Social Psychology, CSCW, and MMOs

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Lecture on Nov 12, 2008




Please post your critiques/commments on the required readings below. To do that, first login by using your user name and password, then click the "edit" tab on the top part of this page (between the "discussion" page and the "history" page), New to wikis? Read the Wiki editing guide. . Hint - Please put a whole line == ~~~~ == (literally) at the beginning of your submitted critique, so the wiki system will index, sign and date your submission automatically.


Vedran Pogacnik 04:22, 11 November 2008 (UTC)

It seems to me that the Stanford guys took MMORPG’s to a whole different level: they talk about them (specifically WoW) in terms of “community” and use terms such as “social circle”… Although there are some elements of that, I think it is a bit far fetched. Primarily, it is a game, everything else is secondary. The fact that it is multiplayer doesn’t really make it a community, nor do the other factors (such as the audience that they mention on page 8). Their analysis stems from the fact that there is always some reinforcement lurking behind the corner… Well, in great games that is always he case. Apart from those, some things are a bit confusing to me. They mention players “knowing” each other. In what sense do they “know” the other player? Have they played countless hours side by side in an arcade shop in the real world, or side by side in the virtual, or are they best buddies from middle-school?

One thing that I would like to point out is that although in principle of practicing together helps with training (as mentioned in the second paper), I am not sure to what degree that applies in the virtual world. On the contrary, I know a few people who have given up playing multiplayer altogether because they feel vastly inferior to some 13-year old kid from Korea who doesn’t have anything else to do but perfect his CS skills. In that sense, playing with others might have a negative influence to playing.

Perry Lee 23:27, 11 November 2008 (UTC)

I disagree with Vedran -- I don't think it's far fetched to attribute a sense of community or a social circle to games such as WoW, and I don't see why the fact that it's a game undercuts everything else. A community can be defined as "a group of people having a religion, race, profession, or other particular characteristics in common" -- what in this definition makes it mutually exclusive from a game? I can certainly see players forming friendships that transcend a game, and yet were first formed while playing a game. The authors note: "WoW’s subscribers, instead of playing with other people, rely on them as an audience for their in-game performances, as an entertaining spectacle, and as a diffuse and easily accessible source of information and chitchat." There are those that play games mainly for the social aspect. As a side note as well, the question of "In what sense do they 'know' the other player?" might be applied to anyone really. In what sense do you "know" anyone?

Kai Lin Huang 01:51, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

I believe the phenomenon presented by WoW is not in WoW alone. Many MMORPGs have the same aspects as WoW, even though they are not as massively popular as WoW. MMORPGs provide a platform for individuals to get self-esteem and satisfaction because psychologically, humans like being praised, being powerful and being admired. It is not as hard to grow a character in a MMORPG to become powerful compared to growing a real person to be powerful in the society. As the statistics in the MMORPG research paper "Alone Together?” the time it takes to play a character till its full level only requires approximately 450 days if the player plays 8 hours every day, whereas a typical person needs at least 22 years to get a college diploma, that does not even guarantee a job. Therefore, it is not unusual that people often find self-esteem from playing a game, and therefore keeps playing it.

However, the gap between a virtual reality and the physically reality can depress this group of game players because of the difference of the players' social status. Therefore some people start to earn a profit by playing a game. When I played MMORPGs, I have seen some players traded their powerful weapons and armors in the game for real currency; some even sell their accounts with high level characters and expensive items including superior weapons and armors in the game. There were actually people would like to pay real currency instead of investing a significant amount of time in the game just to level up their characters. Of course, some MMORPGs are designed to be time-consuming so that the service providers can earn a profit from players' purchase of monthly or hourly subscriptions of the game. However, this kind of trading phenomena only applies to games that have no requirement except spending time in the game in order to move up characters' levels and earn game players some social status in the game.

I also know some MMOGs that only take players' skills instead of time in order gain social status in the game. For example, O2Jam was an online music playing game that is similar to Rock Band but runs in computer. Players do not need to invest 200 hours to train their characters and gain "experience points"; instead, they only need to learn playing difficult songs smoothly using computer keyboards to earn points and buy virtual items, and easy songs earn less points. This gaming rules and system set up seem to be fairer to me because players who have less leisure time to spend do not automatically get discriminated heavily in game play. The way WoW is designed to balance the gap between frequent players and occasional players is innovative in MMORPGs and seems to be fairer.

Karen Tran 03:43, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

I enjoyed today's readings a lot. I think I came away feeling like I learned a lot from the Ducheneaut ("Alone Together? Exploring the Social Dynamics of Massively Multiplayer Online Games") article. The article studied an addictive game, World of Warcraft (WoW). They look at a lot of data about how people form groups and the social networks that arise in these games. That part is interesting but the most interesting part is their very surprising conclusion about the way people interact with other people in the game world. I liked that the authors describe other players as 'audience' and note the importance of their role. I agree with the paper in that it seems that the most popular games these days have very good "solo" gaming experiences but also offer the option a shared or cooperative experience. The importance of an audience, a social presence and a spectacle are the three factors that they find explain the appeal of being ‘alone together’ in multiplayer games like WoW. We see this same "alone together" behavior occur frequently in "real life" in such places as Starbucks where many people go to be "alone together." People prefer to drag their entire portable office to Starbucks and set up shop so they can work "alone together." Or they may just bring a book to read, or read the newspaper. These people are uncomfortable performing such activities at home where they are truly alone.

A point raised at the end of the paper is the need for social navigation tools, to better understand certain dynamics in games like WoW (such as guild cohesion or churn rate). I think the the approach of research method used in the article in social dynamics might be applied to software development communities. Granted, when working on code, there are different dynamics than battling basilisks, but there are many principles and characteristics that are very similar – network-based, remote communication, level based grouping and different dynamics of interaction based on level and participation, satisfaction for continued participation in a group, etc. I think it would be interesting to look at possible correlations between these two social networks (MMOG’s and software communities) as it’s often at unusual intersects that we find meaningful patterns. If, nothing else, it will likely result in some useful social navigation and analysis tools.

In addition to helping people fulfill their needs for social connection and belongingness, the online games we provide also have the ability to influence players toward healthier socialization skills. Social systems integrated into our game designs reward the development of "social capital." I feel strongly that social networks, as they exist now, will soon be relics as new networks emerge that provide reward systems to enhance user experience with tools and recognition. Also the paper made me wonder if social networks will become more immersive as well... is Second Life the future of social networks?

Gary Wu 04:34, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

Having been a player of MMORPGs in the past, I can attest to the idea of playing alone together. I agree with the article that leveling damages this fabric of social gameplay, as it is mostly drawn from traditional RPG games. Successful game companies, such as Blizzard, that have already mastered the techniques and dynamics of great games should tackle a comprehensive and attractive social component of the game that is much more complex than the current status quo. This would be a compelling addition to any game and would benefit the overall idea of cohesive gameplay with other players.

Reading Kiesler's article reminded me about the techniques of persuasion. More specifically, the idea of conformity. The individual tends to think in the way of the whole, so as not to go against the mold, so to speak. This definitely falls in line with the ideas of social psychology and the way people view themselves.

KevinFriedheim 04:44, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

Kiesler points out that the majority of people that enjoy games or activities seem to experneice a whole other level of enjoyment when these games/activities are carried out. I can certainly attest to Kiesler's findings as I, myself, partake in the occatinoal multiplayer game (although not World of Warcraft) in which I would otherwise not play if I were alone. Anyone who has played counterstrike against "bots" (computer simulated opponents) knows that its no fun since they don't act like humans and don't "cry like a baby" when they get shot and die.

Kumar Garapaty 05:43, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

The social aspect of Wow could be skewed because many of these players used to play past WOW games when they were only RPGS. From this, we can understand the primary purpose of the players is to improve their character through fighting creatures. This central part of the game could be such a primary focus that people don't actually have enough time to participate in the social aspect of WOW. The social aspect might be performed near the end of the game because the players are pretty much done with the game and they are just trying to find something else to do in this game of WOW. Although, MMORPGs implement various interaction and grouping tools, they are only important for completing tasks of the game and not highlighted to socialize beyond that context. This way MMORPG design could still be lacking in its design of the social aspect.

Jonathan Fong 07:05, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

I think these readings show the social pressures (and the "friends" principle of persuasion that we learned about a few weeks ago) is more complicated than we thought. I don't agree with some aspects of the Alone together paper: mostly, the correlation between increased playing time and membership in guilds. I think this may be an instance of a confounding variable. Players that chose to join guilds show a different/additional motivation/seriousness to play more. However, the fact that guild membership is very casual means that the pressure is not that strong.

I love the "alone together" theme. I agree that humans commonly gather together not to closely interact, but just to have other humans nearby. There is something about the personalities, and unpredictable quirky behavior of people that cannot ever be replicated by AI. As the Schacter study (at Columbia University) described by Kiesler showed, we rely on other people to help us know how to feel and behave. We can see this in this classic candid camera experiment that is a favorite of a renowned organizational behavior professor at Haas.

Buda Chiou 07:30, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

I never played Wow before, but the features of Wow that the reading suggest which makes Wow become popular doesn't seem to be very special according to my experience in other MMORPG. Since the MMORPG games I played are all recently made, maybe Wow's system is really special comparing to other MMORPG at 2004 which I don't know. Anyway, I totally agree the Nicholas Duchenaut's points about why MMORPG is more compelling than other kinds of game. MMORPG can definitely said to be a big progress of game design because it makes players are more addictive to the game. The reason is that there is always some unpredictable themes appearing in the game due to the activity of other players and servers. Even though the player totally don't want to interact with other players, other players' statements will definitely gives the player some incentives.

Jordan Berk 07:43, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

The Duchenaut article on WoW had a lot of interesting statistics and figures, many of which suprised me. The article makes it clear that lower level characters are less likely to group up and interact with other people. Although certainly the reasons that they state, that lower-levels quests are easier, that 'soloable' classes are more popular, etc. are all valid. But I feel like first-time players may be affecting the data in ways that the author doesn't specify. For one, to someone who's choosing their character class, not being familiar with the choices, I feel a good percentage would choose the popular classes (Warriors, Hunter, and Rogue) because first-time WoW players probably like the power associated with those titles (certainly more so than Priest, Druid), and they definitely aren't aware that these classes are among the most 'soloable'. Also, a new player may be intimidated by the social structure of the game, and to them, group quests and guilds may seem a bit overwhelming, not being comfortable with the game controls and mechanics. This would also go along with the chart in the paper about the percentage of group time per level, because as a new player levels up, he/she would become more familiar with the aforementioned and less intimidated by more experienced players. After having said all this, I've never played the game, so I could be totally wrong.

Xuexin Zhang 07:57, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

I agree with the idea that “groups influence individuals” by “serving the motives of individuals” from the first Kiesler article. By applying the principle of persuasion of friends to games, groups of players usually influence each other while motivating each other during their gaming experience by supporting each other. From their study of World of War Craft, “Alone Together?” talked about some interesting aspects of why WOW became the most popular MMORPG game around the world. By carefully balanced playing time and leveling design as well as applying the “social factor” grouping patterns, WOW addicts many of the game players.

Billy Grissom 08:08, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

I found these two articles to be way more interesting than I initially thought they would be. I feel like they pretty much nailed what a lot of MMORPG are about. As someone who use to play both World of Warcraft and Star Wars Galaxies I really feel like they described the two games pretty well. Star Wars Galaxies was a fun game but it wasn't because of the gameplay, it was largely because of the community aspect. That was an MMO that truly promoted the social environment. When playing that game I found that I had much more fun talking and interacting with other players than going through the actual game.

World of Warcraft on the other hand was somewhat of the opposite. I never had the luxury of being on a super crowded server on WoW, but nonetheless I don't think it was really the people that kept me playing. Although it is a bit bland, WoW's gameplay is what kept me for the most part...actually even then it wasn't that captivating. nay...what really keeps you going is this rewards system which the article totally hits on. What keeps you going in WoW is this desire to be recognized by other players and to get new skills and level up and such. Leveling is such a crucial part of a lot of MMOs and is what i think keeps a lot of people playing. A lot of my coworkers use to play WoW and they're chief goal was to hit the max level...once they did though, they stopped playing for they had achieved their goal. Of course, as the article points out, however, there are often alternative goals that arise that pursue you to keep playing, but I really think that how effective your desire to pursue these goals are really depends on how immersed you are in the game's world.

Which brings me to the point about being surrounded with players rather than playing with them. I couldn't agree more with this fact. In WoW you rarely find yourself playing with other players...most of the time your simply just fighting with them near you. Yes you have the ability to join a guild if you want, but this seems to be more of an extra feature rather than the core of the game. The monthly fee you pay is to be a part of the doesn't guarantee that you'll interact with it or it will act with you.

Guild Wars, on the other hand, is another story. The team aspect is built into the game...while one can play solo, partying with other players is something that the game strongly fact many areas are neigh impossible to get by without other players' help. In this sense you are actually playing with other players and do feel like a part of the community. That being said, what's interesting about this game is it doesn't necessarily have the full fledged community aspect that WoW has. WoW has towns and homes built into the game..>Guild Wars does not. nonetheless, communities around Guild Wars still seem to thrive. it seems that the social bonds it creates are so strong that people will go out of their way to build a community for the game (ie guild websites and such). I feel like it has more of a community and social aspect than WoW...and the silly thing is it doesn't require you to pay any monthly fees.

But alas it has it's faults. Although it's gameplay is good and it's sense of cooperation with other players is great it lacks the never-ending reward system that WoW has. In Guild Wars there is a level cap of 20...although it takes some time to reach this, you reach it far quicker than reaching the max cap in WoW. As a result, if your goal is to reach the max level then you reach that goal pretty quickly. If the game isn't convincing enough to captivate you, then you really loose the urge to play. Of course, Guild Wars does all this to promote gameplay rather than grinding but I guess it's weakness in being an MMO lies just in that...MMOs rely on can't have an MMo without repetitive gameplay. And any form of gameplay is going to get repetitive overtime. People who play WoW for years don't play it for the game they play it because they feel they're a part of the world and in a community. Guild Wars fails in that it relies solely on gameplay and doesn't really build anything upon a result although it's fun it's got a rather short life-line in comparison to WoW.

I think the reward system that the articles talked about really is the heart of WoW and is what makes it so successful.

Saliem Than 08:17, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

The second article about the ethnographic study of WoW was interesting. At first I was doubtful of their methods and the entire premise their study was based. Then I thought I got the gist of the conclusions they were coming to: that designing spaces in applications for social interactions was not enough. One needed to take into account that fact that the key element in any social interaction was that people are aware of other people being spectators and aware of they themselves being spectators. I thought this was something of a given, a taken for granted assumption. I think people like to have their identities confirmed when interacting with others and playingWoW is no exception. The article reminded me of when Professor Searle of my 132 course mentioned that protestors in the 60s on campus insisted on having television cameras while protesting. Having the cameras there helped to confirm their identity and activity to others and ultimately to themselves. I think social interactions that occur in games likeWoW are similar situations.

But then the article went on to suggest that future designs ought to "focus entirely on design strategies to encourage people to group it would be worthwhile tosimultaneously design for audience/player interactions" and then I got a little confused.

Wenda Zhao 08:27, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

It was a very insteresting reading about the MMORPG games. I think one of the big reasons that WOW became a very sccuessful game is that it provide guild system. You can not do much without a group of friends. And it is not just in terms of the number of people. The game encourage players to form well orangized guild and work as a team in order to get better items and rewards. This makes the game a lot of fun to play.

Haosi Chen 08:37, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

I enjoyed these two readings a lot. I think I came away feeling like I learned a lot from the Ducheneaut article. The article studied an addictive game, World of Warcraft. They look at a lot of data about how people form groups and the social networks that arise in these games. That part is interesting but the most interesting part is their very surprising conclusion about the way people interact with other people in the game world. I liked that the authors describe other players as 'audience' and note the importance of their role. I agree with the paper in that it seems that the most popular games these days have very good "solo" gaming experiences but also offer the option a shared or cooperative experience.

Alan McCreary 08:50, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

Like many others here, I really liked the paper on MMOGs. I've never played WoW (for fear of becoming addicted), but I have played some MMOGs before, and the authors' discussions on the relationships among players makes sense to me. In particular, the idea of developing a reputation in front of an "audience" of other players is a strong motivating factor in a game - in general, it's harder to develop a good reputation in the real world than it is to develop a good reputation in a game, so it feels good to have others see how much effort you've put in. Even in non-game scenarios on the Internet, you can see this idea in effect - many online forums use some kind of "reputation" system, where a user can give reputation to another user for doing something good. As a result, many people take this "reputation" very seriously, and try to increase theirs by getting more involved in the community.

Frank Yang 09:44, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

I never thought I would ever read a paper analyzing World of Warcraft, and I found that article to be very interesting. I personally have not been addicted to a MMORPG before, but I have played a few. I completely agree that MMOGs are social environments, but as soon as I read the article, I instantly saw what it meant to be playing 'alone together.' However, I've never attributed the draw to MMOGs to the 'spectator' aspect of the game, and after reading both articles, I can see the relation. People play the game hiding behind an avatar with no social obligation to anyone in the virtual world. While you may join a guild or a raid, there are very few emotional ties to the group. While it may be amusing and exciting, there is no true emotional caring for each other. If one person is dragging down the team, members may become angry, but only because the members' own status is threatened, but not so much because of the weakness of the team. The social psychology aspect of it is actually very interesting and worth taking a look at if you want to succeed in the MMORPG world. The popularity of WoW is just astounding to me, and I'm surprised that all the other games in the same genre seem so far behind. Honestly, I do not know the actual numbers in comparison, but just by popularity, I can only assume WoW is dominating the market.

JoshuaKwan 09:44, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

It is clear that multiplayer games have always been an instrumental part of game design. Many people are not interested in games that are played primarily in a single player context (like RPGs or shooters.) By introducing a separate human element, a designer can convince the player to improve his or her skills in the name of competition. The first article elaborates on this point through a variety of interesting psychology experiments that were carried out over the past century where people's behaviors were modified simply knowing that other people in the vicinity were working on the same task they were. The second article speaks of the social experience provided by World of Warcraft, which does contain observations that line up with the first article.

Blizzard learned that with World of Warcraft they could map the emotions and agenda of multiplayer-style games to their classic real-time strategy formula by producing a MMORPG. And people take it seriously - it is really a second life in the truest sense of the word. People who run guilds in WoW spend hours inventorying items, organizing the various people in the guild, and actually going out and doing things with them.

My personal experience with any sort of multiplayer game is that it makes me fiercely competitive even in situations where the point of the game is not necessarily to win - I desire the win anyway, no matter what game it is. So a lot of this reading rang true for me.

Hao Luo 09:47, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

This week's reading is not directly related to user design or our project but delves more into sociology and how that ties into gaming. It talks about community and the effect of others. This is more relevant towards online multiplayer games and MMORGs and not towards our project which is a single-player game. Nevertheless, for many serious games, multiplayer and networking is a key. It's useful to compare your progress to others and that competition makes you perform better. This would be good for something like the one on our midterm exam, a game that tracks your electricity usage.

Volodymyr Kalish 09:53, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

It seems like the reading is implying that with MMOs (such as World of Warcraft) players learn some social skills by being alone together in the game's world. And that makes a lot of sense, since people who are trully alone and enjoy playing games can meet online and play/socialize. However, I see a problem here. Because, while playing MMOs people learn social skills that can be applied while online. Most of those people feel uncomfortable socializing with real people that they can see. And the fact that these types of games are addicting is not helping. One of my friends plays WoW a lot, spending more time playing then outside socializing. He takes the virtual world too serious and can yell at physical people who interfer with his game.

Trinhvo 10:39, 12 November 2008 (UTC) me, the first reading is little bit boring. It's like a chapter extracted from a Psychology text which talks about how environments affect one's performance. The second reading is much more interesting and talking about WoW phenomenon.

Jimmy Nguyen 11:06, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

After reading the first article, I failed to see the significance of learning about groups in social psychology and how it would tie in with this class and User Interfaces. After reading the second article, I saw a little bit more of a connection, but to me, the charts and graphs from the WoW article show more relevance to playing games as a group. To me, social games like MMORPGs are based on the difference of casual games versus serious gamers. Maybe because I am more of a casual gamer myself (and perhaps since I have never played MMORPGs like WoW), I fail to see the significance of the social grouping aspects.

Witton Chou 11:42, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

As WoW has been developed over the years, many different features and a much broader demographic has been addressed since its original release in 2004. While in 2004, it appealed primarily to those who were familiar with Blizzard titles like their Real Time Strategy games of Warcraft III, and Starcraft, the developers of WoW have found ways to appeal to a much more diverse player group.

The game appeals to both the casual gamer as well as a "hardcore" gamer. There are "quests" that can be done individually, some that can be done in small groups, and even some that must be completed in groups of 25 or even 40 players. There is also a large emphasis on player interaction. Characters in WoW are allowed to have two different professions out of a larger pool of choices. Naturally, certain items can only be created by certain characters with a particular profession. This also yields to the concept of guilds which encourage even more interaction whether the guild members are real life friends or those that have met in game with a common goal.

The dependency of characters of a particular class and profession on other player characters to accomplish a goal is a very strong driving force in multiplayer games like WoW and is why the WoW title has enjoyed such great success the past few years and is even releasing its second expansion this Thursday. I think much of the success of the World of Warcraft title is attributed to the way that they have addressed different desires such as those who prefer head to head combat with other players, those who seek to progress through a story of adventure against computer controlled characters/monsters, those who wish to play alone, as well as those who wish to play with all of their friends.

Cynthia T. Hsu 12:47, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

As Kai Lin Huang pointed out, the amount of time to play a character to its full level (450 days assuming eight hours a day of gameplay) is not that much in comparison to the amount of time needed to get a college degree, leading to a more substantial increase in confidence through gameplay. I think that this difference is also interesting when you consider the different environments that the two contrasting situations provide - in school (especially high school and college), you live with the perpetual fear of being judged - by your peers, your parents, your teachers. This of course creates a positive feedback cycle in which your "physiological arousal" as described by Kiesler increases, which leads to an increase in mistakes. As a consequence, you get increasingly discouraged, the aforementioned social group gets increasingly judgemental, and the number of mistakes you perform increase. This can be easily combined with two concepts we described earlier in the course - the law of expectancy (if your teacher and your parents and your friends assume you are a failure, then it's hard to not assume that to be the case) and the zone of proximal development (why play a game, in this case, school, if it is difficult?).

In contrast, a game environment is often much more encouraging - people play a game because it's fun; and it's very genuinely rewarding to see other people enjoying a game as much as you do, while in school, it's often easy for people to develop competitive tendencies because of all of the social pressure. The stakes are so much higher than in the game - thus, by playing a game in a group, there is a lot to be gained but not very much to lose (who's going to care if it takes you a month to level up in WoW?). Thus, the game environment is very encouraging.Naturally, the principle of a "Zone of Proximal Development" is still very apparent in WoW according to Figure 7 - players who have a very low level spend much less time playing than those in a high level.

This is correlated with guild participation - the zone of proximal development is defined as the tasks that can completed with help from peers or cheats, and the guild structure specifically provides this. I also found Figure 5 in the "Alone or Together?" paper especially interesting in the context of the Kiesler reading: the amount of time spent in groups correlates with the level of the player, although according to figure 6, levelling is actually twice as efficient in individuals that do not group. Why would Guild participation double at higher levels? I think one possible conclusion is that the motivation to level up declines once you are at a high level; the competitive aspect of the game changes. The social influence of others change - you see them more as comrades/peers than competitors. This is one of the conclusions proposed by the section, "The other players: friends or audience?" and it is easy to see why people who consider the other players as their friends would be more likely to play in guilds.

Jordan Berk also brought up the intimidation factor. I agree with him heavily, and I am actually reminded of a somewhat analagous situation when I was taking CS170 - the top students in the class would spend hours on sixth floor Soda debating this theory versus that one; at first, I attempted to join them hoping that I would learn more. In the end, however, I found that working with them was actually extremely discouraging because I had trouble defending my ideas when talking to them, and I found myself really disillusioned with the class. In one sense, this was because I was outside of my zone of proximal development, but an alternative interpretation is that the social pressure was also a cause.

I think I was really surprised at how much of a personal impact the "Alone or Together?" paper had on me, especially when juxtaposed with a standard sociology paper like Kiesler. I think many of the ideas brought up by the reading really made me compare playing WoW to my experiences in high school, even though I've never played an MMORPG before. I've never really realized that the two could be analagous and that broad conclusions about social interactions could be drawn (or at least hypothesized) from the microcosm of a game.

Jacekmw 13:08, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

The Kiesler reading was interesting to me from my point of view as an actor. The key things to keep in mind while playing a character are the objective the character is attempting to fulfill and the transactions of status occurring. While the character's objective may have nothing to do with the other characters (and in a multiplayer game such as WOW, this is rarely the case), the status transactions between an audience and the player or anyone else in the scene often change the situation and sometimes prohibit the character from completing his objective. A lowly worker on a quest for food during an unannounced break, for instance, will immediately put this task aside when faced with a confrontation between his high-status boss. Improvisational theatre, especially, draws on many of the principles mentioned in the Kiesler reading. Attribution theory and social comparison are ways of justifying a character's high-status behavior, and justification of personal objectives within a group objective is a dynamic that very often results in humorous situations, perhaps because of the relatability to group dynamics as discussed in the reading.

As for the second reading, not having played WOW, some of it was a little unfamiliar to me. However, the concept of being "alone together" is an appealing one to me, UI-wise. In this type of situation, each individual is able to go at their own pace in the game, in that the seasoned professional may choose to go at it alone and power through all the quests, while a new player with questions can stop and chat with other "alone together" players on advice going forward. This provides a very personal and immediate error prevention service.

Bing Wang 16:11, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

The first article talks about human environment. It main talks about society and how people reacts differently while there is a congregation than when people are alone. I believe that it really depends on the each person's personality that makes them how they react in different environment. It also depends on whether people are physically with each other or virtually. All behaviors can really be different. With today's technology, there are much more presence of virtual reality. The virtual reality can make a virtual self that is really different from the real self for many people.

This idea leads into the second article which uses MMORPG and especially WoW to make the point of virtual community and cooperation. Even though I am not a gamer, I can relate to people I know who dedicate much of their time playing WoW. They even create characters that are worth hundreds of dollars in real cash. I agree with the author that those players do form a society while playing WoW. However, I disagree with the fact that it is also for casual players. I believe people are either addicted to be part of the virtual community or they won't be part of it at all. It seems a little hard to find the middle ground in my opinion. I want to emphasize the fact that these virtual reality games really let users be who want to be without the restriction of the environment that they live in.

Virtual reality really bridges the world together in both good and bad ways. In terms of games, it can enhance player's experiences and let them express who they really are. People playing those games can definitely form friendships just like the traditional way of friend making. My friends constantly play MMORPG games with others online that even though they are thousands mile apart, yet they have found something in common. However, I believe sometimes hiding the reality is not the best way to go for things other than games. One of these examples can be online frauds where virtual reality help individuals hide their real identities.

MuQing Jing 17:36, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

The two articles are interesting in that the real world topics covered in the first one apply towards the digital environment covered by the second one. The concept of a community that is linked electronically and through the internet seems to be the driving force towards creating a new type of culture; one in which conventional boundaries (geographical, religious, cultural) are phased out. It's almost as if people have a second life, with a connection that they make to their avatars that represents them. It allows people to be who they want to be, without fear of being shunned or embarrassed (in the real world, at least). Interestingly, IBM is making a strong drive towards harnessing the power of MMO communities; for example, they're in the works with creating virtual shopping experiences in Second Life that allows people to be in a virtual store and purchase items for their real life. The general direction that the field is moving towards seems almost to be trying to replace the real world; more and more aspects unique to the living world are being digitized, to the point that it may even supplant that of reality.

Greg Nagel 17:42, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

The second reading makes me think of the old MUD taxonomy theory:

For those that don't know, MUD means Multi-User Dungeon, a text-based MMOG. The discussion is about what people get out of MMOGs. The theory states, that there are four types of players, each given a different playing card suit:

  • Achievers (Diamonds) get the most out of accomplishing things in games. These are the folks who like to get all the coolest armor and maximum levels, which is often most of the people playing. The goal in playing an MMO is to maximize your in-game power.
  • Explorers (Spades) like to dig down and figure out what makes a game tick. They like to find new, powerful combinations of powers, explore all the game areas, and look for glitches in games. The goal is to discover something new that no one has ever known about the game before.
  • Socializers (Hearts) get the most out of just having a conversation. The game itself isn't so important as the human contact, so these will be the RPers (Roleplayers, it's sort of a collaborative story-making process). The goal is make close friends.
  • Killers (Clubs) like to affect other people in-game. It's not always killing players, but traditionally, player-verses-player combat is the easiest way to affect others in the game. They can also be the people who wander around and heal people, give tips, or tons of game armor to newbies. But often these are the PKers (player killers), the ones who don't like a fair fight. The main goal is to impact others in the game, ruining or making their day.

There's more to the theory, and it goes into how these different player types affect the others in the world, but what I said above is a good introduction.

Mike Kendall 17:43, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

A lot of people here are talking about the importance (or lack of importance) of playing in groups. Hao's point about it being inefficient to level in a group is completely true. When grinding alone, you can get a rhythm that doesn't depend on other players. What people seem to be missing is that leveling is not the only gauge of power in WoW. In particular, everyone I know who plays the game says "the game doesn't start until you're level 60." At that point, there is no point to grinding, and everything you do is going to be dictated by social reasons (raids are more or less socially motivated) or for items (one lvl 60 char with good items could take two lvl 60's with bad items (this depends on classes and everything, but I'm trying to illustrate how important items are)).

That being said, my experience with WoW is that it's ONLY played in groups. Unless you are making a new character and trying to bring it up to max level, there is almost no reason to play if you're on your own. You're too weak to go into worthwhile dungeons without friends.

Can we also agree that this paper is really statistically bunk? They're pulling causation from correlation which is just not cool. The correlations that they present, however, are pretty interesting.

Anthony Kilman 17:49, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

I never thought I'd see the day that an academic paper based on WoW would arise. The Stanford paper hopes to derive the social dynamics of MMPORGs, particularly WoW. The paper sums of this notion of community quite well in my opinion: "the appeal of being alone together." This goes on to describe three elements that bond groups of players into this community: (1) interacting with an audience, (2) being surrounded by others, and (3) laughing at and with others. Though this is a significant percentage of what is required to form a cohesive community, the WoW online community only holds a subset of the sociological facets that would comprise a community. The idea of "knowing" someone in WoW is really a patch-work concept of acquaintance/friendship, as a consequence of the interface. For example, you cannot tell if someone is comfortable/uncomfortable with someone in the game-world, based on their body-language. It has to be translated through their motor skills, into the reaction of a players choice within the game world. As supposed to some kind of a snarl upon recognition of an enemy in the real-world, the game-character might spin around in circles (which as an item of body-language, is up for interpretation) or do nothing at all. In that sense I couldn't agree with Vedran (first post; over-acheiver :) more.

Yuta Morimoto 18:02, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

The readings can be useful to encourage people to play game. They are focusing on a bit more social aspect inspecting people who are playing games. Readings show us that there are some social effects on facilitating players to play game. Unlike single play games, MMO or like online multiplayer games allow us to play game cooperating with someone who play game at the same time. I am wondering that such social aspect except game can encourage users to play game. Second reading tells me a kind of answers of the questions showing us demographics in a game. They conclude and propose a new interesting aspect of players who are joining MMO game as audience. That is very interesting and I may apply the behavior of players as audience on our project.

Stuart Bottom 18:04, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

The most interesting thing to me about these readings was the relationship between playing time and leveling up in WoW. Granted, I have never played WoW before (nor am I much of a gamer at all), so I have to analyze this from an outside perspective. That said, given what's in the reading plus all the comments from other students, the great strengths of WoW lie in the "addicting" incentives it provides users to keep playing. By making the levels progressively harder, the designers keep the game new and exciting while causing players to spend more and more time in the game as they advance (which increases the richness of the playing experience for others).

As I see it, this concept of incentives can be applied to serious games in two ways. First, level advancement should make per-level playing time approximate the (roughly exponential) curve in Fig. 3, which describes the accumulated time played per level. The exponential nature of the curve implies the non-linearly-increasing difficulty of the game and the greater incentives there are to remain playing in it (greater rewards). Second, these "greater rewards" should be just that - greater - as levels progress. Keeping the same power-ups or resources available level after level means the game is likely to get boring for players after only a few level. In contrast, WoW shows that these components are an integral part of the mechanisms that encourage players to return to the game and keep advancing in levels (a very important consideration for serious games).

Kevin Lam 18:06, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

Although I've never played WoW, I know several people who currently do or did at some point. Their motivation to continue playing the game is much the same as those described in the second article. While you can play by your self against the environment, a lot of players enjoy being part of a community of gamers. Being a part of that community motivates you to play harder, because you can gain recognition for all of your work (for leveling, acquiring items, and completing quests). With that in mind, the makers of WoW did a brilliant thing by dividing the players into servers and then zones. Within each area, you are accompanied by players who are supposed to be at your level. You can then interact with others who are striving to reach the same goal as you.

Geoffrey Lee 18:12, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

The World of Warcraft research shows a correlation between the time spent grouping and the speed of leveling. The authors concluded that grouping is an inefficient way to level, but I think this is leaving out an important part of the picture - the actual amount of time spent attempting to level-up. I believe it's possible that players who group are looking for a more social experience, and therefore spend more time socializing rather than leveling.

Juanpadilla 18:16, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

This was an interesting set of readings because of their focus on the often-overlooked role of a social aspect in the gaming environment. People are by nature social, even us EE[CS] people in one way or another, so it only makes sense that people are looking for this aspect in a game. The article described the way WoW players behaved socially by parading around their character and showing off. However, the social aspect in the current gaming environment is being exploited well beyond MMORPGs. In fact, I think this showing off can be seen in many games where people are allowed to dress and change their character/avatar. For example, even a user’s Mii on the Wii can be morphed by changing hairstyle, clothing, eye size, etc. Further stil, you can connect your Mii to other people who can see and use your character while playing on their own system. I understand that this is not the full aspect of being social that is described in the articles but it is definitely another way that games are pushing a social aspect into their design.

Shyam Vijayakumar 18:23, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

Social interaction is an important aspect of any game. How the user interface of the game affords for social interactions is therefore important as well. The first reading says that people tend to attach themselves to a reference group if they share a common crisis. This fact can be used to think about how to introduce social interaction to a game. For example, when we were designing our game, we wanted to have it somehow interact with other people. The fact that people were playing our game to save gas helped us think about what kind of groups we might think about. So we decided to introduce an interface that would help them carpool with other people. As a person trying to save gas, someone might be more interested in the game because of this.

The second reading talked about World of Warcraft and how its users are all at the same place but they don't necessarily interact with each other (thus the title "alone together"). We were also thinking about making our game similar to world of warcraft where people will be driving around in virtual environments. But we thought about this drawback of people not necessarily interacting with each other as in WoW. Thus, we decided to go in a different direction.

Paul Im 18:24, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

Both articles spend a lot of time focusing on the multiplayer aspect of games. They bring up a couple of valid points and key observations that would help a designer create a good multiplayer game. In terms of World of Warcraft, I can see where Ducheneaut’s observations come from in terms of being ‘alone together’. Each player sees others as an audience, and they are performing alone in this imaginary world. In reality, this seems to be true; people who are connected through games usually have nothing to connect with outside of the game. The situation slightly changes when a player is part of a guild, or a team. Kiesler also mentions this in his article. The membership aspect of a game brings people to be ‘psychologically involved’ with others. Moving around as a group definitely promotes feelings of community. I would argue, however, that again, these feelings of community are purely virtual even if a player is part of a guild. Of course the points of these articles are to enhance and describe gameplay, but on a side note, these virtual relationships seem quite shallow.

Mikeboulos 18:27, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

Many games lack the social interaction. It was very interesting to see how in the first reading it was discussed how in which individuals categorize and organize information about people is to attach them to groups. Which is very interesting because we tried in our project to relate to individuals by finding an overlap between all groups. So that people may relate to the game.

The second reading was about "world of warcraft" which is based on "alone together". I don't see how my group's project would actually steel this idea, yes if we implement a multiplayer game it would involve playing almost "alone" but there will be interaction with other players.

Antony Setiawan 18:31, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

I mostly agree with what Duchenaut says in his paper. I also played WoW a while back and from my experience, WoW has the most accessible menu compared to the other MMO games. In my opinion, the guild system that is introduced in most MMO games is intended to compensate the almost-exponential leveling system and monotonous quests. A lot of gamers won't even even care about leveling up-- they just want to hang around and socialize with others. Nevertheless, "Alone together" seems to picture most MMO.

James Yeh 19:29, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

I believe that the “community” aspect of WoW is a major component of the game, and is one of the main reasons why so many of the game’s players spend such a large amount of time playing the game. Reading the second article reminded me of a video I watched about “addiction” to MMOPG’s—that video basically attributes players’ strong attraction to games such as WoW to the sense of community that it provides to players, especially to those who are part of guilds that group together to take down difficult bosses (i.e. raids). I also agree with the “playing alone together” phrase mentioned in the reading; as a former player of massively multiplayer roleplaying games, I understand the concept of playing for an audience, and agree that it can be a very compelling reason to continue to pour time into a game when a player has already accessed most of the game’s content. Owning a high-level or powerful character can give the player a sense of accomplishment and reputation, and playing in a multiplayer environment allows these characters to be displayed to and respected by the rest of the gaming community. It is really the presence of other players, and the common goals and respect for high-level, powerful characters that they have, that sets a mmorpg apart form a single player rpg; in particular, a player doesn’t even have to interact closely with other players—the knowledge that others are noticing will compel a player to play more.

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