admin Synthetic Worlds

Enter World

In some alternate universe version of Miami University, in some eerily similar version of Oxford Ohio, today is the start of spring break. And it is here, too. Kinda.

If you want or need to take some or all of this week in order to regain your balance, I encourage you to do that: The months ahead are going to be difficult. A little time for personal rejuvenation and reflection can be good. We’ll do everything we can to make that work for you, both now and at the semester’s end.

Of course, if you want to return to coursework in earnest, I can get behind that, too. Happily, if complex video games are your thing, then this week offers a fairly pleasant distraction as we get back into schoolwork — by immersing yourself in fantastic worlds that demand your (almost) undivided attention.

The video included in this post offers a quick overview of MMORPGs [Massively-Multiplayer Role-Playing Games] by way of one of the most venerable offerings in that genre, World of Warcraft. The video itself isn’t really a must watch (I’m trying to get the technological kinks ironed out of this new system: There are a lot of plosives in audio track, for example). But whether you are playing Warcraft this semester or are engaged in a different MMORPG altogether, it is worth knowing a bit about that game.

this week’s goals

Near the end of the video, I talk about what I hope you’ll be able to accomplish this week. The goal is for you to achieve some kind of mastery of the game: Its rules, its systems, its avatar-control. Ask yourself, for example: Can you easily take a screen shot? Can you chat when someone prompts you? When another player asks you to trade, can you indulge her? If someone is harrassing you, can you put them on mute? Can you report them? When it is time to level-up your character, do you have a sense of the choices you are asked to make?

None of which is to say that this information will do much for you on its own. But ready-access to that knowledge is a pre-requisite to diving more deeply into these games and the human communities that they foster.

So again, for this week: Play the game. That may not seem like much, but it is really asking a lot: Look for opportunities to engage with others, chat with them, learn from them. Just about anything you do in the field will pay off next week, when we start our fieldwork in earnest.

Look for another post in a day or so.

By Garrison

Prof. LeMasters is part of the faculty in Emerging Technology at Miami University, within the College of Creative Arts.

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