Thursday, July 28, 2005

A first time!

Last night I spent the several hours in a dungeon! Rrrright, I hear the snickering all the way here: "As if that is something new for you..." but I am talking about a dungeon at World of Warcraft, with Agirra. Or perhaps I should say it was a first time for Agirra.

The dungeons are contained areas packed with NPCs and valuable items, and often containing several quests, or it has several quests ending in it. It is too dangerous for one character alone, unless they are a much higher level than the quests are built for, but a good group can make a level and several interesting items. Earlier yesterday I had stumbled into a dungeon, but the company was not particularly experienced and it all got very messy. Entering the Ragefire Chasm was another experience entirely.

Most of the players seemed to be experienced. They had the language down pat, talking about who would "pull" and who would "tank", about "attracting aggro" and about "buff time". The strategy was clear, my job was second healer. The most useful things they expected from me seemed to be healing and resurrection, if somebody died. I'd like to say I had something up my sleeve, but I just stuck to the spells I had found useful. Shaman is a wonderful character for slow old ladies like me. Agirra puts up totems that gives protective magic to everybody, that slows down the attackers and shoots fireballs automatically, and I can take a few seconds to figure out what is going on while the totems protect and kill. Luckily for the group, the totems will protect everybody in the group, not just Agirra.

This was a group who knew about sharing quests, were generous about it, and cared enough to wait until one slow shaman had managed to find just the right quest item before starting. The leader took the time to show me a couple of "instances" - looked cool as she floated through the air, but I have no idea what it was good for. Something to explore. Yes, my field research notebook is getting packed.

Not much roleplay in the dungeon though. As the other players pointed out, stopping to roleplay in a dungeon would get everybody killed. I guess that is realistic anyway, socialising and posturing in a dangerous situation would be very low priority. And it would certainly get me killed. Just typing "n" or "g" when rolling for items was a strain, and I gave up on it. I lost the opportunity for some nice equipment for Agirra, but I had absolutely no idea what I should need, so I just defined everything as "greed" and passed on most rolls. Right, "rolling" is another word I have learned - when a group finds some particularly valuable item while looting the corpses, there's a pair of dice and a picture of the item on the bottom. You can either click the dice or the red sign below, depending if you roll or pass. The Need and Greed system is honour based - if you want the item to sell it, it's greed, if your character can use it, it's need - up to you to make the distinction. That's where I missed out - I don't know what items Agirra needs, so I had no idea what to say, n or g.

But all in all it was very educational, and very interesting. And my first dungeon experience was a lot better than the ones described in Dagbladets spill-blog (in Norwegian).

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Agirra strives on

I picked up something not-so-fun this weekend, and the cold (yes, COLD, not cool) summer offers exellent opportunity for diseases to spread. As a result today was spent in bed with hankies and a computer. Luckily, Agirra had not picked up any viruses.

She keeps running about in the same area. The quests lead to new quests and to new quests again, and I tend to end up at the Crossroads, a small town in a large desert. It is surrounded by the Razormane tribes, Kolkar kentaurs, lions, striders - huge striding birds, and raptors of different kinds, dinosaur type beasts like velociraptors. I have had 13 quests going at once since I entered that area, and I am just not getting the number down. I seem to attract quests whenever. Or Agirra does. She's the one who needs to make money. I just want levels and roleplay.

I am also getting better at talking to people, and as I am learning to use Agirra's skills, I dare to suggest that we group up for entering dangerous areas or kill those hard-to-kill NPCs. This also leads to role-play, but as I am not yet involved with any of the guilds, the role-play is more personal. And so it gets a distinct flavour of girl-meets-boy and boy-wants-action. I have to decide what Agirra likes or not and preferably try to avoid too much cyberflirting, but really, flirting in the body of a fang-toothed huge raptor-killing orc shaman is kind of fun. I have the habit of hitting ' instead of enter to talk though, a left-over action from the MUDs coming into action when I slip into MUD rp mode.

There are a few things I need to do to understand what is going on before I start comparing to MUDs too much though. I need to get into a guild or clan. I should work on PVP, both defensive and aggressive. I should make at least one more character at a different server, to look for social/cultural differences.

If the summer stays as cold as it is, that may be no problem.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Blog blog blog blog blog

Have you noticed how repeating a word several times makes it lose all meaning? At the moment the large Norwegian newspapers Aftenposten and VG are doing this to the word blog, trying to become the one to define what a blog is and how it works. Aftenposten claims the weblogs are the headaches of newspapers, VG happily uses "bloggen" as the title of a column in the paper version of their newspaper.

In my humble opinions, both views are narrow-minded, self-serving and aimed mainly at knocking their competition over the head with a new, fancy word. Both have a little bit of right, Aftenposten is right about saying that there is an expertise, competence and reliability in the traditional media institutions which amateur blogs can not maintain. VG is right to say that they are opening up for a dscussion with their journalists through their blog. And so they can keep the headbashing going for as long as they like.

It doesn't matter what they say. Blogs are blogs are blogs, and when the word has lost all meaning through the abuse the established media keep putting it through, blogs will still be written by individuals who are happy with the opportunities the new media give them. The importance of blogs is not the coding, not the technology, not the name, not the style, not the genre, not the relationship to the media, not the content, not the facts they may contain or the fiction they may inspire. The important thing about weblogs is that they give individuals a chance to express themselves in public, turning the individual into a subject in a conversation, not an object in a transaction between media organisations and their advertisers, something outside of national boundaries and unregulatable by the forces that be - commercial, religious or political - or all at once.

Blogs are the people blogging. Define them away from that, and there will simply be a different name for what the bloggers do today.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

From a leisurely frontier

I have been trudging around this desert for days. My gear is worn out, and I just found myself in the remotest corner of my map, as far as I could get from the man I need to see. I have been staring at sand until I know its digital nuances, and if I am chased by one more hyena, it is one too many. A woman has just so much patience with dieing.

Poor Agirra is fighting her way through the levels. I managed three today, by shere stubbornness and bad summer weather. But I also had the first role-play session on the server, and a conversation which told me something about the limitations of role-play in World of Warcraft - even on RP servers. I am looking for a guild named onyx something, as the troll who hit on my orc girl recommended. No, no physical or virtual hitting on each other ensued, but we did kill a lot of winged harpies and managed to clean out NPCs which would otherwise have murdered us both. I learned to use several new features (I now have a friend on WOW!), and even got to try out some of the skills that I could only use in a party. Are those my skills or Agirra's? I guess I can use the distinction that the skills she learns through training are Agirra's skills, the ones that all share and use for communication and dealing with the logistics of the game are mine. After all, I know how to read a map, but I don't know how to resurrect a corpse - reading maps is my skill, resurrection is hers.

Tomorrow it will still be raining, but I will be packing to go away for a few days again. The daughter is working at a farm by the summer house this summer, the son is voluntairing at the Molde jazz festival, the cat is keeping the girl company and the parents are seriously vacationing in the most comfortable of all vacation spots: our large, comfortable house, with occasional trips to check on the next generation.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Hooked again - WOW

Finally, I have time to sit down and explore a new online game. The summer has been erratic, one or two summer days, and then it's back to spring/fall weather. Everything is slow, the farmers are grieving the probably loss of their second harvest of grass, and I am moping and looking at the mess of my garden. I just don't feel like weeding in the rain.

But indoors I am having fun. I am playing World of Warcraft, am a member of the Horde on one of the RP only servers. My orc shaman (named Agirra, in memory of Agirra Lavender - and yes, it's an extremely obscure reference) is still at level 7, and I just logged out to see if there are som quest helps. And yes, I found what I was looking for, and so I can stop running around Orgrimmar like a blind bat. Or - eh - Agirra can stop running. I sit on my butt, with the laptop, in the livingroom, sipping tea and occasionally looking up to check if it's worth it to go out. Most of the time it isn't.

But this discovery has brought back a sensation which was once extremely familiar. I don't want to leave the internet connection. I want to stay here, sipping tea, watching the weather, playing WOW, until I am bored. I fear that may take a while.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


It's raining today, so I am able to tear myself away from the garden and the contemplation of strawberries ripening to let you all know about a forthcoming book: Gaming Culture and Social Life, edited by Patrick Williams and Jonas Heide Smith. I have a chapter here, and yes, I am looking forwards to seeing it in the flesh! There is still something so very attractive about publishing on paper, perhaps it's the simple fact that I can hold it in my hands and touch it with more than one sense.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Deeper into summer

I am moving deeper into summer mode, and so I will be harder to reach and more rarely online. When I am around, I will be thinking about strawberries, freshly caught fish, gardening, housework and matters of wonder, pleasure and delight.

Enjoy your respective seasons, where ever you are.

DAC 2005, cfp

The deadline is August 8th, and here's the CFP

Dear colleagues,
There is still time left to write and submit a paper for the Digital Arts &
Culture 2005 conference!!
Paper submission is August 8th and the conference takes place in December
1st-3rd at the IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

The theme of the conference is Digital Experience: Design, Aesthetics &
Practice. Researchers within the humanities, social sciences, human-computer
interaction and computer science studies, as well as those working both
practically and theoretically in newer fields such as digital art, digital
literature, game studies, online communities and new media studies are
encouraged to submit proposals for papers.

Possible topics could be, but are not restricted to:
- the specific nature of digital experiences
- cultural implications of digital experiences
- characterizing the user experience in specific digital environments (i.e.
computer games, online worlds, and ubiquitous computing environments)
- experiencing emotions, affect and trust in digital environments
- emergent formations in digital media
- methodologies for analysing digital experiences
- aesthetic approaches to communication design and experience
- the design and experience of non-informational spaces (digital art,
codework, literature, games etc.)
- design experience documented (case studies and examples of actual design)

Find the full cfp, conference history, accommodation information etc at the
conference website:

conference chairs
Lisbeth Klastrup & Susana Tosca

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Colours and words

Is your brain withering in the summer heat? Well check here, the colour test and a fun little game of the mind and eye. I have to admit I needed three tries and a zero performance to understand what they were asking for.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Digital Guilt

I just sent off the revised version of an article to an anthology on digital gaming and social life (yay me, I am done!). The process of writing this article was rather frustrating. It has nothing to do with the editors, who have been paragons of patience, but with a little disagreement between the email used by one of the editors and the school spam filter. I don't know what is worse: spam that drowns your important email or spamfilters that just remove them. I did ask the IT department to add the address to the safe ones, but by the next update to the list of contributors, the department had changed spam filters (they have been working really, really hard to find a good solution, and I think they have by now - touch wood!) and off the email went into the big bin.

I tried to supply the editors with a different email address with no such thing, but this only worked for communication directly to me, the email address on the mailing list was never updated. So the last year has been like this: I submit something, hear nothing and assume it's not interesting - they send me an email asking where my contribution is. I send the contribution and hear nothing - they send me an email and ask why I have not submitted my peer review. I get a second copy of that and start working on the peer review - and start to think: hmmm, should I have had a response from somebody else? and ask for it - and there it arrives, in the non-filtered mailbox. Only at this point, somewhat amputated, which I don't discover until it's really late, because before I start working on my own stuff, I have to do the peer review, and, well, there are ten million things I should have done this spring, including taking at least a month sick leave.

Anyway: I have done my best with the time and energy I have available. I can't do more than that. The perfectionist lurking at the back of my brain wants to keep this article around for another 14 days and rewrite it. But no, I can't, there are other tasks lined up which refuse to wait any longer.

So here I am. I should have left for the summer house 90 minutes ago, stopping on the way to shop and cook for my mother. She will just have to eat a late dinner tonight, I hope to make it to the summer house in time to make my daughter an evening meal after her day as a farm labourer, and I am feeling sick with guilt for the neglected family.

And that's basically it: Guilt, lack of time, despair. I just have to learn to use the word "no" without feeling like I have just killed a baby or spit on a coloured person.