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Posts with tag identity

Gender in World of Warcraft

Sometimes I flail around to try and come up with a way to start talking about a subject. So this time, I'm just going to go straight to the link - this article by Slate about why people play the characters they do in World of Warcraft, especially the genders they choose, interested me. One of the reasons is because it confirms with actual research an argument I've heard a lot as I've played the game. To quote the article:

Because players see their avatars from a third-person perspective from behind, men are confronted with whether they want to stare at a guy's butt or a girl's butt for 20 hours a week. Or as the study authors put it in more academic prose, gender-switching men "prefer the esthetics of watching a female avatar form." This means that gender-switching men somehow end up adopting a few female speech patterns even though they had no intention of pretending to be a woman.

There's more to it, though - what I really find interesting is that when men choose to play women in game, (which they do far more often than women do - 23% of men play female characters, while only 7% of women play male characters) they tend to start talking like women, or at least, like what they believe women talk like. But the paper discussed that while the men use language that fits their stereotype of what women behave like, they can't emulate how women actually move their characters in game. Men, according to the study from Information, Communication and Society that prompted the article, tend to stand further away from groups, back up more often, and jump more often, and this behavior doesn't change when they're playing woman characters.

I find the study a little limited. There's a lot more to gender and identity than it covered. But I do find it interesting that so many male WoW players play as women, for the reason that's been accepted all along, but in a way no one expected. The idea that these men, deliberately or not, emulate how they believe women communicate while playing a character that is one, whether or not they actually do communicate that way, but are betrayed by a kind of body language unique to the game world is fascinating. I'd love to see more work done on this. Why do so few women play as men? Why do those women that do play as men make that choice? What about gender identities that aren't so binary, how do the differences between cisgendered and transgendered players factor into it? In a way, World of Warcraft can serve as a distillation of the real world (remember the corrupted blood plague was used by researchers to model how virus outbreaks work in the real world) and I'd like to see more work done on it.

With thanks to my nemesis Chase for the tip

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, News items

Breakfast Topic: Is that you?

As is often the case with Breakfast Topics, I write about what interests me, asking commenters questions that I genuinely want to know the answers to. So it should be no surprise that I read the comments pretty religiously, and often they will spark ideas that lead to more Breakfast Topics. You've only yourselves to blame for being such interesting folk.

On a recent BT about gender in WoW, two commenters got my attention. Dez and Nagaina, thanks for replying! The parts that caught my eye from their comments were as follows:

Dez wrote: I know some players consider their toons to be extensions of themselves (1st-person narrative), but personally I see them more as other people whose adventures I am following (3rd-person narrative).

Nagaina wrote: I'm principally a roleplayer. When I create a character, I'm usually doing so for storyline related reasons not representing myself in game related ones.

I personally consider my characters to be extensions of myself. When I refer to them, mentally I'm thinking, "I'm over here," "I'm getting my face chewed off by a murloc," or "I'm going to get myself a kickass new cloak." When I'm talking in game, I do much the same.

The idea of the character as a third person fascinates me. I suppose it might be reflected in games like The Sims where you control the life of a character in a different way or maybe in FPS games where you're controlling a character with a predefined story. Or perhaps it's something that is a big part of roleplaying, creating a story for a character that is (maybe by definition) not your own story. I freely admit to knowing barely anything about roleplaying, so of course there is the strong possibility that all that might be utter nonsense!

What do you think? Are your characters extensions of yourself? Are you representing yourself in game? Or, like Dez and Nagaina, are you following a third person? And why?

Filed under: Breakfast Topics

Facebook vs. World of Warcraft

They both have millions of users across the world. They both have made and broken friendships and relationships, and they both have raised millions if not billions of dollars for their respective companies. And chances are that they're both so popular even your grandma knows about them. Gamasutra has written an interesting post comparing both World of Warcraft and Facebook of all things, and they say that the two are more alike than you might think: both enable you to create an identity, and use that identity to interact with others, and both give you a wide variety of options to do so (in WoW, you can slay dragons together, and on Facebook, you can tag pictures or post on walls). Gamasutra wants to get to the center of where exactly the interactivity lies, and in doing so, figure out what makes Warcraft a game, and Facebook a network.

One major difference is in the interface -- obviously, WoW is wrapped in a fantasy world, so that in between all of the socializing, you're also fighting the Scourge or the Burning Crusade. Facebook has games, but it doesn't have that overarching narrative. WoW also rewards group teamwork and coordination, while Facebook leaves collaboration to its own rewards. And of course the cost is another big difference: WoW is still a subscription game, while Facebook pays in other ways. But the amount of similarities between the two are pretty fascinating. And comparing the two, as Gamasutra does, really makes you think about just what interactivity means, and how two apparently very different types of interactive media aren't that far apart after all.

Filed under: WoW Social Conventions, Virtual selves, Blizzard, Forums

Computerworld on Blizzard's Warden at work

We've covered the topic of Warden in the past, and you've probably already got an opinion on what it does to your computer system. Blizzard runs the Warden program alongside your WoW client, and while it runs it examines what else is running on your system -- if there are any third party programs (either hacks or cheat programs) interfering with the client, it lets Blizzard know, and shuts down the client. The obvious privacy concern here, of course, is that Warden is basically watching what you do outside of the game. And while Blizzard has maintained that the program is simply meant to check for hacks and cheats (they also say that no personally identifiable information is sent back to them, though IPs and other network information definitely are), there's always a chance that Warden could see you doing something you don't want it to.

Computerworld's Security section has a nice long article on all of the implications of Warden, especially in one of the more sensitive areas of security: the workplace. While most of us probably won't ever play World of Warcraft at work, there are certainly companies where installing and playing the game at certain times is appropriate. And it's probably in those situations where Warden could be its most dangerous. If you trust Blizzard with your information, then you'll have nothing to worry about. But if you don't know what Warden is sending back, there's always a chance that it could be something more sensitive than you'd like.

Of course, there is a hard and fast solution to this: don't play World of Warcraft on computers that have anything you wouldn't want shared with Blizzard or anyone else. As Computerworld concludes, it's a choice-and-consequences kind of thing. Warden is up and running every time you play WoW, for better or worse -- if you don't want it watching what you're doing, the only guaranteed way out is to not play World of Warcraft.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Cheats, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Account Security

Azeroth Security Advisor: Preserving your online privacy

Every week, computer security expert Jon Eldridge is your Azeroth Security Advisor. He will delve into the darkest reaches of computer security rumor and bring the facts back home even if they're wriggling at the end of a pike. His goal is to provide useful information to gamers who don't think about security much and flame fodder for those self appointed experts who need to rationalize the cost of their expensive certifications. Like any good security force he's a mercenary at heart and is happy to take subject requests from the user community that he serves. So feel free to leave a comment below or just sit back and enjoy the show.

So you've made it to the top. You're in a 1337 raid guild that can sleepwalk through heroic instances. The PvP teams that are lucky enough to have you grace them with your presence are first in your battle group. Your favorite hobbies include disenchanting purples and watching the n00bs pass out when they inspect your gear. You've been around since beta and everywhere you go people know your name. Yep is sure is great to be you(r toon). /emote pat self on back.

Then it happens. You login to find that somebody in your guild is the object of much ROFLMAO and that somebody is you. Your stomach drops out and your heart goes into overdrive as you read that chat. Now everybody in your guild knows your real name, home address, social security number, political affiliation, and drivers license number. But wait it gets better! Your arch rival just posted links to your online dating profiles, anarchist news group posts you made back in high school, and your criminal history. You've been RL PWN3D in the worst possible way.

Read more →

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, How-tos, Rumors, Account Security, Azeroth Security Advisor

Change your gender? Blizz says no

Character customization is on its way into Azeroth-- when Wrath of the Lich King comes around (whenever that is), we'll be able to change the way our characters look more than ever. But Blizzard still isn't interested in letting us change the most major functions of our characters-- Vaneras over on the EU forums makes it pretty clear that gender changes are never going to happen.

Gender changes are still a subject that inspires a little taboo in real-life, but actually, in World of Warcraft, it's something that a lot of players might want. Plus, while it's obvious that Blizzard wouldn't want people changing race or class (since there are actual abilities that go with both of those choices), there is no difference in the game between male and female, save for the cosmetic look. Sure, the story behind it would be a hard workaround (I'll let you imagine how that might play out, or, more likely, not), but allowing gender changes wouldn't upset the game, and would let those who feel they've made the wrong choice, err, "fix" things.

The fact is, however, that just like race and class, the gender you chose when you rolled a character have probably determined that character's existence. While changing the character's gender is just a cosmetic thing in terms of code, it's not in terms of identity, and that's what Blizzard has a problem with. The idea of a role playing game like WoW is that you choose a role to play. And if you have the option to change that role at a moment's notice, what's the point of asking you to choose in the first place?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Classes

Hiding from justice

Mesta on Eldre'thelas has an interesting tale of woe over on the forums: he had someone within his guild ninja a few items from the guild bank, and then they discovered the next day that the guy had "disappeared" completely-- he not only didn't appear on their server, but he didn't show up in the Armory, either. Metsa thinks name change, and that appears to be the likeliest scenario-- not a lot of reason to ninja valuable items if you're just quitting the game with them. So it looks like yes, name changes will simply let ninjas run free.

Blizzard's official response in the thread is pretty apathetic-- Bornakk basically says that you've got to be careful about who you let into the guild bank ("l2bank," essentially). Over on Massively, we recently posted about something called "MMOrality"-- the idea that players uphold a social code in game. But that's all based on each player having their own identity, and the premise that if someone does something wrong, you can hold them responsible for it. But these paid name changes, it seems, takes away that little bit of justice-- if we can't hold players responsible for their actions at all, we can't enforce MMOrality in any way.

Blizzard still can-- obviously, they know who's who even if names get changed. But just the same, I'm not sure if players should necessarily have access to name changes-- the majority of people who change their names have legitimate reasons for doing so, I'd guess, and it's a shame to let the few ninjas ruin everything. Is there a way we can allow players to pay to change their identity while still making sure those who break the "MMOral" laws are held responsible for what they do?

Filed under: Items, Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Guilds, Odds and ends, Blizzard

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