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Why MMOs Benefit Our Lives Today

2 Comments | This entry was posted on Apr 16 2013

Editors note: As games grow as a medium more and more voices are being added to the discussion and culture. Today we are sharing the perspective of Genese Davis, an author and a late-comer to games, on MMOs and their benefit to society. ~LAT

Greetings!

Today, I’m excited to share an overview of my experience with MMOs (Massively Multi-Player Online Games). I didn’t grow up in or around the video game industry, or around video game players. I know how it feels to wonder why our friends, family, and loved ones seem “glued” to their electronics. And that’s part of the reason I’m so passionate to share all that I’ve discovered in the video game industry. It is not simply a set of pixels your children, spouses, or friends are staring at when they play games. It’s actually a whole spectrum of invention, discovery and ingenuity. Players are discovering artwork, storylines, history, skill sets, challenges, and collaborating with others on a planetary scale. But beyond all of these discoveries, MMO players are also learning and absorbing life skills and benefits that can translate into our daily lives outside the game. How so? Let’s take a look!

 

  • MMOs Make Me an Unsociable Weirdo a Social Hero

 

The last time I heard my girlfriends say that video games are anti-social, I had to ask them to explain. One response: “Well, if you sit in your room playing video games, you’re not going out and meeting new people.” In that moment I knew I had to offer my two cents on the subject, because I’ve discovered the opposite. When we play video games like MMOs, we are constantly meeting new people, and not just in our neighborhoods, but we are meeting new people from all over the world. Video games are one of the most interactive and social forms of entertainment we have available.

Another listener then said, “Well, video games make you look like an unsociable weirdo.” Again I had to give a rebuttal. Video games offer a way for us to become social heroes. Fictional characters like batman and superman don’t have to be left on the comic book page anymore, they can be extended through digital art, and allow players to live the experience. Through video games, players get to save lives, restore trust, and help the public stand up against criminals. Would it be better to spend all your free time at a bar or watching television? Both of those have their pros and cons, too, but video games stand apart as a unique alternative: Instead of taking in empty calories, or watching television programs that imply you’re not good enough and you’ll lose, games teach us that we’re epic and we’ll win. Through games we learn the habits of heroes—our batteries get jumpstarted. The next time you get the opportunity to play a video game, remember this is your chance to be super-social and heroic!

  • MMOs Make Me Lazy More Proactive

What’s wonderful about MMOs is that they force players to be the opposite of lazy. When we play collaborative video games like MMOs we are learning an array of new information about art, technology, programming, entertainment, and community. And at the same time we are constantly challenged to solve problems, create strategies, and formulate plans to protect our team. These experiences open up skill sets for building camaraderie and teamwork that in turn can make us more proactive in both our professional and social circles.

And to touch on a more technical and scientific aspect, brain scientists like Daphne Bavelier continue to discuss the power of video games and how much they improve our cognitive functions making us smarter human beings. Communication improves when playing MMOs, as well as our ability to adapt, and make quick decisions. These multi-player games constantly challenge players, which improves awareness and cognitive responses simultaneously, and can also open up opportunities for players to utilize these unique skills outside of game-play, too! I found that after playing MMOs I was even more of an active listener. While playing an MMO, it is paramount that you maintain eagle-eye awareness and that you are always ready to help your team. What a great avenue to evolve and perfect our social skills!

  • MMOs Build Up My Ego Self-Esteem

Building self-esteem or maintaining a sense of confidence can be difficult. Self-doubt is one of the most profound and detrimental human struggles. Thankfully, MMOs open the door for players to build confidence. When you turn on your game, you are the hero. By surrounding ourselves with positive affirmations, we are going to feel better. And when we feel better, our positive attitude will translate into positive behavior in both our professional and personal lives. Storylines in video games empower us to believe in ourselves and constantly reaffirm our importance in the mission. As players, we will often hear statements like, “We couldn’t have won without you,” “Good work!” “Thank you so much,” and “You saved us!” MMOs offer crucial validation and give players the means to enhance their lives.

 

  • Life is Better With out MMOs

Every once in awhile we all get that overworked, overtired, and underpaid feeling. Impossible demands take their toll. Students face peer pressure in school. Professionals starve for feedback in the workplace, and at home, stress feeds negativity. It is easy to blame the things around us when life gets hectic. But hobbies like playing MMOs are often not the cause of stress but the reliever of it. It might be easy to observe someone playing a video game and misinterpret that action as apathy. However, it’s important to remember that all humans need time to unwind, because when we relax our minds have the chance to process our daily stress and to rejuvenate. Video games offer relaxing entertainment that can help reduce stress. They offer a way to explore, create, and imagine—which is not something adults get to do that often.

I imagine we all have relatives who wonder, “Are video games a waste of time?” “Why does my spouse play video games in to the night?” “Why does my child want to play a video game instead of go outside and play?” “What’s got into him or her?” I ventured into the world of MMO gaming as an adult and discovered a passion for in-game community, especially in raiding teams. Working with industry professionals, I gained a deep understanding of video games and their artists, lore, culture, and development, and that’s how the story for The Holder’s Dominion was born.

THD_Cover_4Dots_FINAL_SM

 

I wanted to write a novel for gamers and non-gamers alike about the unpredictable and influential ways that video games change us, and to share with others the amazing experience of collaborative video games and the communities that grow up in and around them. And on March 1st, 2013, The Holder’s Dominion was published! This fast-paced story aims to bridge the gap between families and friends of gamers who wonder about the allure behind their loved ones’ fascination with video games. The Holder’s Dominion has the potential for readers to understand why people, young and old, want to play video games. The inspiration behind writing it came from wanting to create a basis for family and friends of gamers to understand them and their world. Because this book was constructed as a gateway for fans lacking deep exposure to the genre, the novel begins its exploration from the perspective of an inexperienced gamer.

The next time you see someone playing an MMO, or talking about “Raid Night,” try to see that person through a new viewfinder. Multi-player games are a wonderful way to connect with others. In the right balance video games enhance and benefit our lives. The Holder’s Dominion reveals online gaming in an easy-to-follow and riveting setting, revealing the secret side to online games, and an avenue for different generations to understand one another. As a speculative thriller, this novel is changing the perception of video games and video game players worldwide!

 

genese_davis_hsAbout the Author: Author, host, and columnist Genese Davis is a thought-leader in video game culture and its social development. Through her passion for the art community, Davis demonstrates how team-based video games like MMORPGs affect our lives and the new place video games have in fiction and other forms of media. She is the author of the new gamer fiction, The Holder’s Dominion, a breakthrough novel shaping the perception of what the term “Gamer” really means. Davis lives in Irvine, California, where she advocates for her other passion, animal rescue. To learn more, connect here: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Further Gamifying Accounts Receivable

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Sep 13 2011

In the not too distant past, I talked about how to use game mechanics in accounts receivable so as to help ensured that a business gets paid, but what about the people who are doing the collections?

Accounts receivable is tedious and draining work that involves a lot of repetition, so why not use game mechanics so that it is more engaging, rewarding and yields better performance out of the employee?

Applying game mechanics to business processes is tricky, because the last thing you want to is trivialize the work or condescend to the employee. For me, coming into a job and hearing someone say, in all seriousness, “Let’s go play the Accounting Game!” is the stuff of nightmares, and I love accounting.

So, how to use game mechanics in collections? Thankfully, this is relatively easy to do, since collections enjoys a clear goal, the collection of money from accounts.

To do this, the best approach is not to create a game and insert it into the collections process, but rather, take what tasks employees already perform and make them into a game.

To start, assign a point value to every percentage of the total accounts receivable ledger that a particular employee is responsible for. Doing it as a percentage is important, since different employees are responsible for different accounts and will have different amounts that they need to collect.

Secondly, depending on whatever criteria is used at your company, assign each invoice a rating category from new, to concern, to critical, or whatever ever gradients work for your company, and with each gradient being worth different point values. Also, add a point bonus for every time an employee clears all of the invoices marked for a rating category, except for new. For critical invoices, for every critical invoice not collected, subtract points from an employee.

This begs the question of what to do with invoices or amounts that have to be written off. I believe the best solution is to remove points from employees for invoices, accounts and amounts that are written off that they are in charge of. This disincentivizes write offs and will encourage employees to be more aggressive with troublesome accounts. Mind you, the point deduction for a write off should not be as severe as the one for not collecting from a rated critical invoice or account, since the decision to write off an amount should be agreed upon by management.

But we are not done, when an employee collects from an invoice and the payment is posted, your accounting system needs to post, immediately, the gain in points for the employee in a place where the employee can see it easily. This can be just about anywhere, from an intranet site to a scoreboard in the office.

It is important to have these scores publicly available to other employees in the company, for this increases not only the social pressure to perform, but also it increases the participating employee’s perception of the status they gain by performing well.

I would not stop at points, however. Instead, incorporating achievements into the workplace can also have great affect. These achievements can be based upon any number of things, be it being the first to clear a rating category within a month, to collecting a certain amount over the lifetime of a person’s employment in the collections department.

What is great about achievements, especially ongoing, public achievements, is that they provide an emotional reward for a job well-done without costing the company extra (though do not be surprised if they are used as an argument for a raise during the annual performance review).

By doing these things, not only does a company increase engagement, but they also create greater job satisfaction and make better use of the competitive instinct. Another advantage is that it enables companies to identify those players that consistently bring good value to the company. Yes, coming in first within a period is a good thing and should be celebrated, but it is more likely that the top performer will constantly change hands. It is that person who continually comes in the upper-tiers, even if they never place in the ranking, that are the backbone for any company, and these are often the people who are overlooked in favor of rewarding the occasional big winners and punishing the low performers.

In short, by using game mechanics in collections, companies can ensure their continued productivity and cash flows, and be less reliant on debt-financing.

Storytelling in Marco Polo

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Jul 04 2011

Ant’s recent post got me to thinking about Marco Polo and its relationship to storytelling. Specifically, what kind of stories can I expect to emerge from people playing Marco Polo once it is finished? I am sure that the answer will end up surprising me, but until then, I expect a few common ones:

– I met my girlfriend/boyfriend while playing Marco Polo
– I discovered this great bar/restaurant/park while playing Marco Polo
– I saw this great band/act/show because I was tracking someone on Marco Polo
– I learned about different parts of the city thanks to Marco Polo

Of course, those all outline positive experiences, but I expect there will be some negative ones as well, though nothing like Chatroulette’s Penis Problem, and not nearly as common.

I have to say, I am very interested in what comes out of this little game and cannot wait to see what happens next.

Story Players

1 Comment | This entry was posted on Jul 01 2011

I saw an interesting video from Extra Credits a while back about the role of the player in our art.

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/extra-credits/3555-The-Role-of-the-Player

This goes hand in hand with the emphasis on world building we want to have here. If we create interesting worlds (or just spaces for some of the less storied entries like Marco Polo) people can discover/unveil/create their own stories.

Minecraft does a great job of this. As you can tell here:

You have any great stories from games that weren’t the ones explicitly put in by the designers? Share with us in the comments.

5 reasons for Cliché

3 Comments | This entry was posted on Jun 24 2011

So I want to talk a little bit about why I’m here. Maybe we can get James to talk about his reasoning later.

  1. I want to create interesting worlds
    borderlessworld
    World building has been a past time of mine before I even knew the term for it. When I was young often in play I would take the imaginary worlds presented in games, books, and other media and try and extend them. I often wish I could literally create parallel realities just so I could mess with how they ticked and play with how they worked. As you can imagine I am a fan of SimCity and other simulation and god games.
  2. I want to create tools that help other people create their own interesting worlds
    Some of the things I want to create, especially in the realm of AI are tools. I think the creation of well made tools would encourage others to be more adventurous with experimenting in the realms those tools cover since they lower the cost of doing so. It doesn’t hurt that I’d have fun playing with the tools myself after their creation.
  3. I want to be captain of my own destiny
    Just like Captain Sparrow

    Just like Captain Sparrow

    My current day job is fantastic, but I’m still working for someone else. I have to work on the projects they decide and drop them for what they dictate is a priority. One of the most free times of my life was while I was unemployed shortly before the current job and I got myself out of depression and starting working on personal projects in the downtime when I wasn’t applying for jobs. Cliché will be a lot of work, but if I can recapture that magical sense of freedom in the process it will be worth it.
  4. I want to play in interesting worlds
    If I don’t build them who will? The tools fit into this as well. Hopefully by contributing to the industry through our products and the dialog between the industry and gamers here we can help make more interesting worlds happen everywhere.
  5. Doing something scary is a good way to grow as a person
    Starting down this path has been scary. Once I’ve saved up some money taking the next step and quitting my job will be even scarier. But we grow as people in my opinion when we face frightening things despite them scaring us, and I think I am growing wiser and more confident for persuing this endeavor.

Do you agree or disagree with any of these reasons? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

90% syndrome

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Jun 16 2011

The software developers among readers should all know exactly what I mean with this title. You get a project going, get some great momentum, and get almost done. Then bam, well this isn’t quite right and you need to back up, or boom you need to slow down and polish that a little bit, etc.

So it is with pleasure and pain that I say that Marco Polo is approximately 90% complete with its first iteration. A slew of issues seem to have veritably conspired to slow me down including some hard drive problems(Thank god for svn).

Please forgive the bluriness

Marco Polo on an actual phone

Despite the slow down this is still very exciting times. In the next few months we will finish up our alpha version of Marco Polo, head down to birmingham for play on con and begin formalizing our designs for the next game(we have at least 4 more planned out but we can start hammering out more specific details based on what we learn from the current project).

So readers, where do you usually get android apps from? Let us know in the comments!

Artistry

1 Comment | This entry was posted on Feb 25 2011

Today, Anthony brought to my attention two things:

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/extra-credits/2794-An-Open-Letter-to-EA-Marketing

and

A Philosophy that Extends Eastward: Social Games Zynga-Style

After reading and watching these, I couldn’t help but think of my friend Begoña, whose father hand-makes flamenco guitars.
Stuart Mewburn Guitar

I am sure many (or both of you) are wondering what on earth does this have to do with gaming?

Extra Credit’s open to letter to EA complains that EA is pulling the medium of gaming backwards into the realm of juvenile fantasy. In a sense, Extra Credits feels that EA is turning gaming into this:
Ancient Lyre

Sure, this thing may be easy to construct, neat looking, and even fun to play…for awhile, but it is not going to have the complexity a guitar brings. The same is true with gaming.

In the Gamasutra interview, Andy Tian talks about bringing metrics to the forefront for determining game design, and downplays the importance of creativity and artistry. In guitar terms, what is he talking about is kind of like tablature:
Guitar Tablature

This may be technically correct, but its not music, and, by its own admission, isn’t art. You do not get innovation or anything exciting from playing the same song again and again. Sure, it’s fun at first, and doing it well does lead to a certain sense of accomplishment, but if a player doesn’t do anything new, eventually they lose interest. It takes being able to create your own thing, or having something new put before you in order to maintain interest.

The other thing is that games are a medium of not just craftsmanship, but of art. Both have incredibly important roles. With art alone, all you get is something neat looking, and with craftsmanship alone, you only get functionality and lose innovation. Games are a medium that require both to work hand in hand with one another in order to create something spectacular, and when you do that, you get this:
Stuart Mewburn Guitar

Something that is not only functional, and not just beautiful, but versatile and teeming with possibilities.

-James-

(pics courtesy of Stuart Mewburn Guitars, Clinton-wi.com, and Paul Smyth Guitars)

bad business —

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Jan 31 2011

We’d just like to get the word out about Cliffski’s plight. He’s an independent developer who is being stiffed on the bill for some games he’s produced. You can read the details in his own words here

As a note we only have one side of the story, but Zero-G hasn’t, at the time of writing denied anything or even bothered to respond.

Update–The issue was apparantly with the portal sites Zero-G was working with, not Zero-G themselves. Back payments have been made and everything has been resolved. Zero-G is only guilty of poor communication it seems.

The Man Who Sold the World

5 Comments | This entry was posted on Jan 16 2011

Not too long ago, I read an article about the development of economics in games:
Everybody Wants to Own the World

Mostly, the article discussed about how a world’s economics are becoming more a part of games, but also how developing cash sources are becoming more important than other aspects of character building.

One snippet caught my attention, though, “Eventually, I am overflowing with cash, which now allows me to get into all of that expensive equipment relatively easily since I now have the cash to be the hero that I need to be.”

You see this a lot in games, so much so that in every game I can think of where you have to buy goods, eventually you can become so flush with cash that nothing is beyond your reach, and this bugs me. True, a person can do this in the real world, but it is a lot harder (trust me).

One of the reasons why it is so easy in games is that money only has value for one person in the game-world, the player. No one else needs money. Sure, shops ask you for it, but nothing is done with it. It just disappears. Since there is no need for money outside of the player, prices never change, allowing the player to amass vast fortunes that do nothing for the player after they get whatever the most kick-ass equipment exists in the game.

Such is true even in games like Fable III. (Spoilers) After you take over, the world needs cash, so you have to raise it either one way or another. This may sound like this would be pretty cool, except that it is easily done. Just buy up the world and wait. Since the game doesn’t advance until you advance it, but your money accumulates based upon how long you play, you can just sit and wait and you will eventually have all the money you need and them some. And after you get enough money to put into the treasury, what do you do with the money you continue to accumulate? Nothing. Nothing at all. Sure, you can buy all of the equipment in the world, but that won’t even put a dent into your vast fortune. Plus, as an added bonus, the kingdom never needs money again.

Though that may appeal to some people, I see it as a problem. As such, I have a few ideas as to make this a non-issue:

1. Make the player character need more things than equipment. Make it so that they need to eat regularly. This will make it so that the player has to spend money regularly.

2. Necessitate upkeep and maintenance of properties. Fable III did this, though it was too cheap. I would also include the development of properties.

3. Have prices change based on supply and demand. Now, this is a bit more difficult, as you have to have a system in place to determine supply, a system in place to determine demand, and a system in place to determine how much money is currently in circulation. This will make it so that players will have to manage their money much more closely.

4. If you run a country or town or whatever, a system for tax rates, as well as upkeep and development costs. This is something I would have very much liked to have seen in Fable III. I mean, why can’t I keep the orphanage and turn one of the money properties I own into a brothel? Why not better develop Mourning Wood? How about restoring the fort to keep the Hollowmen at bay?

5. Speaking of property develop, military development as well. Even though I never control the army in Fable III, since I have insane amounts of cash, I would have gladly spent it all just to give them the nicest uniforms and equipment, even if it didn’t affect the game. Why? Just because I could.

6. If you own a ton of properties and shops, or have a staff, or an army, their salaries should be an ongoing cost.

These are only a few of the ideas that come to mind. Are they easy? Not really. Are they worth it? Absolutely, they will keep me playing, and the more I play, the more likely I will buy DLC.

Still, though I applaud the inclusion of economics in games, I believe that it should be as richly developed as all other aspects. Otherwise, at some point it becomes forgettable or useless.

-James-

Chasing the Dream

1 Comment | This entry was posted on Jan 07 2011

The good people at Intuit are having a competition for a $25,000 – $50,000 hiring grant. Being a new company, this would be a real boon for us and would allow us to come out with products a lot sooner.

The process to help us win is really simple, follow this link, enter in an email address, and say something nice. Every person who does this counts as a raffle ticket for the drawing.

Speaking of nice things, I looked at the page today, and a few of the comments really touched me. For example, LopeyK01 said, “These guys are revolutionizing the way games are made.”, and dracopervicax added, “Cliche is a company that is truly dedicated to enhancing the game industry, by doing something meaningful with games and expanding them beyond an entertainment medium.”

If people are already saying things like this, even if they are likely friends, since we are a very new company, it gives me great hope at our chances to succeed in this industry. Plus, it is truly motivating, for I do not want to let these people down. I know Ant and I have a good thing going here, but to hear it from others really means something to me. So, even if we do not get the grant, I’m okay with that, because this competition has already enough to keep on trying to make this thing happen.

So, to everyone, thank you.

-James-