#LOTRO #MOOC Weeks 2 & 3

Moving on with this summer’s gaming Mooc at Coursera involved leveling the character I created in LOTRO. Due to lack of time I managed to take it up to level 17. That meant being able to buy a house of my own – yeah!! –  as well as spending the amount of Turbine points I gained through gameplay to purchase the riding skill. Still, no riding horse at the moment, I am afraid. I am also trying to figure out the auction house dealings; things in World of Warcraft were so much easier, in my opinion… Please note that for week 4, you need to be a level 20ish player to accomplish the peer assessment tasks, so it’s best to level up well in advance. Anyway, here’s a screenshot of my lovely house:

ScreenShot00006

 

During questing, especially when it came to instances joined by other NPCs, some glitches were present but nothing too problematic. The narrative in the game draws ample reference from the books and Tolkien lore, something which renders the gameplay enjoyable. Still the tedious “kill 20 boars” and “fetch 20 bat feathers” tend to spoil the fun. Moreover, I found storage options rather frustrating. Apart from your bags, you will soon see your bank slots and house vault filling up quickly.  Now, here’s a screenshot from a rather tricky quest:

ScreenShot00002

 

The summer festival was on during the second week, so we were given the chance to opt for a screenshot in those surroundings. The other option was to participate in our kinship’s fixed gatherings which took place twice so as to accommodate the needs of almost all kinship members. I chose option 1, because I couldn’t make it to the kinship games:

 

ScreenShot00010

 

Furthermore, we were tasked with writing a short essay on the topic of the social aspect of MMORPGs. During week 3, peer assessment ensued and that meant having to review 3 such essays along with their screenshots and proof of gameplay. Here is my take on the subject:

 

Write an essay (200 to 400 words) on your impression of the social dimension of MMOs.  If you’ve played other types of online games (shooters, RPGs, etc.), feel free to compare the nature of the social interactions you’ve had in these formats. Do social interactions enhance or diminish your experience of the narrative? Do you feel a bond with other players, and if so, how would you compare that relationship to others in real life?

 

 

The social aspect of MMMORPGs – a short testimonial

Being a gamer in pop culture is at times depicted as having “no-life”.  Unfortunately, a gamer is commonly regarded as rather being anti-social, kept in a confined room all day and having minimum contact with peers by many. Questionably, MMORPGs, such as World of Warcraft or LOTRO immerse the player in a virtual environment so much, that interactions seem “fake” or simulated to the outsider.

Speaking from personal experience, not only is this not the case, but recent scientific studies have also shown that online gaming is increasing, not limiting, the social lives of players (Taylor et al. 2014). The nature of social interactions in-game is mostly chatting or what one would call “small talk”. Interacting in a virtual massive world with complete strangers means wasting no time, however. Therefore, most of these discussions are usually practical or helpful ways of understanding gameplay, e.g. asking for advice regarding a particular quest. Nevertheless, once part of a kinship or a guild, the framework rapidly changes to sharing more personal insights on one’s life and daily routine. In essence, you make “friends” within the game and much to one’s surprise these friendships can be long-lasting and profound. It so happens that often social relationships of the kind extend to real life circumstances; people from game communities meet up in person, even when they hail from different countries.

Room with a view... The landscape around my house in LOTRO

Room with a view… The landscape around my house in LOTRO

The experience of the narrative in-game is often enhanced by virtual social gatherings like large-scale raids. Taking down a “boss”, takes a lot of energy, effort and explaining, thus  all members of a party must be up to speed, whom they are fighting and why. In addition, people extend their knowledge of lore and storytelling to people outside the game, describing their gaming experience much like they would do with a movie or a TV series. In retrospect, talking within the game becomes talking “about” it, as well, influencing relationships to others in real life, regardless whether they are themselves gamers or not.

References

Taylor, N., Jenson, J., de Castell, S. and Dilouya, B. (2014), Public Displays of Play: Studying Online Games in Physical Settings. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 19: 763–779. doi: 10.1111/jcc4.12054

Advertisements

#GodsWillBeWatching game analysis

This post is my response on #rgMOOC co -op {week two}

Gameplay:

Gods will be watching” is a survival game, available on the web for free. The storyline unfolds in the bleak future; the year is 2257 A.D. Essentially the player assumes the role of Sgt. Burden, who along with a group of field specialists comprise a research group (registered as part of the Everdusk Company for the Universe Knowledge).

They venture towards a unhospitable planet called Sineicos in search of evidence regarding the paralyzing Medusea virus; alas they are attacked and all their research work is stolen. On the verge of despair the group must find a way to repair their damaged radio in order to transmit an alerting message to the orbiting station which will enter the planet’s communication radius within 40 days.

The group consists of the following members, each tasked with a certain activity, though all actions are controlled by the player:

  • the psychiatrist.
  • the soldier
  • Marvin, the dog
  • a robot, named Br4n -Don
  • an engineer
  • a doctor
  • Sgt. Burden

Each click assigns only one activity – apart from the aforementioned tasks the player can choose to check food rations, ammo or medical supplies storage data. Respectively that also consumes “clicks”. There is a variable “click limit” for each “day”, so the player needs to choose his actions wisely. Typically, game difficulty climaxes each time the group loses a member, so again caution needs to be exercised.

Analysis:

Though hardly an eye candy, this relatively tricky survival game demands time and constructive strategic decisions in order to keep the group alive. Behind the curtain lies an elaborate manipulation of human priorities and basic instincts.  I personally tested my skills the first time, deeming keeping the fire burning and food supply rations high as imperative; the result, was having people going mad from not talking to them. Survival instincts kicked in or would have in most player cases, since the scenario is toying with primal needs – can one really keep them in check at the same time? Food and heat certainly made it to the top of the list but within a group – lest one is savage – communication and social interaction should go hand in hand with primitive desires. Not only a current but an ongoing social concern is to experiment on whether the human being is indeed Aristotle’s ” social animal” by nature or – pun intended – a mere animal, aiming for the survival of the fittest, as the law jungle (in this case the planet) has it.

Interestingly so, the game features another implicit social directive. At the end of the game the title changes format: “Gods have been watching”. Is it the author’s intention to reassure participants that there is a God in this universe? One is profoundly astounded by the measure fate intervenes with human lives delving deeper into the changed sentence context. St. Burden does everything humanely possible to inhibit everyone in his group from going mad; still, there is no finite recipe or, well, the algorithm is really hard to find, if there is any. Thus, the group members disappear one by one, as the player  embarks on different game strategy approaches each time. Universally the laws of nature and fate are far superior than any human intervention. Not even the robot can save the day…

Gods deem that the group is damned in the wilderness of Sineicos. Real life on the other hand seldom gives you “clicks”, so make sure you use your only token wisely.

Retrieved 12 August 2013 from http://www.ludumdare.com

The Modern and the Postmodern: Coursera 3rd writing assignment

Darwin wrote that: “Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.” Compare Darwin’s view of the persistent effects of the past with at least one other writer covered so far in the course (please try to write about someone you haven’t written about in the previous assignments). 

THE EVOLUTION OF MAN AND SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR

Primal instincts and the seek for pleasure in the works of Darwin and Baudelaire

 

ImageDarwin’s theory of evolution strongly indicates the presence of a common ancestor of all living creatures – man himself included – , who over time and within the process of “natural selection” came to be modified in order to adapt each to their own surroundings. Thus Darwin boldly claims “Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin”,  (Darwin 1871) suggesting that we are indeed nothing more than a successful mutation of a primal. As it was expected, his views raised controversy especially among the men of faith.

Darwin’s views about our genealogical past were not a result of painless efforts; Darwin was notably a meticulous scientist, who spent years of research in order to complete his work on the species that inhabit our planet and the origins of humans. He was more so diligent in writing about his endeavors not in a scholarly manner – as one might have expected from a man of letters – but in layman’s terms. By doing so he passed on precious scientific knowledge to people that were hardly accustomed to terminology of the sort, provoking mixed emotions to a huge populous even to this day.

In his work “the Descent of Man” the final Chapter digresses towards the moral differences between man and beasts, claiming that “…the first foundation or origin of the moral sense lies in the social instincts, including sympathy; and these instincts no doubt were primarily gained, as in the case of the lower animals, through natural selection.” (Darwin 1871) According to his reasoning, our relationship with God and the vast power of social habit were hugely responsible to maintain those primary instincts and develop them to a more decent humane conduct. He concurs “ultimately man does not accept the praise or blame of his fellows as his sole guide, though few escape this influence, but his habitual convictions, controlled by reason, afford him the safest rule. His conscience then becomes the supreme judge and monitor.” (Darwin 1871) As one observes, it is well within our nature to commune with each other, to sympathize even from the early stages of evolution. Darwin (1871) elaborates upon the matter:  “The motive to give aid is likewise much modified in man: it no longer consists solely of a blind instinctive impulse, but is much influenced by the praise or blame of his fellows. The appreciation and the bestowal of praise and blame both rest on sympathy; and this emotion, as we have seen, is one of the most important elements of the social instincts”. However our beliefs and higher principles such as faith in God were under no circumstances “innate or instinctive”. They were byproducts of social grouping.

Darwin provoked public opinion with his work in the mid-19th century yet his views about human basic instincts and our dormant past were actually supported in a completely different  field namely art. Baudelaire, the infamous French poet, shares the belief that intense emotions that even violate social standards and etiquette are indeed equal parts of human nature and goes on a step further; perhaps our bestial origins are actually better than the reformed social ones.

In the “Eyes of the Poor” (Baudelaire 1869), the Darwinian sympathy emerges as he observes that the glasses were too small to satisfy the upper middle class’ thirst for luxury; the eyes of the impoverished family outside the café haunt him. Yet, as social surroundings indicate, his companion doesn’t share the same thoughts. She is rather taken aback and irritated by their presence.

The themes unraveled in “Le Spleen de Paris” bear testimony of how man has become a social beast and if let outside the social grid he will eventually fall prey to his inner primal instincts. Pleasure for one is the ultimate medium, with which one seeks to express himself. Other motifs include narcotics and sexuality, both marginalized by the “comme – il – faut” society of the time.  It seems as if Baudelaire is biased against the prejudiced conformity and considers bourgeoisie a hypocritical hybrid; “the Rope” (Baudelaire 1869) is an excellent portrayal of how motherhood and innate motherly feelings are denominated in exchange for profit.

To sum up, Darwin theory of evolution is backed by considerable scientific data; it is in Baudelaire however that we find empirically how much we can change  – both positively and negatively – as humans based on the social surroundings we choose to abide by. It should have made one wonder: Is our hairy ancestor the true monstrosity?

 

Works cited:

1. Baudelaire, Charls: Le Spleen de Paris. 1869

2. Darwin, Charles: The Descent of Man. 1871