[MUD-Dev] Is difficult communication the barrier to community in MMORPGs? (fwd)

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Sun Jun 16 19:21:25 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

apollyon writes:
> From: "Koster, Raph" <rkoster at soe.sony.com>
>>From: Patricia Pizer

>>> The interesting twist to using voice in an MMORPG is that it can
>>> not only break immersion but shatter it completely. Imagine, if
>>> you will, the 12-yr-old Ogre saying, "Fear my l33t skills!" It
>>> really doesn't maintain any fiction about who the player
>>> actually is.

>> Virtual worlds aren't all IC. :)

> Agreed, and I've noticed an interesting phenomenon with using
> voice communications in-game... it creates a new character.  At
> first when you play in an online world, fighting alongside,
> chatting with, or otherwise sharing the environment with other
> people, you build a model in your mind of who a given individual
> is, typically tied to the appearance of their avatar combined with
> your social interactions.  When you transfer those interactions to
> a voice medium, you are now faced with the burden of including the
> newly-revealed "middle-aged French-Vietnamese who coughs a lot"
> into your model of who the character is and it can be a bit
> jarring at first.

Actually, that new character you're refering to is called the
player.  And the player needs to be kept separate from the
character.  Game communication mechanisms will be sorted out quickly
once we acknowledge the separation of character and player.  After
all, characters are about roleplaying, while players are about the
real people behind them.

> But in time, I've noticed that the new model actually becomes the
> character. That new information is enfolded into the avatar and
> bundled together to create a new charater in your mind.  It no
> longer exists as a jarring, immersion-suspending feature, but
> rather an incorporated, expanded model of the character that seems
> somehow to fit just right.

An interesting thought.  It's a little scary that that human being
becomes an extension of the character.

> Another result that I've noticed from this experience is that the
> social bonds that are formed with the people you consistently
> communicate with by voice tend to be much stronger than other
> social bonds.

I agree.  And I believe that this is true because of the
expressiveness of a real human voice.  It conveys a lot about the
individual that you're talking to.

> And perhaps that is not for everyone.  Perhaps, as has been
> mentioned, this type of communication is better suited to close
> friends.

I assume that only players interested in actually getting to know
another player that they have spent some time with will pursue use
of their actual voice.  The others can just have their characters
talk to each other.

> But I would disagree with anyone who says that voice communication
> disturbs the feeling of immersion in an environment... in fact, I
> would state just the opposite.  When you're communicating by voice
> with others, you are no longer just sitting behind a keyboard,
> pretending to be someone else.  You're really there!  I mean, that
> "real you" is interacting on a much more personal level with the
> "real him/her" of the rest of the world and I think that tends to
> draw people MORE into the experience, not pop them out of it.
> True, it may at first jar you "out of character" and momentarily
> disrupt the fiction that has been spun around whatever online
> world you're in, but I think it serves to immerse you that much
> more in the experience itself, the world, and the social
> interactions that truly make the world live.

I think that immersion into a game environment is a goal that
somebody brings with them to a game.  Whatever you want is enhanced
by voice communication.  In that I'm really not interested in
immersion, voice communication lets me enjoy the social aspect of
gameplay more.  I wasn't looking for immersion and as a result I
neither lose immersion nor gain it.  I gain in other ways.

> From a grief standpoint, it decreases the sense of empowering
> anonymity thereby increasing one's culpability for any actions and
> decreasing the likelihood of grief play.  An added benefit.  :)

As much as I'd like to see that, I'm assuming that those interested
in griefing won't bother with voice communication with other
players.  They'll rely on communicating as an anonymous character,
which I assume will involve a machine-generated voice that is
consistent with the game fiction.


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