Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Life Online

Throughout my time in Second Life, I’ve become accustomed to certain norms involved in the virtual gaming program. It is a lifestyle all it’s own, and the users embrace it in a way that makes it more than just a game, but a place to learn, grow, and meet new people.  In Dimitri William’s study of World of War Craft, he gives it the title of “third place” interaction in an online medium. I can definitely see this as applicable to many people who utilize virtual gaming, because not only can you complete quests and find treasures, you can interact with others, and even continue those interactions outside the online realm, in a face-to-face setting. Williams reiterates this briefly in his analysis of Real Life Versus Wow: Social Support, in which he found that most players found social value by indentifying themselves within a guild. Similarly, in real world circumstances, associating ourselves with a particular group of people or clique results in a more in-depth understanding of our social identity. We feel valued when we are a part of something, such as a club, sorority/fraternity, etc.  My experience in SecondLife helped me find value as being part of a classroom, and a member of a group within the virtual classroom through the building of objects and rooms with other members.   He notes that the interaction within the game is a direct result of users personalities and the coded, “artificial social architecture” of the game world.  The mechanics of the game differentiate it from real world circumstances because the virtual spaces lack organic qualities.  Behavior is constrained through code that was created to “enable and restrict” users, just as we can do in the real-world through the use of tangible objects and varying obstacles (they are similar in that sense).  Because of these codes in the game, users become more inclined to lash out in rebellion, or be creative with tactics to create new codes or crack the one’s already in place (much like we do trying to find loopholes in rules and regulations in the real world).  Coding directly effect’s users as “the structure and rule set of the game world have a clear impact on what kinds of people play, what they do, and how and why they interact with one another”. In terms of Williams’ topic The Role-Play Factor, I feel as if a majority of users use online gaming worlds as an escape from their real life. I myself tried to keep my Avatar as close to my real-self as possible, but I can see why people would do otherwise, and I witnessed it in more instances than I would have previously imagined.  Bogost uses videogames and smartphone games to englighten others on their potential to be educational tools.  In struggling to cope with society and the idiotic implications it creates, he creates games that force users to understand the challenges and choices other’s face.  I feel that this is both advantageous and an extremely intelligent approach to online gaming.  We are in a technological era, so it is crucial that we learn to use them in ways that help more than they hurt.  While I saw online gaming in virtual worlds as more of an “assignment” (possibly burden) than a learning experience, I definitely see how there are ways to use them to educate and encourage learning and growth, for all ages.  

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