Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Abstract on Humphreys

Abstract of Sal Humphreys’s “Productive Players: Online Computer Games’ Challenge to Conventional Media Forms” 2005
By Bridgett VanDerwalker
Description of Article:
Humphreys begins the article by discussing how online games are part of the genre of interactive media. As such, the terms intellectual property and copyright material should be broaden to fit both the player’s rights and those of those of the producers of the online games. Humphreys discusses the complex nature of the time, labor, and social connections that players’ commit to the game that results in the blurry line between production and consumption.
In the latter half of the article she raises the question of whether players have a right to sell their characters for profit when the producers provide all the resources to build those characters. Humphreys concludes the article with the statement that interactive media needs to be researched more so we can better understand the relationship between gamers/producers and the line between where consumption and manufacturing ends in such a complex environment.
Key terms:
Massive Multiplayer Online Games: (MMOG)
Intellectual Property
Comments and Questions:
Humphreys starts by telling the audience her purposes of writing the article starting with the need of study in interactive media. She notes that new methods need to be employed to study such complex relationships and that the games are changed and manipulated by those who play the games unlike traditional media forms. Gamers are allowed to established social connections with one another, which the players have a “configurative role,” and the “producer/consumer trajectory” is very complex and complicated. This last sentiment leads to the main discussion that being the “disruption in the areas of Intellectual Property, content, regulation, and the relationship between commerce and culture” (38).
The most interesting observation that Humphreys makes is that the gamers using the product by their very actions are creating it also. She also says that the gaming environment is a present-medium and it is for this reason perhaps that the environment is constantly being created by the players themselves. Juul says that “the player is the performer and the game evaluates the performance (and adapts to it)”(38). I agree with this statement as a person who lives with two heavy game players of WOW (World of War craft) I see the game adapt itself and see the relationships my roommates have with other gamers in the gaming environment.
It is interesting that within the virtual environment that players have goals that they hone such as killing monsters, developing trades, and gaining weapons, money, or magic. One issue that Humphreys fails to mention is that these players are playing these games not only for social relationships but for entertainment, in particular, escaping reality. I think this is an important point in why these players play the game and why it is so popular in the first place. The idea that raids are set up by using social networking skills is fascinating and encouraging in that these people are meeting people all around the world and contributing to the ongoing process of globalization.
Humphreys states that “The trajectory of gameplay is thus contingent upon the particular dynamics and action generated by shifting combinations of players” (40). She goes on to name these contributions such as money to play the game, time, and social connections with others. She goes on to describe how these games spawn other websites that give hints to new players or act as forums to organize guilds or plan raids.
Humphreys turns her attention to the sponsors that own these games. She talks about how publishers want to keep these games going so they gain revenue. These publishers have no personal investment in these games outside the financial gains and it seems to be once the game is initially released it is up to the players to build the gaming environment and keep it going and evolving. Based on this point alone I think Humphreys has a point that perhaps the players themselves should have more rights especially in the realm of Intellectual property. Without their continued efforts the game would fail and thus both the gamers and the publishers would lose. She poses a good question. “Can corporations own people’s relationships and communities? Who has what forms of power in this configuration of a media space?” (42). I don’t see where she reaches a definitive answer to these questions but I don’t think are easy answers to these questions either.
Humphreys talks about how players by agreeing to play and pay for their rights to play the game give up ownership rights and IP rights. She makes the point that perhaps this is not fair for this new media because there are no clear lines of where production begins and ends and where consumerism begins or ends as the players develop the game as they play it. She sees that these corporations are perhaps being exploitive of the players’ emotions and in essence owning their social relations. I think Humphreys does a really good job in covering the issue from multiple viewpoints and how she remains impartial for the most part. I think she does a good job in saying that the boundaries of production and consumerism needed to be reexamined in light of this new media.
Humphreys closes the essay by saying: “Protections need to be provided in a manner that ensures the rights of participates are not infringed by corporate practices, at the same time recognizing the needs of companies to facilitate engaging and healthy communities” (49). As new technologies emerge these questions will need to be addressed and it is up to the users to bring their insights and concerns to the attention of the publishers or produces of such products or resources. We are only now exploring how the Internet is impacting our social relationships and I think as the years progress it will be increasingly important to research the many intricacies that this media hold not only culturally but academicallyalso.

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