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Month: March 2006

The mask wars

From one of Raph Koster’s posts on GDC:

Patrick Dugan asking a panel of academics whether the cultural shifts brought on by massively multiplayer games may include damaging our conception of the nation-state as a key form of personal identity. Academics don’t quite know what to say.

Even I know what to say to that. “Yes.” Rambly thoughts ahead.

Personal identity is increasingly fluid; the ability to put on an impenetrable mask ensures that. Hm. Rereading the quote, I wonder if it wouldn’t be more appropriate to say “tribal identity,” though. You could say that’s a subsection of personal identity. I tend to reject that as necessity, though; it’s one potential aspect of personal identity. And precision requires that we distinguish between the aspect and the whole, no?


Anyhow: tribal identity. Are you a San Franciscan, or are you a member of Fires of Heaven? Both, maybe. Which is more important? It’s another way of forming NGOs, of playing identity politics. Which are pretty important in MMORPGs. If WoW is the new golf, it’s also the new sandlot baseball field, and the new singles bar, and the new late night campus coffee shop.

Question not yet resolved: does tribal identity solidify on a counterscale to personal identity? I’d think probably yes — we haven’t yet figured out how to have slippery faces within tribes and maintain community cohesion. (You can say community wherever I say tribal, by the by.)

One of the strong, under the radar drivers in community forming on these things is TeamSpeak/Ventrilo. Both these programs create a virtual space where you can voice-chat; in my experience, guilds keep the servers up all the time and they’re used for far more than just tactical coordination. They’re a new social channel. And voices are much more coherent and consistent than the faces we wear while we’re playing.

Then again, voice filters exist and will be more useful as time goes by. So I’ll leave predicting the future to people who get paid for it.

GILTed age

Oh, OK, Rob. Our Canadian overlord talks, and we listen.

Unplumbed Ephemeral Circus genre time. The Empire is decaying. It has always been decaying; it will be decaying for millenial. Nobody remembers the time when it was not, except perhaps the positronic computators that remain. They grind equations into dust for purposes that were set back when the Empire was bright. It is rumored that a man knows how to change those purposes; that legacy was passed down in his clan from mother to son, from uncle to niece, and cannot be used until the time is right.

The Court is glorious. Under the masks, it is horrible. It’s a trap: the truly competent maintain the rusting machinery of the Empire elsewhere. Those attracted to power vanish in the byzantine complexities of Court etiquette. (The universities teach courses in it, of dubious value.)

The barbarians are at the stargates. The imperial armies are funded by patrons, who have varying motivations. One donates to the Crown for the sponsorship of a Legion — it is not legal to have a private army. Good Legions will be picked up by other patrons if their patron falls, which reduces the ability of the patrons to control their sponsored troops. Some patrons seek status; some are altruists; some are fanatics. The campaign is the defense against the barbarians. Military SF, but not David Drake’s style. More Asimov, but lush.

Origin of awards

I’m running out of elliptical titles for posts about awards. Ah well.

Um, yeah, the Origins Awards. I didn’t game much this last year. That won’t stop me from commenting, though!

I see, among the Best RPG nominees: five licensed games. Well, four; I don’t think it counts as a license when the same person is writing both the original text (Artesia) and the RPG. Four out of the five use existing systems, with varying degrees of adaptation to the world.

No Dogs in the Vineyard.

There’s a lot of creativity in every RPG, licensed or not, original mechanics or not. I can’t believe that a bunch of licenses based on existing mechanics represents the most creative stuff the industry has to offer, though.

Your envelope, this time

And after a bit of quick perl hackery, we have the results from my Oscar contest! Kyle entered twice; I took his later entry as the final one. This seems reasonable, particularly since his first entry took second place, tied with kodi and yukon_jack. Kyle, drop me an email and we’ll talk about your banner.

As a whole, our collective predictive intelligence was not as good as Kyle’s final set of picks, and wasn’t much better than the second place finishers (depending on how you count ties). C’est la vie.

Full results after the break.