Saturday, December 4, 2010

Universality of Games

Games have been with us, likely, since humans have been in existence.  Maybe further, depending on what we can take from the play that we perceive in animals and what that could tell us about the nature of proto-beings beyond our abilities to observe in this day and age.  

Games are generally known as a structured activity that we do for fun, and may be educational as well.  We try to distinguish games from work, claiming it not something we do for an exchange of goods, a salary, or any other form of compensation - and yet, we find value in games, and often do seek out a reward or enrichment of some sort for the participation in one.  Thus, there can be confusion with regards to making a distinction between games and work, and often find elements within them that intermingle, such as people in online RPs that employ themselves to fictional jobs, or employees at team meetings where games are employed as team builders, or to give a certain symbolism or metaphor to work with to gain an understanding on the 'real' work.

Games are a universal part of the human experience, and, even in this age where the evolution of a game has come to be a creative force in a 'metaverse', we still find ourselves defining them in on whether they are fun or lighthearted, of a separate time and place, whether the goals are certain or uncertain, even a view that games are non-productive, even while being governed by rules.  We claim that a game is to be fictitious in order to be a 'real' game.

Games can be more than that, can they not?  I'm not saying to throw away the definition we have of games already, but to consider.  Do games have value?  If so, then what makes them rewarding or enriching, and do we really have to distinguish this quality of reward and enrichment from 'real' rewards and enrichment of work?  Or, is this a matter of subjectivity that we put when we consider the element of 'fun' and what is 'not fun'?  And if so, what can we say about the possibility of game becoming 'not fun' and a work becoming 'fun'?  Does the work that employs our livelihood now become a game, and that when supposedly we employ to our entertainment now become a work?

Games, in reality are as much work as what we call 'work' or employment, and both games and work can have an element of fun, they can have reward to them, as well as the opposite effects of being 'not fun' and 'non-rewarding'.  So, something else has to distinguish them than this.

Games are also considered fictitious.  It is something that is different from the 'real world', and therefore does not have real world consequences, etc. and so forth.  But yet, games do have rules and regulations and, therefore, must have penalties, or some sort of consequence.  And, if they did not, then there wouldn't possibly be a way to lose, be disqualified, banned, disbarred, or whatnot.  Some may say it's different because you can't go to jail just for losing a game.  An easy quip would be that, in Monopoly, you can, but, no, in the long run, you likely aren't going to go to jail for losing in most games.  Yet, in work, if you screw up, you may get fired, fined, disbarred, lose your certificates for doing business, and other qualifying factors that mean you 'lose' your work, but you may not still have done something illegal, or illegal enough to be put in jail for.  However, there is work, and there are games that one can be put in jail just for participating in.  If you are a professional cat burglar, you know that your work is not something you can hold any security of a 401 K in, and retirement generally is from getting caught and put in prison.  Gamblers may be put in jail if caught in an illegal casino or other establishment that is not sanctioned by the law for such play.  And certainly, cheating at Poker can get you a black eye or two, to say the least, just as going door to door as a salesman could lead to some roughing up in certain not-so-friendly neighborhoods.  So, fiction or not there can be real life consequences to games, just as there are for work.

Games are not just one sort of thing.  There is variety in games, and our development and growing complexity of gaming and technology used to create them also bring about new developments in defining them.  To say something is 'just a game' anymore is to simply be ignorant. 

Games can now be a part of the changing in consequences perceived, as well of the development thereof in social aspects of our daily lives.  In a sense, they always have been.  The Royal Game of Ur had to have been more than just a matter of 'just a game' for the people that played it, and even still play its modern variation.  And that's among the oldest of games known in recorded history, dating back to 2600 BC.  And people are still playing it, or a modern variation of it, such as Backgammon is claimed to be.  Just think of how many societies and cultures may have come across this game or made its own variants of such a game to play, and maybe even traded and st up tournaments and other ways to gain rewards and the like, just to have an event to participate in.  Considering that, is it any question that humanity's patterns really haven't changed that much in regards to what they decide to do with their games?  Technology has changed, and variety has come with it, but, we still want places to play, events to participate in, and people to play with.  Likewise, we still want places to do business, events to promote businesses and have people participate in particular products and services.  Thus, naturally, where we have a place for games, we also have the 'agora', the shopping center, the place for the market.  And, certainly, we have the industries behind those games and businesses that help manufacture and construct these places for interaction, whether it be physical or virtual.  Moreso, there are places for people to live as well, or to give a place the life of the presence of those people in a virtual setting.

Games in the modern, virtual world, break many of the barriers that have been imposed on work, play, games, and what is 'real'.  Cultures and societies that have physical barriers can now intermingle in the virtual environment, and interact in ways that can bot unite and divide them.  Their ideas and desires are shared.  Collaboration in various teams, committees, groups, and associations become possible in a way that is liberating in comparison to what they may or may not be able to do in the physical world, whether by physical or other forces that would not allow it.  But, even so, are we truly free in a virtual world?

Wikipedia's entry on the concept of games in the online setting helps refine things a bit:

The values that are policed vary from game to game. Many of the values encoded into game cultures reflect offline cultural values, but games also offer a chance to emphasis alternative or subjugated values in the name of fantasy and play. The players of the game at the new century are now apparently expressing their profound self through the game. When they can play with their anonymous status, they are found to be more confident to express and to step out from the position they have never been out from. It offers new experiences and pleasures based in the interactive and immersible possibilities of computer technologies.


Games, I would argue, have provided some of these aspects prior to the technologies now being used, and the innovations that come from them.  But, even so, it is undeniable that online brings to it a different quality and nature that we are still trying to understand.  After all, if things in the online environment can just be considered as 'just a game', then why do we get worked up over them?  Why do we care what happens in thise games we play? If we can flippantly throw them off as something trivial, then what is all the 'OOC drama' all about?  Why get pissed about the loss of something virtual?  If there isn't something the care about in the metaverse, then why do we?

Just some thoughts....

Friday, December 3, 2010

Conversation about RP with Sekhmet

This came about last night with an old friend of mine.  I've probably mentioned a few times this person.  But anyways, I had asked Sekhmet about the Catwalkers, and then on into RP in general.  It was a great discussion, and I asked if she would let me share it here on my blog, and she said yes.  So here goes the discussion as follows:

Question:  Did you ever ponder where you might have gone with things, with the CWs, if Sekhmet stayed?

Sekhmet: Nope lol.  I would have gotten bored.  There's no point to RP in SL.

Question: Why do you say that?

Sekhmet: Another way to look at it is, in SL, people RP or they combat in RP sims.  They don't RPG

Question: Like in the whole dice and all that?

Sekhmet: It's not the dice. The dice are just a means. In today's computer world, the dices are all rolled by the server. But it's not the dice that make RPG good. Most of the time I GMed, people got boared with the dice quick.  No, it's the challenge created by a plot.

Question: SL RP lacks decent plots?

Sekhmet: There's no GM so there can't be a plot. Making your own plot as you go cannot create a challenge other than one you already know about, and which of course invariably leads to drama and god modding eventually. I mean you can RP it. Which is basically theatrical improvisation. And can definitely be entertaining. But not my cup of tea. Not on a regular basis anyhow.

I prefer to be in a situation I try to overcome where I am not in control of the outcome. Correction, where nobody is in control of the outcome. lol. Therefore, a challenge needs to be put forth.

Comment: GMs become more of sim moderators, rather than putting out plots, but I would think freeform would somewhat make that possible, but, eventually, someone does step in and try to run the show

Sekhmet: True and not. Freeform is how you do it. RL is freeform. Nobody is telling you, "Sorry, can't do, your STR is only 12." Nobody is controlling what you say either, or how you say it. This last point is also better because overcoming the problematic is not dependent on the oratory skill of the player or how fast the player types.

Comment: Yeah, in RL, can't break into brackets to differentiate IC and OOC

Sekhmet:  Hell, you could even do it all OOC. I mean if the plot does not catch your emotions enough that you want to be IC in the first place, the plot prolly sucks. The plot failed to include you as a character.

Players WILL be in character you know when? When the get into a point in overcoming the plot and they go "OH SHIT!" Then you know.

It doesn't matter how much IC or OOC things they said. At that moment you just know (As a GM), that they are in. They are feeling real emotions for something that doesn't exist

Question: So you mean, when they care about something that's just fiction?

Sekhmet: I mean it doesn't exist because it's happening here in VR. And most importantly, in their minds.

For instance, they just lost 10000cr. But it's not real money, yet they are pissed off. And no matter that they are pissd off. They hurry back home the next day after work to quickly log in and experience more of it.  Just so they can feel. Make-believe. 

Comment:  Like reading a good book and wanting to know what happens to the characters, but, in the case of RP, you are the character.

Sekhmet:  Exactly. And you're not in control of the book.

How you do it is easy.  You take a bunch of people.  You give them an amount of tools to use to solve the problem.  You reward players with points or items.  That's on top of emotions. The whole principle is as old as the world. Every MMO uses it.  But SL is full of intelectual elitists who want to control the show so that it's all about them.

Question:  More quest-based then?

Sekhmet:  You can call it quests. It's just a word. Objectives. Goals. Score. Acheivments. Missions.

Comment: I had an argument with one former friend about the necessity of goals, and she said there shouldn't be any, essentially. And, ironically (or unfortunately?) this same person happens to be the previous Matron of the CWs. <.<

Sekhmet:  Right.  Well, the reason some people don't want that is because goals implies there's a way to "win." And if here's a way to "win," there's a way to "lose." And some people are afraid of losing. Alternatively, they want to con you into thinking they won. lol

Comment:  True.  And, I suppose that's what happened,as much as I counted leaving the CWs of Midian a loss.

Sekhmet:  There's a way around it.  Around the problem. You need a multi-plot. Basically saying, "The plot thickens." And it gets so complicated that nobody is in control. Nobody fully wins. Some wins are team wins too. You make it more global.

Now, I am not saying RP in itself can't be interesting.  I think the problematic is that people who RP want EVERYONE to RP.

Comment: But it's good to have variety.  Yet, lot of people make it more singular.  So would be interesting to see a more team style RP rather than just simply a leader leads and all must follow sort of deal.

Sekhmet:  Right. Well,.variety doesn't work so well with RPers. Their sense of immersion is very tied with everyone staying IC.  This is what gives them THEIR feeling.  They get a kick out of RPing in itself.  But I personnaly have a hard time pretending I'm an assassin if there's nobody to assassinate. lol
Or even simpler.  Pretending I'm a restaurant ownr if there's no cash in the register at the end of the night. I mean it's fun once, like playing a piece. But who wants to play the part of a restaurant owner day after day with no point whatsoever? What motivates you? Should you hire more personnel?  Fire someone?  Get a new menu?

Comment:  Well, that's where at with the Insurance company. Sure, can go out and gain clients, or recruit, and actually hired someone who quit >.<

Sekhmet:  Of course people quit.  Why should they stay?  What's for them to accomplish and is going to make a difference in their lives?
Now, put a leader board out. That shows who made the most sales this week. And you'll see people get busy. Some will even get to hate each other for it.  LOL!  Bingo! Emotions. And the emotions will be so strong people will even forget it was a game, i.e. SL.

Drama.  Isn't that what that really is?

Comment:  Well, I had hired someone in administration. Gave them free reign to build up the administration side of things, but, eh.

Sekhmet:  Did you give them clear objectives?  And a reward if they succeeded?

Comment:  Well, she basically was in charge of recruitment, and hiring the administration staff.  So, she would have her say in the development of the office work side of things.  But yeah, suppose needed more clear goals and objectives.

Sekhmet:  Ok here's the trick. Close the insurance company. lol
Open a publishing firm.  Then make one of those SL magazines. But all in RP.  About the world you RP in. Make a newspaper.

Comment:  They already have a newspaper in Perdition though.

Sekhmet: Hmmm.  Well, it's just an example.

Comment:  But, could incorporate publishing maybe.  Like for books or magazines.  Play into the publishing business itself

Sekhmet:  Maybe.  Hmmm. Gun shop.  And actually make guns.  But RP it.  Gas station.

Comment: Publishing is fairly similar to Insurance, actually.  Same concept about how to do business, but, instead of assess risk, assessing marketability of books.

Sekhmet: Well ok, but why would people wanna buy insurance?  Aside from pure RP reasons.

Comment: Well, Properties and Casualty - essentially homeowners and business properties, even  vehicles. Then life for estates, heath for personal and group.  Basically, providing a sort of realism to owning businesses and properties.

Sekhmet:  Those are pure RP reasons.  Nobody is actually in any danger of losing anything.

Comment:  Had one place I insured catch fire.

Sekhmet:   lol

Comment:  But yeah, need good Rpers that don't mind taking such losses.  Actually was both health and property on that, since she was in the building when it caught on fire.

Sekhmet:  Hehe.  Anyways. I think I was having fun as a Catwalker because as a player my challenge was to create and grow the group.  And then I was enjoying coming up with plots for the gang to tackle.  Like:

"Ok cats, we need more food... so 4 of you go sneak into the sushi shop and steal some fishies."

Of course I went to Baal and told him to put 3 cases of fish behind the counter. And Baal told the sushi owner guy that it was is supply for the week.  So, of course the guy was not too happy when he caught a 'walker running off with a crate of his and started running after us. And the police got in the melee. And the whores bitched. And the people at the counter went, "Hey, how about my sushi?" And the dogs rented protection service to the sushi bar. And we walked around for a week with fishes in our mouths. lol. Brag, brag, brag.

Comment:   Yeah, I see how it works.  I'd like to get something like that going.  The insurance can be a vehicle.  Like someone buying a life poicy on husband or wife, simply to off them after a while for the pay out. Then you get the cops involved and all that.

Sekhmet:  Go ahead and raise hell.  Insure a business. And then hire an arson to burn it. lol

Then claim it was criminal so you won't pay until the matter is resolved. That is, if the police can catch the perp or find out who it is.

Comment:  Hehe.  Well, it would have been interesting if I got framed for the fire of the business that had the fire, but that didn't happen. But anyways, I have to head out. This discussion gives me a few ideas to go on.  Maybe try them out in the upcoming weeks.

Sekhmet:  Be my guest.

Comment:: If you're interested, plenty of openings for an insurance agent. lol

Sekhmet:  lol Kinda busy right now.

Anyways, hope you all get something out of that.  Having come to know Sekhmet is one of the cool opportunities I did have back when CWs was halfway decent to be a part of.  I learned something about the history of the group that none of those cats in there now, and very few before then had such an opportunity to be enriched by.