Games and MUVES– VLENZ Update, No 182, April 22, 2011

Future Forecasts for Games and Virtual Worlds

Is Rod Humble going to take

 SL back to the desert?

 Seriath sees days of Bohemians and pirates reborn…

 The new CEO of Linden Labs CEO Rod Humble just might have something in common with OpenSim blogger and builder, free content distributor and Hypergrid explorer, Vanish Seriath.

Humble, although talking about gaming specifically, commented recently  ‘let’s go back to the desert’ — because we were better off then”.

Earlier at UC Santa Cruz’s Inventing the Future of Games symposium, according to Christian Nutt in “Gamasutra – the art and business of making games”, he had said that video games developers had made it to the “Promised Land”, as video gaming as an artform was spreading across the Globe.

Rod Humble

Seriath, for his part, in his TGIB blog - published within a similar time frame to that of Gamasutra – quoted Neuromancer (1984) author William Gibson, in his only appearance in Second Life in 2007,  as saying the virtual worlds “I cooked up were always in the backroom of something else, like, in my novel Idoru, there are virtual worlds that kids had broken into abandoned corporate or virtual websites and, in the basements, in the back rooms, they created whole universes of stuff, so they don’t have to pay for it. And that’s a much more appealing fantasy (than SL) to me…”

William Gibson

 Seriath said, “I think … it’s already clear which technology fits Gibson’s description today. We don’t even need to break into abandoned networks, we can run  (OpenSim) in our own basements, backrooms, anywhere. And really, it’s not going to be the corporations, the commercial grids, that will define the culture of this our metaverse, but rather the vibrant and living subculture of bohemians, of pirates, of artists, musicians, coders, builders and explorers, who are running this (a MUVE) on their own machines, out of love, and for the thrill of being there.”

In Seriath’s view – and obviously that of Gibson – the future might not belong to Second Life (TM), although if Humble is able to take the bull by horns and  “return (Second Life) to the desert” it might once more become as exciting as it ever was – and home to  Seriath’s real bleeding edge bohemians,  pirates, artists, musicians, coders, builders and explorers.

‘Hard to keep track of’

 “This is the time I’m least certain about the future of games that I’ve ever been in my entire life,” said  Humble at the Santa Cruz conference, as reported  by Gamasutra. “The way our art form is spreading across the Globe, I find it hard to keep track of.”

However, Humble who has created a number of   successful games, including The Marriage, and is well-known from his time working on The Sims series at EA, believes “games can change human behavior”.

Those who rate games, he said, “treat our medium more seriously than we do. I think we in the game industry have this clown nose on, clown nose off attitude.” We want to be recognized as art, but when criticized, we say “but it’s just a game!”

This may, in fact, be disingenuous, he implied, according to Gamsutra. “I think we can do both at the same time … and take responsibility for it.

 “I believe that the structure of the game has a meaning and a message that gets through, and seeps into the player’s subconscious, and gets delivered. And whether it can change human behavior or not? I say it does. I believe games can change human behavior.”

 That is not to say that it’s as blatant as some critics suggest. “I’ve played D&D and war games and shooters all my life and I am not violent,” he said. “But I have played games that have entirely changed my outlook, and how I live my life.”

 That said, “I think it’s extremely important to look at it and say how can we take responsibility as game creators. What games should we ethically build? If you are going to be influencing those [players] you have an enormous weight on your shoulders.”

Vanish Seriath

In Humble’s view, game developers should “follow the tact of art forms before. The most noble art to make is one that celebrates nature and human nature.”

And that is just where Humble and Seriath and Gibson might disagree. And so might the Bohemians and pirates and those on the bleeding edge of the virtual world technology and dare I say it, in the virtual world of pornography, where many  MUVE developments are taking place today.

Lost cool edge

In many ways Second Life is being destroyed by the same popularity that  The Saturday Evening Post was in its heyday. Even though not really mainstream Second Life  has lost its cool edge – as Face Book  is now doing through becoming peopled with wrinklies –  and more and more the  dread hand of  corporate Big Brother  appears to want to make Second Life into an homogeneous world that’s is safe, gentle and very  little  different from real life – a safe place for the kids, or suburban Moms and Dads to play in. Like the Saturday Evening Post,  which died through becoming too popular with its circulation mainly among the  small town folk, typified by Norman Rockwell,  the nostalgic, the retired, the unemployed and the  boring, and “widows” and “orphans” who didn’t have the spending power to attract corporate advertisers,  Second Life is no longer at the cutting edge of virtual technology. It appears to have become mundane.

Its  corporate walled garden sometimes seems sanitized and sterile, even though the reality is rather different.

But there is a place where one can do what one likes in one’s own world as well as visiting other worlds in basements around the Globe. That is the OpenSim environment where there really are countries without borders.

Seriath’s bohemians and pirates, albeit in small but growing numbers, are in this OpenSim universe, hypergating or hypergridding between worlds, even though the OpenSim universe is not as good in a software sense as Second life.

As Seriath says, “I’m excited about the metaverse to come, and I love the company I keep. Let’s make some really cool shit in our basements.”
But read the full stories in Gamasutra and TGIB from the links above. 

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