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Posts with tag virtual-selves

Breakfast Topic: When other players become other people

This Breakfast Topic has been brought to you by Seed, the AOL guest writer program that brings your words to WoW Insider's pages.

Since World of Warcraft is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, we know from the beginning that behind every character name on the screen is another player. However, since all we see of other players is that character, it's often hard to remember that there are real people on the other side. But sometimes, that reality sinks in fast.

In my first guild as a brand-new player, I looked up to my guild master as if he were a decorated general and I was a recruit shaking in her boots. In raids, I was amazed at the respect he earned from other players. When I browsed the forums, I found threads in which the opposite faction called him out, requesting duels so they could try their skills against his. He was larger than life.

Then late one night in guild chat, it was mentioned that one of our warlocks was named Matt in real life. The guild master happened to be online, and he chipped in, "Oh cool. My name is Matt too." He linked his Myspace and offered to add us.

It was as if Toto had pulled aside the Wizard's curtain in Oz. Suddenly, my guild master wasn't just an epic-geared raid leader with a huge reputation and enough skill to back it up ... He was a dude named Matt, slightly balding, with two kids. This scenario repeated itself over and over, as the orcs, trolls, undead, and tauren turned out to be college students, office workers, military personnel, and stay-at-home parents. They were real.

Have you ever had a moment when another player "became real" to you? What was it like?

Filed under: Breakfast Topics, Guest Posts

How reputation governs the game

Ravius over at Kill Ten Rats ruminates on the importance of reputation in these very social games that we're playing with each other, and it resonated with me in terms of a few different things going on in World of Warcraft right now. We've talked lots before about ninjas and how that back-and-forth works -- in that case, karma is directly driven by what other people think of you, and of course that's seen more weakly in lots of other places around the game, including guild recruitment, your friends list, and just the general server at large.

Ravius talks mostly about the negative reputations we earn, and certainly that's a powerful motivator for a lot of people. But positive reputation is also a strong force in this game -- I'm interested to see how we deal with earning and keeping positive reputation in the new Dungeon Finder and eventually the system. Gone may be the days when you build up a good reputation by saying "remember me if you need a good DPS" at the end of a run. It'll be interesting to see what methods we replace that one with.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Guilds, Instances, Raiding

Cory Stockton breaks down the process of making an instance

Blizzard has done a lot of press regarding the fifth anniversary of the game (and there's probably more to come), but Curse has done one of the more interesting pieces so far. Instead of just chatting with Cory Stockton about his experiences, they had him sit down and explain just how Blizzard puts an instance together. They specifically talked about Ulduar, but the process Stockton reveals works for all of the instances Blizzard has created for the game.

A few interesting things -- they "block out" the instances first, create lower-res versions of them to play around in and create the mechanics for the fights. They also do some boss testing outside of the environments -- Razorscale, specifically, says Stockton, was actually tested down in the Stranglethorn Arena. Finally, once the encounter team works out the basics of the encounters, the art and item teams move in, and create art and loot, sometimes with the two of them collaborating (the art team will make a cool item for a boss, and then the item team, with the help of Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street, will give the item stats and balance). Interesting just how collaborative the whole process is -- even the Ironbound Proto-drake mount came from the team seeing Razorscale and wanting to put him in mount form. It's nice and all hearing Blizzard remember the Fry's launch, but it's nicer getting an inside look at their process.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, How-tos, Virtual selves, Blizzard, Instances, Raiding

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.

Read more →

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

Studying WoWcology, where psychology and WoW meet

I've been meaning to write about this WoWcology blog for a few days now, but there's just so much there -- reader Skeuk is guilded up with a PhD in Psychology, who's writing not only about the guild's day to day battles, but also about how the deeper tenets of psychology can be seen in our Azerothian gameplay. This post about group dynamics is extremely interesting -- if you've ever suffered through some bad PuGs in your time, you can see the different stages of group development, and you can probably even figure out where your PuG fizzled out in the "storming" stage or made it all the way through to the "performing" part of the cycle. Fascinating stuff, for sure.

Unfortunately, posts aren't coming too often, and it seems like Dr. Amalea -- who for some reason refers to himself in the third person at times -- understandably has other things to do besides keeping a blog about World of Warcraft and psychology. But maybe if we send them a little traffic, we can convince him to keep it up regularly, as what's there now makes for some really interesting reading. It's really interesting that a lot of the stuff we're dealing with the game now -- forming PuGs, guild drama, even loot distribution, has all been studied by psychologists for years and years before World of Warcraft ever existed.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Fan stuff, Odds and ends, Instances, Raiding

Do WoW players make bad employees?

William Dobson over at our sister site picked up this story earlier today. A poster on the f13 forums revealed that a corporate recruiter claimed they'd been given specific instructions to not consider World of Warcraft players for jobs. And we're not talking here about people actively playing WoW at work -- just whether the person plays the MMO at all. The theory behind using WoW play as a disqualifier is that WoW players are somehow unable to focus 100% on their day job.

There's part of me here that wants to say "screenshots or it didn't happen," since I can't imagine many corporations spending time and effort weeding out WoW players. I could see one or two HR folks preaching "Addiction!" and otherwise chewing on bitter apples. But several companies independently telling that to their recruiting folks, of their own volition and without prompt? I'm not so sure. If this recruiter is being honest with the forum goer, then I'd guess the recruiter her/himself is responsible for the WoW player ban.

Of course, that being said, I'll acknowledge this comes after the FCC commissioner claimed WoW can cause college drop outs. Maybe this recruiter happened to be talking to someone who had just heard her speech. But, still, I'm not convinced there's need to be worried about corporate conspiracies looking to pit WoW players into joblessness.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, News items

Breakfast Topic: Who are you without your main?

Let's say the grid goes down tomorrow. Or maybe The Pattern catches up to Blizzard and it happens to fry that small part of a server that houses your character because it really is you they're after. (Admittedly, there are more realistic ways that you can lose your WoW character, but that kind of takes the fun out of this topic.) From a philosophical point of view, how would you feel? Any kind of loss -- even an electronic one -- may inspire grief and all its stages. But no doubt you spent a lot of time, effort, and money leveling that character so in a way it's part of yourself. You've probably thought about what it would feel like to lose your main.

But what would you be like without your main? Would you lose a bit of confidence? Would your coworkers sense you withdraw just a bit? Or would you feel free, finally able to, I don't know, learn how to surf? Would you be any different at all? Would it be something you could (or would even want to) talk to your non-WoW friends or family about? I wonder if roleplayers would have a more difficult time -- or would it be easier because they are like actors? For me, since my main is much more powerful than I am and also provides me with a lot of laughs at his expense, I would feel just a little bit smaller and weaker. It would also be freeing. I don't think I'd level another main, but I might just try something new. Would the loss of your main have any impact on who you are on a daily basis?

Filed under: Virtual selves, Breakfast Topics

WoW inspires military training environments

It's probably fair to take bets on how many Beltway Insiders are aware of MMORPGs, or even WoW specifically. (At least one or two can be found in Azeroth, at least.) It's certainly clear, however, that Dr. Roger Smith, a senior game designer for the Army, has some passing familiarity on the idea.

According to Dr. Smith, an MMORPG environment would be a great always-on option to provide training to the troops. Specifically, he says "something like World of Warcraft, but focused on the military training customer." You can even check out his public PDF on work he's already done on this kind of training environment.

The always-on world would provide training scenarios even outside the usual tactical simulation. Your avatars could interact with cultural representations, learning the fine points of behavior while interacting in foreign environments. Want to get your team a dose of decision-making expertise? Set up the environment to run reactions based on criteria you devise. And we definitely know WoW can teach you about a fictional history, maybe Dr. Smith's could help the soldier with some real-world equivalents.

We've all heard about the government exploring virtual worlds before, but we don't often hear that exploration directly connected to WoW. But if 10 million people -- including soldiers -- love us some WoW, maybe there's something in the formula Dr. Smith can use.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, News items

Forum Post of the Day: How did your undead die?

Yeah yeah, lolRP, but even though I'd never seriously do an emote with my character (though I do enjoy /coughing at inappropriate times), I do kind of enjoy thinking of what my characters did before I started playing them in the game. As I've said before, my Orc Shaman was actually a prisoner in Durnholde Keep along with Thrall (and though I've tried to find him among the Orcs down there, I don't look too hard -- wouldn't want to cause a paradox).

But for my Undead Rogue, I've never thought about this questions: What did he die of? Whether it was choking on a gnome, one too many enchantments (never knew those could kill you), or the old standby of, y'know, cancer, every Undead character out there used to have a life (and now they just play WoW, ha!). So how'd your Undead lose theirs?

I'd like to think mine was something poetic, like his family was murdered by roving noblemen, and he arose from the afterlife and became a backstabbing rogue to avenge his lost ones. But it's probably more pathetic: like most of the Forsaken, he probably just got trampled underneath the onset of the Scourge. Of course, that'll make an appointment with Arthas more interesting...

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Humor, Lore, RP, Forums

All the World's a Stage: If looks could kill

All the World's a Stage is a column for inquisitive minds, playing with roles every Sunday evening.

The media usually portrays WoW as a "boy's game." That's not to say girls don't play too, of course -- just that the game is basically about qualities such as aggressiveness and violence, and our culture expects males to be interested in that sort of thing.

Whether such a designation is true or not, the "masculine equals violent" stereotype is very pervasive, and it is natural for many male players to begin the game with a powerful and intimidating character in mind. The player may imagine that his avatar is warm and kind-hearted inside, but outwardly, his character looks as though he could rip out your throat with a flick of his pinky finger.

But there are many men out there who don't like such exaggerated manliness in their characters, just as there are many women who don't want their character to look like a dainty barbie doll. Being a person isn't just about just one gender attribute, after all. Indeed, female characters in WoW can achieve a full range of human attributes in their appearance; they can look friendly and intelligent, yet lightning quick and deadly at the same time. However, the appearance of male characters is often so filled to the brim with "strength and honor" that there's not much room left for any other human quality.

Read more →

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

Crit happens

ces_1 over on WoW Ladies posted bragging about her 9.7k Healing Touch crit, and it reminded me that I do exactly the same thing. For some reason, seeing those big numbers pop up in the middle of battle is an indescribable thrill. Crits are strange entities-- they aren't even always helpful (there are many situations, mostly when aggro is tight, in which big crits are actually bad to get). But big numbers inspire something primal in us. And even if we aren't world-record critting (even in the LJ comments, people are showing off bigger Healing Touch crits), there's something super inspiring about seeing a huge number and then realizing it's your personal best. A 3k Lighting Bolt crit isn't that much, but darned if it wasn't a terrific feeling when I finally hit it on my Shaman.

Loot is fun, but at the highest levels, it's a group thing-- you need to go into somewhere as a group or a raid, and then even if you do down the boss, you have to make sure you win a random roll or however else loot is distributed. But crits are far more personal-- even though they come from that loot, they're a result of all the gear choices you've made and the talents you've chosen for your character. Sure, a big dragon to fly around on is fun, but crits, out of the many rewards we've all earned in Azeroth, are maybe the most personal achievements you can find-- a real, numerical symbol that you've learned how to combine gear, class, and talents to do big things.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, Humor, Talents, Buffs

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