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.