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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Online Gaming: It's Where I Belong

Brendan Drain over on Massively struck a very strong cord with me in his opinion piece, On your deathbed, you will not regret gaming. I agree with everything he says about gaming. World culture is changing. The young and the young at heart see this. They participate in it gladly. It is only those entrenched in the 20th Century that do not see the good in this.

I currently have a 94 year old woman living in my house who is incapable of understanding what I do upstairs for all those hours. I know this from our conversations about it.

She asks, "did you have fun playing your game?"

I reply, "Yeah, me and the guys just evicted a Russian corp from it's wormhole."

"What guys?" she asks.

"Me and my alliance mates."

"Are they here in town?"

"No, they are all over the world though most of them seem to be on the East Coast."

Then she looks over at the phone. I know what's going through her head. It didn't ring. It wasn't busy. "I talk with them using my computer," I say.

"How many guys do you play with?" she asks.

"There were about thirty of us tonight, though thousands play the game at the same time."

"Thousands?" she asks incredulous.

"Tens of thousands from all over the world," I confirm.

"All at the same time? How do you understand each other?"

I'm certain you see what I am getting at by now. This conversation didn't actually happen precisely this way. It's an amalgamation of several conversations we've had. But all those things were said at one point or another over the past weeks.

And my game playing isn't the only thing she doesn't grok. My refusal of the newspaper every day causes consternation too. It seems in her world I'm being rude for not accepting the offer of a shared newspaper. She grasps I have access to more news through my computer upstairs, and even my phone, than anything landing on the porch. She just doesn't understand why I don't want to reinforce our social bonds with a shared newspaper. I've refrained, so far, from inviting her to try Eve Online. I understand it isn't her cup of tea, and I'd find no offense in her refusal. I'm afraid the same thing cannot be said about the newspaper.

And this is where we get to the cord Brendan struck with me. The one I can't get out of my head. People like Mike Foster, whose article Brendan based his on, and even the 94 year old, frankly irritate me. They are very quick to judge something they do not understand simply because they cannot grasp the nature of it. When I point this out (not to the 94 year old, I'm not that cruel,) I am quickly labeled arrogant or elitist. Those terms are self-worth's last refuge for those who cannot understand my point of view. They would rather dismiss me than understand me. Understanding me and acknowledging my social activities are good ones evidently endangers their world view - and therefore their self-esteem in some strange way.

This is at least what I've come to believe, though it is cynical as hell and deep inside I know it does not reflect well upon me as a person. But I've accepted as much as I'm willing to from these people. I am no stranger to this sort of labeling and there is a long history involved. As a teenager and young adult, I was labeled as weird and possibly damaged socially because I played that demonic Dungeons and Dragons game. The people who so judged me never realized my playing that game with my friends met the same social need they craved to have filled by going to church every Sunday. My weekly sessions were no different than theirs, just my tomes were not nearly as ancient as theirs.

This is how I think it is with the age of computer based entertainment. I seldom go to bars any more to drink beer and yell at the stupid referees on the big screens. I now take my beers upstairs, log into Mumble and bitch about The Mittani. I now have a different social meeting place. One that doesn't have a maximum occupancy sign, and that makes my social development suspect in many people's minds. There must be something wrong with me because I'm not like them... because I don't want to be like them.

It's not my fault they can't accept the fact the Internet is to me what the sports bar is to them. Or that my congregation is the world. I will not go to my grave regretting any of the time I've spent online. It's where I belong. Perhaps the only thing I'll regret is not being able to talk the rest of my friends into joining me. This regret will not be for me though. It will be for them. They'll never know the depth of friendships I've made, or the fun I've had being part of something larger than any religion, nation, economic caste or outdated mindset.

Fly Careful




19 comments:

  1. Very very cool bro... While I too have been on the receiving end of 'that' look... I am finding there are more and more of 'us' out there.

    Today, in the lunchroom, I ran into a guy anyone would have taken for a mid fifties (like me there) middle manager type, no negative connotations just you know, old school, college educated, career middle class middle manager middle of the road type...

    I slipped as I sometimes do and in conversation said 'lol' over something innocuous.. . he grinned and said, sorta sotto voce, you a gamer too? Which kicked off a half hour of standing in the lunchroom talking about EvE and his game, the FPS Planetside.

    He was very interested in EVE as he has heard of DUST and he read a Forbes article about the ($8,500+ US) Revenant loss... he was amazed when I told him how there is a $ to ISK conversion rate and how SYJ had, 2 weeks before, taken down 2 POSes worth over 517+bISK or approx $12,500 US.

    At one point we both agreed, had I not slipped up, we would have not taken each other for a gamers...

    Takes all kinds in both 'verses. =]

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  2. wise words. i have to say, MMO's have gotten to the point where they have a very popular anime, VN, and manga series about them, honestly SAO's view of MMO's is similar to mine. the experiences, friends, battles, triumphs, crushing defeats, they're all real. i kind of pity those that don't understand that, but i know where they're coming from, i thought that society wasn't worth more time than to point and laugh. people are people the world around, they may be weird, but so are the people down the road

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  3. The older generation understands community as being defined by the conjunction of proximity and shared experience. That elderly woman likely knew the names of most of her neighbors and they took part in each other's lives. This is not our reality.

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  4. And yet, ultimately, your society, your interactions with your space friends, your virtual bar, your congregation are but some rows in a SQL server database owned by someone else.

    You invest many hours updating those rows by your actions. What if (or when) CCP goes bankrupt and the server closes or CCP makes certain area's of space PVP optional and everyone leaves in disgust? You will still exist but will no longer be able to choose to keep living in your virtual society. You have no vote, you cannot protest or ferment revolution. It will be gone. You own nothing in Eve - the EULA even says as much - all your stuff are belong to CCP.

    So this is your thing that is larger than any nation or religion or outdated mindset - a freaking SQL server database for which you do not even have dbadmin access.

    Why then choose to put so much time and effort into this world instead of the one in which you do have a say, a vote, can really change and can't be taken away while you still live? Too hard? Don't like the rules?

    Maybe the 94 yr old woman offering you the newspaper is offering something more than a shared experience. Perhaps she is also asking "What are you going to do about it!"?. Are you really surprised that she cannot grok "I will enjoy my virtual experience with my virtual friends and my imaginary internet spaceships"?

    I too love Eve, I spend a lot of time playing it - some would say too much, but I do not now, and hopefully never will, mistake my enjoyment of an artificial and socially very limited shared experience with "It's where I belong".



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    1. You could not be more wrong. These relationships are in spite of the database. I have friends who I met long ago on BBSes from here to Frankfurt and in news Groups like alt.callahans. You may not know what those are, for they are just old technology no longer used. But the friendships I forged through them have lasted. We meet up. We reminisce. We even game.

      And don't be so smug in your assumption that I do not engage in 20th century (and earlier) style socializing, or that I don't read the SUnday comics with my 94 year old house guest. One of my hobbies is to put on medieval armor and hit other people with a stick that weighs and swings much like a long sword. There is no database involved in that, I can assure you.

      And then there is the cos-play I involve myself with. Admittedly there is some database access for that one. But it is not an online endeavor by any stretch of the imagination. I also have as a hobby photography and geology and genealogy. And that last requires a lot of database interaction, but I get to know all sorts of people through that database and I am amazed at how many of them are my long lost cousins.

      And most of the bonds created by these pastimes extend beyond the borders of my poor, ignorant and predominantly Republican county. But none of them compare to the breadth and depth of the people I get to interact with through my online exploits. People like you. And yes, that is greater than any religion, country or outdated mindset.

      Welcome to the 21st century my troll friend. And if this is not where you belong, why are you responding to this post? I certainly don't care what you think about my chosen relationship vehicle. The fact I wrote this post should tell you that. I can't help that you seem to have never made an effort to meet those you interact with online. Those are some of the few times I actually go to a bar - and they are fun times indeed. Try it. You will find there is far more to it than some database in the cloud.

      Don't make me regret for you too. Cheers!

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    2. Mabrick thanks for your nice reply. Yup I agree I am probably wrong.

      Sorry to appear a troll, that was not my intention. I do play a lot of Eve and spend a lot of time explaining and justifying the time spent in-game both to others and to myself. Your assertion that you belong with your online bro's ahead of those in your physical space sort of annoyed me.

      Also thank you for welcoming me to the 21st century. You know back in the 20th, before the internet was a thing, I was sneaking time on the NMR machine Silicon Graphics terminal to run the UNIX talk command over a telnet session so as to court my now wife as she did her post-doc half a world away, explored MUDs, USENET, IRC, the nascent www on LYNX then Mosaic and so on. Yes I know of this old, no longer used technology of which you speak.

      Yes you can meet people online, you can even marry them :) You can also meet people at work, when traveling, helping out in a service organization, playing sport, drinking in your local bar etc. What makes these interactions less valuable or rewarding than those online? Is it that these relationships are harder work? Is it the fact that in the real world you cannot filter and exclude those who don't have the exact same interests, morals, norms, behaviors as you? Yeah online - I only have to interact with those whose values are my values and I only have to read news or opinions that agree with my world view unlike in that pesky newspaper. Hey I can go to meetups with those people but I don't have to live with them or their imperfections like I do with family, work mates, the people I play bridge with, people I get drunk with. Damn real life people and their wrong moral and political views and their bad personal habits. Your probably right I should just embrace the world of self-mediated, self-selected socialization. It's safe, sanitary, and I never even have to look someone in the eye when I disagree with them. They are just "Trolls" anyway.

      And if someone doesn't join us then they are "out-dated", and we "should feel sorry for them". Sheesh losers.

      I do not doubt the depths of experiences and joy and fun you have had with people you have met through online gaming. I too have friends, too far away unfortunately, that exist only because of online interaction and I have met only rarely in person. I also realize I exist in a physical space and am surrounded by people I did not always choose to associate with but they are there. Warts and all.

      At times they need me not to look away towards my online friends but instead need me to notice and value their experiences even though they are not mine. I belong to my family, my workplace, my neighborhood, my city, and my country - outmoded as these things may be to you - because it is in those places where I stand the best chance of having my world view changed, my prejudices exposed, my bigotry challenged and maybe, just maybe, the best chance I have of doing something that makes a difference for someone else.

      It could be I am wrong, my physical community is outmoded and outdated and I can just ignore that homeless drunk at the end of my road, the woman two doors down screaming as her husband lays into her for the umpteenth time this week, the picture of a garden my daughter bought home from kindergarten and spent hours explaining to me, the the racist old guy next door who keeps wanting me to fix his internet, the wife's friend who has a mother dying of cancer, the city council that want's to turn the local park into a housing estate by gifting the land to their developer friends, the government that wants to give our spy agencies unlimited powers so we can all be made safer in our sterile self selected worlds where we can have fun blowing up our pretend internet spaceships. Is this your Brave New World that I am missing out on?

      Anyhow - thanks for taking the time to write the blog, it is always a good read.

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    3. Just because this activities are stored in a Database don't mean they aren't stored anywhere else. It is stored in your brain, it's a memory of enjoyment or grief. Something YOU experienced with your friends.

      If you go to the sports bar watching a match of which ever sport you prefer it will be an experience you get with your friends. The game is stored somewhere but you will never watch it again or "replay" your actions in that bar. It is just a moment of memory, the place where it happens is not important.

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    4. Well done, Mab!

      I totally get you on the judgemental and exclusive bit.
      One of my themes always been to show up to others that 'different' does not always mean 'threathening'. That we can all share the same planet in harmony regardless of what we buzz on.

      That said, lets keep it real.

      Online gaming is both very convenient and non-commital.
      It is very easy to neglect other parts of your life and rationalize that what you are doing is every bit as significant and worthwhile than anything else you would be doing with your time.
      It is not.

      That has nothing to do with 20th or 21st century or whatever old timers grok or not about the virtual realities.

      It has to do with the fact that it's a game.
      While your mind delves in that game, you're not actually helping anybody (yourself included) or society advance toward self-improvement.

      You're just wasting off your time in the land of entertainment, where it is very easy to switch the channel when a real learning experience (a.k.a.: a painful one) shows up.

      It's the blue pill of the Matrix, Neo.
      And while you eat your virtual juicy steak, a lot of bad things is happening in the world that you might have been able to help with.

      Don't get me wrong. I'm as guilty as you of that crime.
      Perhaps if reality was not so ugly to look at, we'd be more inclined to participate in it and less tempted to run away from it.

      It's a balancing act between keeping ourselves entertained and working on real world problems.

      You're probably already aware of all that.
      I'm not assuming anything about you since I don't know you at all.
      I'm just pointing this out so you may look at your old lady with a slightly more forgiving perspective.
      That shared newspaper is also an offer to participate in the real world and that's important.

      Fly careful.

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    5. And I apologize for trolling back in the last paragraph. I do have to admit it was intentional. So much for my vaunted ideals. I "hear" what you are saying. Thank you for saying it and by all means, carry on.

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  5. Well done, Mab!

    I totally get you on the judgemental and exclusive bit.
    One of my themes always been to show up to others that 'different' does not always mean 'threatening'. That we can all share the same planet in harmony regardless of what we buzz on.

    That said, lets keep it real.

    Online gaming is both very convenient and non-committal.
    It is very easy to neglect other parts of your life and rationalize that what you are doing is every bit as significant and worthwhile than anything else you would be doing with your time.
    It is not.

    That has nothing to do with 20th or 21st century or whatever old timers grok or not about the virtual realities.

    It has to do with the fact that it's a game.
    While your mind delves in that game, you're not actually helping anybody (yourself included) or society advance toward self-improvement.

    You're just wasting off your time in the land of entertainment, where it is very easy to switch the channel when a real learning experience (a.k.a.: a painful one) shows up.

    It's the blue pill of the Matrix, Neo.
    And while you eat your virtual juicy steak, a lot of bad things is happening in the world that you might have been able to help with.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm as guilty as you of that crime.
    Perhaps if reality was not so ugly to look at, we'd be more inclined to participate in it and less tempted to run away from it.

    It's a balancing act between keeping ourselves entertained and working on real world problems.

    You're probably already aware of all that.
    I'm not assuming anything about you since I don't know you at all.
    I'm just pointing this out so you may look at your old lady with a slightly more forgiving perspective.
    That shared newspaper is also an offer to participate in the real world and that's important.

    Fly careful.

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  6. @Anon-6:57- (diatribe follows)
    I disagree strongly… and your commenting here, on a blog in the meta-game, is my proof. You in your anon-e-mouse guise are interacting with us in this forum not as just ephemeral bits of data on a magnetic storage device, but as thoughts and opinions in a text based conversation.

    Sitting and writing a letter longhand to a friend or an acquaintance, or typing one out on a typewriter and sending it either by post is different only in immediacy, in time. Other than that it is your thoughts and feelings, expressed in your own words and is a ‘conversation’ in that much older and accepted text based medium…

    This (the internet, gaming, email, chats, txt, tweets, blogs, etc., etc.) is nothing more than a new medium for text based communication. What resides on the servers is not the point… those conversations, interactions and experiences take place inside US and are retained there, where it counts, as memories stored in our wetware.

    My wife, who HATES EvE with an unrivaled passion (while she sits and plays Farmville… go figure) asked one night, “What would you do if EvE shut down?” I have though on this and know I would feel really bad and it would be hard to lose… I have a LOT invested in New Eden and not just in ISK… it for me would be very much the same as when a good friend moves far away, or a restaurant you had been a regular at for years closes, or you drive by the home you grew up in and it’s a 7-11… or some such RL change. But life is change… it is the only constant. I would, after blogging long and deeply about the passing of EVE, wait impatiently for ‘Star Citizen’ to go to Beta and do much as I do now when not logged into EvE… spending time as I do now IRL… sailing, camping, hunting, doing things around the house and browsing the web, trying other games (and end up very disappointed as usual) and blog about all of that… It would still be my ‘Carbon Based Life” though the engine might not be CARBON anymore…

    You say, “So this is your thing that is larger than any nation or religion or outdated mindset - a freaking SQL server database...” I say which is worse… having CCP fold financially and the EvE Server cluster go offline, virtually losing all our virtual stuffs or living through what the citizens of London, Sarajevo, Stalingrad or Dresden did? They too lost all their ‘stuffs’… and their homes, and many lost family members and friends, and their own lives… Loss may be ‘real’ in EvE, but then again, it really isn’t. My virtual life is rich with experience, but it is still a life I ‘choose’ and one I can walk away from, or lose, without nearly the same repercussions as real life.

    You say, “ Why then choose to put so much time and effort into this world instead of the one in which you do have a say, a vote…” Because it is FUN. Because it is DIFFERENT from RL. Because, for me personally, when Congress shut down the Apollo program … EvE is now my ONLY chance to ‘go to’ space… which, had you grown up in the ‘60s as I did, was our bright, shining future and birthright.

    You say, ”I… …hopefully never will, mistake my enjoyment of an artificial and socially very limited shared experience…” with RL.’ … I disagree in spades with ‘limited’. Yours experiences may be limited, but that is your perception, mine are not. I fly with my sons almost every day and we are at closest 2 hours apart and farthest 7 hours apart… I get to spend real time sharing an experience we can get NOWHERE else with them and with a group of guys I have met online, among them Mabrick, a man who I have come to greatly respect and admire, and who I am honored to call my friend.

    No, Anon, I feel sorry for you that your experience is limited, but your perceptions of the virtual ‘verse we share don’t fit mine at all.

    Oh and BUZZZZZZ! yer wrong… we do have a ‘vote’ in New Eden, ever heard of the CSM? Ever read up on what they actually do and how much of an impact they actually have? So neener neener.

    And +1 to all that Mab said in response.

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  7. I will never understand why the very first impulse of this sort of argument is to place one's own tastes above everyone else's, as you do in the closing sentence.

    You've made friends online? Great! So have I, from old BBS's in the '80s through USENET and MUDs to EVE and Facebook. I also go to a church. I also talk to my neighbors. I also have friends through the regional music and arts communities. I have both online and in-person gaming groups. None of these are better, none of them are worse. None of them are outdated (well, I'm pretty sure that the server I connected to over a 110BAUD teletype is gone) because shared experiences with other people will never be outdated. They are a fundamental part of the human experience.

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  8. The above dialog, IMHO, is all based on the 'real' vs the 'virtual'. IE the basic assumption that time spent on reality has greater meaning or validity that time spent on a virtuality. The way I see it again IMHO, is no matter which one you are doing as long as YOU are getting something of value to you out of it (and better if that value also somehow contributes to others too) then it is of value no matter what others think.

    It is MY time... how I spend it is up to me. I especially dislike the whole concept that I "...neglect other parts of your life and rationalize that what you are doing is every bit as significant and worthwhile..." as reality. If I perceive it as "every bit as significant and worthwhile" then to me it is, period.

    Also it is up to me whether or not I am "...actually helping anybody (yourself included) or society advance toward self-improvement." which is not now, nor ever has been my goal, job or my burden in life. I am here mainly for myself, my family, my wife and once I became a father I gladly accepted my role to be here for my kids.

    I am not a criminal, I steal not nor burden society with my upkeep, I work and pay my taxes and through those venues I contribute to the advancement of my community, country and humanity outside of myself, but the rest is for me and my family.

    As re: "...wasting off your time in the land of entertainment...", "...lot of bad things is happening in the world that you might have been able to help with.", and "...participate in the real world and that's important..."

    Not my problem, not my job, not my burden. If I wanted to do all the above I would give away all my stuffs, become a monk and join the Peace Corps... I choose however to be a career for profit computer tech, a husband and a father and to raise my family and live my life the way I choose.

    If all the above keeps you worried and awake at night Anon-9:57, whatinhell are you doing wasting your precious world saving holier than thou time commenting on a blog, about a game, on the Net??? Go go forth and save the planet my good man... allow us poor lost souls our perdition... (cause yer wasting yer time on me...) o7

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    1. I hear you man! All I want to do is mine ice in my Mack with my space bro's. That's what is fun for me. I pay my corp taxes, I go on the alliance OP's when required. However these god damned catalysts keep coming into my anomaly and blowing up my Mack.

      Why should I have to care about this bigger game that is out there when all I want to do is what I find fun? I am entitled to do what I want to do god damn it!

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    3. Anon-9:57 back here. I don't know who's trolling up at 4:29 and don't care.

      Hey man, can you tone down the emo a bit?
      I'm not accusing you of anything nor ever said the fate of the world keeps me awake at night.

      Here's the answer to your question:
      I waste my time on your blog because, as I have stated before, I do spend a lot of time lost in the world of entertainement too. I'm not proud nor ashamed of it, it's just a fact.
      If you insist on judging me, than you can conclude I'm no better than you.
      I never stated otherwise.

      Sorry my answer came so late, I'm working overtime a lot these days. Real life, you know...

      Back on topic, I'm disagreeing on the assumption you have that time spent in a hobby is as meaningful and important as anything else.

      If you keep on asserting that, we'll agree to disagree and that's all.
      If it gets you worked up, that might be a hint that you do feel guilty when you should not.

      Here's an example to better illustrate my point:

      Being a family man (like myself), you will see your kids grow in the real world.
      For instance, they will (or maybe are) go to school eventually. If something there is going a bad way, you will need to get involved to solve the issue.
      You will have to choose either to cut on your entertainement time or go down the neglect path.
      More so, all the time already spent in hobbies won't really help you out on that task.

      These are just facts.

      That goes the same way on the collective level. If we globally fail to see the connection between the fact that some aspect of our communities are in bad shape and the fact that we adamantly refuse to invest time and energy in it, then nothing will improve.

      When we space out in our hobbies, we do, in a way, surrender the initiative in the real world to other people that want to shape it their way.

      You can see this argument as an attempt to guilt-trip you out of your hobbies but it is not.
      I'm simply stating that there is a cost to gaming and gamers should be aware of it, to help them balance things out in a reasonable fashion.

      If you insist on debating your freedom to choose to do what you want with your off time, you'll have to do it with someone else because I totally agree with you on that. I might add that name-calling and expletives don't really prove a point but I disgress.

      I would never judge you, partly because I do live a similar life (job, family, blowing off steam on my gaming rig, and very little else) and partly because I deeply resent being judged myself.
      That's the part of your original blog post I fully agree on and I'm sorry if my comment came out any other way. Rest assured it was very much NOT my intention.

      Fly safe Daddy and say hi to your kids!

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    4. Gentlemen, time to bring this one to a close. You're starting to get personal, and to take it personally. Let's move on. Thanks.

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  9. I apologize to the three commenters whose comments from the 17th didn't get added. I'm not certain what happened there. I have corrected the error and the comments are now visible though the discussion of this topic appears to be waning. Again, my apologies.

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Be civil, be responsible and most of all be kind. I will not tolerate poor form. There will be no James Hooks here. We are all better than that.