On Links and MUDs

Ancient “Warrior” Found in Permafrost, found via Warren Ellis. That man is a treasure trove of neat esoterica (which as I’ve discussed before, I’m rather fond of myself). Also found via his site, I’ve added myself to MyBlogLog, which is a method to track users and links and in general help form the idea of a community a bit. I’d love to find a non-feedburner solution to tracking unique rss users as well…

Sorry for the hiatus from posting. I’ve kept to my goal of writing something every day, it just happened to not include posting on here… I’ve been working on a few projects for AvatarMUD the past few nights, involving some tweaks we’ve discussed doing, as well as a new area (and thinking about what I’d like to do to an old one). None of them are done, but I’m taking a breather for a bit, especially since those “tweaks” involve a lot of number crunching, and I’ve been going a bit cross-eyed with it. Avatar and I have somthing of an odd sort of interaction. I’ve been a player there for nearly a decade now, and an administrator for nearly as long. It’s seen me through several relationships, a marriage, a divorce, and several substantial moves. I’ve graduated both high school and college while there, and it’s even been integrated into some of my work (like my Online Communities paper). I’ve made friends through it, I have friends who even got married after meeting through it. It’s an important part of my life.

Don’t get me wrong, though, it does have its problems. I’m not going to get into details at the moment (though I’ve been thinking long and hard on doing a postmortem-like writeup at some point), but there’s definitely room for continued improvement, and some of those frustrations have encouraged some time distancing myself from the MUD. I never fully left, but it would be hard to argue that I didn’t take at least something of a sabbatical. I’m in something of an upswing in activity on the MUD right now, mentoring one of the new imms, writing, and working on a few projects. One of the biggest things I’m doing though (and reasons I’m back in this surge) is that I’ve taken on something of a Don Quixote role. My particular windmills fall into staff-to-staff and staff-to-player transparency, in terms of taking the time to actually communicate first with the general staff, and then also being more open with our players. I’ve also been pushing for more attention being given to casual players, as there has been a slow but steady trend towards “hardcore” (on all the time, min/maxing your stats and equipment, etc) players. I strongly feel that a healthy game is served best by maintaining a balance of both.

I’m not trying to toot my own horn by saying I’m pushing for these things. There’s been a lot of quiet support among staff and players, and I’m definitely not the only one speaking up and pushing for these things. It’s been energizing, nonetheless.

Virtual Home

This may perhaps be a post better suited for my other blog, but for some reason, I felt it better suited to talk in this one about the notion of virtual spaces as a home, which is a topic recently touched upon over at Terra Nova in Bonnie Ruberg’s recent post: Grounded in Virtual Spaces. Her post broaches the topic that in many ways, blogs serve as a surrogate home on the internet.

But what exactly is “home”? Several Native American tribes believe that home is where you are born (in a geographical sense — I somehow doubt they were referring to the hospital room specifically), and that there is a spiritual connection tied to that area from then onward. This doesn’t mean you have to live there your whole life, but it will still have an effect on you in often subtle ways. Personally, I’m a big fan of this idea, and feel it works well to define a virtual home as well. Blogs (whether it’s a myspace page, friendster, facebook, blogger, or a stand alone site like this one) are often our first real forays into being a creator or participant in the virtual arena. It provides an anchor point where they are free to express themselves however they want (to let their guards down, figuratively speaking). People may move on or away from these blogs or pages, but their time spent with their own space to create and express themselves will continue to have an effect on them throughout their other endeavors.

Forums, however, serve a complementary but separate role, more similar to third spaces (Bowling alleys, pubs, places people gather that are neither home nor work), where it is a peer gathering of people collaborating to form a dialogue. It does not qualify as a home, per se, in that no matter how freeform the structure of the forum is, it is still ultimately governed by someone else. We may even end up spending more time in that third space than we do in our homes (even more true on the internet, where “home” serves as a place to toss links and thoughts before heading back out into browsing, with only the occasional extended period spent cleaning up or redesigning the site), but that does not alter the distinction between the two spaces.

I’m not really going anywhere with this in revelatory terms, but I did want to share. I may expand it later.

Avast Ye Bastards!

Sitting around in Hanover, freezing my ass off in front of Collis (we could go in, but we’re waiting til we’re actually “cold” to do so, since it’s otherwise quite lovely out). They’re building the bonfire for homecoming right now, which will be this weekend at some point (I have no idea actually when, nor do I especially care). I’m drinking my second copy of chai (out of a paper cup, plastic lid, and a corrugated cardboard “sleeve” so I don’t burn my hands), and hanging out with Eli. I have The Pixies “Where is my Mind” stuck in my head, and am in a cheerful, almost manic mood (finally getting to do some blogging, WOO!).

The past week has been busy yet largely fun, involving meals with friends and family, and lots of good conversation. I’ve got my Online Communities thesis up on Critical Games now, so if you wanted an alternative to downloading a 51 page PDF, you can read it that way instead. I do realize that I SHOULD be posting some more (there and here), especially some newer material that I’ve been talking about but not actually writing for the past several weeks. This should happen soon (heh, honest).
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As some (most) of you know, I’ve been on a MUD called AVATAR for seven years now. One of the things that really kept me playing it for so long was the sense of community that exists there. It’s like an extended family in many ways, and was made moreso by getting to know some of the players and other immortals in real life. (For instance, the owner of the MUD, Snikt, is both a friend and a business partner, and we would never have met without the MUD.)

One of our regular players died last night. Last week he had gone in for a routine tonsillectomy, and during the operation they knicked an artery. He was sent home afterwards, but ended up back in the hospital the following night, and slipped into a coma not long after. It continued to get worse, with a period during which he was brain dead for six minutes, causing irreversible brain damage even if he ever awoke from the coma. His parents signed a Do Not Resuscitate order yesterday, and he passed away at 1am last night. He was 19.
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Orkut and Star Wars Day

Before I continue: yesterday was Star Wars Day, so in honor of that — May the 4th be with you.

I just also wanted to give a quick shout out that I’m finally in Orkut, so feel free to add me as a friend if you are a member or end up joining. It is yet another community service — a mechanism to keep in touch with friends, network with people, and find dates if so inclined. It’s actually pretty nifty, and allows you to join or create community user groups so people can join communities about their interests. I very quickly joined about 20, because they sounded interesting — we’ll see what comes of it.

I even found an old classmate of mine from High School, whom I haven’t heard from or about since graduation. He was a hell of a nice guy, though, and I’m glad to be getting back on each others’ radar a bit.

That’s all. Short post, huh?
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Online Community… Buh?

I participate in a lot of different online communities, believe it or not (I mean, it’s not like I wrote a 50 page treatise on the subject or anything).

I’m a general participant on IRC over on the Aniverse servers (#applegeeks, #machall, #megatokyo, #utopianpigs, and #inquisition), but I don’t “connect” with the users all that much (for reasons I’ve gone into before, mostly a matter of a large percentage being teenybopper idiots who haven’t a brain in their head, and EVERYONE looking for a fight).

I’m a sporadic regular on the Penny Arcade Artist’s Corner (PAAC), posting regularly for a few weeks, then disappearing for a month or two. It’s not that I get bored or fed up or anything… I just get distracted and forget to log on for a while.

I’m an aging veteran on Avatar, having logged in literally thousands of hours there, both to play, to chat, and to administrate. I don’t log on as much as I probably should anymore, because the thought of logging on just makes me feel tired. Not sleepy tired, either. The weary aching feeling in your bones tired. I have a niggling feeling that I should retire, which is hard, since “Nadreck” has been a part of my life for going on 7 years now. One of my justifications in not retiring is the feeling that I should go out with a bang, write the very best area I feel I can, and retire as it is put in. It is an area that I have not yet felt capable of or ready to write.

I have Final Fantasy XI which, while I thoroughly enjoy, has not yet given me the feeling of cohesive community yet. Only time will tell on that on.
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New Chapters Up

I’ve posted chapters 3 and 4 of my essay. You can find them here. Chapters 5 and 6 should be up in a day or two. (It was no accident that I left the topics that largely amount to me rambling for the end… after the past 30-40 pages, my brain is tapioca.)

Please comment on them in this post, if you wish to comment.

More later!