I love watching game designers at work.
(For the uninitiated: This is World of Warcraft, Patch 4.0.3.)
I should not put everything in the title, it leaves me nothing to post in here.
Well, if you're remotely interested in game studies, you might want to check out eludamos's new issues, where you might find articles about World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, GTA IV as well as Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 2. And as an added bonus: hyper-ludicity, contra-ludicity, the magic circle and the mundane circle.
Found, of course, via Jesper Juul.
While working on an assignement for our current module on collaborative virtual worlds, I think I started to understand what bugs me in both MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and sandbox games like Second Life. There are (as for now) two points:
A Feeling of Agency
Nothing is more frustrating in World of Warcraft than successfully finishing a quest by bringing the needed herbs to an NPC, being thanked by him and reassured that his sick daughter will now get well, and as soon as you turn your back, you hear him complain to the next player that his daughter is sick and is in dire need of certain herbs ...
What is missing here is the feeling of agency – the feeling that your actions as a player have an effect on the world and change it, for the better or the worse. After all, any of these games give you the feeling that you are a hero and part of something big, and not just another name- and faceless warrior in a confusing war (even though that picture would often be more accurate).
To be fair, it has to be said that World of Warcraft has its moments there – like when the players had to gather ressources in order to open up a portal. But those moments are few.
An Agent Beyond Your Control
Second Life has quite another problem. Yes, you can change the world – a bit, by building something on a tiny speck of land, but then again, why should you? Nothing is forcing you, there is no actual need, there is nothing out of your control.