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Methodology in Non-Avatar Environments

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Methodology in Non-Avatar Environments

  1. 1. Hanging out is hard to do Methodology in Non-Avatar Environments
  2. 2. The Context Introduction Literature Methodology Are Virtual Worlds Gambling Issues in Contemporary Online Environments The Gambling Industry Eve Online, Governance & Norms Recommendations for Online Environments Conclusion
  3. 3. The Context Introduction Literature Methodology Are Virtual Worlds Gambling Issues in Contemporary Online Environments The Gambling Industry Eve Online, Governance & Norms Recommendations for Online Environments Conclusion
  4. 4. The Context Second half of the methodology - but an interesting half! Also happy to discuss the wider project for those interested Explores how we can learn from the offshore gambling industry as we seek to regulate other online environments.
  5. 5. A brief aside
  6. 6. Eve 101 Paranoid community. Fraud/scams actively encouraged. Community split. Newbies/established. High-security / Low-Security. Public space / wormholes. As you may have guessed, no Avatar (until recently). Instead, ‘pod goo’.
  7. 7. Why Virtual Worlds Ren Reynolds says “we study VW's because the legal norms being established there will come to dominate our lives” But what are Virtual Worlds?
  8. 8. Greg Lastowka I chopped this video a little to fit time constraints. Full version at http:// www.ustream.tv/recorded/18456637 (hour-plus panel) Greg’s book is “Virtual Justice”, available in free PDF from his website.
  9. 9. Greg Lastowka
  10. 10. Greg Lastowka How many times did he just say ‘Avatar’? Virtual Worlds go beyond the classically studied environments. Eve is setting many precedents for player politics, hybrid economies, and ‘legal’ purchasing of in-game currency.
  11. 11. Eve Marketplace
  12. 12. From here
  13. 13. WOW Auction House
  14. 14. Or maybe: It feels different...
  15. 15. So what methodology? Much Virtual World research (Taylor, Dibbell, Humphreys, Banks etc) is ‘Participant Observation’ Ethnography. Can we apply that methodology to non- avatar environments? Kind of..
  16. 16. Space Some games are designed for chat. Star Wars Galaxies Cantinas are social spaces, Trade hubs and the routes up to them (in most MMO’s) encourage bottlenecks/crowding & chat. Auction houses encourage chat. Eve is often a vast nothing...
  17. 17. Grouping Bartle, discussing the design of MUD’s, notes that group missions (as in WOW) force players to communicate. Eve follows a far more ‘solo’ path. Essentially Eve follows a different model than traditional MUD-origin games. Less in-game communication, thus more use of external channels.
  18. 18. Implications Almost impossible to get a clear picture of the Eve community from the environment itself: Limited in access to end-game spaces (by virtue of skills / time). Limited in access to sub-cultures (by practicalities / Ethics disclosures).
  19. 19. Implications Those access mechanisms there are, would likely fall foul of IRB/Ethics Pay to access (cheating?) Non-disclosure of role and/or use of pre-existing character.
  20. 20. Options Ignore end-game spaces. I liken this to claiming to do a comprehensive ethnography of New York, without leaving Manhattan. Combine results of multiple ethnographers. Elements of other studies may apply to Eve.
  21. 21. Options Use meta-game: blogs, IRC, forums (leaked and public) to complete narrative. Ultimately, I am arguing for a combination of (2) and (3). And, I contend, these approaches have implications for social networks & avatar-based environments too...
  22. 22. Meta-game Meta-game analysis is largely textual analysis. BUT the participant observation is still necessary. Without that, there’s no way to interpret the textual analysis. You need to understand the environment.
  23. 23. Reviewers say: The paper argues that "the prominence of these meta- game considerations should shift, from being a supplement to an ethnographic lived experience to a core part of the study. " but it mostly makes the case through the example of Eve Online. It would help if the author articulated the theoretical basis for the shift earlier on. A large part of the discussion seems to be about the role of space in the game, and the author is using the meta- game ethnography to explore it. This needs to be explained earlier on.
  24. 24. Reviewers say: • The biggest problem is that the conclusion is a rather obvious observation. By far most other researchers (see Taylor, for example) have looked beyond pure in-game research when it comes to the analysis of the social components of these communities. It then argues that the lack of an avatar and embodiment puts Eve Online into a particular position for any ethnographic research. This point is made through the absence of the avatar body (up to latest addition to the game). The importance of such a body for any ethnographic study might be extremely relevant but would need more argumentation. For example, other online communities like MUDs lived always without visible body representations and still managed to foster strong social ties and interaction design. (NB/DW: But they still had avatars – emphasise this – Bartle Quote?) • How players use the aforementioned forums and extra channels shines through occasionally (e.g. in the quote by Mittani "I almost never log on to Eve Online itself because I run a spy network. For me, Eve Online is talking to people in a Jabber client.") but is not discussed in the paper. What role does the author assign to these sources? Is there anything particular about the use of these technologies (e.g. no Teamspeak) in Eve? To lay out an ethnographic methodology to investigate Eve Online questions like these would be important. They are pointed at but no answers are provided. • Again, where the text works is in the description of the particular game design decisions at work in Eve and how they affect social interaction - but the arguments here are based on the design observations of the author. For example, even in Eve Online we find online protests in the form of WoW or SL when masses of players overload servers - as seen in the Jita 4-4 attacks against the memorial. These were demonstrations against the new microtransaction system in the summer of 2011 and one could argue they instantiated this area as a kind of "social hub". The author does not discuss play events like these, which seem to be good moments for an ethnographic approach (how did players organize the protest? why? what were the consequences? how did players re-enter gameplay after the event and how did the talk about it?) • It might be useful to concentrate on the design issues identified in the Eve game design and try to solidify the points made about them through analysis of the forums/ personal narratives/ video documentations/ online chat and VoIP clients. In short, it would be interesting to step beyond a critique of Eve online's design and toward a more developed methodology to still allow for research in this particular environment.

Editor's Notes

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  • Overall project two (hopefully cool) case studies of self regulation - offshore gambling and the rmt/botting scene in Eve -- Jack/Jason`\n\nNote: Not EVE. Very clever people -- Marcus, Kelly -- working on other areas of Eve. As I’ll argue later, it’s not neccesary (or possible) for one person to do everything.\n\n
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  • I think the second reviewer wants a different paper - but still some useful stuff here. I left out the references suggested as a bit of a give away ;)\n
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