Friday, 23 July 2010

MED104 - 2.5 All the world's a game

Read:
Ornebring, H. (2007). Alternate Reality Gaming and convergence culture: The case of Alias. International Journal of Cultural Studies 10(4), 445-462. (electronic databases)
and
Sarah Colman and Nick Dyer-Witheford (2007). Playing on the digital commons: collectivities, capital and contestation in videogame culture. Media, Culture and Society 29 (6), 934-953.

Really solid and thorough article about gaming, fan production and how that works with and against corporations.

This week we looked at games, and the relationship between virtual and non-virtual worlds. Ornebring discussed ARG's (Alternate Reality Games), which are a form of internet-based mystery game in which players participate in a fictional world and engage in collective problem-solving - an example given is ARGs connected to the TV series Alias. Coleman & Dyer-Witheford covered MMOGs (Massively-Multiplayer Online Games) which are synthetic worlds which allow many players to interact in persistent virtual environments - examples given include Second Life and World of Warcraft. The overarching message from this week's study was that while games are fun, they also fit into corporate goals and strategies of brand building and creating a loyal consumer base. What I got from all this is - there's a lot of money to be made in the business of having fun.

There are also a lot of other considerations when it comes to games, which were covered in this week's lecture by Dr David Savat, the Chair of Communication Studies at UWA. Today's online games are commercial products which are not just consumed worldwide, but also exploited in many different ways. Many of these games have their own virtual economy, which SEEMS virtual until you realise that you can use real money to purchase virtual currency, and you can trade virtual currency in for real cash, which then gives rise to any number of potential moneymaking activities all under the guise of "games". For instance, I'd never heard of the term goldfarming until this week and it's hard to believe but apparently there are people who fill warehouses in countries like Russia, Indonesia and China with young kids, having them play these MMOGs for 14 or 15 hours a day, paying them a pittance and making large amounts of money out of the whole process. People also make money from selling avatars, or creating scarce virtual items and selling them, or any number of other dodgy enterprises. And then there are all the other "real life" things that spill over into the virtual world - people who meet online but end up meeting in real life, getting married, engaging in crime, killing each other... frankly, the mind boggles when I view this through my own rather limited context of Sim City and Bejewelled! So really, I don't think there's a lot of difference between selling "real" goods offline, and selling "virtual" goods online - both involve a demand for goods, a seller and a buyer in a marketplace.
If I'm honest, this isn't an area that holds great interest for me... I can see how it all fits together but I can't see it being something that I'm going to suddenly jump into and get really involved in.

Cheers,
Nicky
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