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AoIR 4.3.2


What follows is, at best, disjointed and partial. I’m exhausted today (witness my playing hooky), and the brain resists processing everything I’ve heard. I have, moreover, just come from the gala dinner, where I got to chat at length with Jason, Liz, and D. (Note to D: That’s a really, seriously anti-climactic sentence, with the absent link on the end. Hint, hint.)

I’m determined, however, to get this posted before bed. Jason led off the his panel this afternoon, “Network Formations: Producing and Consuming Online Games,” with a salute to the “back row of bloggers getting it down in real time.” Ahem. Real time, it’s not, but here nonetheless.

Jason’s presentation focused on the question of the construction of player agency within MMORPGs such as Asheron’s Call. Given the structured nature of these games (their most literal programming), how do games establish a sense of player agency? This happens, according to Jason, through the game’s sense of “controlled freedom.” The game takes place in a persistent world — persistence is important — but players take an active role in shaping the world, to the extent that a cluster of players attempting to oust an evil foo from the game nearly overthrew the intents of program’s designers.

Have players really been able to penetrate the game’s narrative through their ability to produce plugins? “Narrative” is itself a term under challenge in game studies, posing the narratologists against the ludologists; such struggles over the term and its validity for gaming are for Jason part of the legitimation process for game studies. In this struggle, two things are in danger of being lost — the specific history of gaming among media forms (developing out of both computer history and literature) and the interconnections between games and other media forms (how games might help us reconceptualize what narrative is, or could be).


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