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Below are the 13 most recent journal entries recorded in Katie Davies' LiveJournal:

Tuesday, April 12th, 2005
6:05 pm
breaking the rules
When, if ever, is breaking the rules justified?

In terms of game play, I din't think breaking the rules is ever justified. The game is designed in such a way that the rules are there for a purpose. Breaking the rules is strictly unfair for the rest of the players who follow the rules. Regardless of the intentions of the rule-breaker, game rules are there to facilitate playing in a somewhat structured and purposeful way. No offense Dez, but I'm sure the game developers had SOME good reason for making communication between alliance and horde characters impossible. I think this is an issue of trust. You have to trust that the game developers invented and implemented each rule for a reason, even if the reason isn't evident. It's like when your parents wouldn't let you do something, and they'd say "trust me, it's for your own good". (I always hated that, but it turns out they were usually right.)

Another reason that I kept wanting to mention in class, but didn't, relates to uneven access to cheats. Not everyone even knows how to cheat. So, heavy players know (somehow) about codes and cheats and where to get them and how to implement them. Breaking the rules is unfair, but the fact that not everyone has equal access and knowledge of how to break the rules is even more unfair. Suppose I'm in the farmer situation mentioned in class and all my crops are dying and it will just be horrible if I couldn't possibly save them. Being a less experienced player, I wouldn't even know that I could cheat to save my crops. Whereas a more experienced player could just hop online (somewhere, i guess) and get a code and save THEIR day. This is a bunch of bullshit. If everyone is capable of getting themselves into sticky situations, everyone should be equally incapable of not being able to get themselves out of them (or vice versa).

In terms of other games (not virtual), rule breaking is sneaky. I'm very competitive, and when I was a kid I LOVED board games. However, I will admit that I absolutely hated losing and would cheat from time to time in order to win. Now, when I did this, my win never felt justified. I knew I didn't really win and the win meant nothing to me in the end anyways b/c I knew I didn't deserve it. Any rule-breaking in games should be the same way. People will break rules, and there will be unfair access to capabilities to break the rules in virtual worlds. However, this rule-breaking can never be justified because it's wrong- simple and true.

Current Mood: busy
Sunday, April 3rd, 2005
8:07 pm
parlor games
A parlor game I used to play with my friends is called Blind Man's Bluff. It's not something that can be played in class, but it was always fun for us. One player is blindfolded and all the light are turned off. The "blind man" counts to 20 and everyone else finds a safe spot in the room. The object of the game is for the blind man to tag another player. The players make noise to trick the blind man, hoping not to be tagged. Once the blind man tags someone, that person becomes the blind man and the game starts over.

Blind Man's Bluff falls in the "game play" category in the definition of play that Salen and Zimmerman describe. The players follow the rules and play the game in a narrow and defined way, even though each gaming experience is different. The rules of the game seem simple. The game area is restricted to one room and players may not leave that space. The blind man is obviously not allowed to peek underneath the blindfold; if he/she peeks, they are the cheat who violates the rules, but does so in order to win. There are degenerate strategies that can be used by some players. For example, one person could simply stand on top of a desk and not make a sound for the entire game. This ensures their protection from being tagged, but they're also breaking the spirit of the game.

Current Mood: busy
Wednesday, March 23rd, 2005
8:41 pm
my favorite game
I would have to say that my favorite game (as a kid, and even later) is Sharks and Minnows. Houston summers were HOT, and I was on the neightborhood swim team for seven years. I spent a lot of time at the pool, and all the kids played sharks and minnows, categories, torpedo, marco polo, etc. When I was in high school, I was a lifeguard for four summers in a row. All the neighborhood "pool rats" (as we called them) still played the same games that I played as a kid. Sharks and Minnows was always played in the deep end. One person was the shark and the rest were minnows. The shark starts in the middle of the deep end, and the minnows stand on one side of the pool. The game starts when the shark says "Sharks and Minnows out to sea, 1 2 3". The object of the game is for the minnows to cross the deep end without getting tagged by the shark. If a minnow is tagged, he/she becomes a shark. This proceeds until all the minnows become sharks (are tagged), and then the first person that was tagged becomes the shark that starts the next game.

Once a minnow leaves their side of the pool, they can't go backwards, they have to make a break for the other side. When I played with the "pool rats" as a lifeguard, there were more rules than when I was a kid. For example, the drain was a base. If someone could hold their breath for a long time, they would dive to the bottom and touch the drain. As long as they were touching the drain, they couldn't be tagged. As a shark, I hated this rule because I can't hold my breath for shit. I vaguely remember a chain rule where the minnows that made it safely to the other side can link together and help out a minnow who hadn't made it over yet. When the minnow touched the chain, it was the same as touching the wall. This rule seems cheap to me now... I think that's all about sharks and minnows.

man i wish it was summertime...

Current Mood: nostalgic
Thursday, March 3rd, 2005
2:04 am
Terra Nova blogs
I was just browsing around the Terra Nova website, reading some entries and following a few links, when I found an entry that got a rise out of me (not the funny kind...sorry). "If I Give You Some Money, Will You Stop It?" posted by Ren Reynolds on Feb. 26, 2005 brought my attention to the recent development of advertising inside a Virtual World. Apparently, Funcom, the developer and publisher of Anarchy Online, have worked out a deal with an advertising company to include billboard advertisments in the game. The catch is, only the players with the free subscriptions see the billboards; if you pay the montly fee, the billboards won't appear in your version of the game. I understand that "this is business, you have to make money somehow...", but I can't avoid being utterly disappointed in the possibilities of this new business endeavor. I know we live in a capitalist society, and commerce is good for our economy, but I'm sooo tired of being told to consume something at all times for some reason. I'm tired of consuming. I'm broke. Since I have become a more critical media consumer (thank you COMM dept...) I am so annoyed with most forms of advertising these days. The market is so completely saturated and it seems hard for anyone to come up with a new idea of how to appeal to consumers. I honestly think there needs to be some huge overhaul in the entire industry b/c I am so tired of the way this is working out. There is no escape from consumerism with advertising. It's EVERYWHERE and it's (almost...) all the same, and it's so absurd!

Okay I'm thinking I need to stop bitching and rambling now... Back to Funcom. The blog includes quotes from the executives at Funcom and Massive Incorporated (the ACTUAL name of the advertising company). If you read "in between the lines" at the big, black, bold letters, they say "we're all going to make a lot of money!!!". It also includes Nielsen statistics that television watching among the coveted 18-35 year old demographic has seen a decline in the past year. With the massive growth of virtual world populations (including this demographic group), the drop in television, and this new business 'friendship', I foresee the first crack in the dam, so to speak... The virtual world is like a goldmine for advertisers and it feels like they've found out secret hiding spot.... billboards... ugh.

This is kinda off topic for the course, but you told us to find an article and comment on it.

Current Mood: cynical
Monday, February 21st, 2005
11:29 pm
Research Question/ Paper Topic
I mentioned in class that I was having a difficult time becoming immersed in the game and understanding why MMOs are as immensely popular as they seem to be. What aspects of the game enable people to play for hours on end and form intense and personal relationships with their avatars? WoW isn't reality, so why are so many people immersed in such a way that it seems to replace reality? The concept of addiction has been studied for ages in relation to many activities and substances. Do people become addicted through the repetition of certain actions? Or is the flow state responsible for sucking people into the World of Warcraft? I wish to study the symptoms and consequences of addiction to MMOs, namely WoW. I will interview players to find out how often they play, how WoW has affected their real lives, why they find themselves returning to the MMO world, and how long they usually play at a time. I hope to find out what specific aspects draw them to MMOs in the first place, and what they get out of it that may eventually lead to addiction. This seems like a huge topic to me, but I'm hoping to narrow it down a bit once I start my research and see which direction it's going.

Current Mood: productive
5:30 pm
Representations of Gender
I really enjoyed the exercise last Thursday, and was excited to be a performer (hopefully, we'll get to the female part next week). Although, I thought it would work better if it was more a free-for-all for asking questions. It was hard to determine whose turn it was and who was next because I didn't know which avatar went with which person in the class. To determine the "true gender" of the performers, I consistently felt like I was over-analyzing. Because the performers were actively trying to deceive the questioners, it became a game of "well, this answer is obviously masculine, so maybe it was a girl adhering to sterotypes, but maybe it was a guy trying to sound like a girl adhering to stereotypes, but maybe it was a girl who knew that we would think she was a guy pretending to be a girl... etc" ... constant second-guessing.

I found it very effective on the part of the performers that all their avatars looked exactly the same with similar names too. It was hard to keep track of responses and match them with previous responses in order to determine gender. The questions that aimed towards gender-based popular culture were effective (ie: The host of The Man Show). As a girl, I would not have known the answer to that question.

Overall, I thought this activity was hard. There are many stereotypical behaviors and attitudes that are considered either male or female, but it seemed obvious that the performers would try to cross these lines in order to confuse the class. In a real virtual setting, the ones being deceived wouldn't know they were being deceived so it would be easier to fool them. I'm not saying masquerading would be easy, but gender stereotypes would be more readily accepted by unsuspecting players. For example, if I was online pretending to be male, I might talk about tits for 10 minutes. Other players would probably think I was 15, but still male. If I were to try that during the activity, I'm sure the class would have figured out I was trying too hard, and was female.

Sex is biological. You are born a male or female. Gender is the identity you portray through ideologies, decisions, beliefs and attitudes. If a biological male becomes a drag queen, she will consider herself a female.

Current Mood: busy
Monday, February 14th, 2005
9:41 pm
For my role playing exercise, I decided to be an Orc Hunter on a role-playing server (sorry, I forgot the name); as instructed, I was male. I also did my best to change other aspects of my real life persona and try something new with my RP character. Since I was an Orc, I decided to act pretty dense and manly, trying to make a show of every object I killed. I would flex my muscles in front of others and spoke mostly in caps using incorrect grammar (ie: ME KILL MONSTERS!). Usually when I play, I find myself completing quests alone and not chatting at all really. So, for the purposes of this exercise, I joined groups, talked ALOT, and was pretty obnoxious (if I do say so myself).

This idea didn't work out too well for me as far as popularity goes. I got the distinct impression that many people thought I was there to mock their interest in role-playing. People got mad at me for "flooding the chat log" and I actually got kicked out of one of the parties I joined. I tried to hit on a few attractive looking fellow-orcs and they completely blew me off. In retrospect, I think I took it a little too far. Instead of "role-playing" a different persona, I just acted like an obnoxious asshole; apparently, nobody likes those. I played upon common stereotypes and gave off the impression of a thirteen year old punk; if I had come across this character in the virtual world, that would probably be the real life impression I would have tagged him with. Wait, so I guess that is exactly what role-playing is.... maybe...(sorry, I'm typing as I think).

My level of separation with the character is interesting though. I never considered Bloodthirstay (my guy's name) to be an actual representation of myself (obviously). He was always a separate character I was controlling at the time. I tried to involve my identity with his and really "get into it", but the paradox prevails: the more I tried to role play, the further I felt from actually becoming my character. It has actually felt that way with each of my characters, every time. I do not think I have the ability to successfully role play. I'm honestly still trying to wrap my brain around this whole identity and self-presentation concept. The character I present in the virtual world (usually) is similar to my own because I am controlling it. I'm shy when I'm not comfortable, so I don't chat in the game because it is not a comfortable place for me. I'm competitive in real life, so I like to complete quests and level up. My character is nothing more than a representation of my own persona. I don't feel that I AM my character in any way. I use third-person when referring to her; I use first person when talking about what I made her do in the game.

I honestly have no idea if role playing is possible, maybe for other people who can become more immersed in the game... wait, no, the player and the character are always two separate entities. (god, my brain is tired... bear with me) How would other players have any idea that you're not who you say you are? Yes, there are quirks that people have with diction; and yes, there can be inconsistencies with stories, but what basis do they have to create any other identity for you (besides the one you give them)?

Okay, I'm really sorry but I don't think I'm making any sense at all right now. If my own thoughts don't make sense to me, they probably don't make sense to anyone else. This idea is pretty challenging to me and I swear I'll try to touch on it some other time when my brain is working better...

Current Mood: confused
Monday, February 7th, 2005
9:47 pm
group play... again
ok, so let's try this one more time... On Thursday, I was in the "slower" group- go us! Even though it wasn't meant to be a "team" like the other group in class, it felt like one. We ran to the town together and once we got there, we helped each other find the Auction House and the gryphon guy and so on. I fell into this weird lava crack thing and Seabass came and found me and showed me the way out. We all rode the tram together and danced; it was cute. It was neat to see the big cities (Ironforge and Stormwind) and to ride the gryphon. During our gaming session last Tuesday, I finally figured out why so many people play- I had fun! I created (another) new character and I really liked this one, a druid night elf (she's hot). Dr. Delwiche showed me around and helped me kill things, train up, and learn my new spells. So I actually see more of the point of playing. Before, when I didn't know about training, I would just level up and then have the same dinky sword which couldn't kill very well. I like the spells better because you can keep your distance and really get a chance to hurt them before they get too close and scary.

As instructed, I went in and played the game on my spare time. I joined a guild, but didn't really see the point. I wasn't very vocal in the conversation and there was no strategy or organization. It seemed like a clique of people who just talked smack about other characters (and their mothers)... not very effective. I had joined groups/parties at other times and found these more helpful. We would get together for a few quests and help each other out and then disband. This suited me more because I could get help when I needed it, and then play alone (which I prefer). I think the interface enables this type of group more than a long-term team that levels up together and plays for awhile. There are so many different quests to complete, so it seems like a hassle to try and find a group of people that want to complete the same ones in the same order at the same time. It's also really hard to type and play at the same time. The most strategy I encountered in WoW was "hey let's go kill those spiders over there". Also, one group I joined was a lot of upper-level players who just stood around and took their share of my loot. I think they were taking advantage of my newbieness to score a few bronze coins and some splintered tusks. That wasn't very cool, and it didn't really make sense why they would waste their time like that.

I think Yee overemphasizes the cohesion of these online groups. From my limited experience, there didn't seem to be any complicated or thought-out collective action. I don't think there is much opportunity to develop leadership skills in the game. If a player is very involved in the group (maps out strategies, delegates responsibility, and encourages players) I think there could be a possibility they will learn something that can transfer into real life. However, playing by yourself or minimally working in groups wouldn't develop any real skills. I can't imagine any institutions that would find value in MMO games like WoW. However, it does seem likely that new games would be created that would specifically cater to developing skills that would transfer to real life.

Current Mood: drained
9:32 pm
I just created a 4 paragraph entry on group play. It was very insightful, I promise, but as soon as I clicked "update journal" it completely erased my entry and sent me to the status page. This page had absolutely no useful information as to WHY my entry disappeared! This is a tester to make sure I don't redo the whole thing and have the same problem occur again... stupid technology
Thursday, February 3rd, 2005
12:36 am
The Bartle Test
I took the Bartle test just now and I understand what Bartle mentioned in the book and Katie and Dez attested to in class. The were some questions where I wanted to answer "neither" which wasn't an option. Also, it was obvious which questions led to which player type so my results weren't much of a surprise...
AES; 80% Achiever, 66% Explorer, 26% Socializer, and 26% Killer. I was pleasantly surprised that my killer was equal with my socializer (I turns out I'm a little more sadistic(?) than I thought...). Anyways, so that was my score.
Sunday, January 30th, 2005
7:39 pm
After Team Exercise
After the class exercise on Thursday, I felt like I hadn't been doing my homework. I still felt so unfamiliar with the game, the interface, and how to use it. My teammates Matt and Lisa had to help me out quite a bit, and I found myself just following them around after they had figured out where the guy was that we were looking for. It was pretty frustrating, and I'm going to check out some of those map websites to try to familiarize myself with the game more. I still need more time to get into it and start playing. I feel bad for not being addicted! But who knows, there's still plenty of time for that...

I enjoyed "True Names", although I had a difficult time wrapping my mind around some of it. How were they sifting through all the files and information through their brain that quickly (when they were battling the Mailman)? The whole concept of the Outer Plane was confusing to me, and I couldn't envision it, even with all his descriptions. If our world becomes that reliant on technology and everything is in cyberspace, is that type of threat plausible? If cyberspace does become that huge, will the real world become as grim and unfulfilling as Vinge describes? That was the scary part, for me.

The idea that an MMO environment can replace so many aspects of a person's life, and the immense popularity and growth of these worlds, has interested me the most so far. I would like to find out what the high-level players have in common that has driven them to MMOs. What is missing from our lives that makes us need to create these online communities and relationships? What are the players getting out of it, and why is it so valuable to them? Once I figure out the game and we start our ethnographic research, these are some of the questions I would like to explore. I'm sure they will only lead to answers that form more questions and the cycle will go on... sweet.
Tuesday, January 25th, 2005
10:45 pm
My first experience
Ok, so this entry is a little late... so sorry Dr. Delwiche, it somehow completely slipped under my radar of things to do. Last Thursday was my very first MMO interaction. I was pretty confused when they just threw me into the world with no direction of where to go or what to do. The people sitting around me certainly had to answer quite a few of my questions (as they will most likely continue to be nagged with). It seems like there requires a degree of dedication to succeed in the game. You have to WANT your character to grow and learn and kill things. I think that might be the aspect I'm going to have the most trouble with. After battling some wolves and trogg thingys I was honestly ready to do something else. I'm hoping that as my character progresses in the game and I become more familiar with the functions, weapons, areas and skills, I will enjoy what I'm doing a lot more.

The interface was confusing at first, but I always have trouble with the really intense graphics. Anything even close to 3D throws me off. However, it did get easier as I kept playing so I'm sure that aspect will also get better as I progress. The biggest difference between this game and any other video games I've played (ie: old school Super Mario 3) is that there doesn't seem to be any point to it. By "point" I mean a final goal, like to save the Princess. I suppose that's a huge appeal to many players because it's never-ending. You can keep playing and growing and learning for as long as you like, and if you do reach the end, you can always create a new character from a different class or genre and start all over with a totally different experience.

Honestly, I find the entire concept of MMOs fascinating. That there is such a huge demand and response to these games boggles my mind. What happened to reality? Why are we so eager to grow and learn in the fantasy world and not in the real world? The story Vic told in class about his 30 year old, alcoholic, online friends who play WoW all day except when they do their paper routes is one of the scariest and weirdest things I have ever heard. It's really scary to me that this medium has the possible prospect of replacing the real world, like in "True Names". There's an entire world out there (the real one) and when hundreds of thousands of people are eager to ignore/escape it for the virtual one, that signals a huge problem to me. What's missing from our lives when we have to live them out virtually instead? I understand certain social defecits in people's lives and that the game can be a shield enabling people to be who they want to be without the same risk, but the huge response and the intense level of involvement of so many players makes it seem like the problem is more complicated than insecurity or social disorders. I don't get it... but I want to.

Are we pushed into the game by factors of the real world, or do the fantastic features in the game pull us away from reality???

Current Mood: contemplative
Tuesday, January 18th, 2005
3:14 pm
My identity
The thing I consider most important as a part of my personal identity is the music I listen to. I love music and it consistently drives my mood. I met many of my friends because of music and we go to shows together and have FUN. I like classic rock, jam bands, jazz, songwriters, blues and am starting to like indie rock more. My top six favorite bands are (in random order): The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Grateful Dead, Phish, The Doors and Pink Floyd. My music, which I consider to be an individual identity trait, may also be considered by some as a social trait with the stereotypical name "hippie" attached (a name I'm not necessarily fond of). Individually, I am a sister, a lover, a daughter and a smoker. I work hard and I play hard, which is a combination that seems to work well for me. Socially, I am a student (obviously), an employee, an intern, and a Texan.

For my World of Warcraft character I will probably choose a character that resembles me in real life. I like my personality and am excited to have my character interact in this brand new place I know nothing about. I might make myself a little more badass in the game because, well, I can. I will probably start off as a Dwarf because it has more class selections to choose from and I haven't decided which class to be in yet. I hope to learn a lot about the gaming world and the types of people who frequent it.
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