Friday, January 30, 2009

How Did I Get Here?

Before diving into the substance of this blog, I thought it might be appropriate to explain who I am and how I got to this point. I am a fifty-something professor of information systems. Over the course of my career, I worked for a couple of decades in software development and am well into my second decade as an academic. I have a wide variety of interests although, if I had to nail it down, I would say that my technical interests lie in programming and databases, while my non technical interests lie in philosophy and ethics. I also love to write. Writing, whether it be research, commentary, fiction, or blogs has always been a big part of what I do.

A little less than a year ago, I began to develop a profound interest in video games. I used to play video games in the mid to late 1980's. At the time, I had an original Nintendo and had beaten both Zelda and Link. But, then, I lost interest and didn't play anything for almost two decades. So, what brought me back? Well, it was a circuitous route to say the least.

Late in the Fall of 2006 a colleague of mine mentioned a novel new Internet application called Second Life. At the time I was in one of those ruts that academics get into where you think you know everything and are not interested in anything new that might disabuse you of that notion. But, somewhat reluctantly, I gave Second Life a try. Within a month my delusions of omniscience had been entirely disabused. It did not take me long to see that Second Life was new, different and bursting with future potential. So, I began to study it seriously.

My journey through Second Life is a story in itself, but lest I begin digressing, I will leave that story untold. Suffice it to say that while studying Second Life I read Edward Castronova's book on Synthentic Worlds and was astonished to see that he barely mentioned Second Life, focusing instead on massively muliplayer online role player games like Everquest and Ultima Online. So, for the sake of completenes in my research, I decided that should explore these synthetic worlds. And, I have to say, I was very reluctant at first to get into all this.

After some failed attempts to find something I liked, I finally got around to World of Warcraft. It was rough going at first, but I stuck with it. Finally, I began to like it. Then I began to REALLY like it. I started reading books and articles both scholarly and popular press on video games. I began to play on a regular, some might say compulsvie, basis. I started writing an introductory guide to World of Warcraft. I started encorporating virtual worlds and video games into my classes. I started blogging about virtual worlds and video games. And now, here I am. I no longer see myself as a database guy. I am on my way to being a virtual world and video game guy. And somehow, it feels really right.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Significant of Video Games

A number of factors are coming together to suggest that video games are beginning to arrive as a significant phenomenon worthy of serious study and consideration. These factors include, but are not limited to:

1) We have an emerging generation who grew up playing video games. The 1950's produced a generation who grew up in front of the television and look what happened in the 1960's and 1970's.

2) The video game industry now rivals the entertainment industry.

3) Video games have gone through several paradigm shifts, the latest of which is the rise of massively multi-player online role playing games. The rise of MMORPGs means two things. First, video games are now a social phenomenon. And, second, somebody has to come up with a better acronym.

4) Academics are beginning to study video games in much the same way that they have studied other cultural phenomenon such as books and movies.

5) Some researchers are beginning to suggest that the skills one learns from playing video games are actually useful, important and valuable skills.

6) Educators are beginning to look at video games as a vehicle for education and training.

7) As technology such as Internet bandwidth, graphics cards, and server capacity increases and improves this will only get bigger, better and more significant.

So, it seems that now is a good time to start documenting and reflecting on this emerging phenomenon. And that is going to be what this blog is about.