Sunday, August 23, 2009

The End of The Sunday "What I've Been Listening To" Posts

Over the last 6 months I've kept almost all my writings about podcasts confined to a weekly Sunday post. Part of the reason is that I was afraid of turning The Nosy Gamer into a blog about podcasts instead of a blog about MMORPGs. But another thing that I wanted to avoid was turning the blog into a job. That blog-as-job feeling turned me away from blogging a few years ago, and writing the Sunday podcast post was starting to feel like a job and not like fun.

Instead of just giving a brief summary of the podcasts, I'd like to start referring to what podcasters are saying. For example, The Instance #158 offered a couple of items I could have written about. Scott and Randy discussed the speculation over Cataclysm, the next World of Warcraft expansion which has largely turned out to be true. I could have written about how some changes were inspired by SOE games (EverQuest has a level cap of 85 and EverQuest 2 already has guild progression) and how World of Warcraft seems to slowly be making its way to becoming World of EverQuest 2: Cataclysm.

Another subject ripe for a post is some advice that Randy and Scott gave to a listener who's parents let him play WoW up to level 70 but then did not let him continue on with the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. Here is a comment from the show notes from a poster named ohcray that I fully agree with.

"Just wanted to express my appreciation and say a big THANK YOU for the great response to the kid whose parents wouldn’t allow him to play WOW. The advice you gave was objective, wise, and respectful. As a parent, I love that Randy acknowledged that if the parents have made a rule, for whatever reason, then sorry – that’s just the way it is. But Scott was dead on in encouraging more open rational dialogue and understanding between the parents and their kid. It would’ve been easy to urge him to buck the system, sneak in a game or two when the parents are away, plead and kick and scream till you get your way, etc. It also would’ve been easy to accuse the parents of being uptight right-wing fundamentalists that just need to be more open-minded. Instead, you gave everyone the benefit of the doubt, and in the end, respected the integrity of family, authority, and intelligent communication. You have my respect. THANKS!"

Giving the subject some thought I remembered a controversy that may have influenced the young man's parents when WotLK first came out. Anyone remember what Richard Bartle wrote about the torture in the shadowknight quest line? Here is an excerpt from another post in which Dr. Bartle respondend to some of the criticism of his first post.

"What's vaguely dispiriting about this is that I was basically making an obscure design point. I wasn't making a moral point — I'd have blogged on Terra Nova for that. I was saying:

  1. Giving people a quest to torture someone for no good reason is going to shock some people; not everyone, but a good number.
  2. Shocking people in a work of art such as an MMO is fine, you're allowed to do it. It's making an artistic statement.
  3. If you do decide to shock people, you need to flag up that you know you're shocking them. This is so they know it's an artistic statement and not that you think the shocking thing isn't shocking.
  4. Blizzard didn't flag up that they knew they were doing something that would shock people. The prisoner gave good information, your reputation with the Kirin Tor rose, and you got to continue with the quest chain.
  5. This gives the impression that Blizzard thinks it's OK to torture prisoners, and that torture actually works.
  6. It also means the shock remains. People who thought they were playing a game with cartoon-level violence and evil in context now find they bought into the wrong fiction. This is not what WoW is about any more. (emphasis mine)
It's this last point — the breaking of the covenant between designer and player — that I was raising. Either Blizzard didn't know torture would be problematical for some people, or they did know but didn't acknowledge it. Neither of these is satisfactory."
I think if the young player's parents were looking at information like this then I think it is perfectly reasonable for parents to change their minds about the appropriateness of a game. As a society, we do want parents more involved in what their children are doing, right? I think most people will want parents to do research into games and not just listen to a nut-job like Jack Thompson.

To tell the truth, putting together this post and just taking a brief look at The Instance #158 has been a lot more fun to do than just putting out lists of reviews. So I'm going to be a bit selfish and stop doing a weekly podcast review. Given that listening to podcasts is a big part of my MMORPG gaming life, I'll still reference podcasts a lot. I'll just be doing it a different way.

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