Friday, September 3, 2010

Signing Off, For Now

I began this blog about a year and a half ago because I was thinking about doing some research in video games. I wanted to explore some of the foundation ideas such as 1) what is play?, 2) what is a game?, and 3) how can a deeper understanding of these things improve video gaming experience. I wasn't just interested in making video games more fun to play. I was actually more interested in applying what we know about video games to making work and education more fun and satisfying. However, I have not gotten as much traction with these ideas as I would have liked. So I am putting this blog aside for now. As an academic you follow many blind paths and encounter many dead ends. At the same time, you have to follow your curiosity and nothing that I have ever learned has ever gone to waste. You never know when something you learned in one area will be exactly the thing you need to know to make progress in another area. So, I have no regrets. It was fun. It was interesting. And eventually it will all be useful.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Come On Now, Why All the Bitching?

World of Warcraft is a truly outstanding game. Not only is it the most popular MMORPG ever, it has become a cultural artifact and the object of academic study in books such as The Warcraft Civilization and Digital Culture, Play and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader. So, why am I whining about the annoyances? Well, there are two main reasons: aesthetic and economic.

The aesthetic reason is that these flaws, small as they may be, tarnish an otherwise amazing creative effort. Consider your favorite classic movie, one you like to watch over and over. Now, think of how it would be with a major flaw in it such as an obvious continuity error or a character slipping briefly out of character. Over time these flaws would become major distractions and you would view the movie as a flawed classic. It might even be used in film classes as an example of what to avoid.

World of Warcraft has the potential to transcend being a video game and truly become a cultural artifact. It is possible that people play this classic game long after new technology moves us to new kinds of games. It would be like King Kong coming out on Blu-Ray However, this is not going to happen with these flaws. So, fixing these annoyances it important for the legacy of the game.

There are also economic reasons. Blizzard boasts 11.5 million users which is pretty impressive. But, why can't that number grow by a factor of ten or even a hundred? They have pretty well tapped out the gamer market but there people who do not see themselves as gamers who represent a huge potential market. People who play Wii, Free Cell, or Farmville are known as casual gamers and the size of this market dwarfs the size of the gamer market. But, they are reluctant to try WoW because of the steep learning curve. With decent books, documentation and customer service it may be possible to tap this potential market and break even more records for numbers of users.

Going back to the aesthetic argument for a moment, there is also an economic reason behind that as well. While the preceding economic argument expands the potential market to new users, the aesthetic argument expands the potential market over time.

So, I am not just being petty and whining about these annoyances. I think this is a phenomenal game and believe it can be even more phenomenal.