Thursday, September 17, 2009

Like A Needle

Coding is a nice way to get to know computers. Writing is a better way to know yourself.

I had to submit a long bio to the HASTAC ("haystack") site, which was the usual discussion of "digital humanities" and "warjammers" and might have sounded impressive if I'd ever really done anything.

(have any of these people? or is the whole thing just an idea-grab?)

So the site is going live soon at and they asked me for a "short bio" in addition to my "long bio." So... I gave them this:

Level 21 Digital Humanities Major (Dartmouth)
Level 68 Bear Shaman (Age of Conan)
Level 60 Tauren Warrior (WoW)
Level 35 Fire Blaster (City of Heroes)
Level 79 Ranger (Runescape)

I'm ready to ask hard questions about where the human desire to role-play and the future progress of augmented reality technology will leave thought, society and law.

Any interest in the evolution of gaming into Reality Design or Civic Ludology? Send me a tell at

True, I made up the terms "Reality Design" and "Civic Ludology," but spend enough time playing games and even more time watching the increasing effect of media on public consciousness and you'll begin to realize that governments implement "level design." Guru's strive for "immersion." Every desire-based human system of action can be understood, criticized and improved upon as a game-system.

In short: Political Philosophy and Game Design are close cousins. The former is written to be noticed and heralded if perfect while the latter strives to pass unnoticed by those whom it governs.

HASTAC should be a wonderful step towards educating and connecting the kinds of sociological, anthropological and psychological system designers we will need in the augmented world soon to come.

To be even shorter: let's avoid 1984.

@Copyleft Brendan Scully 2009

Okay so that was a tad rash. Maybe the 1984 comment will lose me some credibility, but I meant it. Big brother was a game designer. Or maybe he was the in-game avatar used by the team of social designers. Maybe using copyleft will make me sound like a tool. I probably misused it and will shortly become subject to lawsuit. Look, I just want credit for my inner demons; I really threw it all out there for these "teachers" to pick at.

To be honest (real talk): I'm fishing for someone who might have a clue as to what I'm talking about. Hopefully they'll find this blog. Hopefully they'll like it. Ideally they'll send a helicopter over to my house, tell me about the global anti-ignorance task force they've been setting up in Amsterdam and ask me to come spend some time telling people what to do.

While playing Champions Online...

Maybe to be an academic you have to be a hypocrite. Spanish professors at Dartmouth love spanish so much they chose... not to live in Spain. I loathe the internet, so that's why I'm here typing...

Anyway let's hope someone at HASTAC can give me a push in a direction. A taskforce can consist of one person, a small task and any sort of action. I'd hate to have to just go into augmented advertising when I graduate... (shh, you know I wouldn't.) God help us all if I go into advertising. I will do well and the world will not.

I meant what I said in that bio though, and through writing (thank you, writing) I realized something new: political philosophy and game design are really the same fight over minds and happiness. Thing is, the philosophers wanted citizens to talk about their issues, their own systems: who should get what, why, how? Game designers would rather you have a good time and ignore the system that gave it to you.

One is driven by scarcity and the other isn't. So I guess we just have to wait for the singularity to do away with scarcity and then we'll just design our own games and.... goodbye world.

We need Real-World Role Playing Games. Where you give people classes and quests that help the world out.

yeah, that'd be cool. Or it'd be bad like a totalitarian nightmare. Depends how we design the thing, depends how we sell it. Plato's Republic was a just game spec:

People made out of gold get to be scholars,

People made out of silver become warriors,

People made out of bronze do the labor,

Plato rules over it all because he knows best (philosopher king status)

The whole thing is a noble lie (an arbitrary rule set built for the purpose of pleasure, a game system)

So which philosopher had the fairest game in mind? The most fun? Maybe different games are more enjoyable for different people. Hmm...

Does there always have to be moderator? (in-game watchdogs who maintain the game system) Does there always have to be a single government, or can different systems exist in the same physical area, with different people taking part in the "roles" they choose?

Augmented reality could give us something like this going on in the same city:

"What game are you playing today, bob?"

"I think I'm gonna go make some horseshoes on my 68 blacksmith in Dragon Land"

"Cool I'm going to go lie on the beach in Commu-topia"

In WoW the mods are human.

In our world, maybe it's G_d. Maybe we err by trying to do H_s job for him. Maybe the only way for our race to become H_m is through trial and error.

1 comment:

Maggie said...

What does this make Mao Zedong?

...not to mention many of these events and performances genuinely seem like objects of a virtual world.