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Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

RealQ: a Real Question

Posted by Rem on July 7, 2010

My real name was first published in gaming-related print and online media in the summer of 2000, when the team I was on finished second in the tournament organised by a gaming magazine. It was published after an explicit request for my consent and my written expression of that consent. And it was, in fact, still way ahead of the timeline.

You see, gaming-wise, I come from a slightly different background than most of you, my valued readers. From 2000 to 2007 I have been a highly competitive and quite successful FPS gamer. Why does it matter? Well, we’ve come to see our gaming slightly differently – more as a sport and a competition. To be recognised as sport and competition, an activity needs a certain level of acceptance, an external appearance. Some time in the second quarter of the decade the communities at large began to realise that we’re never going to be seen as anything other than “killer-game players” by the wider audience if we continue to appear with names like “xKilleRx” (no, not an alias of mine or anyone I knew, just an example). And thus, slowly, gradually, a trend towards revealing the person behind the nickname began to grow.

We put our real names on team websites and league profiles. We uploaded pictures of our faces to be seen next to it – which is, you know, already kind of better than having your real name next to the image of an elf with a sword (sensational revelation: I am not actually an elf with a sword!). We added our age (often 20+ at that point) and profession/occupation, which also looked better than “level 80 Assassination Rogue”. Leagues required to add a UID to your profile that uniquely identified your copy of the game and could be queried in-game to make sure that player and account actually match. Later, the ESL (Electronic Sports League) introduced Trust Levels – essentially you could fill out some paperwork and send in a copy of your ID (which after the process was completed would be burnt and the ashes scattered over the Gulf of Mexico to control oil spills) and thereby verify that the person behind the account is, in fact, who you claim you are. And when you intended to attend LAN Parties, you’d register with your real name anyway, because LAN Parties take place in the real world, where you have to show your real ID (no pun intended) to prove that you are really over 18 years old and are really the one who paid the entry fee to be let in. When you go to a festival you can’t register as “SuperGothChick” either, regardless of whether you like your potential employer ever finding out about your music taste or not.

So, in essence the notion of revealing my real name on the internet doesn’t send me into immediate panic attacks and visions of doom. So, am I pro RealID and the jaw-dropping changes announced yesterday? No. Not at all. Why not? Because of a key difference.

There is this one big difference. When we were fighting back anonymity in the FPS community, it was us, the players (leagues and tournaments were effectively player-run as well), making decisions in what we perceived to be our own interest. Very important. Our decisions. Our interests. We had this visions of Electronic Sports, of social acceptance, of transparent and fair competition, and we did what we thought would help us get there. We did. And those who were not interested? They just didn’t need to. They didn’t need to opt out, or even actively decide against opting in. They just did nothing and were not in any way bothered. Yes, they may be denied entry to high-ranked tournaments, particularly with actual prizes, but that’s kind of fair game – without the push for a more competitive and representative environment those tournaments (and especially the prizes) would not have been there in the first place. You can’t have your cake and eat it too – but you can have the choice between having and eating your cake, and it should be your decision, not the baker’s. Bakers get to set the prices, they don’t get to regulate how much of which cake people have to buy.

Again, because it’s crucial – we were doing what we were doing in what we perceived as our interest. Blizzard’s new forced-RealID plans are in no way in the interest of players. I don’t even need to explain why it won’t have any of the proposed positive effects, as the blogosphere has already taken care of detailing why it’s outlandish, counter-productive, completely wrong and even outright dangerous (late addition: misleading in the very intent). I’m only adding my voice to the storm.

It is not the trolls who will be scared away, but those who do not want to be trolled under/for their real name and identity. The sky is not falling, but activity on the forums will feel much more uncomfortable exactly for the paced, measured, reasonable individuals. There is a natural barrier everyone has inside against being involved into a forum discussion – into any public discussion. Having to put up your real name there in the open adds to the barrier, most effectively holding away, again, the paced, measured, reasonable individuals. Comparisons to the real world fail as well. When you enter a bar your full name doesn’t pop up over your head. When you try to chat up that cute girl your personal details are not revealed to her even before she gets to tell you to get lost.

The official forums may not actually become a more hostile place, but they will feel more like “dangerous ground”, which will, once again, first and foremost, keep away those with mild personalities and a thing for politeness over shouting. By keeping those people out, the forums will become useless to anyone but trolls. We have been so far relatively successfully recruiting via the official forums. That will most certainly end with the introduction of the new forum system. The risk of exposing our real identities (and yes, there is always a risk, even though maybe not as overwhelmingly huge as some may believe) will not be justified by the realistic outlook of actually finding someone who is not a dick, because the forums will be officially Dickland. The alternative of community forums (e.g. MMO-Champion) is there, but inferior in that it simply is not a “central and natural” starting point for the vast majority of players. Recruitment will be handicapped. And this is just one pragmatic example – one that is relevant to us and our guild – of how this development is not only not in, but actually counter to player interest. Important.

Now, let’s concede that Blizzard is and always was a for-profit organization, and even all the “from players, for players” thing really is just a beautiful slogan. They have to act in their interest, not mine. But this is where the curious customer-business relationship comes into play. You see, I’m under no illusion that just because I pay them 10 Euro or so a month they are suddenly slaves bound to my will. That’s not how that relationship works. Here is how it works: a customer gives a business money when the way the business pursues its interest benefits the customer’s interest. In other words, like so many others, I pay to play World of Warcraft, an MMORPG. I registered an account with the company running said MMORPG, and as any serious person being asked by a serious company, I filled in my real details. At that point it was confidential information between me, the customer, and Blizzard, the business. Now Blizzard decided that they will use that information as they see fit.

Have they really? No, they have not. But with the announcements of the forced-real-forum-names all bets are off and no theory can be dismissed as ridiculous anymore. When RealID was announced, we were told it would be optional. In the corner of our mind we all asked ourselves then already whether it would slowly slide to mandatory. You know, like when a piece of software you are using brings out a new version with a totally revamped interface and a “legacy” setting to get the old look-and-feel; you better get used to the new interface, because the next version will not have a legacy setting. Then RealID arrived, we looked at it and realised with a slight unease that there is no way to disable it – the way to “opt out” is not to accept any friend-requests, and that’s it. It’s like saying “okay, from now on Skype will be permanently running on your PC, just don’t take any calls if you don’t like, we’re fine with that”. But my name, my email, my details are in there, in the game, and I have not been given any (official) means to remove them. That can’t possibly lead to problems, right?

Most of all, ideologically, it means that Blizzard is now doing with my personal information whatever they damn please, without giving me an actual say in the matter. We all know that Blizzard signed a contract, some sort of contract, with Facebook. We don’t know the content (at least I don’t), but at this point, today, after that announcement, after that treatment and that approach, can you really stand up and say without a doubt that your account will not be forcibly merged or transformed into a Facebook account .. next month? Next Year? Because everyone, including myself, who has ever used the phrase “Blizzard would never do that” in any context looks pretty sheepish right now.

Which leads us to the question. What product is the company Blizzard selling at this point in time, and what product does it intend to sell in the future? Does it still intend to earn its money through making exciting and involving games (or at least the exciting and involving game called “World of Warcraft”), or has its vision changed to viral marketing and dealing with personal information? This is not about my name being on the internet – it already is. This is about the game I’m playing. This is about the game I love. Will the creator of that game try to earn money by catering to my love, or by exploiting it?

A little more than one year ago we abandoned Lord of the Rings Online, the game we previously played and loved. We abandoned it because it changed from creating entertainment to creating time sinks. We were searching for a new game to play together, to call our hobby. The choice basically came down to Age of Conan and World of Warcraft. More than anything, we choose WoW because we believed and trusted in Blizzard’s vision and commitment to the game and the service. Because of what we perceived as professionalism. We wanted to pay professionals money and to receive a professional service in return. Another strong reason was WoW’s developed and strong community and reliable long-term outlook.

The most recent developments undermine the vision, the community and the long-term outlook, furthermore they abuse the trust and the rights of the customers in a borderline unprofessional way. So, Blizzard, here, for you, is the RealQ, the Real Question: have we made the wrong decision? Should we have chosen against you? Is your business plan and strategy still that of making a fantastic game and creating a place for gamers to want to stay in? Are you intending to deliver us the product we want to pay for, or are you going to be the baker who tries to dictate us what cake we’re supposed to eat?

This is not a threat of “do what I want or I will unsubscribe”. No, this is a very realistic proposition: I decided to pay for your product for specific reasons. If you cancel out those reasons, or no longer offer the product, do not rely on me continuing to pay for what you’ll try to sell me instead. It’s realistic because I did it before. I won’t “leave the game because Blizzard is evil”. In all honesty, I don’t care whether Blizzard is evil. But I will leave the game if the changes Blizzard does to the game make it unenjoyable for me. And I won’t be the only one.

You are on notice, Blizzard. And you should ask yourself some very Real Questions.

Posted in Internet, World of Warcraft | 3 Comments »

Now with previous content!

Posted by Rem on June 10, 2010

Inspired by a conversation with a guild mate last night, I had a look into the content import functionality, and, look and behold, it’s there aplenty! So, now the archives have migrated, including comments. Nice isn’t it.

Next I’ll have to sort out the categories – as I didn’t exactly plan to continue using my previous mess of those. But given what I’ve seen of the WordPress functionality so far, this process should be much more pleasant than it would have been in Blogger. Yeah, I’m rather happy about the move.

Posted in Internet | Leave a Comment »

Hello world!

Posted by Rem on June 7, 2010

Hello WordPress. It’s nice to meet you. You seem flashy and modern, and, what shall I say, I like flashy and modern. I’ll try to update more frequently again, but, as usual, don’t say I promised you a pony. I have tons of thoughts I’d like to blog down, but sometimes my writing mojo is occupied with other topics. So, let’s hope for the best!

If you, dear WordPress, would like to know what I’ve been up to so far, feel free to head over to my Old Home (at which you also should Not Try This) and have a read.

This blog I am starting with a more pronounced intention to write about gaming in general and World of Warcraft in particular – which is pretty much what happened to my old blog anyway. Do not be overly surprised, however, if you stumble now and again into posts that express my thoughts on totally different subjects as well.

And now, let’s have some fun together!

Posted in Internet | 4 Comments »

Temporary semi-hiatus

Posted by Rem on September 9, 2009

The gentle reader might have noticed, that just as this blog was about to launch into full swing, it kind of .. stopped. This is no coincidence, and I’d like to explain the reason. Now, I am not a friend of “sorry I’ve not been updating lately” posts, since they are usually the surest symptom of a nearing exodus. Go ahead, search the blogosphere (*uses the word once again*) for abandoned (as opposed to properly closed) blogs. Usually the last few entries will be along the lines of “oh, I’m sorry I’ve not been writing anything for weeks, so here’s some topic I just artificially squeezed out of myself”. The “sorry” part is the key. If you’re sorry about not having been writing, then why haven’t you been writing? And if you had a good reason not to write, then why are you sorry? “Sorry for not updating” in fact really reads “I honestly can’t be bothered any more, but also can’t bring myself to put things to an official end”.

So, the good news is, I am not sorry, because I do have a reason. And it’s pretty simple. Writing a good blog post of the philosophical kind I like to write is, basically, source research and verification as well as thought distillation and phrasing. It just so happens, that this is pretty much the same activity which is involved in writing a diploma thesis. So, whenever I sit down, take time, and produce a wall of well researched and written text (be it here or in the comments on other blogs), I feel like an idiot, because I could have put that same effort into producing that same volume for my thesis. Finishing my thesis, on the other hand, is not a joke. Failure to do so soon (and I mean very soon) could realistically result in me being unable to pay for an internet connection (or anything else, for that matter). That would suck.

Thus this blog, being close to the bottom of my priority list, is going on a temporary semi-hiatus. What the hell does that mean? It means, that I intend to bring it back to full blooming life once my activity patterns shift and my life settles down a little (i.e. I finish my thesis and start working properly). It also means I’ll be occassionally posting short thoughts and snippets, like the one just below this entry. As a matter of fact, the raw update frequency might even pick up, since dropping thoughts diary-style is a less demanding task than piling bricks of text – don’t nail me down to it though.

Please keep coming back and commenting, if you’ve been doing it so far .. and please start coming here and commenting, if not! Although .. if you’re not .. how are you reading this? Aaaaaah, get out of my head! They’re coming! They’re coming!


Yeah. That’s all. For now.

Posted in Internet, Personal | 2 Comments »

New layout

Posted by Rem on August 4, 2009

The narrow layout was very convenient when I first started this blog – obviously I didn’t have much content on yet, and making what I had appear like more by padding it in the vertical was a welcome side effect. Now, after some time, I do have some content to show, plus, I tend to be verbose, which means that a single long entry – like the last one – would turn into furious scrolling and thus not be pleasant to read. Thus, it was time to switch to a stretching layout. Enjoy (hopefully) and come back (hopefully).

Posted in Internet | 3 Comments »

Internet Drama And You

Posted by Rem on July 16, 2009

Came across this article recently, and .. I must say, that I disagree. Well, why link it then? For one, I don’t disagree with it entirely. The part about Passive Aggression is spot on, and has been painfully experienced by most of us, more than once. The Commiseration Spiral is, too, something to be careful about (although it’s not actually related to the section it’s listed in). For another, though, I strongly believe, that the misuse and bending of the Perspective approach is one other large reason for the emergence of internet drama, since it allows people to give themselves a pass on something they know they shouldn’t do, but do anyway, because, hey, no one can get hurt, like, for real, right? So, let’s have a look.

1. P1 and P3 are very much the same thing – perspective. They’re both saying the same: your problem is not a real problem because of the context. For P1 he plays the “pales in comparison” card, for P3 the context itself is declared inherently irrelevant. That’s one and the same thing, and doesn’t make for anything but padding the numbers. Yeah, I know, I’m trolling semantics here – it’ll get better, promised. It’s just not nice to be offered three drama-slayers and then find the third being the same as the first!

2. Perspective is not an irrelevance threshold. In fact, Mr. Wilson writes lots of profound and valuable things on perspective, only then to dismiss them saying he’s having something different on his mind, namely the good old “kids in Africa” conception. This is, and always has been, the lamest argument ever, for anything. If you have the flu, you treat it – you don’t watch pictures of AIDS victims instead, because theirs is much, much worse. When you get your pay check, you don’t throw it away, just because you didn’t make as much as Bill Gates.

Perspective means, you keep it in context. It means you treat a problem arising in a certain environment with tools appropriate for that environment. It does not mean, that you ignore the problem entirely, just because in the general scope of problems it’s a minor one. It does not mean you feel less strong about an issue that is important to you. Perspective means, that you don’t go out and kill an actual person, because he ninja’d your loot. Perspective, however, also means that even the fiercest forum flame won’t resolve child starvation.

3. Calling it “pretendy fun time games” accomplishes more than just putting the P to the front. It also obscures what’s most important. See, it’s not about pretending. It’s about fun. And it’s about time. It’s about spending your time in a way that yields you fun. And that is important. It’s not as life critical as finding food for a starving person is, but, again, perspective is not an irrelevance threshold. The following is a very simplified view of life, but, in a way, everyone fulfils their less pleasant duties in order to be able to then commit themselves to more pleasant things.

What part of their life a specific person views as the more or less pleasant, is subjective and may strongly vary. If you choose your favourite hobby to be online gaming, however, you expect it to result in fun. More importantly, fun through joint activity with other people. And that’s the kink. Online gaming, like every multi-player constellation, is a contract. An agreement with other people to spend time in a way that maximizes common fun had. Thus, if, say 5 people meet and set out to have fun together, but then one or more of them start acting in a way detrimental to the others’ enjoyment, those others are taking real damage. They will have ended up losing real time, without having gained the real benefit they were after – fun. Their lives will have become one day shorter. There won’t be a second July 16th, 2009, in my life, no matter if I spend it satisfactory or not.

4. The “pretending” people are, in fact, real people themselves. If the character Rocket Tits tells my character that he’s raping dogs, it’s RP; if the girl pretending to be Rocket Tits tells me I rape dogs, we have an issue (this is referencing the linked article, so, if you have not read it, you might be surprised by the wording). That’s an important difference. The game is played by real world persons, not characters. It’s the real world persons who invest something into the game (at the very least, time, see above), and it’s the real world persons who intend to derive something from it (fun, see above).

If the way real world person A behaves during their common game sessions causes discomfort for real world person B, then there is an issue. I’m not saying person B is automatically right, mind you, I’m just saying it is an issue. A real world issue, because two real world persons are not getting along, yet are supposed to spend time together for the sake of having fun. And it totally doesn’t matter if their vehicles of having fun are fictional characters, when their animosity is a real one. Perspective, the other way round: if the measure at hand is fun had, a fun-killer is a real problem, not a pretended one.

5. Just walking away (not explicitly suggested in the article, but always a related implication) is not a satisfactory solution. At least it’s not an easy one. People invested time, effort and heart into this (whatever “this” may be), they did it because it was fun, and because it was supposed to yield even more fun in the future. It’s not the part about wearing capes they take seriously, it’s their joy and entertainment they take seriously (if that makes any sense). They care.

To sum it up, this is why I’m not a friend of the “perspective” argument. Too often is it used to justify inconsiderate acts with the notion, that, taking perspective into account, no one really gets harmed in any meaningful way.

So, if you want to avoid drama, don’t call “perspective!” on everything as soon as you find yourself on thin ice. Rather, when making decisions, take into account some of the perspectives of those other people you share your fictive world, your hobby with. It’s not just a game. It’s a hobby. It’s a time sink. It’s a source of fun and satisfaction. It’s a collective activity you and your peers love, or you wouldn’t be spending so much time with it. Everyone who says “it’s just a game”, is missing the point.

Posted in Gaming, Internet, Thoughts | 1 Comment »

Charming imperfection

Posted by Rem on April 7, 2009

Started using this week, and today realised that it shares a certain feel with Linux. This intriguing mix of charming new features and glaring lack of old and relied on ones; of impressive performance and uncomfortable glitches; new design and minor trapdoors.

It is fast, it is pretty, it offers an interesting take on a few user-interface elements, it’s certainly a pleasant and modern feeling piece of software to use. It feels like Firefox felt, back in the day, before it was called Firefox and began to become what it once set out to attack.

But that’s the catch: charming youth comes with youthful imperfection. It’s just part of the package. No form completion (which seriously kills some business scenarios). Bad Flash-performance (Linux-people start grimacing at the mere thought of Flash). Awkward file-handling and weird text-selection (things not working quite as you’re used to being oh so very Linux!).

Many of those are teething troubles or yet-to-be-implemented features. They’ll be fixed, adjusted and introduced. The interesting question is: will it then still feel modern and youthful?

Posted in Internet | Leave a Comment »


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