The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.
RSS feeds: v0.91; v1.0 (RDF); v2.0; Atom.
Previous entry. Next entry.
12:52pm on Friday, 31st July, 2009:
I was supposed to be in Leipzig today. By now, I should have met Ralph Baer and delivered a "brief commentary statement" to a room full of German politicians and journalists.
Well, I'm sure they all read QBlog anyway, so here's what I was going to say:
- I felt very honoured when the organisers of the Games Convention Online invited me to speak to you this afternoon, and it was with great pleasure that I accepted.
- It was also with some surprise.
- Not because I'm in any way humble.
- Rather, it was because the opportunity to talk to such a group of interesting and interested people existed at all.
- In the UK, the opening of an event like this simply would not attract this kind of audience.
- That may explain in part why we don't have events like this in England...
- In Germany, people who don't know about online games seem willing to make an effort to understand them.
- In Britain, they try very hard not to understand them.
- Because then it's so much easier to hold the right opinions about them...
- Germany is very much ahead of the UK — and most other European countries — in this regard.
- So, online games: they've not had great treatment in the past, on account of how they combine two things that scare people:
- 10 or 12 years ago, "online" was a frightening thing.
- I have books on my shelves back in my office warning that the Internet:
- Is addictive!
- Turns ordinary people into monsters!
- Is a danger to children!
- That's not just some part of the Internet, that's "the Internet" — email, the world wide web, search engines — all of it.
- They include case studies, in which distressed wives talk about their husband's unhealthy addiction to chat programs.
- Why does he spend so long on the computer when he should be watching television with me?
- Today, these concerns about "online" are no longer treated seriously.
- So many people use the Internet now, it's obvious that these earlier concerns were misplaced.
- Some individual web sites are harmful.
- There are groups of people that society does need to be concerned about.
- However, "online" is no more dangerous than "books" or "films".
- Which brings us to games.
- Germany is a world leader in games.
- Not computer games, games in general — board games.
- Well over half the games for sale in my local board games shop are translations of German games.
- The rest are collectible card games...
- If you said to people that board games were dangerous, they'd think you were mad.
- Some of the boxes are quite heavy, I guess you could do a bit of damage if you dropped one on somebody from a height.
- Computer games, though?
- Well here again, Germany is ahead of much of Europe in that you at least recognise that there are different kinds of computer game.
- Tetris might eat up hours and hours of your time, but it's no more a danger to society than are crossword puzzles or Su Doku.
- Yes, newspapers and politicians in some other countries do still lump them all together like they used to with "the Internet".
- Britain is one of those countries...
- However, this means that instead of criticising all computer, German newspapers and politicians can concentrate their fire on particular types of game.
- You seem to be particularly against first-person shooters, or "ego shooters" as they're known here.
- This just looks weird to players of these games.
- That whole thing about replacing blood with green gloop or robot parts? Like that would make a difference?
- Fortunately, it's dawning on people here just in time that actually, first-person shooters aren't all that harmful either.
- Doom, the game that kicked off the genre, appeared in 1993.
- All those 15-year-olds who played it when it came out are now 31.
- They aren't crazed murderers.
- Just like with books and movies, almost everyone can tell the difference between reality and fiction in games.
- Players can sometimes get extremely immersed in a role, yes, but so what?
- How many actors who have played murders on stage have been turned into murderers because they immersed themselves in the role?
- People always feel anxious about things that seem to affect their children's lives, but which they don't understand.
- They can't keep their family safe if they don't know what they're keeping them safe from.
- What they need is better information, so they can make an informed choice.
- There could indeed be games out there that people shouldn't play.
- Just as there are films they shouldn't see and books they shouldn't read.
- Not all of them, though!
- So, what about online games?
- There is a wide variety of these.
- Puzzle games, casual games, classic games like Chess, gambling games, ...
- Some of them look so little like "computer games" that people who are against computer games will happily play them.
- Very wide player demographics, too.
- More women play them than men.
- More older people play them than younger people.
- Other than being online, what do they have in common?
- They are inherently more social than off-line, single-player games.
- Even when they're single-player themselves.
- They're more accessible.
- Easy to find people to play with.
- You can play them from anywhere with an Internet connection.
- They cover many more subject areas than single-player games.
- Because on the Internet, a minority is still a lot of people.
- Because they can be much less expensive to make — players don't expect high-end graphics.
- They make software piracy difficult.
- You'll see and hear more about them if you come to the rest of the conference.
- So many people have an understanding of this, that today no-one could credibly argue that "online games" in general should be banned.
- Whether as "online", as "games" or as "online games".
- What about specific kinds of online game, though?
- This is where I come in.
- The most expensive, most compelling and most unlike-anything-offline games are Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games.
- I co-wrote the first of these back in 1978.
- This is why I get to speak to you today.
- Almost every MMO today is a direct descendant of that first virtual world, MUD.
- Now if you're worried about games and worried about the Internet, then MMOs are going to scare you witless.
- There is nothing in the real world that's like them.
- Except perhaps role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, which also scare you.
- In MMOs, people visit an imaginary world that is presented to them as if it were real.
- They pretend to be a hero in this world.
- Most are Fantasy genre, so you might be an elf or a dwarf, and use magic.
- There are others — Science Fiction, Superheroes, Pirates, Ancient Egypt, ...
- You can see the world through your character's eyes, as in an ego-shooter.
- People play them in a way that can look obsessive to non-players.
- They spend 2 to 4 hours sitting alone at the computer.
- Every night, week after week, month after month, year after year.
- Over 20 years in the case of some of my players.
- Some of the biggest of these worlds are specifically targeted at children.
- They run constant automatic behaviour checks to spot paedophiles.
- Now already, this is looking quite alarming!
- Ego-shooter, addiction, antisocial, child protection, ...
- Yet MMOs are incredibly emancipating!
- They're not so much games as places.
- They also turn some of the common assumptions on their head.
- For example, you can see through your character's eyes, but you can instead choose to see from a camera position some distance behind if you prefer.
- 2/3 of men prefer the third-person view
- 2/3 of women prefer the first-person, ego-shooter view.
- They have uses beyond games - in education, training, research, therapy, business, retail, architecture, ...
- There are also effects that MMOs, through their players, have on the real world.
- Some to do with rights and freedoms.
- Awkward things for some politicians to hear.
- Others to do with sharing culture.
- All to do with becoming better people.
- I'll be talking about this in my own presentation on Saturday.
- Don't worry, I won't be cross if you're not there...
- Online games in general, and MMOs in particular, have a real chance to change society for the better.
- Yes, we really are talking about something with the potential to have that big an impact.
- That's one reason why the Games Convention Online is so important.
- These next few days give an insight into what the next many years will turn out to be like.
- Imagine a conference 15 years ago about mobile telephones.
- Who could have imagined back then how much they would change society?
- If anyone had said that you'd have one, your children would have several, and they'd use them mainly to type messages to each other, would you have believed them?
- This conference is the same thing for online games.
- It's like a crystal ball through which you can glimpse pieces of the future.
- I said at the beginning of this statement that I felt very honoured to have been invited to speak to you.
- I wasn't making this up just so you'd like me, I really am very honoured.
- I'm very grateful to have had the opportunity to explain, even if I haven't done so very well, why you can all feel pleased and proud that Leipzig is hosting this conference at such an important time.
- For historical and linguistic reasons, Germany doesn't have a very large computer games industry.
- If it continues in its forward thinking, though, it will deserve — and will get — a very large and influential online games industry.
- I for one will be very happy to see this happen.
- All I want is better online games.
- Thank you.
I should note that I am quite aware that German politicians have already taken steps to try and kill off their nascent games industry. I chose not to tackle this head on, though; after all, I was a guest in their country (well, I would have been if I'd been able to go). Instead, I took the approach of explaining what the German game industry has going for it, in the hope that the politicians and journalists would realise they have already lost. A German couldn't have used this tactic, because they couldn't have pretended not to know that there were moves afoot to ban violent
movies books comics operas TV news articles boardgames TV programmes computer games.
About this blog.
Copyright © 2009 Richard Bartle (email@example.com).