Learn something new everyday, or at least try to.
A couple of students are going to write research papers on Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG’s). These are much larger online versions of what once were called RPG’s. Role Playing Games. The new, huge, complicated games allow one to construct a character or persona out of an immense array of qualities, as well as magical powers, and of course weapons.
The purpose of these games is to win. I find on MPogD.com—a clearing house page for a vast variety of games—the following “news flash”: “Round 7 of Worlds of War has now ended, many congratulations to Sean von Utopia (2:2) who made it to the top of the scoreboard.” Sean von Utopia, probably not the name of the actual person, Won! Pretty soon Round 8 of Worlds of War is scheduled to start up.
By winning and even if one doesn’t come out on the top, like Sean von Utopia, one scores points. I believe some of these points may be carried over to the next version of a game, and of course the more points one scores during a game means more power to you in the course of a game.
This points business, as well as the creation of characters that become famous like Sean Von Utopia, has led to a strange practice called “gold mining.” Youths, apparently located mostly in China, are paid something like 200 dollars a day to mine gold, to contact players, to offer them “real money”—if there is actually such a thing—for virtual points. The virtual points are then resold (in exchange for “real money”–) to people who want points for the game in progress.
Even more money apparently can be made by the buying and selling of whole characters. The real person who created Sean von Utophia may be approached by a buyer who wants to be Sean von Utophia and makes the creator of Sean von Utophia an offer he can’t refuse.
My student reports that he met people online who spent as much as a $1000 dollars a month to buy bits and pieces of virtual or imaginary reality for the purposes of game playing. Most of the buying and trading was done on Ebay which has now however banned the sale of virtual reality on its site. Too much possibility apparently of fraud when one is selling an object that doesn’t exist.
I find something vaguely and remotely disturbing about this. I can’t say why exactly. I think this has something to do with a theory I once had. That our tools tend to generate conceptions of reality that may or may not be correct. I believe the computer for example led for some time to a conceptualization of the human brain as computer like. Decartes for example was in part led to conclude that others might not be people but machines because of clock work like machines made for royalty that mimicked the movements of “people.” Tools do not simply manipulate a reality; they manifest one. What is the world of MMOG’s manifesting.