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Entries in games (1)


Unexpected consequences

This DPhil I'm doing is having some rather surprising effects. Or maybe not so surprising, but anyway. Given that I'm working on computer games, and online multiplayer versions at that, I sort of thought I ought to play some. 

Unfortunately, it seems I have some quite specific requirements when it comes to games. I like puzzles. I quite like there not to be all that much shooting (it just gets boring). And I quite like making stuff. So I've been trying to find a game to get into that meets my criteria. (Also has to run on a Mac - having been PC only for years, I now only seem to have access to Macs. Very strange!)

First up I tried Wurm. This is a Java-based sandbox game, which sounded good. Signed up, went through the tutorial level, got chucked out into the world and... now what? I kind of didn't have anything to do. I'm sure there's plenty I could have got going on, but why? That was an interesting outcome in and of itself. Turns out I do want stuff to do, and maybe even the chance to level up. I just want to choose what I'm specialising in a bit. 

I've been doing a fair amount of reading too, and found a book called "Communities of Play" by Celia Pearce. It's an ethnographic study of a group of players from the Myst online game (Uru) who got kicked out when the game closed, but chose to stay together and move to different online worlds. Fascinating read, and Uru sounded right up my gaming street, but of course it had closed. Except then I discovered that it's currently running again, as the developers (Cyan) try to move it to an open source model. Myst Online: Uru live is therefore another game I'm trying out. Having never played Myst, I found you can get it on your iPhone now, so I've been giving that a go too to get the hang of the puzzle solving. I'm quite enjoying it, in a frustrating sort of way, but I'm still struggling a little bit with how long it all takes. Plus I really need a notepad for it - the puzzles are the kind where you have to write down random things written on walls so you can use them later.  

Another suggestion that came from a twitter call for help I put out was Glitch. Now, this game is so new it's still in Alpha release, but it's quirky and pretty, and sounded really hopeful. So I've managed to get me an alpha invite, and got to join the last testing session last week. I now have a cute little green avatar in flipflops to help explore, and honestly I really enjoyed the test session. There are non-stop quests that pop up that you can choose to ignore or follow, and these quests relate directly to the skills you've just learned. You choose which skills you want to learn too. At least one of the quests got me talking to a group of players (another barrier for me participating fully in online communities is getting over my not wanting to talk to other players so much - eep!), and there was a group that were working together to build an entirely new area in game, so that sounds pretty interesting once I'm up to speed with my skills.

So, suddenly I seem to be spending odd hours here and there playing online games. Even though I used to work at NCSoft, that's never been my scene! Anyone got any other suggestions?