Community Toss 8/17/09

This may come off as an ‘I’m-too-lazy-to-blog’ entry, but really, I’ve just been gone over a week and my inbox is flooded. Might as well share the love as I wade through it.

A Syllabus on Transmedia Storytelling. Considering my own plans for a class through Sweetland that focuses on interactive fiction and comparative epic, I was overjoyed to see someone’s syllabus up that I could pull ideas from. Take a look – I’d love comments and I’m sure Henry would as well.

An essay on the organic process of myth-merge (it communicates a notion -> it’s a word) in Dominions 3. I love looking at how game designers/writers take myths from various cultures along with their own original lore and combine them in some grand cauldron to create a new something wonderful (hopefully). This essay can serve as an interesting model to see either how to or how not to communicate intricate details of storytelling in games.

Adult gamers are fat and depressed!! I wonder when they do studies like this if they consider which came first – the depression or the gaming.

BrainHex: How do you play? I love surveys, especially those that make you analyze everyday activities. Yes, for some of us, gaming is part of our everyday lives. Jealous much? XD

All right, you’re probably drowning in work and raising your fist at me for not providing anything original, but to cheer you up, please watch the most famous Internet video of the week – the Guild’s Do you want to date my avatar? It’s worth every second.

Photoshop-ing avatars

Via Raph Koster, I saw this interesting tutorial on how to use Photoshop to glamourize your avatar. I probably wouldn’t have thought much of it except for a random comment that criticized the desire to touch up even virtual appearances. Can we not even be satisfied with our natural-virtual human selves? Perhaps it’s just for those people who are ugly IRL and need to pretend they’re pretty elsewhere. Maybe, but that’s rather cliché and I think there’s more to it.

Creativity, certainly. Exhibiting one’s artistic abilities – yes. But also, touching up one’s avatar is a way to further identify our virtual selves. Rather than just being a Night Elf with green hair in braids like 30% of the rest of the Night Elf population (stats from my ass), I could instead edit the avatar for a signature, for example, that detailed her markings, changed her eye color, shortened her ears, etc. Instead of being generic, she is now me. She is now the identity I see in my mind.

Although this wouldn’t appeal to everyone as not all players connect themselves with their avatars, for many it would. Character customization is always a selling point in MMOs. Players continually ask how unique they will look – will there be different gear sets, will there be different hairstyles, body shapes, etc. Humans like to be individual even in a virtual world at the same time that they want to participate in a community and be a member of a recognizable social unit, such as a guild.

How would you change your avatar or would you even at all? Why?

End of a World

The Matrix Online ended this week. After a run of about 4 years, Sony decided to finish it off with an apocalypse. Players were invited back to see the end as the game graphics changed to show the world falling apart and supernatural beings arriving to clean up.

Tabula Rasa ended similarly not too long ago. Rather than slowly (or quickly) merging the servers and watching the community shrink to just the dedicated few who straggle on forever and continue to scoff at anyone who plays a new (easier) game,  Tabula Rasa and the Matrix Online celebrated the end with clearly defined closure.

But now what happens? What about the identites created in these worlds?

When Massively first announced the closure, comments began to surface lamenting the demise. One in particular commented that even though the game was far from perfect, he would miss being able to simply “jack in” and run around.

Few forms of entertainment disappear entirely. Old games, movies, and music can just be downloaded. Maybe we can’t see or play them in the original context, and maybe we can’t recreate the original experience they once gave us, but we can still visit them anytime we wish.

An online game, however, is gone. Dead. The being that we were there is also gone and dead except in our memory. There’s nowhere for them to live anymore except in some kind of cyberspace afterlife where stories are told and experiences narrated. Perhaps in the death of a world and its identities, the book of fiction they create can be closed.

But I don’t know that we want that. Is it the point to finish the story? Part of what is so great about this form of interactive storytelling is that it’s alive and continually telling.

Ada starts to write

Welcome to the latest incarnation of my blog! Here I hope to foster interesting discussions about interactive fiction, gaming experiences, narratology of MMOs, and much more. Look for updates about the latest scholarly articles covering a variety of aspects of gaming studies and interactive fiction and a sampling of blog posts from the community. If you find interesting sites or articles, please email a link to me so I can add it to the site.

Feel free to introduce yourself in a comment below. I look forward to our future adventures!

ps. Yes, I know the banner doesn’t have anything to do with gaming. Deal with it for now.