Welcome to 'Blogged Out', the news report that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week: therapy and theft.
First up this month, I want to highlight a wonderful post on Terra Nova by Lisa Galarneau
entitled 'Are Virtual Worlds Good For The Soul?' The subject of whether MMOs (and games generally) could be therapeutic tools is one that I find fascinating, and it's particularly well handled by Galarneau, who brings numerous asides and links to illustrate her own points about self-edification through gaming.
"So when asked to write a book chapter for the just-published Games & Simulations for Online Learning: Research and Development Frameworks, I collaborated with educator Melanie Zibit on our chapter, 'Online Games for 21st Century Skills' [12 MB PDF]. That chapter outlines the hypothesis that online games, particularly MMOs, are excellent practice arenas for 21st century skills."
The blog post acts as a kind of survey of work in the area, although I believe there's much more going on that isn't linked in here. Richard Wood at Nottingham University in the UK, for example, has been doing work on video game play as self-administered mood alteration. I'll try and get my interview with him up here in a few weeks time.
In the meantime Galarneau presents this final point:
"A fair number of my respondents, when asked whether skills learned in-game have had an impact on their real lives, are adamant (!) that an MMO is 'just a game' and has no effect whatsoever on their lives. When I probe those responses, I most often find that it's a statement being made by young males. Does anyone have an explanation for this?"
My explanation would be that young men are continually bombarded with negative attitudes with regards to their gaming. Their peers will often associate it with 'geek' and their elders will have described it as a waste of time. I can't help feeling that these male respondents will have long-nurtured defensiveness, and they're right to be defensive, even if they are being a little dishonest.
Finally it's struck me just how literate and knowledgeable games developers are as a group. Writing this column is fun not just because I learn loads about what other gamers are thinking, but also because the links on a few hundred gamer blogs lead off to many fascinating places. It's becoming a routine experience to see interesting quotes, offbeat ideas and unusual concepts cross-pollinated into thinking about games.
Here's a lovely quote that I picked up while data-mining, although I've lost track of whose blog it was actually quoted on (professional journalist, me):
"...gaming is a future's language, a new form of communication emerging suddenly and with great impact across many lands and in many problem situations. This new communication form represents the first effort by man to formulate a language which is oriented to the future. This future will in all certainty differ dramatically from the past, and the languages which have passed to us from antiquity will no longer suffice."
- Richard Duke, 1974
And here's Jesper Juul
raising the famous "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal" quotation, which was actually written by TS Eliot (and not Picasso):
"Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest."
Spot on for game design: the good designer welds his or her theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn; the bad designer throws it into something which has no cohesion.
Which, in some oblique way, reminds me of one of an old William Gibson article
. You heard it here first guys: stealing is good for you.
[Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK - his game journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times.]