Michael finished the manifesto video tonight and it looks great:
As a follow up to my post, Warcraft Without War, I have decided to tackle the idea of “play” in regards to war has become a commodity for making money in both real and virtual worlds.
If you are at all up to date on the political and legal nature of our society, it is pretty prevalent that violence and conflict is the foundation of our society. I’m not trying to say that they are the only qualities we have as a society, but they are simply presented to us continuously throughout our everyday lives. When waking up in the morning and turn on the radio or television, instantly we are presented with these two qualities. An example being on my way to school today, I saw the damage hurricane Irene caused and heard about how an ex MBA player is being hunted by the FBI for shooting a women. Oh, I almost forgot that some semi famous person had a break up. I think you get my point.
So you may be wondering how does this relate to gaming? To explain that, I am going to take us for a second to our younger years. Growing up I used to spend tons of time outside playing superheroes, house, and power rangers with my friends. We would constantly learn how to interact with each other in appropriate and inappropriate ways. By “playing” we would go through a process of trial and error to learn how to act with the world around us. There is a term that floats around academia which is “learning through play.” If you do a Google search on it, will get lots of information about “playing” effects the development of a child. So, there is a natural correlation between the idea that children learn and develop from what they play in video games. I think there are a couple law suits about that going on right now. On the same note I don’t believe it is too outlandish to say that how adults “play” effects the way they interact with the society and the world.
Bringing this idea back to a game such as World of Warcraft we are presented with a prime example of what war has become. You step into this virtual world and are immediately forced to take a side. You either are the inferred “good” Alliance or the inferred “bad” Horde. From that moment forward you are told that you are part of your faction and must kill anyone on the opposing side on sight. You may being thinking this doesn’t matter because it’s just a game, but it’s “playing” just a game. I think it’s relatively safe to say that how we “play” video games transgresses into our society and our everyday lives. After all the Republicans and Democrats are kind of like the Horde and the Alliance but they lack purple and green people.
War is a tool. Play is a tool. Together they have become a money making machine in the real and gaming world. We don’t view it this way because gaming is considered part of our recreational activities. Being an art student I can say that generally the art I create is related and a representation of my everyday life. Games are no different. So the idea that games and “playing” effect our everyday life and society sound about right to me.
There still the idea of war being a commodity for making money floating out there. Between my two post we have examined war and play as a tool. Next time we may finally be able to tackle that concept that war has become a commodity for making money in both real and virtual worlds.
i recruited John Ransom as a Third Faction deputy to work on the Origins shoot today, we focused on the IRL shots today. here’s a taste and a few stills from the shoot.
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No doubt it is the way of things that there is almost always going to be a certain amount of skepticism as to the worthiness of any art project. When the art project involves video games, however, there is likely to be more of such skepticism when presenting the project to the non-art initiated.
Two questions reflecting skepticism have come up regarding 3rd Faction’s current project, entitled “Demand Player Sovereignty.” The first question arises from the environment in which project takes place: Specifically, “World of Warcraft” is only a game; so why should anyone care? The second question goes to the specific game to which the project relates: Since the premise of the game is “warcraft,” what would be left if, as central to 3rd Faction’s project, you took the war out of the game? In the trial run of 3rd Faction’s project during Subzero, the members of the project repeatedly had to field these two questions, sometimes with slight variations.
Let’s look at the first question – why should anyone care about a game when there are plenty of other more serious problems in the world. Someone who does not play games would argue that intervening in a space like World of Warcraft will not affect anything tangible in the physical world. This, in turn, raises the question of how one can affect people’s behavior – and specifically whether one can affect people’s behavior by changing the nature of the games they play. Not being a psychologist, I am not going to claim to have a sure fire answer for this question. Because of this, trying to explain the goal of the project to non-gamers became a challenge. It would often receive a polite chuckle and the questioner walking away.
Proceeding to the second question, what happens if you remove the war from World of Warcraft? Most people would argue if you did that, you would not have a game left. Blizzard, the maker of World of Warcraft, I am sure, would argue this. They have no incentive to remove the war, since most likely they would lose users. During Subzero, it became apparent that this was the opinion of most people. Without war, there is no Warcraft. On the other hand, one could argue that the game would function just fine without the war, since the war serves only as background and does not impact the actual function of the game.
It is not my goal to argue for or against these positions, but rather to present them as something we encountered. What is important is that our Subzero run through established that we were going to have to deal with these issues. Though I play World of Warcraft on rare occasion, it does consume a significant portion of many people’s lives. Perhaps that alone makes it worthwhile to intervene and attempt to make people realize that war is pointless. Still, the real challenge might be to get such gamers to care more about their community than a game.
What is Warcraft without out the war? Wouldn’t that destroy the foundation of the game? This is one of the many questions I got throughout the Subzero festival.
I found this question particularly fascinating because coming from a background in cultural anthropology, it’s interesting to see how people view the world around them. The focus on War in Warcraft isn’t all that surprising. Everyday we turn on the TV, Radio, or Internet where the nature of the news that mass media feeds is predominately around war and conflict. Our society has been transformed to thrive on conflict and violence. Everywhere you turn there was a shooting, a car robbery, or unrest in the Middle East. Now in the mass media’s defense this is half true, but I also ponder if they are a primary contributor to this social trend.
Another interesting notion to question is the idea that “war” is not always bad. I think we all can agree that the Revolutionary War from an American standpoint was about people coming together to take ownership over their own lives. That is where I think an interesting idea sprouts from. War is a tool to stand up for what we as individuals, people, and a society believe in. To take it as step further, as society has progress, we have learned from some of the great leaders of the past such as Gaundi and Cesar Chaves, that violence and conflict is not the only tool to stand up for what we believe in. I firmly believe you can have “wars” that are nonviolent in the form of structured resistance.
So you might wonder how this all ties into how I view the project we are working on for ISEA 2011 in Istanbul. To me DPS is not about taking the War from Warcraft, it is about take ownership over your actions in a digital realm. If you could have the freedom of a game such as Minecraft in World of Warcraft, how would you play it? I’m sure I’d kill something from time to time, but building communities, making friendships, shopping for clothes are just a few of the other choices that come to my mind. What if you could no longer be restricted by race, class, faction, or realms in how you interacted with World of Warcraft. I know I’d have a much better time playing with my friends that have chosen all different digital creeds of themselves, rather then being restricted by the false narrative enforced by Blizzard as a corporation. So, as you can see DPS isn’t really about taking the War out of Warcraft. The War in Warcraft is simply a way to take away the human rights of a player. It restricts their interacts and ability to choose freely in who they interact with individually, as a community, and the world inside of Warcraft.
On a side note, I also considered that war has become a commodity for making money in both real and virtual worlds, but that is another discussion all together.
A word that means nothing to many, and everything to an elite few.
With the occult power of information wizardry, the technorati can control every facet of your perception of wow reality. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling the transmission. More specifically, BLIZZARD is controlling the transmission. It’s small wonder the opiated masses are oblivious to the struggles of the Third Faction. The master’s tools can never dismantle the master’s house, and the wow interface will never create global virtual change while it operates under the hegeomonic rule of our oppressors.
They think they’re gods just because they made and run the world.
They have another thing coming.
Already work has begun to correct the flawed oculars provided by the snowy despots. In the future, quests will be freed from their mechanical shell, and returned to their rightful place amongst the people. As in the communist ideal, the workers will own the means of questduction! Achievements will no longer be pyrite dog treats awarded to greedy little schnauzers by the smug beturtlenecked game masters for jumping through their grimy hula hoops, they will be REAL awards given by REAL people for accomplishing REAL feats- uncodifiable feats! The logic of wow appropriates every social construct and processes it into a mealy nicotine progress paste. The filthy blizzard sub-wizards (if one could even deign to give them such a respectable title) have disconnected the gossamer ley lines that connects us to one another, and as such, to based god. In their creation of the game they have broken the most central dictum of the TechnoWizard Grimoire:
“2.6A : Never Program to Deprogram”
If my words trouble you, dear readers, fear not: in time you too may adapt to the supercritical levels of Truth that the bourgwizee enjoy. With dedication, a little mental programming (*winkyface*) and a lot of love, we can make for ourselves a gorgeous new world.
Something to think about
well see ya,
M.K. + Jung Zumacroom a.k.a CoolCat Conjurer i.e. A pair o` pathetic peripatetics
SubZero was the first ‘live fire’ test of our hypothesis on merging online and IRL questing/activism. Although DPS at SubZero was a experiment in mixed realities programming, my role was completely different than my previous Third Faction(TF) events. First of all I was a lot closer to a hired gun for for the Sub-Zero because I was 2500 miles from the site. It was a type of telecommuting into a mixed realities experiment and of course this gets my geeky-Dr.-Who-tesseract-spacetime-collapsing nerves firing; the experience was definitely a different. It gave me an even deeper respect for the work that Mez and Liz, two Third Factioneers who reside outside the U.S. and so my new post in the Southeast aligned me closer to the challenges that they face regularly while working with TF.
I have to admit that this experience was a bit disorienting. Sitting, lone, in the UWF lab amongst the flicker of 4 differ screens, I relied on the VOIP client and Marek as my ‘eyes’ at the festival. It also afforded me the focus to carry on truly deep conversations in the game with those people that the DPS volunteers sought out to complete their quest.
At SubZero, the DPS volunteers were pushed into the scenario quickly and some of the volunteers had little or no XP with the game interface. Coaching on the ground by Third Factioneers in San Jose helped, but I found that I was providing a bridge for the perplexed players that DPS agents were contacting. Due to my lack of on-the-ground distractions, I was able to talk in-depth with these sometimes perplexed players who had just been asked to hug Mata Hari, the lovely Rogue from the other faction and act as an in-world ambassador.
I think this is one of the most complex problems inherent in our DPS project. How can you split your attention to be able to engage in conversation both in game and IRL? It indeed is a skill to both translate and continue conversation and it is probably best done in pairs especially for the novice.
Here’s the thing- gaming culture is an island. There is a huge gulf between people who play games, and those who don’t have very skewed opinions about games. The people at SubZero were not gamers, and this project, at least at first blush, does not seem to relate to issues that people who do not care about World of Warcraft face. Even after so many months of thinking about the project I think the relations to the non-WoW world are tenuous at best. Our most enraptured audience members were children wanting to play WoW, not change it.
Even within the gaming community, WoW is a polarizing game. It is subject to many stereotypes- fat nerds poopsocking for days, trycares getting buttmad about losing their e-swag, the horrible, horrible barrens chat, the manipulative pavlovian mechanics (wowcrack). Just about everyone has played it (or knows someone who has), and just about everyone has quit. So not only was the number of people who knew about the game limited, but half of those who did were very quick to dismiss the project on sight, simply because of the game in which it took place.
Very few of the people who were brave enough to sit down knew how to play WoW coming in. WoW is not an easy interface to learn, especially not in a crowded art fair. The WASD movement is a challenge, mouse camera control is a challenge, learning about buttons and icons is a challenge, the quest log is a metaphor that requires experience with games to understand, and multitasking between navigating the environment and watching the chat log is a skill that many still, after many years of experience, still struggle with. Very few of our participants were able to complete the quest.
The business on the other side of the curtain went fine. Being a quest giver was boring, as would be expected, but playing dynamically and helping players complete the quest made it slightly more interesting. Protip for player quest givers: don’t play like an NPC.
Ultimately, I think attending SubZero was misguided. Our primary audience is WoW players and virtual world inhabitants. To be willing to fight for something, you need to care about it, and until art fair attendees care about virtual worlds, they sure aren’t going to care about Third Faction.
There was originally some discussion about whether or not we should participate in subZero 2011. I was one of the collaborators who pushed for participation because I remember how much we learned from the experience when we exhibited /hug there in 2009. It was a lot of work to get everything together on short notice, but we managed to pull it off and I was essentially happy with the results.
The things I was hoping to get out of being involved in subZero are as follows:
1. get the team active and working together – this happened despite the need to coordinate so many people from all over the planet. Also this helped us to see where we had coverage and where we need more coverage in the future.
2. experience working in mixed reality – personally I wanted to see how the public would respond to a piece that was both in game and in real life. Overall I think people responded well to it, but only if it was explained to them. Otherwise people seemed to see the monitors showing a “video game” and just on passed by without a second glance. However, when people began talking to us they became more intrigued with the project, but many were still reluctant to participate in game because of the interface barrier. We did receive positive feedback from those who did talk with us.
A couple of conversations that came from the build up and the participation are worth noting.
The first was a conversation that I had with James Morgan regarding reputation and grinding. Within World of Warcraft “grinding reputation” is the act of gaining reputation with a certain group by doing quests for them which help them to achieve their goals. Once a player is revered or exalted with a group they typically receive benefits or badges to provide them with some sort of recognition. The conversation quickly turned toward the rewards we would be giving out during subZero for participation and reputation. We eventually decided on Third Faction patches or badges with our logo on them. In order for us as members to grind our own reputation we elected to manufacture the badges ourselves in lieu of purchasing them. So many of us spent a great deal of time designing and producing them thus accruing reputation of our own and making the reward mean so much more to us as an organization.
A conversation regarding activism soon followed subZero. The alternative quest lines we chose to use during the event were related to making friends with either the opposite faction in game or with someone you did not already know in real life. This proved to be very in line with our last project /hug, but did not really seem to address the activist role we wanted for DPS. A manifesto was in order. Currently we are working on revising the original manifesto to reflect this position. In turn we have also been discussing how we can best parallel our in game “End the War” quests lines with real life quests that will make some impact.