21 November 2011

For the win - Doctorow 2010

Doctorow C. 2010, For The Win

Notes from For The Win from Doctorow. The book's license is Creative Commons NC-SA. No spoiler here, only some interesting concepts mentioned throughout the book.

Part I: The gamers and their games, the workers at their work

  • Some players in developing countries like China or India farm gold or are paid to raid with richer solo players from the West to drop them gear or level them up. Western players want to keep up with their friends gear- and XP-wise.
  • The parents, whether Indians or Americans, don't understand how their kids can spend so much time playing online games. American parents talk about addiction whereas Indian parents about waste of time.
  • There are multiple, competing interworld exchanges: want to swap out your Zombie Mecha wealth for a fully loaded spaceship and a crew of jolly space-pirates to crew it? Ten different gangs want your business. Even RL traders place money on the value of virtual gold, because virtual gold fluctuates a lot and can be exchanged against RL money through the official in-game banks. RL criminal cartels also turn IG gold into real money.
  • Big gold farming businesses hire hardcore gamers to kill other farmers. The biggest sellers of virtual gold are game companies themselves and they hire killers too.
  • Dungeons are made so that farmers make less and less money: grinding gold gives 12k the first hour, 8k the second, 2k the third, and 100 at the end. Then, a GM appears and bans them, but they've already collected as much as they could for the night before going to sleep.
  • Mechanical Turks were an army of workers in gamespace. All you had to do was prove that you were a decent player -- the game had the stats to know it -- and sign up, and then log in whenever you wanted a shift. The game would ping you any time a player did something the game didn't know how to interpret -- talked too intensely to a non-player character, stuck a sword where it didn't belong, climbed a tree that no one had bothered to add any details too -- and you'd have to play spot-referee. You'd play the non-player character, choose a behavior for the stabbed object, or make a decision from a menu of possible things you might find in a tree.

Part II: Hard work at play

  • Mushroom Kingdom is a Mario-based MMO from Nintendo-Sun. You can play on the side of Princess Peach, or on Bowser's.
  • Prikell equations: a certain amount of difficulty plus a certain amount of your friends plus a certain amount of interesting strangers plus a certain amount of reward plus a certain amount of opportunity equalled fun
  • virtual currency tended to rest pretty close to its real value, plus or minus five percent
  • Socio-economics experiment about envy: lock 25 grad students in a room for 8 hours. Give each of them a poker chip and say "Every hour I'm going to give each of you $20 per chip you hold". At the beginning, each chip is worth 8*20=$160. After 2 hours, chips start being exchanged against dollars, and at the end of the 8th hour, some chips even get traded for $50, while they only bring $20 to their owner. Each of them started and kept trading because of the fear that he was missing out on what the rest of them were getting: the sirens called Someone else is getting richer, why aren't you?. Greed is "if 1 is good, then 10 is definitely better". Envy is about what other people think is good, and being part of the crowd.
  • Gamerunners spend most of their time in the Command Room, watching the world through logs, screens, chat channels, or charts, to get a feeling of the game worlds - Fingerspitzengefuhl.
  • the game soundtrack has its own AI that creates more dramatic moments

Part III: Ponzi

  • Gold farmers used to login from Asian IP addresses, give all the gold from an account to a newbie without speaking a single word, who in turn would give it silently to a bunch of other newbies from guilds with names like "afasdsadssadsa289". Later, gold farmers logged in using American proxies, started speaking broken English, and became indistinguishable from profitable Western kids.
  • After their 12-hour shift, some gold farmers relax by playing some more with a separate avatar that they only use to play, not to work with.
  • Pacific protest: ask everyone to gather in downtown and eat ice-creams. Recruit people passing-by in giving them ice-creams.
  • If you nuked every account involved in a gold-farming buy, we'd depopulate the world by something like 80 percent.
  • Coke ran games that turned over more money than Portugal, Poland or Peru.

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