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PURETICS...

PURETICS...


Interesting Findings And World Unfolding Through My Eyes.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Game-Play

Mogwai is cutting down the time he spends playing World of Warcraft. Twenty hours a week or less now, compared to a peak of over 70. It's not that he has lost interest—just that he's no longer working his way up the greasy pole. He's got to the top. He heads his own guild, has 20,000 gold pieces in the bank and wields the Twin Blades of Azzinoth; weapons so powerful and difficult to acquire that other players often (virtually) follow Mogwai around just to look at them. In his own words, he's "e-famous." He was recently offered $8,000 for his Warcraft account, a sum he only briefly considered accepting. Given that he has clocked up over 4,500 hours of play, the prospective buyers were hardly making it worth his while. Plus, more sentimentally, he feels his character is not his alone to sell: "The strange thing about this character is that he doesn't just belong to me. Every item he has he got through the hard work of 20 or more other people. Selling him would be a slap in their faces." As in many modern online games, co-operation is the only way to progress, with the most challenging encounters manageable only with the collaboration of other experienced players. Hence the need for leaders, guilds—in-game collectives, sometimes containing hundreds of players—and online friendships measured in years. "When I started, I didn't care about the other people. Now they are the only reason I continue."

When Mogwai isn't online, he's called Adam Brouwer, and works as a civil servant for the British government modelling crisis scenarios of hypothetical veterinary disease outbreaks. I point out to him a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, billed under the line "The best sign that someone's qualified to run an internet startup may not be an MBA degree, but level 70 guild leader status." Is there anything to this? "Absolutely," he says, "but if you tried to argue that within the traditional business market you would get laughed out of the interview." How, then, does he explain his willingness to invest so much in something that has little value for his career? He disputes this claim. "In Warcraft I've developed confidence; a lack of fear about entering difficult situations; I've enhanced my presentation skills and debating. Then there are more subtle things: judging people's intentions from conversations, learning to tell people what they want to hear. I am certainly more manipulative, more Machiavellian. I love being in charge of a group of people, leading them to succeed in a task."

It's an eloquent self-justification—even if some, including Adam's partner of the last ten years, might say he protests too much. You find this kind of frank introspection again and again on the thousands of independent websites maintained by World of Warcraft's more than 10m players. Yet this way of thinking about video games can be found almost nowhere within the mainstream media, which still tend to treat games as an odd mix of the slightly menacing and the alien: more like exotic organisms dredged from the deep sea than complex human creations.

This lack has become increasingly jarring, as video games and the culture that surrounds them have become very big news indeed. In March, the British government released the Byron report—one of the first large-scale investigations into the effects of electronic media on children. Its conclusions set out a clear, rational basis for exploring the regulation of video games. Since then, however, the debate has descended into the same old squabbling between partisan factions. In one corner are the preachers of mental and moral decline; in the other the high priests of innovation and life 2.0. In between are the ever-increasing legions of gamers, busily buying and playing while nonsense is talked over their heads.

The video games industry, meanwhile, continues to grow at a dizzying pace. Print has been around for a good 500 years; cinema and recorded music for around 100; radio broadcasts for 75; television for 50. Video games have barely three serious decades on the clock, yet already they are in the overtaking lane. In Britain, according to the Entertainment & Leisure Software Publishers Association, 2007 was a record-breaking year, with sales of "interactive entertainment software" totalling £1.7bn—26 per cent more than in 2006. In contrast, British box office takings for the entire film industry were just £904m in 2007—an increase of 8 per cent on 2006—while DVD and video sales stood at £2.2bn (just 0.5 per cent up on 2006), and physical music sales fell from £1.8bn to £1.4bn. At this rate, games software, currntly our second most valuable retail entertainment market, will become Britain's most valuable by 2011. Even books—the British consumer book market was worth £2.4bn in 2006—may not stay ahead for ever.

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Posted by Ajay :: 5:34 PM :: 0 comments

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