Online Game communities are social in nature
By Cindy Ahuna
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Who are the friendly
characters that will play with you if you play with them?
In 1969, "SpaceWar", developed by Rick Blomme, was the first two-player game designed
to play on PLATO. In 1961, the "Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations"
was the first network to run on the Illiac computer system. PLATO was created
by Professor Chalmers Sherwin, under the direction of electrical engineering professor
Don Bitzer, co-inventor of the plasma display pane at the University of Illinois.
During 1970 through 1977, multiplayer games included "SpaceWar"; a version of
"Star Trek"; "Avatar", a Dungeons and Dragons-style game; "Airflight", a flight
simulator; and "Empire", which supported 32 players on PLATO. In 1972, PLATO hosted
1,000 simultaneous users. In May 2001, Sony's "EverQuest", a massive multiplayer
online role-playing game, hosted 60,000 to 80,000 players daily.
In 1973, David R. Woolley designed "Notes", a communications software for PLATO.
Due to the release of this software, "Talkomatic", precursor to IRC with handles
and chat rooms, was developed for PLATO. A maximum of five people wrote and read
each other's messages on the same screen. Chat rooms were open and uncensored.
A player logged on using their real or an anonymous name, and played either gender
In various online chat rooms found on AOL's games and in Sony's "EverQuest", text
is censored when gamers use brand or offensive words. Role-playing genders, sometimes
referred to as gender swapping or multiple representations, is possible when gamers
change or hide the genders of their characters using anonymous names.
In "EverQuest", with more than 360,000 subscribers, thousands of gamers play characters
of the opposite gender. Gamers are free to explore relationships while in character.
Male gamers find that female characters generally get treated better in male-dominated
virtual worlds. Sometimes men find it easier to chat with other characters and
escape the competition. In online games, multiple representations allow players
to see how other players solve problems. "There are a lot of rumors and anecdotes
about people referring to play games as men or women because they are treated
differently," says avid gamer J. MacLean.
In a lecture titled "Programs, Emotions and Common Sense", Marvin Minsky emphasized
in his book the idea of multiple representation. "If you understand something
very precisely in one way", Minsky claims "you don't understand it at all." "You
know it by rote. What does the word understand mean? Understanding
means having many different ways to deal with things," said Minsky. Children memorize
history by rote, but they usually don't understand it. Sometimes gamers falsely
assume they are interacting with a person who matches the gender's name. Perhaps
on one level, Minsky's definition can be applied as a working analogy for multiplayers
who role-play playing games. If multiplayers had more ways of identifying the
characters, they might be able to understand who the friendly characters were
when they played with them, but then again, that might take all of the fun out
of the game.
Artist/curator Anne-Marie Schleiner, describes social developments in gaming:
"Multiplayer games can be very social. In the shooter genre, players sometimes
band together into "clans", groups who fight against other groups. Sometimes the
social bonds developed in these clans extend beyond the game into friendship and
players offer each other moral support through personal hardship and help each
other find jobs," said Schleiner.
Social environments evolve from online game communities. "A great example is "Air
Warrior", a WW2 flight simulation with players are so dedicated, they've held
conventions. Massive multiplayer role-playing games are also famous for the strength
of their communities "the guilds in "EverQuest" are a great example of this phenomenon,"
says MacLean. In contrast to single player games, communities are vital depending
on the game. For example, "for a game like chess, where skill levels can be critical,
many people prefer to play with someone of relatively similar skill," says MacLean.
In a global point of view, the Internet is the living organism that hosts many
online systems. Boundaries of geography, economy, culture, degrees of education
and family traditions have disappeared. Gamers are co-authors that take part in
the experience. Communities are playing fields for social interaction. When gamers
send messages to other gamers, they are free to exchange email addresses and meet
beyond the game community. Communities have become an extension, a new medium
of human touch.
When communities form, a semantic world of sharing knowledge, solving problems,
working as a team, playing, building, quarreling, cooperating, planning and forming
relationships develop. Games are formal because they have a set of rules. A game
is a system because it has a collection of parts that interact with each other
in complex ways. In "EverQuest", the Game Masters hold the most power. Online
games run on a '24x7' calendar. Generally, online the role-playing games are maintained
by paid subscriptions, whereas, online fighting games are free. Communities exist in time
by free and paid subscriptions. Gamers occupy real estate within the online game.
Communities live in both space and time. Thus, it is a lifelike system.
Popular game boxes vary from Sony PlayStation, PlayStation 2; Nintendo's GameCube
projected to ship Nov 5, '01 in the US; and Microsoft's Xbox projected to ship
Nov 8, '01 in the US. "Although game boxes offer higher resolution graphics in
comparison to PC gaming, they are a closed hardware platform and less amenable
to multiplayer social games. Multiplayer gamers cannot insert their own character
skins into shooter games in a game box or with a multiplayer game, such as "EverQuest".
"EverQuest" can easily receive updates on the game over time that get rewritten
over the original game software," says Schleiner. Many gamers develop friendships
with other gamers in different countries using the chat session in "EverQuest".
In some ways, there are as many different types of gamers as there are games.
General definitions include:
* Generally, casual gamers are people who enjoy simple decision making games and
typically play less technical 3D graphic games.
* Generally, traditional gamers are people who enjoy a more complex game.
* Multiplayers (simultaneous players) are defined as those who play with other
gamers in the same game.
What makes an online game exciting, interesting, social or more fun than another
game? Motivation evolves from sensory gratification, role-playing, personality,
taste, adrenaline, sociology, immersive and engaging environments, and the element
of fun. Games in general motivate ideas. Topics include life, survival, strategy,
role-playing, and building relationships. In all circumstances, the player learns
by playing. "Building colossal virtual worlds are very important. In a virtual
world, everything has a purpose. I love games, " said Minsky during his lecture, "Programs, Emotions and Common Sense".
In Star Trek CCG, gamers can buy and sell, trade and collect digital cards, watch
or judge games, and attend tournaments. One disadvantage, prior to downloading
the plug-in, a high risk is indicated. The risk is associated with the possibility
of gamers accessing your computer if you proceed with download. This warning appears
additional privileges." This plug-in is required to run the application.
Because game communities are social in nature, knowledge and understanding are
more apparent in virtual worlds. "Wouldn't it be nice to connect two thoughts,"
Who first revolutionized interactive web authoring in the twentieth century?
In June 1995, Macromedia first announced the development of "Shockwave", a plug-in
based playback engine for Director content. This project was produced in partnership
with Netscape. In November 1995, developers were given access to the first beta
version of the Windows Shockwave plug-in. In December 1995, the public was given
access to the beta version of the Windows Shockwave plug-in. In January 1996,
developers were given access to the first beta version of the Macintosh Shockwave
plug-in. In March 1996, the first version of the Shockwave plug-in for both Macintosh
and Windows was released to the public as a final product. This Shockwave release
was soon followed by the release of Director 5.0 in June of 1996. Director 5.0
published content for web-playback using the Shockwave plug-in. This version utilized
the use of a compression utility called "AfterShock", a utility that is no longer
used in the current version.
During the summer of 1995 through 1996, other interactive authoring tools were
available, such as Hypercard and Mtropolis, but none of them offered a web based
player option during the time Macromedia released the first version of Shockwave.
There were other browser-based competitors, namely Java which was announced by
Sun in June of 1995 and VRML. The three competitors involved Shockwave, Java and
VRML. In addition, RealNetworks produced their first browser plug-in at the same
time. This was the dawning of the plug-in era.
The result of this research is courtesy of Thomas Higgins, Macromedia.
1. MacLean, J. Email interview. 7 May 2001.
2. Schleiner, Anne Marie. Email interview. 9 May 2001.
3. Higgins, Thomas. Macromedia. Email interview. 17 May 2001.
Lecture Works Cited
1. Minsky, Marvin. "Programs, Emotions and Common Sense". Lecture. San Jose Civic
Auditorium. San Jose. 24 Mar.2001.
1. Crawford, Chris. The Art of Computer Game Design.
2. Leopoldseder, Hannes, Christine Schopf, Ferfried Stocker. Ars Electronica 79-99.
Austria: bei den Autoren 1999.
Marvin Minsky is Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and Professor of
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. His research has led practical advances in artificial intelligence,
cognitive psychology, neural networks, and the theory of Turning Machines and
Ann-Marie Schleiner is engaged in gaming and network culture in a variety of roles
as a writer, critic, curator, and gaming artist/designer. Her work investigates
the domains of avatar gender construction, computer gaming culture, and hacker
J. MacLean is an avid gamer.