Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Cause thats where they keep the computers...."

Famous Bank Robber Willy Sutton said he robbed banks because, "thats where they keep the money."

Willy, the modern world would have confused the hell out of you.  Frankly, it confuses me.

I like using half-dollars for coin magic.  Their size makes them both seemingly harder to hide while at the same time actually easier to manipulate.  When I was a kid I used to get rolls of them at the Bank.

I have a show coming up in a few weeks and I need to start practicing.  I went to 3 different banks, all of who gave me nothing but dumb looks when I asked for a roll of half-dollar coins.

I don't get it.  The government is still minting them, where are they going?  Aren't the banks supposed to be the oens who distribute currency?

I guess these days tha banks aren't where they keep the money, but just where they keep computer records.  In the end, I had to order them directly from the US Mint and pay $1.25 a peice by the time I added in rush postage.

Its a very weird world I find myself in.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Redefining Virtual Environment

Yesterday I gave the keynote at the Massively Multiuser Virtual Environments Workshop at the IEEE VR conference.  My address ended with the following quote and contention:

Jeff Kesselman's Theorem
A MUD universe is all about psychology. After all, there IS no physicality. It's all psych and group dynamics.

Now I'd never be quite so obviously egotistical as to name that myself.  I was gifted with the title "Jeff Kesselman's Theorem" by Raph Koster about 12 years ago when I posted that statement to the MUD-Dev mail list.

Little did I realize I'd come to revisit it a dozen years later.  But in that intervening time, phenomena like Facebook have proved me right.  Facebook is a virtual world as real to its participants as any 3D rendered space.  It has its own rules and culture and, most importantly, it has an intricate web of human interrelationships.

Because that is what makes a world.  Not hills or trees or any of the things we render so well today, but people and relationships.   In many ways, the start of the shift of our way of life from 'real worlds' to 'virtual worlds' was probably the telephone.  Psychologists tell us that this is what teenagers spending long horus on the phone were doing, creating and dwelling in their own little virtual world of close inter-relationships.  If you have someone you call regularly to "stay in touch", thats what your doing, maintaining their presance in your world and you in theirs.

But if rendered mountains and 3D animated avatars arent really  the core of a virtual world, then what is?  What is the fundemental component  that makes a virtual world possible?  I believe its identity.  A continuos identity allows us to recognize each other and form beliefs and opinions about each other over time.  Without that, there could be no relationships. An unusually large percentage of the human brain seems dedicated to recognizing faces.  This reinforces how important identity is in our daily lives.

Some Japanese believe that there are many "you"s.  There is the you that you perceive yourself, plus the individual unique version of you that exists in the mind and perceptions of every person who knows you.  A deep and thought provoking idea that once again speaks to how closely identity and relationship are tied together.

At CampFU we have no 3D rendered environment.  But we have a continuous sense of identity.  Your personally designed avatar is what others see on the site and in every game you played with them. As we roll out all the features, will also have a sense of presence.  You will know when your friends are "around" on the site and have some idea of what they are up to.

And that makes CampFu a virtual world as real as WOW.