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I'm currently working on a DPhil in HCT at the University of Sussex. This section of the website is for an on-going 'learning diary', for me to write my thoughts and notes on various courses and my thesis.

Entries in glitch (2)

Tuesday
May102011

Baggage

I was taking part in the latest beta test for Glitch this weekend, and found myself chatting in the UK glitcher's group. There were a couple of interesting things that came out of that that I wanted to note down. 

The first thing to note is that there are a large group of players in Glitch who formerly played a game called Faunasphere. This game closed (apparently without warning) last year. The group in Glitch call themselves Faunasphere (FS) refugees, and by and large are either using the same screen name or will identify themselves with the old screen name in group chats when they hear someone else is also a FS refugee. Having read 'Communities of Play' by Celia Pearce and Artemesia about the Uru diaspora, I am finding meeting the FS refugees quite fascinating. 

All three of the other people chatting in the UK glitchers group were FS refugees. I was initially chatting to two, and when they found out I wasn't, they immediately started sharing their memories of it shutting down, and how much pain there was. One seemed much less emotional about it, focussing more on the amount of money people had spent and the unfairness. The other seemed much sadder, like they still really missed it. Later they were chatting to someone else, really worrying about whether Glitch will make it and be sustainable. They kept coming back to that, along with which other games they had/were trying to fill the gap. 

The other interesting thing about this group was their reaction to me being a PhD researcher. The immediate reaction was basically "are we being studied?". As I said to them, I am not directly studying Glitch, but here I am blogging about the chats we had. This obviously raises some ethical issues for me. I have mentioned no names in this blog post, but there were only four of us in the chat. I am hoping to find examples of the kind of norm-forming activities I expect within Glitch, and I can't wait for the community side to the game to be implemented. Do I need consent forms in order to use my experiences in-game in my research as anonymised anecdotal evidence? 

Initially I am going to use my player profile as a warning - "I'm blogging this!" style. I'll follow up on the ethical questions too. It may be that I can note down these sorts of incidents, but only in an offline diary and only use them to inform the direction of my research. 

Friday
Apr012011

Ownership

I've been playing Glitch as part of the alpha test, so there are quite long periods between games. Gives me a chance to peruse the forums etc. There are a couple of bits and pieces I've found that are relevant to my looking at rules, ownership, social norms etc. 

A big one is houses. We've been thinking about our African farmers and how they will need a shared home, but also that we need to make it possible for other people to pick up and use some of their stuff. This is really to allow the possibility of things that can happen in a board game, like someone sneaking some of your money off the table, or maybe 'donating' you some extra things. Also it would facilitate things like helping a neighbour with their planting, etc. Houses in Glitch are owned by a single person, and can be used to store extra bits and pieces. If someone else knocks on the door while the owner is online (anywhere in the world), the owner can give the other person permission to enter. Once they have entered, the player is free to pick up and abscond with any of the items that the owner has carefully stashed in their house. Nice mechanism!

(Also, interesting bit here about moving house and needing help from neighbours to carry everything...)

A new bit of functionality that is being tested today is 'community gardens'. These are basically streets in each area that have a whole load of ready-to-plant beds. You put seeds in them (available from the gardening vendor, or piggies poo them out too), water them, and they slowly grow. There's a forum discussion about them here, and there's a really interesting question at the bottom. "Can we walk off and leave the stuff we planted in Community Gardens without it being harvested by someone else?" (PittyPat) The response was no, they are communal gardens. 

The plants grow so slowly it just isn't really practical to stand next to your plant and wait. I was wondering around today, and a couple of times was running rather low on energy and harvested some of the community garden plants. I actually felt really guilty. Like I'd taken someone else's hard-earned stuff. I think this is a really interesting idea - communal gardens for anyone to plant in, but equally, anyone can harvest. I'll have to keep an eye on them and see if they are well used or become bones of contention!