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Posts with tag imagination

Scientists study how the brain thinks about virtual avatars

This is fascinating stuff to think about over the weekend -- New Scientist has an article (sent to us by quite a few readers -- thanks!) about how we perceive our virtual selves in video games like World of Warcraft. A group of scientists at Dartmouth University hooked a few WoW players up to an MRI recently, and they found that when asked to describe themselves and their virtual avatars, the same areas of the brain activated -- areas normally suited to "self-reflection and judgement." In other words, you think about your avatar the same way you think about yourself. They found nearly no difference in the way the brain activated when subjects considered themselves and their avatars.

But when you make the split between virtual and real worlds (including your friends in both), the brain's center for imagination tends to light up whenever you consider the virtual world. You've got the normal parts of your brain working when thinking about yourself or others, but when you add in the virtual component, the imagination center lights up as well.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Virtual selves, Odds and ends

Why we solo

Lauren of the Mystic Worlds Blog has a new post up called "Why we Solo in MMOs," offering her perspective on why, over many years and many MMOs, she has always tended to ignore the grouping game and instead go it alone. While I'm not against grouping at all -- I was very active in the 40 man raid game, and tend to run Heroics around once a week and Karazhans around 1.5 times a week across my 3 70s -- I've always felt that the solo game has a valid spot in MMORPGs, and I've often indulged in it myself. In fact, I'd bet that most WoW players do so on a regular basis these days, whether leveling up or doing their dailies.

She rattles off the usual list of reasons for going solo -- having a weird schedule, needing to take frequent "real life" breaks, not having enough time to go LFG for a dungeon, unwillingness to deal with the infamous horrible PuG group -- then takes it a step further. She believes that many people use these types of statements as excuses or defense against people who can't understand why they wish to solo in a multiplayer game, or actively flame them for it, and that the real reasons are a lot less complicated.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, PvP, Quests, Leveling, RP, Making money, Alts

WoW is a Work of Art, part 1: A journey into Azeroth

The day I walked into the store to buy World of Warcraft, I had been taking care of my mother as she underwent chemotherapy for brain cancer, and I desperately needed something to do that wasn't cooking, cleaning, sorting pills, or running errands. I needed something that would connect me with people while at the same time letting me stay at home and care for someone I loved.

When I picked up a box with a pretty, yet severe night elf woman's face on the cover, I wasn't thinking, "I want to get to level 60 and start raiding Molten Core for epic gear!" or even "I'm going to be a PvP god!" Instead, I was hoping to create characters with a personal background, with feelings and ideas all their own, and act them out in an imaginary world where no one knew who I really was, a world in which our purpose was to share creatively and interact as a team, not to make money or exchange gossip.

In short, I wanted to roleplay. But what I got was something much more than even a roleplaying experience, more than me and my characters, more than an endless stream of quests and rewards, experience and reputation, monsters and loot. I found myself in a world filled with its own people -- real people -- and a series of problems for these people to overcome together in order to progress and travel even deeper into this world. At every stage, I found something new opening up to me, whether it was access to more abilities of my own, more ways to interact with others, more vast landscapes to please my eye, or more stories to capture my imagination.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, RP, All the World's a Stage (Roleplaying)

What makes WoW succeed where others have failed?

WoW is one of those games that captures your imagination and draws you in again and again. Even many of the people who quit WoW don't stop reading or thinking about it. It lasts in the imagination long after you've let it go.

Gaston at Not Addicted has noticed this too. In order to find out why, he compares WoW with some of its predecessors in the MMO genre. Reading through his descriptions of these other games, I wondered what in the world were their designers thinking putting in features that just kept people out instead of drawing them in. Long waiting times between battles? Impossibly long leveling grinds? A mapless terrain with no means of quick travel? It shouldn't take a brilliant game designer to figure out that these would not be popular features.

Blizzard has certainly improved on things a bit. But what really makes for the difference? Gaston says that the reason we keep coming back to WoW is because of "instant gratification." "Most people," he says, "can get a WoW fix in just a couple of hours and usually have some small reward to show for their minimal efforts. Factor in an extremely lax death penalty and you have a slap-happy lollercoaster ride that dishes out free levels like bank lollipops."

Perhaps he's just saying this in comparison to the other games, but I think there's something more in WoW. There's a real sense of story and progress, with dynamic changes and climactic achievements that draw you in and never let you go. For me, WoW is something like a favorite story (like Lord of the Rings) a favorite challenge (like chess) and a favorite coffee house (a space to sit down and spend time with friends) all in one. I certainly don't think of it as a "fix" I can get in just a couple hours.

But who knows? Maybe WoW is just the first game of its sort to come along without glaring design flaws built right in from the beginning?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends

Optimistic speculation about expansion number two

The lack of information about the next expansion continues, and so does the fabrication by fans hungry for info about new content. This time Tobold lays out what he'd like to see in the next expansion, which he is calling, as a parody of the Burning Crusade, the Freezing Jihad.

He's got some of the usual suspects in there, including the long awaited hero classes. But his biggest suggestion is probably that the expansion focuses on adding oomph (technical term) to the midlevels of the game. In his imagination, there is no new level cap, but rather a complete reworking of everything between 1 and 70, including an all new neutral faction with four new races, and a new continent of quests for players from beginning to end. I doubt we'll get anything near that comprehensive, but it's true that players want more midlevel content. While this is probably beyond their wildest dreams, hopefully Blizzard will at least hear their pleas.

In other places, Tobold is just plain wrong-- we're going to see guild housing before we ever see player housing, and Blizzard has consistently said they want their armor to look like what they say, not what players say. But he's dead right on the new professions-- woodworking and the ability of players to make arrows and bows would both fit perfectly with the lore, and fill a nice hole in crafting that's been there for a long time.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Blizzard, Instances, Expansions, Leveling, Factions

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