Saturday, 24 February 2007

Reducing the gap

I am going to concentrate on some of the areas that MMOEs have going for them and perhaps suggest how these advantages can be utilised for social good.

The first one that I think is important is the reduction of the gap between people. This can take the form of:
a) Distance. Being with someone from across the world avatar to avatar is like being in the same room, well almost...
b) Equality. A beggar on the streets of Colombia given access and the skills to use the internet could walk side by side with the Queen of England
c) Discrimination. True enough people can still have their own and sometimes extreme views in an MMOE, but there is no chance for preconceptions, discrimination or fear when two people meet for the first time
d) Freedom. An MMOE can allow you to be what you want to be, explore freedoms, unmoderated by societal, religious or family pressure, which can bring people together. A certain "anonymity" to the avatar helps people to express themselves without fear of recrimination

Now advance your thinking to a global parliament, where anyone can be a member, everyone's view is equal. Put this on a discussion table, where real global issues can be debated. You would get real views from people at the sharp end of life, tempered with those in positions of power. And neither would have fear of reprisal, creating a forum for genuine discussion. Implement a translation software option and even the barrier of language can be removed, once again bringing people with different life views together.

I don't post to explain how this will be done, just to focus on the possible end result - a global forum, where frank discussion leads to equitable solutions to social issues and people living in hardship can contribute to debates for improving their quality of life.

One way this should be done is to have a global organisation responsible for the development of MMOEs, but I'll save this for next time...

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Games and barge poles

Most of the people I know are from the MMORPG fraternity and these people come from all walks of life, as befots a global market of perhaps 20m-30m people for this genre. Notably there are a wealth of cultural differences from different parts of the world, which many have already commented upon - one was particularly interesting was that players in one part of the world wanted their character to fit in and be similar to others, where people in another part of the world were extremely keen that their character could be customised to the nth degree. Many people will also have heard of the Bartle Test, where you can determine, which type of player you are - Explorer, Achiever, Socialiser and Killer, or any combination or balance of these.

The Bartle Test is really quite important in my analysis and can be found here: Here are my scores:
Breakdown: Achiever 46.67%, Explorer 80.00%, Killer 6.67%, Socializer 66.67%
ESAK players often see the game world as a great stage, full of things to see and people to meet. They love teaming up with people to get to the hard-to-see places, and they relish unique experiences.
Look at the description there and - bearing in mind that this description is largely comparative (compared to a SEAK or an EKAS, for example) - decide whether you know anyone who would fit that description very closely.

Chances are you do. But of course they won't be someone who plays MMORPGs at all. I would suggest that 90%+ of them have never heard of an MMORPG and would never ever entertain the idea of participating in one. If you explained it to them, then their response would likely be one of the following:
a) No, I'm too busy for that type of thing
b) No, but my 10yo might enjoy it; I grew out of those things a long while ago
c) No, you have to pay to play in those?
d) No, my computer isn't powerful enough
e) No, I have REAL friends
f) No, I don't want to get addicted to them
g) No, I think they are a social evil, which stop people from dealing with reality
h) No, I'd like to, but my wife won't let me
I won't get carried away, but there are plenty of reasons.

One of the largest groups of people you would meet would be (b). Basically, "I don't touch games, with a barge pole". Now, I'm not going to argue or analyse the merits or otherwise of this point of view, simply to say that it exists and it will be VERY HARD to persuade people to participate in an on-line game, with this perspective. This same group will often be those that enjoy "entertainment" more pertaining to their adult status, such as opera, eating in or out or concertgoing, so I don't personally feel the idea of having an on-line avatar who does all these things would be so far-fetched for this group of people. The issue is mainly that MMORPG has a "P" and a "G" in it. The word "play" and the word "game" makes many people feel awkward or embarrassed or indeed they simply reject it as not part of thier lifestyle.

You can see perhaps why restyling "play" as "participant" and "Game" as "on-line environment" is so critical for the development of the genre. Brent at Virginworlds recent podcast talked about Sony On-line Entertainment's new "Front screen" being far more functional than before. Clearly, it's going to turn into a marketing tool for Sony products from all areas of entertainment and quite rightly so. Bringing the mountain to Mohammed as well as Mohammed to the mountain is going to raise the awareness of Sony products and artists to MMORPG players, as well as include multiplayer gaming as a realistic entertainment option for that huge market out there that buys music from Sony artists. Having said that I'm not sure how many would install a 17Gb game onto their PCs.....

The clever bit about this is that suddenly MMORPGs move into the mainstream, by association. And in the mainstream, some of the (b)'s above suddenly become a lot less awkward about their involvement...

Well that wraps things up for today. I'll be back sometime later on in the week.

Friday, 16 February 2007

Welcome to the MMOE Blog!

Welcome to the MMOE Blog and I guess that I had better start by saying exactly what an MMOE is? Well, for starters it does currently exist, but for seconders it doesn't really exist quite in the way it ought. An MMOE is a Massively Multi-participant On-line Environment.

Who am I? Until recently, I was the CEO of one the UK's leading social enterprises, providing paid work to long-term unemployed people, helping them seek work and providing them with work skills, in the main.

Ok, well why have a blog about this? And why is this blog different from the wealth of MMORPG blogs and web-sites out there? Well, I hope to use this blog to seed some ideas for developers of on-line environments. These are environments not simply for gaming and entertainment, but for other issues too. And I hope to encourage people to post here with their ideas.

For example, let's take the Stock Exchange in London, which is a very busy place which has real people buying and selling real things. Actually being there has a real benefit, although you don't actually have to be there to trade. If you want to find out about the Stock Exchange, what it's like, whether you would like to work there, find out about the people there and maybe research the type of shares that are being bought and sold and even interact with some of the people that work there, then basically it's a trip to London.

What if the Stock exchange were created lock. stock and barrel as a virtual environment? Workers logged onto their avatars to work there, discussion was either in the form of "tells" or through normal voice dialogue via the internet, with every bit of functionality that they would have by actually being there. There would be a viewing gallery for non-workers who could see exactly what was going on, hear "tells" and even interact, if the worker was allowing this. The Stock Exchange would employ "Tour guides", who would show people around in their thousands, as opposed to the limitations of the building. Hey, they could even charge for this experience, if they felt that there was a market for it.

And why would they do this? It would certainly broaden the potential customer base for UK shares, it would open up the Stock Exchange to public scrutiny and interest and it may well reduce traffic congestion with there being no need for employees to travel to work. And that's just for starters...

And are they doing this? Well I have no idea, but I suspect not. The UK is very good at stifling ideas, with barriers, whether it be health and safety legislation, bureaucracy or its pandering to commercialism. I'll save these for another day, but I hope that at least a few people see what I have to say and mould or support it...

See you tomorrow!