On Proteus

I opened my eyes to a sea full of sea. Looking around, I spotted a faint outline of trees and made my way toward them. The island was lush, and I thought, full of life. Trombone-plants and horn-weasels dotted the landscape. Leaves fell, sun rose. Proteus is about many things, but for me, it was about life or the absence of it. It’s about making meaning because we must, because we can, because otherwise, we would close our eyes and stop.

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In Proteus, life is all around you. Rushing down the hills, you find creatures who flit away, owls who fly off when they catch your glance, and dragonflies whirring and buzzing. The sounds of life are all around you. Creatures blow whistles and owls sing out their whoo in the night. The fireflies are bells and the lights a symphony. I saw gravestones and roses. Did I plant them? Had my family died here?

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I found a house seemingly abandoned, but shut tight. Was it mine? I found broken trees that looked like castles, and totems of animals high on the hills. Had I built those?

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I found drum-beetles marking the beat of their march through the muck. I found mushrooms who could jump further than I could. I couldn’t jump at all. In fact, I’m not sure how I moved. I moved through the water, but I didn’t swim. I moved over hills, but I didn’t walk. I came up to the house’s door, but I couldn’t knock. Surely there was something to find in this beautiful land. A path I had ignored or a side of the house I hadn’t tried. Perhaps there was some other island out to sea, and I was just on the wrong one.

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My search for something ended in the realization that for all the goals I constructed, the names I created, and the stories I told, I was nothing. I made no sounds. Was I even alive? Why did I keep moving? Because there was nothing else for me to do. Why did I follow the stars? Because there was nothing else I prescribed enough meaning to. In an open world, waiting to be explored, I followed the signs. I needed the signs. The trombone-plants made their song and needed no signs. The horn-weasels hopped out their melodies and needed no signs. The stars, the stars, those malicious keepers of time, led me on to my eventual path into nowhere. Or so I could say. But really, I made meaning because I needed it. Because I lacked it. I made meaning because I wasn’t alive.

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Post-mortem: Storydeck

Monday, Storydeck: Ella launched, a game project I’ve been involved in for awhile now. It’s a bit early for a post-mortem, but I need to parse and share some of the lessons I’ve learned through this project.

It began about 18 months ago when I met up with my collaborator Ian Millington and began throwing around my ideas. With his help and input, we went through a few different versions of the game and eventually settled on this simple rendition for iOS.

I started out wanting to make a game that experimented with the ideas in my dissertation in which I talk about storytelling in games and offer a model for narrative in games and some other media. Storydeck was a way for me to play through the dissertation, in a way, and understand the workings of story from a different perspective. It was also my first real design project. I played with game design when I was quite young, back in the days of BBS’s and door games (if you remember those), but I never completed anything until now.

There are a few lessons I’ve learned, so in an attempt to be organized for once, I’ll go through them one topic at a time. I’m writing this up mid-morning quickly to kind of clear my head, so this is hardly an exhaustive list.

1. Making a game to understand my own work

This seems odd to most of my dissertation committee and likely many others around me. The typical response is “what do you mean, you ’made’ it?” I think though it’s been one of the most helpful projects I’ve engaged in. I’m able to look at my model in practice, but not only from my perspective as a scholar, but also from the perspective of a designer, a writer, and a servant to my users. This is also very problematic though. How do I justify to my committee the time I spent on it? How do I write it up? How do I use it to communicate something when I can’t make them play it the way I can make them read the dissertation? (Or at least pretend that they have read it).

2. Users

I often tell my students that writing is a tool for communication and all the lessons we have about argumentation, clarity, and concision have the goal of communication in mind. I’ve learned through this project that games are a means for communication as well. This is I suppose a no-brainer, but I found myself making the mistake of thinking of the game as a construct I was creating. An object of study and little more. As soon as it reached the hands of others though, this is no longer the case. It’s now something that potentially communicates something. Whether that is simply an emotion or a story or some moral axiom depends on the game I suppose, but there’s certainly something there that I missed when I was designing this. And it’s the fact that games are a medium between myself and my users, among other things. What am I trying to say? And how can I use a game to say it? Am I succeeding? It’s not a matter of vocabulary or style – it’s a matter of those things in terms of game language. Mechanics. Art. Pacing. Difficulty. Objectives. Rewards. Etc.

3. It’s a game.

This may be the most obvious of all, but I’m reminded continually post-release that what I made is a game. It’s not a chapter in my dissertation or a piece of art on the wall. It’s a game. Yes, it tells a story and storytelling is much of the action, but underneath all that it’s a game and it needs to be judged as a game. Too often I focus so much on story, ever reminding others to be mindful that story is just part of a game and often inconsequential to the game, but apparently I need to remind myself that more often as well. I can tell stories in any number of media – why am I using a game to do so? What’s special about this? How can my story better highlight the game and vice versa? I tend to think of story as something existing beyond the text it is told in, but in the process of the telling, the medium used comes into being as well. A symbiotic relationship forms that can either be a healthy and beautiful mutualism or else an imbalanced and abusive parasitism. I need to be more mindful of the game as partner in that relationship.

4. Design

As my first finished design project, I learned so much about the iterative process and various questions I need to ask myself throughout creation. Ian always asked me, “Well, is this fun?” and I knew that was important and I did think of it, but I was so caught up in my own scholarly questions that I didn’t pay enough attention to what made it fun. It was fun to make. I was having fun and I let that take over my ability to judge whether the post-design engagement with the game would be fun. (For the record, I do have fun playing it! But, I needed to think more about this earlier in the process.)

But even more important I think, like I said in #2, I’ve realized that I’m somewhat a novice in this kind of communication. I may be a decent writer when I put some effort into it, but that is mostly possible from years of practice. I’m quite a newcomer to the art of design – this is exciting because it means I have so much to discover and improve on, but it’s also frightening in a way. At this point in my life, there are few things I love that I haven’t already put a lot of time into learning and improving on. Pushing myself down a new path like this is daunting, but also – thrilling. It humbles me and that is a bittersweet lesson I continually take pleasure in learning.

Raiding Literacies

The big news of one small corner of the internet today was a series of charts that MMO-Champion put out showing the number of characters who had completed the current raiding tier in World of Warcraft. Now, the numbers were based off of only a sample of avatars so one cannot use them to speak for the whole playerbase. In the manner of forum users, however, that is exactly what was done.

Let’s pretend for a moment that there really is only ~5% of the playerbase in World of Warcraft that has completed the current tier. Why is that? There are a lot of theories, but the one Blizzard is acting on is that the tier is too difficult. Raiding is too hard.

Some players argue that raiding isn’t hard – players are just bad. More sensible players respond that actually, players just don’t know what to do because they were never taught. They don’t know how to understand a fight, they don’t know how to recognize mechanics, and they have no way of knowing how to learn that. They can’t solve problems that they can’t see.

There are many kinds of literacies, even many kinds of gaming literacies, but raiding literacy is one somewhat close to my heart. As a long-time raider, I have been in low-skill groups and very high-skill groups. I remember the first raid I did and how difficult it was then. Since I love raiding so much and I see raiding culture somewhat in decline right now (another post another time), I have an interest in teaching people how to raid in the hopes that they will then be able to enjoy it as much as I have.

But first of all, what do they need to know? And then, how do you teach that to them?

Normie, level 10 warlock, said it well in the “1.35% thread“:

Players often come to World of Warcraft new to the genre, perhaps even new to video games. They don’t understand how to parse the UI, let alone busy boss mechanics. The hope is that they “learn their class” through the leveling process and as they complete 5-man dungeons. However, much of the content has been simplified to account for the age of the game and the relative age of its playerbase. Even new players without veteran perks experience easy versions of 5-mans due to their companions who are, for the most part, overly geared and skilled alts.

They experience this, if they don’t get bored, for 85 levels. There is then a level-cap crisis (what do I do now?). If they manage to pass this crisis and continue playing, many of them realize that raiding is the goal. However, they haven’t been prepared to raid at all. They haven’t learned what a rotation is, not even what the term means potentially. They have never encountered a fight so dangerous that a mere misstep can kill them and everyone else. They’ve never seen fire on the ground perhaps even before. They may not conceptually relate a red/blue/purple/sometimes-green area on the floor with danger. They don’t have the conceptual map to understand that “fire will kill me” because they don’t see fire and they don’t realize the red/blue/purple has anything to do with them. (I am focusing on standing-in-fire because it is the most obvious part of raiding literacy when it is lacking and so ubiquitous that Blizzard has implemented more than one achievement referencing it.)

It’s easy for experienced players to say ‘you’re an idiot if you stand in fire’ because in real life, you would be somewhat of an idiot to stand in a patch of fire. That judgment however operates on a successful conceptual map of the avatar as a human body and the red/blue/purple circle spot on the screen as a patch of fire or other dangerous substance, a metaphor that new players do not understand. They do not see the game world in the same way that experienced players have learned to see it. They cannot read the images on the screen the way experienced players can.

They only see meaningless pixels. They may not even notice that a part of the floor is green because they don’t know the floor is an important part. Why isn’t the wall? Or the ceiling? Why does the room matter at all – aren’t we fighting a monster?

Perhaps raiding literacy begins with understanding the visual space of the game and relating it to the avatar as one relates real space to one’s body. We learn to watch where we step as children, and are often reminded of it as adults when we trip and make fools of ourselves. Raiders-to-be need to learn where to step as well, but if they haven’t tripped in 85 levels, they don’t even know that tripping is a thing. They need to be taught. And I don’t mean they should be tripped randomly. Perhaps we could find a better way, a more positive way to teach raiders this one lesson of the very many that need to be learned.

RIFT’s new Chronicles are small instances (1-2 players) for level 50 characters. I noticed that the boss fights in these dungeons are somewhat simplified. For example, the final boss of the first chronicle has a few abilities – he has a cleave, a beam-of-death that follows you, and a meteor-type ability. All of these are marked on the screen in a consistent manner. Before he uses his cleave ability, there is a red patch on the ground in an arc in front of him. Before meteor, there is a glowing red circle that he is targetting. The beam-of-death is also highlighted in red as well as being a beam of fire.

These are helpful, and I wonder how useful they are to new players. Do new players see the red? Do they know to stay out of it? Red is somewhat universally a bad color throughout the game – enemies are highlighted in red, damage done to you is red text, and other instances of danger use the color red. They’ve been trained to see red as danger.

However, are we just training them to see red patches on the ground now? Will they be able to understand the virtual space around their avatar as a space full of potentially dangerous threats to their character’s person? I think they will. They either move out of the red cleave before it happens or they take damage from it and gradually learn that red means move. Once they have learned that red means move, they have progressed from pure visual (red signifies something bad) to kinetic (red signifies something I need to avoid). Once they have reached kinetic, they have conceptually moved from purely a visual map to a spatial map. Visual awareness can now be spatial awareness.

Is this the ideal way to do it? No. Very likely no. It doesn’t happen until 50 for one. But it’s a start.

It’s the Small Things: The Facebook Ticker

I’ve been on Facebook for a long time. I’ve seen countless changes to its design, some good and some not-as-good. I’m sure I’ll get used to this one in time as well, but the ticker has to go.

If you haven’t noticed it, the ticker is this mini-Facebook feed in the upper-right corner of your Facebook window. It displays real-time activities of your friends – when they comment on something, when they like something, when they join something, when they are joined to something (even private groups), etc. I’m sure some people really love it, and in fact, I’ve seen some of my own friends say how nice it is. The majority of my friends though have been posting links on how to get rid of it since it first appeared. And if they’re not posting links to extensions that hide it (like this one), they’re posting the following:

Some say it’s the lastest in a history of invasions of privacy. More

Some thoughts on story in MMOs

This came up in the comments of a thread that Brent Breaux started earlier. We started discussing the manner in which story is going to be told in SWTOR.

Storytelling is usually a way to communicate what happened in one place to someone who was in a different place. The storyteller is the mediator of this narrative. In a game, this changes a little bit. Instead, the listener pretends to be a participator in the story and they craft that story themselves through the choices they make in the game.

This works particularly well in RPGs. A single player is able to see a character (sometimes many) and a world shift before his eyes as he makes changes that are meaningful. Some of the most powerful stories told in games earn much of that power through the agency they give to their players.

Story in an MMO has up to this point been quite different. As an MMO player, one enters a world that is much like our own. There are many stories happening, many characters and players, and many places to explore. Each place may have its own story and sometimes we happen upon stories we didn’t expect. In most cases, these are told through quest text, a somewhat tedious element of the game which many players skip. More

The Day Deathwing Came

If any of you have been living under a rock lately, maybe you haven’t heard that Deathwing came and shook the foundations of Azeroth. The world has changed and the change is predominantly good.

I’m talking about the new World of Warcraft expansion: Cataclysm. Although it doesn’t come out until December 7th, Blizzard pre-patched the world last week so that everyone now lives in the world post-Deathwing. Almost all of the quests in the game from levels 1-60 have been redone. Many are simply brand new, while others have had their narratives touched up and a few of their progression points adjusted to be more seamless.

One of these new quests is found in the Badlands, a somewhat desolate place with an environment similar to Mars or Arizona. In this new quest, the player meets a trio of gentleman hanging out by a fire on a small hill overlooking a vast furrow carved into the earth. What happened here? Each member of the trio tells his version of the story: The Day that Deathwing Came.

The quest has many things going for it, not least of all, good old Blizzard humor. If for nothing else, go take a character through it for the laughs. Aside from the pure happiness I got from playing through it, I also started to think about how Blizzard is telling stories in this new version of Azeroth. What really happened that day when Deathwing came?

Last Tuesday, we all awoke to a new Azeroth. The way Blizzard communicated what had happened while we were sleeping and they were patching was through this cinematic. We see Deathwing getting his armor on and then flying across the world. Various famous landmarks are crumbled and destroyed before our eyes. It would be like waking up, turning on the news and seeing the Statue of Liberty broken by a tsunami, the Eiffel Tower devoured in a chasm of the earth, and the Great Wall splintered as the ground beneath heaved and trembled. More

Why Boss Drops Are a Good Mechanic

Over the past couple of months, I have watched the Turbine crew prepare Lord of the Rings Online for its shift to becoming a free-to-play game. Although there are many new and changed features one could talk about, I’d like to focus attention on the scaled instances and their rewards.

The developers have taken the original instances, both fellowship and raid content, and transformed them into scaleable dungeons. This means that a level 65 can go back and play through the Great Barrows, but at a level suitable to his or her ability. It may sound somewhat similar to the Heroic dungeons system in World of Warcraft, and it is to an extent. As WoW has a currency that drops from heroic dungeons, so does LOTRO. But, as WoW has specific gear available from each heroic boss on top of the currency rewards, LOTRO does not.

LOTRO Skirmish Mark

This play-for-currency system has been in place since the last expansion Siege of Mirkwood when the skirmish system was released. A player can instantly enter into a scripted instance, typically only about 20 minutes long, with friends or alone, and acquire Skirmish Marks of varying levels depending on difficulty and size. The Marks can then be bartered with a vendor for a myriad of items, both cosmetic and combat.

The play-for-currency design is simple and easy to manage for both developers and players. Bag space is already limited, so instead of making characters loot along the way, one just gives them a currency type and lets them buy what they want. It’s like getting Gift Cards at Christmas instead of big, shiny boxes (full of unwanted crap).

However, with the new Free-to-Play system, Classic instances are going into this play-for-currency scheme as well. I can run a 24-man raid and not see any drops from the boss. As long as I do it enough times, I’ll get to pick what gear I want and be happy.

At first glance, the system seems flawless. No one has to grind for their gear. No one has to design multiple loot tables for different levels (since the instance can be scaled). No one has to do anything hard.

As old school as I may be, I’m not going to champion “hard” meaning endless grind as the best, or as the “good old days”. However, I do want to make case for boss loot tables and random drops. More

The Silver Lining

All of the media we encounter affects us in some way, but for me, one game in particular drastically influenced the direction of my life – King’s Quest VI.

I was 10 years old at the time, and this game shipped with the desktop my parents had just purchased. I was quite computer illiterate at the time, so first thought that the 5 1/4″ disk drive (yes, it had one of those) was the CD drive.

If you’ve never played the series, you missed out. It’s a delightful adventure series that uses myth and fantasy  to propel one through a world of drama and excitement. The 6th installment was particularly amazing because it features the Charon and the Underworld, the Golden Fleece, the Minotaur, Druids, Beauty and the Beast, Alice in Wonderland, etc. – all of my favorite things. Or perhaps they are all my favorite things because I encountered them there. More

Gamer English

As a native English speaker, I tend to assume that I will be able to understand when other people speak my language, even if they have little skill and perhaps a heavy accent. It may take a repeat or two, but I eventually get it.

gamer cat In the gaming world, language permutations are rather common. Although not at all specific to social games, I was made particularly aware of this trend through the Facebook platform. In the world of Facebook apps, people "friend" each other in order to play together although they don’t know each other at all and likely never will. In a way, they are creating their own community to play with from a pool of possible fellow players. Although this kind of community full of strangers is like a server in a typical MMO, it’s also quite different. A server, one’s community, in an MMO is typically restricted to a certain region, often along country lines, and the language differences are not very great, especially in the US. In Asia and Europe, it’s much more likely one encounters different languages, but they are still those likely to be encountered in a single regional area. 

There are three different groups of gamers in which I’ve noticed language change happening:

1. Social media + games

2. MMOs

3. Text-based games.

All groups show signs of problematic grammar usage. Spelling includes both common mistakes as well as purposeful shorthand. The most interesting thing I’ve found is change that seems to result from learning the language aurally. Combining that with the other two changes of English, I find it quite hard to all your base understand sometimes. Considering that these changes typically occur because of different mother languages, it can also happen that new words are formed for a particular group, especially if there is a minority of native English speakers in said group. Add that into the mix and one begins to wonder just how English this “English” really is.

I am no linguist, so I will make no broad claims about how or why this is happening, but I find it especially fascinating that the group most impacted by these language changes is the one involving social media.  I do admit this may be purely due to personal experience and would love to hear your own experiences if they differ from mine. Since Facebook as a gaming platform has no regional barriers, I have app buddies from all corners of the globe while my experience in other games tends to be more heavily weighted toward native English speakers due to my location in North America.

There are two ways I encounter language change in social media. First, I occasionally will get requests on Facebook that are written in 2 or 3 languages – typically a native language, a bastardized English, and then occasionally something else based on I do not know what. “Aidez-moi svp, pls hlp, piaco graci mio.” [Yes, the third is my made-up Italian-looking gibberish.] Second, I see comments on either peoples’ app-related posts or their personal statuses and photos.

preposition It is the comments on photos and personal statuses that show the most extensive changes in English, to such an extent, I often cannot understand what is being said. Perhaps this is because people are trying to actually communicate something substantial, as opposed to just asking for general help with an application. I can pick out words, and sometimes I can read all of the words, but the manner in which they are joined combined with a plethora of emoticons makes the thoughts communicated impenetrable to me, while others in their community are able to respond and converse. I see this happen most often between Asian users. It is not always so extreme. There are also some comments I can usually understand, but they seem to come from people who have learned no English in school and instead have just picked up words either from seeing other application user’s comments or from the applications themselves or even from real life. These comments do not try to carry on a conversation – instead, they simply express thanks or need. These users are most predominantly Hispanic I have found but there are also those from Eastern Europe and Asia whose comments fit in this category.  There are also the comments by native non-American English speakers which tend to be mangled more by the Internet than that of my fellow Americans for reasons of which I’m unaware. It is the extremely different English comments  of my Asian app buddies though that most baffle me. It is unclear to me how such extensive changes take place while still conveying a sense that the users have actually had some education in English though clearly a small amount and as a second/third language.

I have separated them somewhat by region and that may be influenced by educational practices in the various countries. European ESL folk tend to be the most clear when using English, but I assume that is because most start learning English in school at a young age. Since all my languages are European or form the base of European languages, perhaps it is just easier for me to understand their use of English and to not notice so much the changes in grammar.

video games teacher How would these different kinds of English usages arise? Games with a social component certainly are a huge incentive for this. One needs to communicate, even if just a little, with one’s fellow players even in a game so simple as a Facebook app. English is the language of many of the main applications on the platform, so unless they use some translator, some basic form of English certainly helps though it isn’t hard to tell what is being said in a Facebook app since almost all of them follow the same basic formula. This formulaic simplicity likely helps with basic vocabulary acquisition.

The big question I have though is why is it so much more prevalent on Facebook than in an MMO? I think one of the primary reasons is the state of textuality in the games themselves. MMOs are typically translated to the language of their target region, so an understanding of English is not required to play the game, but rather serves as a bridge to other players if necessary. North American servers occasionally encounter players who rarely speak English, for example, some French-speakers from Canada, but they are such a small segment of the population that it has no real effect outside of their immediate group.

In text-based games, the difference lies not so much in the difference of language in the text, but simply the aspect of textuality itself. I have little experience with contemporary text-based games, but I would imagine the impact of textuality would create a different kind of petri dish for language breeding. Depending on the language setting of the game, the population of the community (which is not so strictly monitored as in an MMO), and the level of interaction among players, the language permutations found here could be vastly different from those in other game settings. Even in these different conditions, English very often serves as a kind of administrative language, if you will. For example, one web-based game whose website is translated into 24 languages and whose forums have separate boards for separate languages, still shows the English segment of the forum to be the most-used and the site’s general information how-to-play section is also in English. Clearly, if one seeks to play a game like this to one’s full potential, knowing English in some way is going to be beneficial. Even if one’s client of the game is in one’s mother language, if the community one is playing with speaks primarily English, the player will naturally pick up phrases and words even with no English background. I am not sure if the manner of acquisition would be different depending on original mother language, but it would be a fascinating study.

Perhaps the most fascinating result is that I, as a native English speaker, have to learn a strange permutation of English in order to communicate to my Facebook app buddies. I do not need to be able to write this language – simply to read it superficially enough to understand it. What kind of literacy is that? AESL – Alternate English Sub-Literacy. I jest and am also quite serious.

Social Games and the Pastoral

When I hear the term “pastoral”, my mind immediately jumps to Vergil’s Georgics or maybe Daphnis and Chloe. It’s a peaceful, idyllic setting where the concerns of politics and the city are far away. The music of shepherds’ lutes and birds’ chatter fills the air while a soft breeze carries the scent of wildflowers from the nearby meadow. The sun reflects off the glass surface of the lake and sheep pasture closeby.

Our modern time may be quite different than it was then but there is still the keen desire to escape the concerns of the “real world”. Our Rome is just as busy, just as stressful, just as demanding as ever it was. Peace is not as distant as it was perhaps, but rarely does it stay long in our souls.

Out of all the many games on the Facebook platform, Farmville alone has claimed numbers reaching above 70 million. It is not a pretty game by any definition I don’t think, nor is it complex. Its mechanics are accessible and its ideas common. In the US where agriculture as a profession has fallen ~70% in the last 140 years, is it no wonder that so many idealize the life of their forebears? Surely, one may think, it was better in those times when one simply hoed, and planted, and watered, and harvested. Tend the animals, weed the crops, prune the vines. No hustling and bustling, just the sweet rhythm of hoe/plant/water.

Most of us realize that life, in fact, wasn’t just a peaceful utopia then. It was hard. I remember reading the Little House on the Prairie books as a child and thinking I would never want to be her. Thank you very much for my computer and A/C , I’d like to keep them. Even so, the thought of no deadlines, no emails, and no facebook sounds just a tad enticing…for a moment.

Metaplace’s My Vineyard I think does an even better job of creating a pastoral setting. Even the music in that game is relaxing. Sadly, it hasn’t had the time or marketing that Farmville has had, and I’m not sure it actually is different enough to be a success, yet it illustrates the same thematic concerns.  Other games have recently also tried to capture this peaceful kind of utopia, but through a desert island.

A desert island is quite similar to the pastoral setting of agriculture. It isn’t actually all peace and pretty. If you were actually alone on a desert island, not getting killed by raptors and perhaps finding some food would be your main concern, not completing a collection of Renaissance paintings. (I here reference Zynga’s Treasure Isle). And yet, suspension of disbelief is no struggle in this game either. Millions again are happy to click around, digging up treasure and decorating their personal island with seashells and baby (vegetarian) jaguars.

It doesn’t really make me happy that Zynga is our culture’s Vergil, but perhaps it’s telling. Actually, I’d more like to compare Zynga to Cicero’s failed attempts at poetry since they are equally as artful.

It’s also somewhat ironic that our window to the ideal is through that very thing we are trying to escape – modern technology. Just as the readers/listeners of Vergil’s Georgics were going to be elites far from the world of shepherds and sheep, so are the people playing Farmville likely quite far from the world of the constant woes of real farmlife.

This ideal is just one of many which games help us to realize, if only temporarily, a wish we have that our modern society and/or lifestyle is unable to fulfill. I also think that many fantasy MMOs play off another such wish, the need and desire for prestige and honor among modern people who live in a world with few opportunities to be heroic. They also provide opportunities to be useful to a community by plying a trade, opportunities to be a social leader, build/decorate dream houses, have a beautiful face, fantastic wardrobes, etc. The pastoral is really just another manifestation of fantasy where people can create something they wish they had in real life - quotidian peace. I sincerely hope the next iteration of the pastoral is closer to Vergil than Cicero’s poetic drivel.

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