Saturday, July 11, 2009

Revealing Steve's Secrets

Today, two sources, distant and near, have begun to unravel the mystery that is, well, me.

The NY Times has discovered that Facebook has become a platform for heaps of free games. And, to be put it bluntly, I like the freebies. Yes, networking has become not-working. In addition to heaps of facebook diverions like quizzes that should sort you into the proper house at Hogwards, there are games. The article deftly distinguishes between those games that are between those rely on one's social network and those that do not. Bejeweled (an addiction that comes and goes) requires no one else, the Scrabble imitators require one other person. The other sort of game, which tends to dominate the Facebook landscape, requires invitations to friends to join.

  1. My first exposure to this is Knighthood, which actually is not a bad simulation of International Relations, as each player starts off as a knight and climbs higher in the ranks with more power accumulated. How does one accumulate power? Well, power is measured in the number of vassals one has. Vassals are other players who become yours when they swear allegiance to you, when you steal them from another player, or when you conquer them (if they have no liege). There are other wrinkles to the game, but that is the core of it. It can be a pretty nasty game, as you can lose your friends--well, their characters when they get seized. And the discussion board associated with the game is chock full of tales of deception and even cheating that violates the terms of service of Facebook, Knighthood or both. Again, a great simulation of international relations since they are disputed understandings of what is acceptable or not in the game. The developers tend to be hands off and let cheating go, except when enough players complain. One can pay to gain some key non-player characters and other advantages, but I would rather remain a medium-level player than pay.
  2. The second game is MafiaWars, where each player seeks to move up the ranks from local thug to Boss. The accumulation of mafia friends in this game is less important than in knighthood, but still useful for winning fights. The makers may have made a mistake because the regular game, advancement basically ceases--there are no new devices to win, no new jobs to do (like bribing a fed). So, interestingly, they invented a parallel game, which allows you to move back and forth from the original NY setting to Cuba. This has worked to re-charge my interest, but again, not willing to pay to get the extra doo-dads.

This leads to all kinds of ambivalence, as I don't want to nag friends to join my kingdom/mafia since they probably get enough various invitations to play games, try quizzes, etc. So, they do serve to entertain and to waste time pretty effectively, as the NY Times piece suggested. So, my first secret is that when I am online, I am often wasting time on facebook-related apps. The irony is that I started on Facebook just to see if students were using it to cheat on a take home exam (the answer is--sort of).

Closer to home, a second secret was unraveled by my brother. He noticed I didn't comment much on the comments left on my blog. I have two reasons for rarely commenting.

  1. First, I was viewing it like I view the discussions in my smaller courses--my interventions tend to cut off discussion. So, I thought if I stayed out of the comment conversations most of the time, it would allow a conversation to develop among my readers. But, given the relatively low number of comments, my strategy seems to be irrelevant.
  2. The second reason is that Firefox does not seem to interact with the comments that well, so I need to switch to IE to comment. And, here is the real secret that my family knows too well..... I am a bit lazy. Writing paragraphs in one browser is not work, opening a second browser is. Sure, it does not make sense, but there you have it.

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