of time that I have been gaming I’ve seen announcements for many charity events. In the very start this seemed like a strange combination. Gaming and charity? Really? We often learn from society to be skeptical to the world of (especially online) gaming. We hear much of the negative effects. The people who are a part of online communities that they genuinely care about are often made to feel foolish by people who are not a part of this environment and who will heavily judge those who are. I’ve written before about the positive effects of gaming for the individual. But is there more to it?

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Are you aspiring to be a better player? Should you?

A few weeks back I got into a bit of hot water by suggesting that Warcraft players could be better than they are by coming more prepared to Group content. In fact, my assertion that using a food buff plus a flask (+200 to primary stat) met, from some, with calls for me to check my own mental state. Because CLEARLY, preparation for anything is not within the remit of anyone else to suggest to players, let alone place IN A GUIDE. In the end, the arguments stretched from passionate agreement with my stance all the way through alternatives and suggestions. Maybe it wasn’t about the stats per se, but the willingness of players to show that they understand that grouping has a different rule set than playing alone.

What followed in the next few days was not dissimilar to the run of personal abuse I experienced when I suggested that players might not need flying for Warcraft content. Perhaps there was more fun to be had by learning to overcome difficulty as opposed to simply trivialising the content by flying over it. It is abundantly apparent that some don’t only dislike being told what to do, but will have serious issue when it is suggested they could play better than they are. This is not unusual across the MMO spectrum either: often, players will tell you how friendly their title of choice is in terms of helpful people. We all know those individuals who can’t take criticism, and we understand how hard it can be sometimes to tell others that they’re wrong.

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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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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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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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Identity Crisis!

As gamers we are used to adopting new identities. We then discard them the same way a snake sheds it’s skins. We change between personalities as often as a girl changes her clothes. Want a make-over? Start playing a new game or create a new character. You can be the hero of Gotham City, you can be Ronaldo, you can be Lara Croft. Or maybe you just want to be a more ideal version of yourself. The possibilities are endless. This begs the question – As gamers, are we all suffering from some strange form of multiple-personality disorder?

For myself, I’ve never felt all my (sometimes wildly opposing) personality traits fit very well into just one person. As a result of this, as well as being a very playful person in general, I have gone by many different names – both in games and in real life.

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