Sunday, October 5, 2008

Play Between Worlds, Ch. 1 and 3

I noticed that in “Play Between Worlds”, T.L. Taylor immediately experienced changes in her feelings of identity and her feelings of “fitting-in” with fellow EverQuest gamers. Within the first pages, Taylor attends an EQ Fan Faire and feels disconnected from the other attendees when she walks in. She notices their nametags actually have the fan’s character name, server and guild on them, instead of their actual name. Taylor puts on her EQ nametag and “quickly (feels) the silent shift from outsider to fellow gamer”, and mentions “I had not thought about myself much (as a gamer) but I am struck by how oddly familiar this identity now feels.” The EQ Fan Faire blurs “the boundaries between avatars and “real” identities and bodies.” With these instant feelings, she gets a first hand experience on how “people integrated their gaming lives with their “real” ones.”

Soon after feeling better about having a nametag, Taylor becomes happier with the acquisition of the Boston Fan Faire t-shirt but shortly after falls to her social nervousness due to lack of “ server friends” and thinks about sitting down and reading a book instead of socializing with the other gamers. Taylor now falls back from “fellow gamer” to outsider.

Shortly after feeling “left out”, a fellow gamer introduces himself to Taylor, “He is from my server, Bailerbents, and I instantly feel more a part of the crowd. I belong.” Within the first 45 minutes of being at the EQ Fan Faire, Taylor’s integration of gaming life with “real” life continues on a bumpy road. She climbs from outsider to gamer with the pinning of a nametag, and then falls back to outsider before she is helped back up by a fellow server member.

In the main ballroom, there is a table labeled for Taylor’s server. At this point she never thought of herself as a “Bailerbents player” and “it becomes a shared identity and (an) easy point of connection.” Having a shared server and feel of identity, the small amount of Bailerbents at the table realize the other servers “run strong” and playfully taunt and compete with the other server tables. Their servers have a lot more people and their identities are strong, loyal, and cocky. Taylor definitely feels outnumbered and wonders “why that singular image of the male teenage isolate hanging out and gaming online holds so strong in the face of real players.”

When Taylor meets another gamer from her server she awkwardly uses her real name and finds that “even couples refer to each other by their in-game names.” Also at “some levels it feels a bit taboo to presume that you could ask about people’s “real” names.”

Taylor meets a man that is actually “mimicking his online identity and actions.” And mentions that sometimes “it seems it is the real that imitates the virtual” and wonders if the man performing “a kind of offline incarnation of his online persona” will really act the same if Taylor met him online.

Taylor’s Bailerbents join up the Fan Faire and play a live version of EQ, called Live Quest. Their server played right to the end and realized they are clearly not as skilled as some of the other servers. Mentioned in chapter 3, the players that Taylor and her server possibly went up against servers that had “power gamers”, “players that ruin role-playing games by their insistence on being as powerful as possible and ‘seeing no other purpose in the game besides winning’”. The power gamers can even take advantage of the game design itself, through loopholes. Taylor is considered a casual gamer because she is seen of having a clear division for gaming and real life. She “invests only moderate amounts of time in the game”. I am not necessarily saying that the casual and power gamers played like that in their Live Quest, but what is there to differentiate their EverQuest game attributes in real life versus their virtual reality game characteristics.

Even though the came far from first, their server connected and shared the powerful experience. Taylor mentions they “have a new bond built around not only the server identity but through several house of working together through play.” It became apparent to Taylor that “social connections, collective knowledge, and group action are central to the individual’s experience.” With the experience of how “people integrated their gaming lives with their “real” ones”, Taylor comes off with an understanding that it is hard to distinguish the difference and identity of a gamers life in the virtual or in the reality.