Random Notes on ‘The State of Play’

I'm not going to blog the conference if only because I don't type fast enough. And I gather some other people may do so. But I'll try to post some notes now and then.

Learned: The State of Play conference is a sell-out. In addition to the academic crowd there are lot of people involved in designing the games, or in the constellation of ancillary industries that are springing up around the games (e.g. designing stuff for the avatars, and selling it; or doing things which rely on the games or the game engines, like making movies or staging online art shows).

Learned: The level on enthusiasm among massively multiplayer online game-makers and users is as high as anything you could have found in the early days of the dot-com bubble. “This is our Woodstock” one of them told me earnestly. And the level of idealism is almost as high: many of the people designing games see themselves as enabling self-expression and creating spaces in which new social linkages and new spontaneous forms of bottom-up social organization. But there’s more of the social linkages than social organization.

Learned: In virtual worlds, the aphorism “the clothes make the man” is a lot more true than in real life.

Re-Learned: Game designers worry a lot about not discouraging the customers. This imposes massive constraints on their ability to address resource and skill inflation. And that can hurt the gameplay….

Learned: From the game designer perspective, the player-killers have much more stamina than the folks who try to settle and build something. The barbarians just don’t mind getting killed, and come back again and again (indeed, the barbarians get highly organized, form guilds or factions, and attack and re-attack, until civilization is destroyed). Even when the people who have taken the time to build something and created a community around are able to organize to defend it, they don’t have the staying power: the experience of having to fight all the time to preserve your tavern or your art gallery is juts too wearing on the soul, and eventually they give up.

Re-Learned: The level of legal sophistication among the people who build and code things is basically random. Some of the people doing some of the cutest things are going to have very high legal bills Real Soon Now.

Learned: Some Virtual Worlds are drifting in the direction of being Virtual Malls. There's probably money in that, but may co-exist uneasily with the idealists.

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