GTA V Controversy

13ThursdayFeb 2014

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Since I am not a GTA gamer, I did some reasearch into the controversies of GTA V because I have always been fascinated by the sheer ruthlessness of the game.

 

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This article published to CNBC.com on the 19 Septemer 2013 (http://www.cnbc.com/id/101047721) outlines the reasons GTA V has such a bad reputation.

“Alleged misogyny, rampant use of racially offensive terms and heavily sexual scenes are just some of the game’s polarizing moments.”

“In the first several hours of gameplay, the N-word is heard several hundred times (usually, but not always, by black characters). Other harsh obscenities are part of the speech patterns of every character in the game, including drivers you cut off.”

I found the N-Word use most fascinating myself. I am not aware of whom exactly ‘created’ these bleack characters that use obscene language but I don’t believe the creator’s ethnicity matters. The fact that GTA V uses moving animations of black people calling each other/other people derogatory words is beyond me.

In regards to Gaming and Ethnicity, we have come to believe that “Represenations often show us white understandings of other cultures” and it is fair to say taht GTA V has been created under the pretence that it is acceptable for a black person to call another a Nigger

It is apparently also acceptable for an animation that looks like a black person to say this same word, hundreds of times.

If representations of other cultures are frequently negative or neutral, it may be useful to look at the ‘baddies’ in GTA Games.

Listed under the ‘Villains’ section on Wikaia (http://villains.wikia.com/wiki/Category:GTA_Villains) here are some images.

 

 

200px-GTA V FranklinFranktenpennyshotgun

Catalina-GTASABigSmoke-Artwork

Victor VanceBallas

An alarming percentage of these ‘Baddies’ are of African American ethnicity.

The protagonist is white.

GTA V reinforces many negative perspectives of certain races. It could be developed from a holistic point of view with more acknowledgement for all races rather than simply placing black characters in as ‘baddies’ or ‘neutral’ in order to attain balance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Racism in Gaming…

Racism in gaming… I suppose I am drawn to write on this topic because I find it easy to write about it as there are so many misunderstandings around racism and I love any opportunity to try and highlight them.

 Because I am not a gamer I cannot comment in a wide context on racism in gaming, however after watching the Resident Evil 5 and Pray clips in class I found that I had a bit to say in regards to what I saw. I did some reading around the two games and the issue of racism and it confirmed to me that you do not need to be familiar with the gameplay of these games to be able to discuss the levels of racism within them and the implications of this racism.

 The main implication of the racism in these games is that they reinforce unhealthy stereotypes that have real life effects on the people these stereotypes are referring to. For Resident Evil 5 it further disadvantages representations of African communities and in Pray, it does the same for Native Americans or First Nations as they are now known as.

 The trailer played in class for Resident Evil 5 touched on many problematic and sensitive racist issues. The issue with this clip is that the racism is not so overt, but instead it is subjective or implied racism that maybe isn’t so obvious for all audiences or gamers, and here lies the problem. The trailer of Resident Evil 5 shows the game is set in an African community where the white male protagonist – Chris Redfield go in to ‘save the day’. He proceeds to walk through the run down village as he says, “more and more I find myself wondering whether it is all worth fighting for”. The rest of the trailer shows him shooting down the infected Black people as he finishes off saying, “I have a job to do, and I’m going to see it through”. Although there is no explicit dialogue that says that he is coming in to save the Black people, but the tone of his comments and the visuals say exactly that.

 Hilary Goldstein comments on the racism in Resident Evil 5 in an online article in 2009, she shares that ““Later, there is a cutscene depicting a white woman being dragged into a house by an infected black man. In its recent hands-on, Eurogamer criticized this moment in particular for playing into traditional racist fear-mongering. To propagate fear of blacks from the time of slavery and through the Civil Rights movement in the United States, white society was warned that big black men are coming for your daughters.” (http://au.ign.com/articles/2009/02/10/editorial-is-resident-evil-5-racist)

References like this support the idea that although the racism in this game is not overtly obvious, the implications of these stereotypes are very real. The main stereotype this game reinforces is that Black people are to be feared, that they are not ‘normal’ like ‘us’, and that we must ‘save them’. Much like how we Western countries ironically try and save the African communities now through charity etc… when really it is the Western countries that have forced African communities into these extreme poverty and disease filled realities.

 I find that it is important to look at games like these critically. Although many people argue that we don’t say games are racist when white people are the diseased people who need saving – it is racist when they are Black because these are the types of representations that Blacks are limited too.

 I found an interesting quote while doing some research that further highlights the ignorance of some people, “In an interview with Computer and Video Games, producer Masachika Kawata also commented on the issue, stating, “We can’t please everyone. We’re in the entertainment business – we’re not here to state our political opinion or anything like that. It’s unfortunate that some people felt that way”. Some people may agree and think what is wrong with this comment? What is worrying about this comment is her ignorance to the fact that what people see and experience in the gaming world DOES have political implications, therefore game creators must always be aware of this. I agree that it is unfortunate people feel this way, but I do not think she should be taking such a complacent position in the issue because it is something that can be avoided!

 Racism in gaming is dangerous. Gamers and players are so heavily involved in the gaming experience and when representations are so close to reality they can easily have real implications in the real world for real people. I hope that the Resident Evil 5 game creators learnt from this mistake and other game developers also.

 

 

 

What’s with all the Zombies?


Zombies have been apart of gaming for almost three decades…The ‘zombie’ at the most abstract level is supplanted, stolen, or effaced consciousness; it casts allegorically the appropriation of one person’s will by another. The emergence of the zombie genre in the late 1960’s with ‘Night of the Living Dead, and ‘Dawn of the Dead’ spawned not only an entire movie sub-genre but continues to provide inspiration for popular culture and gaming today.

Why are zombies such a popular enemy and when did they first feature? One of the first games featuring a ‘zombie’ is a game released in the 1980’s called Zombie, Zombie which was a 3D isometric adventure gameers objective was to clear a city of the un-dead by making them fall to their doom. A number of other successful Zombie games then followed.

Today games which fall within the ‘zombie’ genre have become increasingly sophisticated. The development of graphics and technology have steadily improved thus making the genre more scarier, fear-fulled and realistic than ever. Zombies in movies are defined by their slow movements and reactions, herd mentality and obliviousness to the impact of bullets, which is pretty much how characters in games behave in any case. Advancements in technology have made character depiction more realistic and detailed.

Zombies fulfil two functions – one technological, the other psychological. First, the process of making convincing AI enemies is exceedingly difficult and expensive; for every game you can think of with believably smart enemies for the player to gun down, you can probably provide at least five examples of games where the bad guys are so stupid, they’ll walk into walls, get stuck on chunks of scenery, or stand stock still in a corridor while you fill them full of lead.

Today a deeper reading of a zombie texts involves issues surrounding race, xenophobia, masculinity and gender. Zombie presence in some texts is said to be representative of Western societies fears of xenophobia. Games such as Resident Evil and Night of the Living Dead, purport key ideas surrounding entire communities, whole countries and even the world being subject to destruction by increasing numbers of zombies. This further reiterates an underlying notion of fear that some western societies have towards displaced people (such as refugees and illegal migrants).

Perhaps this is a stretch on one of popular cultures favoured enemies…however it is no coincidence that the creature flourished in the twentieth century, a century whose broad intellectual trends were preoccupied with alienation…

Visa Status: DECLINED. Reason: …LoL.

As a Chinese-New Zealander, much of my adolescence was spent in Beijing, the capital of the country and model for social and cultural education, thus having never actually known anyone that was ‘addicted’ to online gaming, I never gave it much thought as to it’s effect on our generation. It was a little more than three years ago after my move to Auckland that the ‘sinister’ side of online gaming began to unravel itself before me, and now ranks as one of the top reasons on my list for the failure of Chinese international students.

So what is it that makes people ‘addicted’ to online gaming? In my opinion, the psychology of those who play makes them prone to addiction in the first place. Much of the people that I know who play MMORPGs on a frequent basis are mostly a, male, and b, those who lack a strong motivation to socialise in real life. The fact that games such as WoW and LoL play out wars and battles captures our belligerent human instincts and sparks our excitement, gradually constructing a habit of playing, which then turns into reliance as most of our time and interest is put into the game. International students, who already lack a social network in which to interact, and who are further discouraged from going out into public due to language barriers, are naturally inclined to seek interaction in the online world. Boys therefore, who have relatively poorer adaptation skills in comparison with girls, would then more often than not seek comfort and entertainment in games, especially online gaming.

The addiction starts in Foundation Studies and High School. Initial culture shock and independence creates a huge impact on students from abroad, lowering self-esteem, and causing students to form small cliques and navigate activities that include minimal real interaction with the environment they feel alienated in. I have seen this played out again and again in New Zealand schools and Chinese students, and have witnessed my classmates go through the consequences of addiction and obsession countless times. 
Obsession with online gaming once grew to a point where a couple my friends gave me their accounts and told me to change the passwords, making me swear not to give it to them before the exams ended. I did as they told, but they soon went back to spending entire nights in internet cafes anyway with their newly registered accounts. In an attempt to connect with my dear fellow peers that feel so distant whenever the weekends arrive, I downloaded a mac version of LoL and, risking getting addicted myself, began to go through the tutorial. I admit I was indeed completely immersed during the whole process and felt the symptoms of addiction beginning to root its claws into my brain, however I was completely unimpressed with the amount of technique it involved. Perhaps I was merely going through the tutorial and it didn’t involve any ‘real’ interaction with other players, but I must admit the amount of thinking involved in the act of playing was much less than even MTG.

For a portion of these students, they are conscious that gaming is having a serious impact on their academics, and even daily lives, and seek to quit for good. The rest however, persist in gaming without the slightest intention of quitting. These gamers simply ‘cannot find anything else to do’, and justify their constant act of playing as the only choice for entertainment and interaction with friends. It is true that there aren’t many entertainment options for students, however, those with this state of mind are plagued with a reliance on gaming in addition to addiction. Even as an individual with a minimal relationship with gaming, I have come to known a huge portion of the international student population to have declined visas due to lack of attendance in school, or failed their way out of Bachelor degrees into Diplomas, and then failed their Diplomas into dropping school altogether to work part-time, and play games. Consequences are huge for these students — tuition is sky high and parents give all they can to their children in the hopes of seeing them graduate with a foreign degree. However, having seen the story of the ‘international student’ unfold in the space of nearly 4 years, I deem it safe to conclude that only about at most a quarter of the whole demographic make it through with a degree of some sort. The rest either wastes years of time trying to get back on track due to gaming, or quit half-way through, and yes, due to lack of self-esteem and lack of socialisation, more often than not due to gaming addiction.

Although i have been relatively critical of the act of gaming throughout my posts on this blog, I do not criticise games itself. But to some degree, the gaming industry should realise the negative social impact it creates and should be conscious of the responsibility they have to warn and control.

Violence in Videogames vs Violence in reality

Whilst working on my assignment I discovered ‘The Visitor’ and realised how gory some games are. ‘The Visitor’ was quite shocking as I thought it would be a family friendly adventure game however that was not the case as it was filled with disturbing gory content. Even more surprising were the comments of praise for the game below and how gamers loved the the disturbing content. This got me thinking about the many violent videogames on the market and their effect on the gamer’s relationship to real violence.

I wondered if gamers who were exposed to large amounts of violence in video games, would be desensitised to violence in real life as they see violent acts so regularly in the games. A study undertaken by researchers at Iowa State University was focused on this very issue. According to the investigators, this was the first documented finding that videogames can alter physiological responses typically aroused by real violence.

Past research revealed that exposure to violent video games increases aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal and aggressive behaviors, and decreases helpful behaviors. Previous studies also found that more than 85 percent of video games contain some violence, and approximately half of video games include serious violent actions.

The study is was titled “The Effects of Video Game Violence on Physiological Desensitization to Real-Life Violence,” which was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. In this paper, the authors define desensitisation to violence as “a reduction in emotion-related physiological reactivity to real violence.”

Their paper reports that past research, including their own studies, documents that exposure to violent video games increases aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal and aggressive behaviors, and decreases helpful behaviors. Previous studies also found that more than 85 percent of video games contain some violence, and approximately half of video games include serious violent actions.

They conclude that the existing video game rating system, the content of much entertainment media, and the marketing of those media combine to produce “a powerful desensitisation intervention on a global level.”

“It (marketing of video game media) initially is packaged in ways that are not too threatening, with cute cartoon-like characters, a total absence of blood and gore, and other features that make the overall experience a pleasant one,” said Anderson. “That arouses positive emotional reactions that are incongruent with normal negative reactions to violence. Older children consume increasingly threatening and realistic violence, but the increases are gradual and always in a way that is fun.

“In short, the modern entertainment media landscape could accurately be described as an effective systematic violence desensitisation tool,” he said. “Whether modern societies want this to continue is largely a public policy question, not an exclusively scientific one.”

The researchers hope to conduct future research investigating how differences between types of entertainment, violent video games, violent TV programs and films, influence desensitisation to real violence. They also hope to investigate who is most likely to become desensitised as a result of exposure to violent video games.

“Several features of violent video games suggest that they may have even more pronounced effects on users than violent TV programs and films,” said Carnagey.

So with this in mind, it maybe no wonder gamers of ‘The Visitor’ thoroughly enjoyed its gory content as the mass production of violent games may have desensitised them to violence. Coming from a non-gamer and seeing content like that on free gaming sites with no age restrictions is very troubling. However that is another issue altogether…

A copy of the paper is available at http://www.public.iastate.edu/~vasser/pubs/06CAB.pdf.

The Name of the Game

Last Blog. Goodbye All. Due to the conclusive nature of this last post it seemed only fitting to be equally conclusive in my choice of topic. First lecture of the summer, Mark posed the question “Are you a gamer?”. This notion of identifying with the tag ‘gamer’ is what I wish to discuss. We have all developed our understanding of video games in theory and as an art form, but how has identity within this world of gaming changed. When we talked of a ‘gamer’ in tutorials, we presumed a white, overweight, mothers basement, angry nerd. Has this perception changed?

At this point I simply want to redefine and blow your mind with the definition of a gamer. A gamer is a person who plays games. Whoa. Why therefore do so many individuals not identify with this tag of ‘gamer’? When a person declares themselves as a gamer, they are simply placing themselves within a community of like minded individuals. This community essentially helps to overcome many of these negatives societal perspectives on gamers. As they say, safety in numbers. The confines of this micro-society allow people to connect, share and discover, breaking the stereotypical unsocial perception.

Many ‘non-gamers’ question the value and reason of gaming. The response to his is simple. They are fun. They are an escape from the pressures of day-today life. People play for social reasons, people play for a sense of accomplishment. They are opportunities for a deeper immersion than we get through movies or television, experiencing world and stories that unlikely to happen to us in our non-virtual lives.

When we think of gaming from a perspective of non-bias and view it as a hobby not an addiction, this notion can liberate the mind to realising that gaming itself breaks all of these stereotypes. Gaming is inherently social. ‘Gamers” will discuss their favourite games on forums. They will play online games together and compete against one another. They will gather at conventions like E3, or the League of Legends World Finals, which in 2013 was viewed by 32 million people.

Sold Out Staples Centre

Sold Out Staples Centre

As these communities grow, society is moving away from the idea that video games are vile or useless. This notion of a stereotypical gamer is slowly becoming obsolete as we realise that the majority of us play games in some form or another. The definition of a gamer has evolved repeatedly in the few decades it has existed and we are now at perhaps its most important stage where almost everyone you know is a gamer in some way, but almost none of them would see it that way.

Jane McGonigal tells of how as a planet we spend on average 3 billion hours a week playing video games. Recognise that you and people you love are part of this. Celebrate the medium of games and what they can achieve. The stories, characters, technology and seemingly endless possibility. Gaming in my mind is art for all to share, experience and enjoy. We are all gamers in some respect so pickup, a console, portable device, mobile phone, computer and just enjoy the game. Game on Gamers.

Gotta Catch 'Em All

Gotta Catch ‘Em All

 

Cite:

http://www.ted.com/conversations/44/we_spend_3_billion_hours_a_wee.html

Gold Farming

It is almost an unavoidable fact that whenever there is currency in a MMORPG game, there will be gold  farmers. Gold farmers are people who amass virtual currency in games just so they can sell it on to willing buyers for money in the real world.

So why don’t people just gain virtual currency the ordinary way, by playing the game? Why do people feel the need to whip out their wallet and exchange real life money for virtual money? I’m sure you’ve all heard of the phrase time=money, and for some people, that is exactly why they buy virtual currency. They don’t want to spend a couple of hours just to accumulate virtual money if they can spend $1 of real money just to get the same result.

Gold farming may sound like a great profession (getting money to play games, why not?). For example, in an interview a seventeen year old revealed he made around $10000 by hoarding gold in Runescape, and selling it to gold collecting companies (http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/i-make-thousands-of-dollars-a-month-from-playing-computer-games).

However, the profession is not as glamorous as it seems. It is estimated that 80% of gold farmers in the world are from China, and most work for factories that hire people just to farm gold. These are known as ‘Gaming sweatshops’:

goldfarming

These vary in size, but they usually consist of around 10-40 people. They work long hours, and their salary is around $40-200 a month. Some gaming sweatshops even provide accommodation so that employees can be there at the location all the time to work shifts.

So how does gold farming affect the overall gameplay in MMORPG’s? In some games Chinese players who are not gold farmers are discriminated against because of the strong, negative image of gold farming (the notion that if you are Chinese and you play a MMORPG, then you must be a gold farmer).

There may also be negative impacts on players who buy virtual currency from online companies who sell them. There have been many incidences when a player who provided account and credit card details to a gold selling company had their account hacked many months later, and their gold drained. Many players do not report their hacked account because a lot of MMORPG’s ban gold farming (eg: Blizzard who run World of Warcraft have this in their Conditions of Use: ((C) exploit the Game or any of its parts, including without limitation the Game Client, for any commercial purpose, including without limitation (b) for gathering in-game currency, items or resources for sale outside the Game), and those who admit to buying gold are ultimately banned.

So, as Blizzard states, the best way to stop these negative things from happening is to stop buying virtual currency. If there is less demand for gold, then there will be less need for gold farmers.

why this bird become popular?

There is no doubt that Flappy Bird is the most popular phone game in the last few months. It is normally considered as a rough and pointless game, but people find themselves so addicted on it. Well, as we know this game is not a new game, it was launched at 22/May/2013, and it just stayed at the AppStore waiting for some boring people to download it. However, things getting changed, in 17/Jan/2014, there was a significant increase of download in north America, and it suddenly became the top free game. So what makes this game so successful is the question I would like to raise.

 

First, this game is a simple difficult game. The design of the whole game is followed the Mario type, a kind of simple and low definition style. And it makes people feeling happy when they get into this colorful cartoon world, but unfortunately the game is not as simple as it looks like. People start the game with a very low expectation of its difficulty, and when they can’t even pass one tube, they start to take it seriously. So they will spend a lot of time to exceed the old scores that they made, or to beat their friends’ score. It is a competition between people and themselves, or you can even call this self-abuse, but whatever it is, people like it. Next, I think the mass media is another important aspect to tell the world what Flappy Bird is. There are so many videos on YouTube showing how people play this game; some of them are trying to teach people how to get a high score, and some are telling people how annoying it is. This phenomenon is not only on YouTube, but also Facebook and Twitter, ect. They are good at propagate new things and make it spread so fast and wide. Therefore, playing Flappy Bird is become a fashion and “necessary” activity.

 

However, the bird is stop flying now. People would have a chance to take a break and the concern about this game will also be disappeared in one day.

Modding, Sandbox and The Second Life of a Game

Many forms of media are romanticized as being “owned by their readers”. These texts in particular are usually “old-media”, such as books. In this context, the idea is that the way a text is experienced by an individual creates a unique affect in that reader, and that the characters and plot develop in specific ways in that readers imagination. However, when I think of the phrase “owned by its readers” in terms of the “new media” world of video games, it takes on a whole new meaning. Once a game leaves the cutting room floor and is welcomed into the loving grasp of its audience, it enters what I like to call its “second life”: the life that the developers did not plan for.

Since the inception of video games as a medium, gamers have been manipulating the playing field of games. I find it fitting that Higinbotham’s “Tennis for Two” (1958), the first video game with a graphical display, was created by manipulating a laboratory computer’s oscilloscope. Truly, it is in the gaming bloodline to mess with the way a game works in order to create the most varied gameplay environments possible. 

The second life of a game can take many forms. The first is modding, the process by which a player modifies game code in order to add or change elements of the game. These alterations can range from changing a specific characters skin, to a complete overhaul of a game featuring new gamemodes, characters and landscapes. An interesting example of this is the mod Day Z for the combat simulation game Arma II (Bohemia Interactive, 2009). The mod, released in 2012 (a full three years after the release of the game) was further to the “complete overhaul” side of the modding spectrum, transforming the game into a post-apocalyptic zombie survival MMO. The second life metaphor works wonders here: though the game originally had fairly moderate commercial success, once the mod had gained popularity sales for Arma II skyrocketed in mid-late 2012, selling hundreds of thousands of units despite being a three year old game. The creator of the mod, Dean Hall, has since worked with Bohemia, the developers of the Arma series in order to release a standalone version of Day Z, which topped the Steam charts in its own right and has had immense early commercial success. In this way, the game belonged to its fans as Hall changed the game to suit his gameplay desires, and it came full circle to earn money and commercial exposure for a previously forgotten game. The players helped the developers whilst helping themselves, and all thanks to the player’s need to force evolution in their games.

Elements like the popularity of modding and the advancement in game-development technology have led to a new era of “sandbox games”, games that seek to remove the need for player intervention by creating as large a world and as free an environment as possible. Sandbox games seek to provide unlimited replayability: games in which nothing can be fully explored and players never truly run out of ideas to try out. In my mind, these games were built by people seeking to encourage the second life of their game. Games that currently sit atop the heap of sandboxes include Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V, Garry Newmans appropriately named Garry’s Mod and Mojang’s Minecraft, all of which approach the idea in different ways. GTA V, undoubtably the more financially developed title in the list, is set in a massive map with multiplayer free-roam mode, in which players can essentially do whatever they please. The resulting chaos is well documented on YouTube, with Let’s Players like Achievement Hunter creating seemingly never-ending videos in the game. Garry’s Mod and Minecraft however use the player’s initiative in order to create new things to be done, employing building and crafting mechanics to allow the player to invent their worlds. The scale of these games is astounding, not to mention the fact that these sandox games are themselves modded, resulting in an even larger scale of possibilities to be explored.

In this way, the development of games themselves has been altered to allow for their “second life” to flourish. Developers recognize the potential that their game has in the hands of their audience, and relinquish small amounts of control to the players for them to be free to play as they will. 

 

 

MMO: More Flow Than The Rest

So after reading all multiple sources on Immersion, Flow and Agency whilst doing my Textual Analysis, I decided to thought more in depth about game genre and wether certain types provide more of an Immersive experience than others. I came to an antiquated conclusion that MMO’s are a more Immersive game type than any other, and these are a few reasons of why I believe that.

1) Characters.
The use of characters and opponents can really define a difference in Immersive gaming. I read some great scholarly resources that described how characters that are bound in specific ‘scripts’ can remind a gamer that the world is a representation. If characters repeat dialogue, use movements that don’t flow with the narrative or just overall seem to be bound in their script of being, then it can break immersion. I would argue that having multiple players within the game world, that are fully controlled by humans, add that ‘unpredictable’ dimension of being. You don’t know how they will react, what they will do next, and there isn’t that repetitive element that game characters live within. It’s like talking to a robot, rather then a fluid personality, and that breaks Immersion.

2) The Perspective
It was mentioned in two of my resources that although people assume First Person Shooters are a more Immersive perspective (because the characters point of view is through their eyes) that in-fact third person view provides a more immersive point of view. The problem with First person View is that the opportunity to feel presence right behind you, or to see in your peripherals is limited by the focus of the First Person Mode. The vision size is quite tight, and you have to fully turn the body to see whats there or near. Whereas with the Third Person view, there is a larger range of view, and a wider angle to which the player can see. You can see people behind your character and in a full 270 degree angle of the characters surroundings (this is closer to human sight then 180%), so in saying that, I would argue that the game view encourages a more Immersive experience than other games.

3) The ability to speak.
I think by using equipment to enable player-to-player verbal interaction their is a definite increase in the immersive experience. I feel that being able to speak, and be spoken to within a game reflect a more ‘real-world’ experience than to not. I believe that most situations require discussion and in that way, the need for tools of discussion within playing is paramount, in achieving Immersion or Flow.

I think MMO’s are a great leap forward for that realistic gaming experience. I believe to attain Immersion, you need to in ways attempt to mimic realistic situations and realistic interactional techniques.