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Online Games: Beyond Play and Fantasy with Joi Ito and Justin Hall

Some note from the Online Games panel with Joi Ito and Justin Hall later joined by Ben Cerveny.

Note: very dense, very passionate and knowledgeable speakers. It’s really hard to keep up or take notes that make any sense. Really, you should have been here.

Post Script: This was an amazing panel. It’s clear that everyone on stage is very passionate about their ideas. I’m sitting here with this strange feeling of having been in “The Presenceâ€? although I know I do not grok most of the ideas they discussed and probably missed a whole chunk of what’s been floating around. It’s good to know that these are the people that we and others are listening to.

Joi: Comparing WoW to 2nd life is like comparing apples and oranges or MOOs to MUDs. Silly!

You can make a game inside 2nd life, you can make WoW inside 2nd life but this isn’t where the 2nd life crowd wants to go.

Joi: games make for wonderful interfaces because they develop as an interaction between people who make the game and people who play the game. Sometimes the 3d world is important but when engaged in intense activities (boss fight) it’s more like flying by instrument.

Joi goes over his enhanced HUD for WoW showing some very advancecd and complicated information. Two things to earn from that:

  1. this interface is way ahead of existing interfaces for, say, project management.
  2. People are starting to hire their guildies now because they know a lot about them and how they behave under pressure. Also they have shared language.

About audio in fantasy games: it can break the fantasy but the fantasy is already broken. The game is just a common activity shared by a community of people. (plays southpark WoW episode).

Douglass Thomas and John Seely Brown have a paper about the difference between simulation and metaphor:
Simulation tries to real and teaches you how to do the real thing.
Metaphor has nothing to do with real life but the leadership and other skills you learn can be applied to real life.

Brown also talks about Ensemble – being part of a group, doing things together and seeing how things work smoothly. Gives participants a sense of achievement and being part of something bigger than themselves.

Note: This is the feeling I got every time I read someone writing about their experience in WoW, especially with high level raids.

Justin Hall:
WoW takes over your attention and your life. You must put in the time and effort to really get into it. What you achieve in WoW you cannot take into RL.
Uses his MySpace page to show what he’s been up to, where he’s been, etc. (look at my tribe page for an example). Has a similar effect to personal blogging. Different services give you “experience pointsâ€? in different thing (plazes, last.fm etc.)

Passively multiplayer online game gives you experience points for just surfing the web.
The BBC tried to use it to promote web literacy. Example: give new users quests to read sites outside of their comfort zone.

Creating user profiles based on DMOZ sites and categories.

Currently prototyping a board game to play this in RL. The game could be connected to the Web through microformats http://www.bud.com.

Ben Cerveney:
Talking about the dissolving separation between games and applications.
Creating game design is a sculpture in possibility space by constraining the player options in the possibility space.

We keep borrowing metaphors from game space and using them in other applications. Also goes the other way around. Ideas used in games are used in language or in serious applications. Example: ideas from the SIMs used to control similar applications. Talking about flickr that started as a game and became an application for sharing media.

Games give you more flexibility. You can control your interface to match your level of flow. Add more sources of information or remove them.

Justin: Slife is TIA (total information awareness) publishes all your top windows to the web. Tries to keep people in touch with each other? Will stop you from interrupting someone in an important task for example. Is the WoW LUA type of awareness coming to the office?

Joi: The rest of the world can learn from the kids who discover new options. In the US the assumption is that work should not be fun.

Question: (or rather speech): our current notion of work is about work is new. The corporation being threatened by life “invadingâ€? work is new, this used to be the way things work. We’re creating false dichotomies that aren’t there.

Justin: Seriousity – http://www.seriosity.com/ – gives you point for bunching your email access and gives you overview of the entire organization.

Q: How are MMOs helping to spread democracy?
Joi: Many members in our guild form many backgrounds. Many of’em never thought to participate in town hall meetings. Or never were part of anything diverse.

Justin talks about an MMO where they gave points to people being nice to strangers.

Q: There’s room for seriousness as well. In fact, in some cases it is very important.
Joi: 90% of what we do is not fun or playful at all. In raids there’s a lot of hierarchy and control. At the same time 40 people need to be engaged for 8 hrs. Requires a careful balance of play and seriousness. Being a part of an ensemble helps.

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Filed under: The Net

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