SXSW: Joi Ito/Justin Hall/Ben Cerveny – Online games: beyond play and fantasy

(Below are raw notes, not direct quotes. Joi, Justin and Ben are great. This was the best panel I attended at SXSW.)

Ito: Second Life and World of Warcraft are apples and oranges. “I use Second Life to plan World of Warcraft.” WOW is an evolutionary point in Internet interface design. You can make “addons.” He shows screen of his addons. His display looks like an instrument panel, rather than a 3D world. Little modules track all types of information and statistics. No two users’ interfaces are the same on WoW. “We have a lot of military people on the game. They say this is advance of current military management. Certainly better than project management in industry.” I know more about the guildees in my community than anyone else I know: how they operate under pressure. We used to have this notion of being in “virtual world” and being in “real world.” We go seamlessly between real world and virtual world. Difference in simulation and metaphor. Simulation teaches you how to be something in real world. WoW has nothing to do w/ real life, but metaphorically, it has to do with the skills necessary in the real world. More creative: what can I learn from fighting a dragon? Playing a game together when everything is working is like playing music together. Young people in the group that learn how to do things — and the reward of doing them correctly. MBA types aren’t very good as leaders because the power-role in the real world doesn’t necessarily work the same way online in a voluntary organization like a guild. A guild in WoW is more like a congregation.

Hall: I don’t play WoW because it takes too much time and takes over your computer and you can’t multitask. I used to journal my life for 12 years. Stopped. Now I don’t have that same trail. So he’s turned his myspace page into such a trail: Plazes, recent reviews, music listened to. Passively Multipalyer Online Games: giving you “experience points” for just using your computer. If I follow you around the web, maybe I can learn about you. I’m going to give you “experience points” if you do this or that. (Observation: This is an “active attention monitor” or something: He’s calling it “experience points.” It’s an “experience bar.”

Ito: In the U.S., we ask what the “business application” of a new technology is. In Japan, we ask how can kids have fun with a new technology? They play with it. The barrier between play and work is an Amemrican idea. Like barriers between cyberspace vs. real world and work vs. play. The game industry has been stigmitized by ? (parents? media?). Control vs. being open has to do with trusting kids and users. Blatant ageism.

Ben Cerveny: Play is something that eats away at structure — that’s a threat to the power structure. Playfulness allows you to look at things from many angles. The best leader is often the best listener, not the best talker.

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