Monday, November 29, 2010

SL and Psychopathy

I suppose this was a subject to come up, but it seems an important one, even if an unpopular one. When we get down to the heart of it, it is probably something that's on the minds, and maybe has some effect on the soul or psyche of many of us who participate in SL.  In essence, this subject is a matter of conscience - what it means, and how we consider and reflect on it in this virtual world or metaverse, or however one sees it.

At one point or time in our experiences on SL, many of us have certainly had certain conflicts with other people, and even felt like there was a sense about people being uncaring, or just plain careless and unable to respond or react to something in human decency.  Is it just a matter of cultural differences, or the varying of expectations and personal views about what SL is that causes this clash, or is there more to it than that?  Well, certainly there is, and, joking or not, we've all considered this particular idea, that maybe there are just certain people that are plain and simply psychopaths.

There might be something right and accurate about the assessment of psychopathy.  The question that might be posed, though, especially in consideration to what is a common experience in SL, and even gaming itself, is how much of this is natural and how much is conditioned?  But, on that, I would consider reading this, and you can tell me what you think:

Some claim it might be an aspect of people merely acting like animals. But even so, animals can be trained and conditioned somewhat. They are not under a human standard, but they do have standards, or at least can learn from mistakes, or otherwise die.  For humans, we had that survival standard earlier in our world history, and, for those that live a more natural life, still operate on such.  But as civilizations grew out of cultures, these aspects migrated and reformed into different aspects of what it means to survive in the modern world.  So, basically, psychopaths thrive in social Darwinism, just like their predecessors survived, much like animals, on natural Darwinism.  

Theologically, I come from the view of human being part animal (flesh, material, nature) and part soul (spirit, 'psyche').  As you read, you may notice that the view does come out that psychopaths seem to lack a soul, and therefore become essentially a machine. Other  areas would say they are another form of human altogether. Either may be possible.  If it is a trait of humanity, then it is something natural and a part of the animal that makes up humans.  If that's true, it is also something that is ingrained in humanity and something that not only can come naturally, but also be conditioned, or at least refined.

How much does SL, or even gaming in general condition or refine would be the question.  For me, Ayami makes good example, because, no matter what criticism is given, there appears to be not one shred of guilt or other culturally conditioned mechanisms there that make up out morals and ethics of what makes for proper decency or human interaction. Is it a matter that shi is a psychopath, or is it the aggressive, competitive nature of being a gamer that has been conditioned into hir, that shi will take over the Catwalkers no matter how destructive hir actions are to gain it?

Yes, I know this often can get turned into religious debate, and I did note my theological view on the make up of humanity.  But I'm not going to argue on that.  You can either believe or not believe in the theological elements. Yet, it would seem that theological and psychological arguments coincide on the aspect of a psychopath lacking in 'soul' or the human psyche, even despite the arguments on just exactly what that soul/psyche might be, and the where and how it originated and developed.  There is something lacking in the psychopath when it comes to that element, and it is something that does do damage to people.  

And I can't help but feel this statement having an echoing theme for me with regard to this whole business about the Catwalkers, Midian, and even SL in general:

"The truth - when twisted by good liars, can always make an innocent person look bad - especially if the innocent person is honest and admits his mistakes."

That's been at least one element of SL that I have had experience and shared experience with.  Because, as much as we split SL out of reality, and let fantasies run wild in SL, we participate in the psychopath conditioning.  It already separates us from the physical, yet replaces the material with virtual greed and lust.  Many times, it feels like the spirit is being killed in order to fashion and reshape our virtual world into nothing more than mechanized, conditioned responses with no concept of shame, guilt, or conscience whatsoever.

In some ways, we've pre-shaped this condition and environment for the psychopath by postmodern relativism, and the like that has done the damage to natural (even spiritual) human culture.  But, on the other hand, maybe the deconstruction has been a necessity.  Like, trying to separate and segregate in order to see the underlying illness.  We kind of know what it is, but, like the psychopath, we'd like to forget what it is.  However, unlike the psychopath, we can't.  We may do bad things, but we can feel the guilt, but they can't. But yet, if the psychopaths of the world get their way, they will either try to root out conscience either by conditioning us to be like them, or, they might just weed out us, if opportunity comes and they see it more beneficial than conning us in a game of feigned civility.  

I don't know. To be honest, my feelings are mixed on this. Maybe I'm just wondering if there's some merit to the conditioning.  And if so, suppose that means a need to change what I've been doing on SL.  In some ways I have, but, I don't know.  It just seems like SL is too much of an environment made to be playing grounds for psychopaths.  So the question becomes how exactly can you do anything in SL that doesn't condition one to such a way of doing things?  How to keep fantasy and reality in check, and how to go about doing things, especially when it comes to RP and trying to make stories, and still be able to hold conscience and accountability.  Especially when the 'rules' seem to imply such things should not be considered.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Podcast from the Creative Penn

I have recently had a friend from an author's group I'm involved with in the real world send me a link to a podcast and website by Joanna Penn called The Creative Penn.  The podcast has an interview with J.C. Hutchins on his concepts of media interactions for his book Personal Effects: Dark Arts.  You can hear the podcast here.

It's an interesting concept.  Not new.  But it gives ideas on how build interactivity around a book.  Many of us as RPers already do this, but it's always interesting to hear about how there are real world applications to what many of us prefer to only look at in exclusively the walls of SL.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wasn't Quoted, But First Reference in Bibliography

Was doing a search for the hell of it on Midian City in Google.  Most of it is the same old, same old of blogs written about two to three years ago, back in Midian's 'golden age', I suppose you could call it.  Just before or a little after the Artifact RP had taken its course.  Now, other than some of the GMs and a few veteran players, I doubt there are many that know of the Artifact RP, and very few left that participated in it.  And even fewer that remember the RP's humble beginnings as a skybox back in the days of Midian 1.

Some might wonder why I am writing about Midian?  Well, I suppose it's out of old habit.  But, moreso, it's interesting to think how much I had helped shape Midian, and even influenced people that researched Midian.  It just seems odd now, to look back and see a person's writing as a PhD candidate referencing a Midian Forums posting I did mainly to start the conversation with Midian over players' rights and that annoying JSJR mantra that even Jade then supposedly cringed at hearing.  Yet, it became prevalent, even if it was, and probably still is, a misconception.  

The conclusion that Ms. (or now Dr.?) Maria B├Ącke comes to seems very spot on to me:

I would argue that [the RPer] feels like this mainly because the current type of role-play fits her. If it evolved into something she would not be as happy with, she might decide that it is time to leave, just like some of the game-players have decided to do. This is one of the ways in which it is possible to see the link between the rules, the “laws,” of a digital space and that which happens in it — and the result it brings. These rules can be thought of as the boundaries of a magic circle, enabling and facilitating the roleplay as well as attempting to restrict OOC drama. But the magic circle is porous, the discussions about the essence of the medium, the rules and the code, and how to play in the “correct way” constantly continues.


This really is what we see, or did see in Midian at the time.  For many, who had a 'correct' way of RPing in Midian, they felt 'free' under JSJR.  But, for those in the past that got disenfranchised by the changes, because there was really no other recourse, they left.  Midian is not the only place that is like this.  It's the nature of the game.  Other places I have RPed at have had similar aspects.  And indeed it is a matter of being porous, and not 'free.'  There are certain liberties in a given RP sim or estate, but, they are only open in as much as the community and the sim owner are open to things.  While the sim owner has the final say on things, if said owner does things against the flow of what the community wants, and if that thing done by the sim owner or its administrators is such that it takes away perceived freedoms, then the sim/estates see a exodus of players leaving the sim.  However, what Jade, and many other sim/estate owners bank on is being able to rebuild with the new rules and lay claim to a newer community that suits the new rules.  Those that stay tend to be the ones that either supported or can at least live with the new rules.  They are also the ones that weren't banned, silenced, nor otherwise provoked to leave.  

But even so, it's nice to see that my views and discourse couldn't be completely stifled.  There will always be remnants that document my discourses and warnings of the tyranny of both dictatorship of sim owners and oligarchy of the masses.  The two go hand in hand.  And you don't need a PhD to see this.  But it's nice to know you can still be referenced by a potential candidate for one. =~.^=

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Conversing and Analysis

This posting is based off a conversation I recently had with a friend over technique used in a recent Flickr pic's story poem here.

It was asked what was the concept that this picture and its text was based on.  First, because I was banned from Midian, the picture itself was taken on top of the rooftop of the Crossroads church.  It has a similar structure to the Midian church, but not quite.  It can't be seen, but the basic concept of Ioh standing on the top of a building is there.  He is in his 'Dark Knight' outfit - a common theme from the Midian RP.  It was used in various rooftop pictures, from his perching atop the Den, looking down upon the Catwalkers as a sort of guardian of sorts.  Other times, he had been upon the church rooftop with the same basic guardian theme.  Other times, his presence on the rooftops in the Dark Knight outfit had to do with his presence there as a Catwalker soldier, patroling the rooftops and defending territory, and yet another portrayal of the guardian aspect of his role and persona. But, this is more of the reflective meaning behind the outfit and particular placement of Ioh on a rooftop. It is still, storywise, where the dreamwalkers left off.  It's a reflection, a meditation of sorts. Hence the repetitive and cyclical nature of the text.

As mentioned about the picture, the text itself references Midian. That is pretty much what comprises much of Ioh's life before being brought into the dream world. The text has a few cycled messages that build on top of each other, referencing different aspects of 'the game.' There's a play on reversal of words in one cycle as follows:

Original verse: Truth is, I didn't really know what all I was getting in to. Thought it was all part of the game. All part of the plan. Nothing to worry about. Was there?

First cycle: Truth is, I didn't really know what all I was getting in to. Thought it was all part of the game. All part of the plan. Nothing to worry about. There was.

Second cycle: Truth is, I didn't really know what all I was getting in to. Thought it was all part of the game. All part of the plan. Nothing to worry about. Was there? Not until I felt the flames of Hell, did I wonder where I might go.

Final cycle: Truth is, I didn't really know what all I was getting in to. Thought it was all part of the game. All part of the plan. Nothing to worry about. Saw her'eth. But they took my bird, the crow, and made it into a ravenous raven.

Original verse has a question, "Was there?" The first cycle of the verse has a response, "There was." The second cycling of the verse repeats the question, "Was there?" And the final cycling of the verse has a dual answer, "Saw her'eth,' - which, forward is 'saw her', and reverse is 'there was'

Beyond the technical aspects mentioned, I'll leave the meaning for interpretation.

And yes, there is a reason for use of Tupac, the song, and especially the album. At the core, it comes from a basic concept that art has meaning behind it. At least it should.  Otherwise, if you want art for art's sake, then might as well just put up generic wall paper and the alphabet. Or you can go for a two-fer and put up a picture of Cambell's Alphabet Soup.  would make for perfect product placement too.

My friend had noted the remarkable play on words and added that it was remarkable in the sense that no on he's ever RP'd with would ever do something like what I did with this picture and story poem. "You take this stuff seriously," he told me.

Suppose it's true that I do.  However, I think it's a matter of what one wants out of the RP.  If it's 'just a game', then it makes the RP no more or less than an RPG. Therefore, those that RP metered combat are playing the game as an action/adventure RPG, or maybe combat strategy, and their mindset is that of any 1st person shooter out there, or (groupwise) similar to capture the flag style combat strategies.  Or, as my friend noted, viewing it as writing an Action Comedy, like Die Hard or Rush Hour.

On the text side of things, it becomes more 3rd person, most often. That is, the stories unfold as dramas.  Players are set up as characters in a story and they play their part.  And yes, it can have a certain Action theme to it, but most of it is based on the drama and interaction of the characters in some sort of cinematic (or made for tv movie, sitcom, soap opera, hell, maybe even Jerry Springer for some). For me, I take the experience, good, bad, or indifferent and use it as inspiration for the art and stories.

My friend did not consider himself all that deep in his RP. He explains that he believes it's because, in real life he has somewhat of an emotional disconnect with the experience. For this reason, he considers this a reason for not having a very passionate approach to the action when encountered.  So thus, comedy, and cleverness - or a sort of cunningness is utilized in playing out the scene as those are his favorite aspects in art and fiction.

Continuing on it was noted how Gor, however strictly or loosely, is based off of a series of actual fantasy/science fiction books. How it's sort of to the level of fanboi fiction in RP/online simulation taken as serious as Star Trek and how they both have their 'lifestylers.'

These are somewhat examples of the generic three groups or styles of RP found in SL.  They are not an exact match for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person perspective - at least not in the literature sense of things. Gaming/experience-wise, the shoot em ups can be considered mostly 1st person because it immerses the person into the action in real time (lag willing, anyways) Third person is the city sims, in the consideration above, as mentioned with the drama aspect.  Though they are not necessarily omniscient because that would mean metagaming, essentially.  Although, OOC information does make it quasi 3rd person omniscient. The main reason to consider Gor 2nd person is mainly because it's somewhat instructional. The Master/slave, Dom/sub, overall bondage experience is instructional.  This is completely taking out any moral preceptions for the moment and just going on the basis that the primary function of most Gor RP/lifestyling is based on teaching precepts and dogma of the particular fiction they are simulating. One can argue ad infinitas and ad nauseum about the morals of Gor as good or bad, as you could with any aspect of RP. But, on the basis of what it does, what it functions as, you could find the ritualism, symbolism, methods of teaching, modes (actions and rationale for doing a thing) in a variety of groups, societies, organizations, etc. that try to instill some sort of instruction on initiates or apprentices - whatever you want to name the noob to the experience. Hell, even vampires, whether bloodlines, or actual Masque style drama RP, have this aspect of the 2nd person RP in as much as those that are 'born' into becoming vampires go through an initiate process and 'live out' the experience of being a vampire - even if it is the sparkly Twilight version of it that's made its impact in pop culture.

My friend did note some of the flaw to the Gor 2nd person parallel was that, not only is 2nd person tough to RP, it only quasi fits the description of the RP. In hindsight, the reason I see behind this is that 2nd person is something that is not standalone when it comes to Gor, or any other RP that has 2nd person aspects.  This is because 2nd person is not generally a standalone aspect, and is often found within 3rd person drama RP, most particualarly in the forming and shaping the norms of the groups in a sim's city, and the city's community as a whole.  Second person has to do with teaching the norms and expectations. Maybe only in strictly bondage scenes can we say that it stands alone in any relevant basis.

My friend had noted his desire to want to play an RP where you play a community. I responded back that the city sims are supposed to be that, more or less. Unless one is looking for something more like the empire building simulation games where you have control of more than one pixel person, then the other aspect is that the vision is of group RP. It would seem to be his idea was group RP in that he would just like to control more than one character at a time. However, controlling a group is tricky in SL.  Mainly because, unless one makes a group completely of alts, and has the ability to use them all at once, a person can't so much control as much as attempt to persuade others toward a particular idea or vision

Granted, 'idea' and 'vision' mean essentially the same thing at the root. Both have to do with a 'picture.' But they have taken two different paths from each other in meaning over time. At least in connotation.

My friend reflected on how sometimes he would like a more collaborative storytelling experience, and less of a first person one. Collaboration is a vision, and a hard one to get people to see. Ideas are more '1st person'.  Individual concepts.  Random, maybe.  Or they may have some sort of connection to another. A vision is finding that connection - taking the one picture and making it into a bigger picture.  Putting together the puzzle, so to speak, and making it into a bigger picture by taking the smaller pictrues (ideas), and either molding them from the fragmented randomness into a bigger, more complex shape. Or, if the ideas indeed connect in some systematic way, to essentially put the puzzle pieces together and/or 'break the code.'

This, at least to me, is what we try to do in collaborations.  Take what pieces we have, and try to fit them together somehow, whether or not they are connections being made of random things that you don't normally think would go together, or grouping them together systematically as if to make a bigger picture that's always been there, but just needed the components to come together to see it fully for what it is.

Working on this level is hard.  And, as many times as I've tried to attain, and even think to maintain it, I've seen and been part of collaborations that have fallen to pieces.  I think my stories tell of that experience well enough.  And recently, I've had yet another relational split of sorts, as well as opportunity made for a new collaboration.

But it's still hard.  If we think of these splits and (re-)couplings in a mere bilogical nature at the cellular level, it's simple.  One whole split, and joined to form something new. Yet, we're not cells. We're humans with minds and emotions.  While some breaks are easier than others, there are those that have greater value of some type that is harder to break from, and may not be desirable to do so.  But yet a break does happen for some reason. And that gets carried over.  Could call it a 'residual DNA.' But, unlike the information at the cellular level, the 'baggage' or previous shared experience is not merely chemical. And yeah, I know, the metaphor is sounding way too much like a biology/science project, but the jist of it is, as humans, the mixing of ideas in collaborating to make the bigger picture is very complex due to feelings, emotions, and perceptions that people come into the collaboration with, or bring in from out of an previous shared experience.  You can try to leave that 'baggage at the door', but, on some levels, that is not terribly productive.  Especially if that previous shared experience needs to come to resolution before a fuller involvement and greater productivity in the collaboration can be made. Plus, with RP, because the collaboration is a matter of making a story together, well, stories need conflicts.  The question is, can the conflicts manifest without being harmful to the story, or is thinking that way harmful to the story, considering that, especially if it's freeform RP, there is no clear and concise vision of what the story is going to look like once it has run its course? But the other aspect, and probably more to the heart of the matter, is the conflict of a nature that it would be harmful for the persons involved in the collaboration.  It's one thing to try to push a story to the end of its course.  It's another thing to run a person through the mill, and personally ruin their part of the collaboration.  To force them out, or otherwise come to a place where collaboration becomes impossible because it's not just a collision of the ideas, but also personal feelings and emotions.

On this, my friend considered that the only way to really do it with all that in mind is to come up with an overall outline AND the final outcome prior to running the story. The concept here would be that if people can both agree on an an outline, and stick to it the rest would probably fall into place. However, one aspect is that people may not enjoy such an RP.

Yet, I told my friend that this to would depends on certain variables. Both aspects of having or not having an outline do have their ups and downs.  Too much planning, and you get labeled for trying to script too much, or directing when you should be RPing.  Too little planning and it doesn't look like you have any direction whatsoever, and people tend to not take such a person serious enough to develop much of a story - unless the idea is to evolve a story out of randomeness and bring it more and more into a complex shape

What seems to be key would be taking people out of biased precepts.  But that is also is the main difficulty either way.  In simpler terms, it's getting a group together to 'buy in' and 'find value' with regards to what you consider the vision to be.  However, there still has to be some flexibility to the vision for each person's interpretation.  There just needs to be a basic concept to stick with, and determination to go through with it all.

For instance, Sinefield is a sitcom that develops essentially out of randomness.  It's an example of how that vision of casual conversation and everyday life can form into a long running, and now still syndicated sitcom with a large general audience base.  It's an example of such a theme being a success.

On the other hand, and something of interest to me is the Bible Code.  The concept of it is that the first five books of the Bible contains messages that are unlocked and report on future events, as well as hints leading to the Master Code, of which is believed to be the Book of Seven Seals that is mentioned in the Book of Daniel and referenced in the book of Revelation.  This is still a cloudy vision, and many people scoff and deride the existence and possibility of this code and the book of Biblical legend.  Yet, it is like a real life version of a quest, like the Key of the Twilight in .Hack series. Because, if the book of the Seven Seals is found, it is believed to change the whole world as we know it.  And this would be an example of a story that develops out of mystery and has a certain compelling nature to it that people might find interesting to explore, if not on its original theme, but also on any other particular theme that revolves around the origin of some sort of mystery to solve.

So, this concludes the particular reflection on discussion had today.  I felt the themes might interest my readers in some way.  Maybe it might give some insight to ideas that are similar or shared in these issues.  If inclined, post below and let me know what you think.