« Critic Critique | Main | Hold my Hand while I Hunt »

12/14/2003

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Dyerbrook

Urizenus has a great deal more study to do in TSO, so that he can realize that the Sim Shadow Government is not the benign protective government that it claims to be, and that the SSG itself is organized on the basic model of a mafia, with secrecy, "omerta," propaganda to divert from its true nature, etc. (see my post at Alphaville Herald). There is a simple tool we need to expose extremist and violent cults rampant throughout TSO, as well as more garden variety griefing behavior and that is the ability to name names, and publish eyewitness accounts, subject to public scrutiny and discussion about phenomena in TSO. Because the company is worried about frivolous and specious complaints, it has incorporated into the TOS rules that you cannot disparage any other player or even neighborhood. That means you cannot get on the BBS for TSO and say "The SSG/the mafia/the BDSM cults/ are forming huge neighborhoods and taking control and intimidating people, and we need to fight back with alternatives." You cannot publish information about griefing attacks or you will be banned. Stratics has been a little looser in allowing discussion, but there, too, a thread that developed about an alleged cult was cut off because it appeared to be a specious claim. The whole point of the First Amendment and the free speech ethic is that inquiry and debate will lead to "good" discussion that drives out the "bad" of deliberate lies or misinformation. But like our campus and media cultures, Maxis/EA is permeated with the culture of the politically correct to such an extent that they provide the capacity to censor the use of the words "Hitler" or "Stalin" or "bitch" in the game in chat and prevent the use of these terms in Sim and lot names, but they have absolutely no means of preventing the dictators' online wannabee descendents from appearing and flourishing in the game through abusive Sims and hoods and movements. IMHO as someone who has been suspended from the BBS and the game repeatedly, Urizenus was suspended because he published the URL of a site that disparaged the company or Sims or hoods. That violates the TOS. He can appeal the decision and he can also do what griefers do, which is to get his mother to use her credit card to open up an account that he can use under a new Sim name. ; ) Meanwhile, I hope he will not give up the fight to obtain a free and effective forum for discussion of disturbing events in TSO with the aim of creating democdratic and transparent player self-policing -- not the policing by Maxis/EA or a self-appointed, self-promoting secretive hierarchical undemocratic entity like the SSG.

Dyerbrook

Correction of URL. Note that I took down a lot of critical material about the SSG for space reasons and because I grew tired of being gloved in the game, but I stand by all my reporting done to expose this phenomena in the last year.

B. Rickman

Re: Dyerbrook's comment, so much for Wright's open-ended gaming system. It appears that, from the Terms of Service perspective, the game extends out into the world of bulletin boards and private journalism. Certain forms of behavior are not allowed outside of the game, and this will have in-game consequences.

And this goes against the purported open-ended nature inside the game. The open-ness of action does not, like the Terms of Service, extend out into the discourse surrounding the game.

So we have an attempt to control elements that are seen to be an extension of the game, to account for the lack of control within the game itself. I imagine that Salen & Zimmerman might have something to say about this in _Rules of Play_, but I haven't gotten that far yet. :)

Snowmit

Maybe I'm dense or maybe it's because I haven't ever come accross any MMOG that held my attention for any length of time but I'm really having a hard time understanding what the big deal is.

There's this company, its set up this virtual space and you can choose to participate or not participate in it. If you choose to participate, caveat emptor. The gods of this space are capricious and malicious and there is no reason for them to act fairly aside from good customer relations. Yeah, maybe it's unfair that Urizenus had his account terminated but speaking from experience working in the billing department of a phone company, the policy to refund or not refund, to cancel or continue an account etc, has never been a fair process. It's not even a rational process. And working phone connections are MUCH more important than MMOG accounts.

The relationship between the owners of Sim accounts and the people who provide those accounts has always been a commercial relationship and in commercial relationships your options as a customer are pretty much limited to "continue to pay" or "stop paying". If you don't like how things are going or the way you're being treated by company X then vote with your dollars and continue your research with a service that has a user model that will better allow you to do the work that you want to do. The company doesn't owe you anything else.

As for the laws beyond the ingame laws and EULA my understanding is that every EULA has something along the lines of "In the event of a legal dispute all blah blah considered to have occurred in the jurisdiction X". So that (flippantly) solves the problem of "where is it located?" that Jane mentions above.

Maybe the conceptual roadblock that I'm hitting is that I don't think that rights and freedoms are natural things. I think that they are constructs that had to be carved out of an agreement between people and the State. I mean, they're a pretty recent innovation as far as Statecraft is concerned. It comes as no suprise to me that new virtual communities don't automatically come with a free set of rights.

If freedom of speech is what people want from their virtual comunities, then they need to start voting with their subscriptions and start finding communities that have a set of moral standards that they can agree with. By all accounts the Sims Online is not such a community. Stop paying them.

Dyerbrook

Snowmit's comments would apply if there really were other options just like TSO. But there aren't. This is not just a glorified chat room. The premises of the world are very different than UO or SWG or SL. Most of the existing online RP games have a male-dominated ethic of groups of people getting together to kill enemies or take territory, with a variety of medieval or dark high-tech sci-fi equipment. TSO on the other hand is a female-ethic based on the building of homes and relationships, completely the opposite of the kill-or-be-killed ethic of the others (although the SSG and competition for top lots has introduced the kill ethic to TSO and it is mainly females practicing it LOL). TSO is also in a culture styled as a 1950s sitcom or a post-modern fantasy, not really in the medieval ages (although the pagan and BDSM lots take it back there).

The Sims as a machine is also a very different tool because of its open capacity. The Sims, online or offline, is like George Eastman's amateur camera in its revolutionary implications because it takes out of the hands of elites the function of recording public or private history, creating content, and making entertainment. Now, scripting and casting your own show is a function of the average person with a 56k dial-up and $29.99, and potentially can replace TV or the movies. For it to achieve quality, merit is required rather than connection to elites and wealth. By contrast, the other games are merely updated online versions of the old-fashioned war games going back to chess or Go. I personally would be bereft if I were expelled from this nightly National Conversation and grand experiment in community creation and that has led me to self-censorship in the game to stay within the TOS after temporary bans.

The company has also shown a disdain for customers in sharp contrast to Second Life. Technical problems are solved instantly on SL's website through a do-it-yourself diagnostic device solving the graphics and sound cards problems. There is willingness to send women free graphic cards to equal the playing field. But while the old mantra of American consumerism was "the customer is always right," for these new electronic companies, the customer is always wrong and they hide from him. They offload their backend work to call centers in Bangalore and collect their stock options. If rights and freedoms were the artificial construct Snowmit claims, however, people would not fight so hard for them, even to the death, in this virtual case, the suspension of their account.

In fairness to Maxis, they did respond to customers' complaints and devised the "architectural privilege" option for lot owners. But this increased the feudal quotient in the game, making the lot owners like vassals with their lowly slave roomies who exist mainly to give them discounts on build-outs and more object space and somebody to clean the flied-up buffets. Before, although lots were vulnerable to stalker and griefer types posing as good-willed roomies who would then trash lots, they were also more evenly and democraticaly governed as everyone had to collectively decide about design and architecture and function of the space.

B. Rickman

Dyerbrook: "By contrast, the other games are merely updated online versions of the old-fashioned war games going back to chess or Go."

That's laying it on a bit thick. Do you work in marketing?

Dyerbrook

No, I don't work in marketing B. Rickman or anything relating to gaming, but I'm giving my impressions. Do you disagree that SL and There and SWG and so on don't have the capacity for building lots, buildings, and relationships in the same fashion? What you do build in SL I believe it is requires HTML skills many people don't have, so again, it's in the hands of elites.

jackbird

Coding HTML is the province of elites? Is literacy in English the province of elites, too? Maybe having a computer at all makes one an elite - after all, they cost a fair amount of money... Sorry, that's just PC nonsense.

Dyerbrook

I'm the last person you could accuse of PC nonsense. Coding HTML is indeed the province of elites. You are so out of touch with ordinary people living in the geek world that you don't realize it. We are talking about the clientelle in the Sims world, after all. To prove my point, I will go in TSO today and take a poll throughout the lots of a sample of people and tell you my results. These are 90 percent soccer moms, girl mall rats, Middle America, people who sent their relatives to Iraq. Go in and talk to them. These are not HTML coders, these are not teenage boys. Sheesh, I didn't know it was going to be so difficult prying this machine away from the hands of the elites (*wrench*).

Dyerbrook

*Reporting Live from Alphaville* I'm here at the Mech Study Lodge and just finished with Merry CHARISMAS yuck yuck, a red-and-green decorated charisma-skilling lot. I've polled the first 20 people on these two lots. Out of 20 respondents, I have 14 who do not know HTML. And it's worse than you might have thought. A majority of these 14 *never heard of HTML*. "Sry hun, never heard of it but it sounds complicated," said one lovely over-40 lady. One male asked me if it was the cheat code for money in the Sims game. A female asked me in bewilderment if by "HTML" I meant the code game within TSO, which is a three-person mini-game where you cooperate to code a business machine to make money. Of these 14 polled, 6 were men --even in the morning EST you do find men in this game -- and not a single one fit the perceived gamer demographics of teenage boys or early 20s males. One 56-year-old having the time of his life with all the 30-something women in the game had never heard of HTML. Another younger man had heard of it but it eluded him entirely. Four more respondents, for a total of 20 respondents, all younger women, said they know "some" or "a little" HTML. Upon follow-up questioning, they said they could cut and paste it on their geocities websites. Not a single one felt up to Second Life texture/clothing/object programming. Should I stop now? Please blow the froth off your latte and realize you do not live in a country of Howard Dean voters.

B. Rickman

I think I'm starting to understand what Dyerbrook is saying. He equates HTML with the techno elite (this much is clear from the above posts), and sees the specific mechanics of TSO to be a one-of-a-kind assault on the dominance of that elite in the online gaming world. TSO is revolutionary, but at the same time disappointing given the fascist role of the Maxis party.

Given this, I still think the comparison that all other games are simply updated versions of chess or Go to be frivolous. Dyerbrook is trying to polarize the discussion. Techno fetishists, wargames, and Howard Dean fans over here; housewives and relationship builders over there. I don't see the point to this.

If you are going to accuse people of techno elite-ness, presumably because of their education and class status, then let's take a critical look at this other group, the TSO group. Who are they? "90 percent soccer moms, girl mall rats, Middle America." Hm, a group that enjoys sufficient leisure time to play online games. They're middle class, educated, likely non-professionals. They own computers, probably purchased in the past 3 years. They have online connections, likely high speed access. They place value on building relationships mediated by technology, perhaps in preference to real-world interaction.

Now I'm not sure I'm ready to throw my lot in with either the techno elite or the soccer mom elite. They both live in shallow, unpromising worlds.

Of course both these groups are ultimately abstractions, demographic categories. While, for marketing purposes, you have to be in one group or the other, there is no way to prevent someone from belonging to both groups. Given a larger context, the groups are quite similar; neither one is faced with severe poverty, political repression, &c.

Dyerbrook

My remarks about the Sims include the offline games, I should have clarified that. It has millions of owners and has been the top-selling game. I think in that context, you can say it is revolutionary. Perhaps I have polarized the discussion unnecessarily, but that is inevitable given the limited scope of blogs. I think that online games are all centered on the basic premise of chess, etc. which is statregies to kill and take territory. There is nothing new under the sun. As for the claim that Sims player are elites, again, my point wasn't about players so much as about designers. The designers rule. They create games largely about killing people and taking territory. With Will Wright's Sims, the beginnings of an open society have emerged where the player can begin to become the caster, designer, scripter, and where he/she can build lots and relationships, it's a different dynamic. There is so much animosity in your post to these ordinary TSO gamers who are mainly your fellow Americans. And just because they have a computer doesn't mean they are elites. You'd be surprised these days how even poor people living in projects have a $400 Dell desktop and an AOL account. Some people use their work computers to play these games. The middle class sure isn't as rich as it used to be, and elements of it are getting poorer. I'm not going to be too hasty in pronouncing these people as living in shallow, uncompromising worlds. They don't read Henry James novels at night but now they write them and live them in the Sims, in a kind of primitive fashion, and I find that interesting. And as with the camera, when droves of people began getting their own amateur cameras, they weren't the most impoverished and the most oppressed. *But they still wrested the machine out of the hands of the elite. And that's OK.* Yes, it results in lots of mediocrity. You don't like my IKEA shelf? Fark you. But I am designing my world without you.

B. Rickman

As you say, there is nothing new under the sun. The MUD community has been engaged in the same kind of community building dynamic for more than 15 years, yet you want to give credit to Will Wright for producing a commercial product. Where can I buy a plaster bust of Wright, I'd like to build a shrine for him.

I don't see the difference between your "wresting the machines out of the hands of the elite" and basic consumerism. The real revolution involves knowing how the machine works. TSO players aren't taking apart the software. The MUD community, on the other hand, allows for code-priviledged design/creation/scripting of the world.

I'm sure many TSO players do, in fact, read Henry James.

Dyerbrook

We already have little Simmy shrines to Will Wright on our Sim lots, made out of pixels LOL. Yes, I give him credit for empowering those very mall masses you scorn. Maybe it was an unanticipated result of his invention -- that often happens -- but there it is. Creating a world, creating narration, writing the Human Story using Sim screenshots, or using Sim characters online in TSO, well, you may call it consumerism but I call it creation, art, history, revolutionary fashion for the masses. Your MUD community with its code privileges are like so many Enrons, so many Catholic Churches or Soviet Communist Parties...Hey, the pots are banging, the keys are clanging, the whistles are blowing, the Revo is here. "You better not criticize what you don't understand/Cuz the times they are a' changin'." So you know how the machine works? *So what. We can learn by rote, too, it's not so precious.* We TSO players are the neo-Luddites, we don't break the machine, *we take it out of your hands.* "WREEEENNNCHHH!!!"

B. Rickman

Well, it's your funeral. Have fun while it lasts.

Priestess Harley

Dyerbrook, you are a capitalist, Republican slave. You're also a lousy writer that can't write a sentence in a story without throwing in an LOL. I hope someday you grow out of your smallwitted, tired little world.

Oh and by the way, Second Life does not require knowledge of HTML to build things.

You're an ignorant jerk and you are proud of being an ignorant jerk. Goodie for you. God forbid anyone ever require you to learn some grammar or some freaking computer skills or how to walk outdoors in public without a helmet.

Priestess Harley

Dyerbrook, you are a capitalist, Republican slave. You're also a lousy writer that can't write a sentence in a story without throwing in an LOL. I hope someday you grow out of your smallwitted, tired little world.

Oh and by the way, Second Life does not require knowledge of HTML to build things.

You're an ignorant jerk and you are proud of being an ignorant jerk. Goodie for you. God forbid anyone ever require you to learn some grammar or some freaking computer skills or how to walk outdoors in public without a helmet.

outsider

jpb ppyt psycholog zdrowa ywno nieruchomoci projektowanie stron agencja reklamowa soczewki kontaktowe nauka angielskiego agroturystyka opony klimatyzacja domy opieki akupunktura hydraulik projektowanie wntrz soha jpk paa ki wypadki tfrd jh sw jft pp fdr

pppp

strony www wrocaw, tworzenie stron, lub, hale namiotowe, rozdzielnice, flash lite games development, adidas nike puma, buty nike

The comments to this entry are closed.

Subscribe to the mailing list!

* indicates required