Friday, March 24, 2006

at GDC

The folks from Linden labs had a session about giving the users creative control and ownership. Cory Linden did the talk. He pointed out how many SL-ers create stuff and write scripts - even tho the script language was very difficult to use.

I really liked when he described how a user figured out how to make a kite - and the developers had to go ask the user how they did it.

Philip Rosedale - head of LL - had one of hte keynotes on Monday. It's gotta be a scray position right now - do away with subscription revenues, give away basic accounts and hope people convert to property owning accounts that cost money each month. I think he said they take a little cut out of the linden buck exchnages.

And - in the other MOnday keynote - Jesper Juul talked about goal less games - Ithink SL might fall into that category. They hav eto have lots of things and lots of actions - the user creates those "nouns" and "verbs" anyway they want. and the more combinations that are possible the better. I need to read his book Half-Real

He pointed out that GTA and The sSims have some things in common - including that both are playable as goal-less games - you can just wander around GTA - practicing your bike skills, driving to see scenery - with no penalty. You sort of make your own goals. He talked about how he wanted his Sims avatar to eat a lot - but instead the kitchen caught on fire and his avatar went kind of crazy so that the doctor came. He "failed" nominally since the avie didn't eat as much as he wanted, but the failure was interesting. A lot to think about in his speech.

then - as my students tell me - it's weird to try to define games - they just are and ya know them. Maybe that's true. Gonna make for an interseting final exam question.

press coverage

There's a story about SL in Wired magazine - actually about the Second Life Herald - a "newspaper" that covers SecondLife and other MMORPGs. The writer is sort of an embedded journalist. He covers the good, the bad, and the very pretty (check out the Post 6 Grrls)


The herald is a good source of news and would be good to analyze over time.

Friday, March 17, 2006


the avatar dressing and modifying - seems to be an important part of the game for the students.

Yet - some are finding that they want their avatar to look like them as much as possible. That was their first assignment and they didn't like it at hte time. Now they have total freedom with how they look. They tried out different hair and skin color and clothes and shapes - it was overwhelming for some of them with all the choices. Then they're slowly going back to the original look.

I wonder how true that is overall. If the people flying around in Jedi soldier uniforms or pikachu costumes are relatively new and over time they slowly change back to normal too.

And then do people stop playing? Once the character is "normal looking" - is the excitement of the game over?

That's the question for the rest of the semester...

Friday, March 10, 2006

arggh - slow hardware

I know how some of the students have been feeling - they have slow comptuers or slow connections.

And now so do I. My laptop died so I had to fall back on my desktop machine - which is about 5 years old. It's a G4 but i'm seriously lackng RAM and processor speed. SL starts but - oh my goodness it is slow - gray rectangles everywhere, avatar won't move. Man it is irritating.

Especially when I really wanted to kill some time playing the game, looking for Robert Scoble's volcano and softwre company, and the peach computer store.

Oh well - guess I"ll do more homework. I wonder if the students ever say that!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Observation Papers

My students wrote their first papers about SL - based on tehir own personal observations. We'd been reading personal ethnographies and they were supposed to write in that style. Most did a great job.

We're all wondering why people spend so much time building houses and neighborhoods and yet most areas of the world are so incredibly empty. One person commented that early members had to pay to join and so SL might have attracted people who wanted to build. They also noticed that people have different views of what SL actually is - a sandbox to build and create, sex, gambling, chat.

We ran into some technology problems - slow connection speeds in the dorms and apartments, slow wireless connection in the lab; the frequent updates meant I had to tke the lab over for an hour several times to load all the machines; avatars reverting to default modes; and the strange fact (g) that students don't want to read the notecard instructions sprinkled liberally around the world but rather want to just do (and want things to just be transparent and obvious - a want that I think might make the game a bit less fun).

And we're having an ongoing discussion about whether it's a game or not. One take is that it isn't. ANother that it provides space for people to play games. It's a discussion we'll be having hte rest of hte semester - it will probably be a question on our midterm and final to give them an opportunity to apply what they're reading about definitions of games.