SXSWi:Online Games: Beyond Play and Fantasy

Online Games: Beyond Play and Fantasy
Joichi Ito We Know Guild, his blog
Justin Hall Passively Multiplayer

Ito: We’re going to talk about online games and what we can learn from them. I think comparing Second Life to World of Warcraft is an apples to oranges comparison. They are similar because they are 3-D, Second Life is not a game (although you could make games inside), there is a difference.

I play my World of Warcraft videos in Second Life. We plan raids inside Second Life. Second Life is about simulation, I do talks there. It’s really not where I build relationships but many do.

Showing screenshots of his World of Warcraft that has many user-created add-ons that tell how the game is working, people’s strengths and more. Many of these add-ons are picked up and brought into official releases from the gamemakers. There is an unreal amount of data being shown on the screen. Some military players say their screens in WOW have way more great info than real-life military data systems.

All the data is logged later so that I can analyze later and improve the way I play (along with my teammates).

I recommend players I work with for real jobs because I know about the way they work under pressure, about whether they are honest, cheaters, aggressive, etc.

We use audiochats during game play to stay connected. “immersion-busting, reality-intrusive anti role-playing debasement of what virtual words are – Richard Bartle 2003

People used to keep audio out to keep up the fantasy. “Guildlies” chat me, sms me, audio chat me and more, I think the fantasy is broken, and we don’t worry about that anymore.

People were saying 3-D is not as good as text games because of the lack of imagination. Steven Johnson said well is imagining Paris as good as a 3-D simulation of Paris? It’s not the point, 3-D give new and different opportunities for brain exercise.

John Sealy Brown on USC site (paper) distinguishes between simulation and metaphor – McDonalds job simulation would be exactly like McDonalds vs. World of Warcraft has nothing to do with real life, but the leadership, camaraderie, etc is metaphorically connected to real life – stimulates your imagination for real life application.

A lot of the leaders online are not the MBA-type leaders, but more like open-source leaders. We have bartenders, foremans, nurses etc who are leaders. A lot of CEO’s don’t lead well in the games because they are used to paying people to do work, to follow. Here people pay to play, so if it isn’t good, they leave. More like open source that way. A guild is more like a congregation than a corporation.

Hall: I stopped writing about my life online as I used to do. I don’t play WOW because it takes too much time. I did gain time because of my lack of writing. I do now use MySpace along with Plazes, then my most recent video games, my recent photos from Flickr, my recent music from iTunes. I don’t have to do anything though, but you can get a picture of what was happening in my life on any given day, the Internet is notified. The “myware” software, the personal spyware programs.

Working on an idea of Passive Multiplayer Online Games – just by doing stuff online you score experience points. BBC said perhaps we can eval web literacy this way. I could say you are only level 5 because you only surf 5 sites a day, but I could give you a quest to explore 10 new points to earn 20 points. Then you would learn more about the Internet and gain experience points.

So I am creating a way for people to get experience points by using Internet resources. We don’t log the URL’s so no one could say where does arvind go online? All we know is he views a lot of education sites or a lot of tech sites.

Test the site out at

Ben Cerveny joins the panel

The real abstract resource we find in play are the metaphors the Joi mentioned. The movement between online and the real world impacts is real and powerful. What started off as a massive multiplayer game ended up as a mode for trading media (Flickr). The reason that succeeded came out of a different approach, that of play. The idea of “flow” is a balance between simplicity of task and complexity of task. Construction of flow it turns out is aided by being in a state of play. You have a different relationship between risk and reward when you play – you will take risk whereas during work you may get in trouble if you mess up.

Ito: In the U.S. we don’t take kids play seriously. In Japan we see kids using pagers so we figure how to use phones. In the rest of the world we embrace fun in work, where in the U.S. we think work can’t be fun. The barrier between work and fun is an American artifact. The barrier between online and offline is also American. In Japan you are always online. American Puritanic view of the Internet is warping perspective.

Pushing kids out is stupid and gaming companies might make that mistake. But the games on the Internet so far have ceded control to kids and users and it is empowering them and making better games.

Q from audience:
The concept of work is recent: 4 hours focused, not thinking about anything else, then a break, then 4 more hours. Thinking back, kids were around, social life all intermixed with work. IM at work and things like it are challenging this new business model, but these are false ideas of what work is. Also I would like to play a game based on Merlin Mann’s productivity ideas and win points for being more efficient.

Hall: There is a company called Seriosity that makes an Outlook plugin that give you points for better use of e-mail.Playing directly into the gaming/productivity idea.

My thoughts: very cool panel. These three guys are super-smart. Games or games-thinking definitely could benefit schools. Ok, another blog post to write. How about teachers gaming to increase their understanding of learning styles, there are ways to approach this. And I love the idea of a game amongst admins on best use of e-mail. I need to check out Seriosity seriously.

Off to the K-12 meetup, I hope Andy Carvin, Sa-Ul and others find me at the Mozilla party in Brush Square Park.

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arvind s. grover

I am a progressive educator, a podcaster (, a blogger, and dean of faculty of JK-11 school (building a high school) in New York City.