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Posts with tag virtual

Breakfast Topic: The Personal Aesthetic

Recently, a commenter on a post mentioned that I use a similar screenshot for a lot of my The Care and Feeding of Warriors posts. I looked over it, and he was right: since I race changed to draenei, in fact, quite a few of the screenshots have been silhouetted, facing downwards shots that I often take just because I am playing my character and suddenlt stop and say "wow, that's cool" - I'm not a terribly sophisticated visual thinker (for that, I go to my wife, who has a landscape artist's eyes and a remarkable grasp of light and nuance) but I know what I like.

One of the reasons I like playing draenei and tauren are connected to the classes I like to play: shamans, warriors and DK's are the only classes I've consistently gotten to max rank, and in all of those cases I tend to play large characters. When race change became available I agonized over it (silly as that is) even though I'd always said I'd go draenei because I'd grown so accustomed to the way my human character moved, and watching old avi files of Burning Crusade fights I'd tanked really brought it home to me. In changing my character's race, I've changed his silhouette, I've changed the way he swings a weapon, I've changed the way he looks in every aspect of the game. I don't do that spinning one handed smash when I tank anymore, it's much more of an arching, down-angled slash. My Shield Slam is different.

Granted, I'm okay with that. But it got me thinking about why I choose the races I do and the classes I do.

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Filed under: Breakfast Topics

Study: Playing in a guild actually lowers stress


A new study done by researchers at Australia's Queensland University of Technology says that spending time online playing World of Warcraft with others can actually be good for your mental wellbeing -- within moderation of course. Researcher Huon Longman studied WoW players who played alongside guildies in game, and found that players often shared their real-life concerns with their virtual associates, which resulted in lowered levels of "anxiety, depression, and stress." In short, it seems that when you build relationships and share emotions even with people online, it can help you deal with problems in real life as well. That follows what we talked about earlier this week with Dr. Hilarie Cash -- games like WoW can definitely complement real-life relationships and actually help you relax.

But only when used in moderation -- Longman also found that 10% of the sample he studied played considerably more World of Warcraft than normal, and that those players not only didn't experience a bigger benefit to their wellbeing, but actually experienced more "negative psychological symptoms." A good balance of virtual and real life can have a lot of benefits, but falling too much into virtual life can actually cause more problems psychologically, according to this researcher's work. Obviously, this is one study of many about how playing these games can affect how we think, but the results are definitely reflected in experience: in-game relationships, used in moderation, can definitely help you deal with the real world in a healthier way.

Thanks to everyone who sent this in!

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, WoW Social Conventions, Virtual selves, Guilds, Blizzard, Raiding

The BBC examines love in Azeroth

There's an interesting piece up over at the BBC's State of Play blog about how online games are becoming more and more social places, not just for friendly relationships, but for romantic ones as well. While meeting online used to be an embarassing thing for couples, nowadays it's much, much more common, and what better place to meet online than in a social MMORPG like World of Warcraft?

Unfortunately, the idea doesn't quite fly with me. In an online situation like, say Facebook, you're more or less playing yourself-- odds are you've posted your own picture, your own opinions, and your own favorite music. But in World of Warcraft, you're playing a character. And even if that character isn't completely different from your real-life persona (most people actually are themselves in the game, unlike hardcore roleplayers), it's still different enough, in my opinion, to be a significant barrier to actually judging someone as a relationship partner.

But that's just me-- lots of people have found significant others in online games, and even more have met lots of people in MMOs, and then actually become better friends or partners after meeting them in real life. But while an online space like Myspace or Facebook might be very conducive to getting a real sense of new people, an online game set in a fictional universe like WoW is still too separate from the real world to allow for a real love connection on its own.

Filed under: Virtual selves, News items, RP

Real reactions to virtual environments

The always-interesting Terra Nova has a piece up about Nick Yee's the Proteus Effect, which is based around how we relate to (and interact with) stimuli in virtual worlds, specifically our and others' avatars.

Basically, almost all of the research so far shows that we react to virtual stimuli exactly the same way as if it were real stimuli-- we don't want our characters standing too close to other characters, because it's a social convention in the real world that we all have our own individual space. But we still react positively to attractive avatars, whether we know it or not. No matter how much we're supposed to be roleplaying, or how much we realize consciously that the virtual world is different from the real world, we still react in a real way to virtual stimuli. It's heady stuff, but here's Terra Nova's soundbite, by Dmitri Williams: "You can take the person out of the real, but not the real out of the person."

And Williams closes with an extremely interesting proposition, considering how the interaction works: what if, by making many parts of Outland dark and gloomy, Blizzard has caused us to react realistically and feel depressed? TN's informal survey says that players' favorite zone is Nagrand-- is that because it's sunny and green there? And if so, what does that say about our reaction to the expected upcoming expansion-- should Blizzard reconsider the dark, cold stretches of Northrend for a more tropical locale?

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Blizzard

Getting married in a virtual realm

WorldofWar points us to this forum thread by Fabraz, in which he shows off a video of his WoW wedding. The video is all in German, but you can tell what's happening as two Night Elf druids stand together in Darnassus as onlookers kneel. They finish their vows, and then a party goes down, and gifts are even given.

It's not the first time this sort of thing has been done, of course (that's another German vid, though-- are Germans more likely to do a virtual wedding?), but it is a strange little collision of our social gestures in the real world with the virtual one. Does it mean any less or more (in terms of social meaning-- of course it doesn't mean anything legally) when two people commit to each other in virtual space rather than physical space? We've seen funerals held for players before, and of course there's the famous Serenity Now incident, with my favorite music cues of any WoW video ever. It's interesting that it's these two rituals, perhaps our most important and symbolic, that have made it into Azeroth. I've never seen a virtual graduation, perhaps congratulating the recent class of 70s, but maybe that's the next big ritual to make the jump.

As a player, it's not really my thing (I find social interactions like weddings and funerals much more meaningful in the real world, and would rather leave the virtual world for things like fighting dragons and melting faces), but there is obviously a draw for this kind of thing-- in almost every MMORPG, it pops up at one point or another. Do meaningful social rituals like this belong in the World of Warcraft, or are they just a waste of time?

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

World Wide WoW: The New York Times, gold farming, and righteous anger

The New York Times has an interesting article about gold farming, which does a lot to help us understand what gold farming is really like. The author is very insightful, both in his grasp of how WoW works (though he seems confused on details, like "night-elf wizards"), and he is able to communicate well with the Chinese who work as gold farmers. The article goes into greater depth than I've seen so far in any report on the issue, and even includes a video, apparently part of the gold-farming documentary we reported on a while back, to give you a first hand look at what the farmers' lives are like.

There are many interesting things in the article, but I'd like to highlight one particular insight here, regarding our relationship to these seemingly strange people in a far away country. "On the surface," the Times reporter observes, "there is little to distinguish gold farming from toy production or textile manufacture or any of the other industries that have mushroomed across China to feed the desires of the Western consumer. The wages, the margins, the worker housing, the long shifts and endless workweeks - all of these are standard practice." Many of the Chinese who moved to the cities from the poor villages scattered all about are facing the same problem. The system provides little to no opportunity to arise out of poverty fueling the demand for cheap products to be sold in the West. Understood in this context, gold farming looks just one of many industries arising out of the relationship China has with the US, providing everything they can as cheaply as possible -- a relationship neither country is quick to change. (Some of my own friends from the countryside work under similarly grueling conditions running their own small restaurant near where I live in China. They seem happy enough but it may be that they just put a good face on things for me every time I see them. Their lives are not easy.)

This is different from the usual textile sweatshop job, however: these people work in the same virtual space that we play in, and we the players are not happy about it: "In the eyes of many gamers, in fact, real-money trading is essentially a scam - a form of cheating only slightly more refined than, say, offering 20 actual dollars for another player's Boardwalk and Park Place in Monopoly." So true.

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, World Wide WoW

Virtual Networking in WoW

ZDNet has a video report today on a group of CEO's and venture capitalists who have taken their business into the virtual realm, holding meetings & networking in World of Warcraft. The piece doesn't cover much that we haven't heard on the subject before, but it's a good example of the growth of virtual worlds & the directions they might take in the future. Alas, ZDNet doesn't have one of those nifty embedable video players, so click here to see the show...

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

WoW: Keeping Families Together

Well, some of you spouses out there might be disgruntled, as Jennie points out, but this article in today's Washington Post has a different take; it takes a look at families, seperated by distance, who spend time together by playing WoW.

I think it's wonderful thing that geography no longer has any boundaries on whether we can interact with distant relatives or not, but I'm still trying to picture my Aunt Myrtle playing WoW...she's afraid to even use the TV remote; she thinks she might miss & blow up the vase behind it or something.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Odds and ends, News items

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