Category Archives: everquest

line between the real and game space… a peek into the future?

As Lisa noted in her comment to an previous post on class and gaming, the Economist reviewed the new book by Edward Castronova entitled, Synthetic Worlds : The Business and Culture of Online Games.sythetic worlds
Castronova, also wrote an essay that was included in the Game Design Reader that was behind the “Making Games Matter” panel we attended. This essay marks the first analysis of the economics of people and their interactions in a virtual reality. Interesting to note, it has yet to be formally published in an academic economics journal.
In these studies, Castronova calculates the economics of the virtual by looking at what people are willing to pay in real currency for online gaming characters and their associated costs. As previously posted, people are making their livings in these virtual spaces by creating and selling their avatars. We are entering an era where the boundaries between the real and virtual are blurring.
Although some affluent gamers are buying their way into the higher echelons of game spaces such as EverQuest, there is still the opportunity for anyone with enough time and skill to create advanced characters. Where as in the real world, there are only a limited number of players in the NBA and CEO positions in the Fortune 500 companies. There is enough “room” in the game space to allow for many top tier characters, because the vast majority of the “normal” characters are bots run by the gaming engine.
Is the online game space the utopian society where everyone can be equal and rich and powerful? Is this a peek at the future of the real world when robots take over all the jobs that people don’t want to perform?

class, cheating and gaming

The New York Times reports that a company in China is hiring people to play Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG), like World of Warcraft or EverQuest. Employees develop avatars (or characters) and earn resources. Then, the company sells these efforts to affluent online gamers who do not have the time or inclination to play the early stages of the games themselves.
Finding hacks or ways to get around the intended game play is nothing new. I will confess that I have used cheat codes and hacks in playing video games. One of the first ones I’ve ever used, was in Super Mario Brothers on the original Nintendo Entertainment System. The Multiple 1-Ups: World 3-1 was a big favorite.
The article also briefly mentions something that I’ve been fascinated by: selling the results of your game play on auctions site, such as ebay. These services have turned game play into commodities, and we can actually determine valuations and costs of game play.
It made me to think about the character Hiro Protagonist in Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash, a pizza delivery guy in the real world and lethal warrior in the “Metaverse.” He was an exception to the norm and socio-economic status usually carried over into the virtual reality because more realistic avatars were expensive. To actually see that happen in the game spaces of MMOGs by the purchasing of advanced players is quite amazing.
Why do I find that these gamers are cheating? In the era of non-linear information, I select and read only the parts of a text I deem to be relevant. I’ve skipped over parts of movies and watched another part again and again. Isn’t this the same thing? The troubling aspect of this phenomenon is that it is bringing class differentiation into game space. Although gaming itself is a leisure activity, the idea that you can spend your way into succeeding at a MMOG, removes my perceived innocence of that game space.