Six Years.

Six years. To call that a long time may be laughable in the cosmic scale, but my feeble human intelligence struggles to make a concrete notion of the abstract concept described by those two words. Six years, six rotations around the sun, six birthdays, six iterations of yearly rituals, six spans of time on a continuous, unceasing forward movement. Six years are all these things, but how do you turn that evasive concept into something with form? How does one hold six years like an apple, taste it, and digest it?

Six years ago I built for myself a computer for the first time. There's a strange pride in the delicate piecing together of carefully chosen parts, and it compelled me to put my work to the test. I installed World of Warcraft and sat awed at the smoothness with which my computer handled the rendering of that virtual world. It was a small triumph, but an important one for a computer science major standing amongst throngs of peers sporting their own custom built machines.

Six years of World of Warcraft came to an end yesterday, as I logged out for the last time and uninstalled the game. In that time I was a newbie, a veteran, a casual, a hardcore, an explorer, a raider, a layman, a leader, a nobody, and a community figure. I've been everywhere from bottom to top, and the experience has taught me as much about life, people and myself as anything else I've done. Closing that chapter of my life is neither easy nor unnecessary.

Six years from now I wonder who I will see when I reread these words.


Money and Power in Video Games

Blizzard announced yesterday that Diablo 3 will have an auction house for players to buy and sell their hard earned treasures, which surprised no one. Blizzard also announced that players would be able to post auctions both for gold, the in-game currency, and also for real money. That surprised many people.

This announcement represents two major policy shifts for Blizzard. First, after years of fighting the underground item/character markets for Diablo 2 they are instead embracing and facilitating them. Second, they have crossed the line between only selling cosmetic effects and selling power/achievement, even if only slightly.

It's the second of these two policy shifts that has my attention. Selling power isn't universally a mistake (it works very well for the supercapitalist EVE Online) but is so frequently one as to warrant, at the very least, extreme care. Without absolutely perfect execution it can and will destroy a game's longevity and community.

This isn't unique to selling power, any game mechanic which trivializes accomplishment will undermine a game's community. There need to be goals, accomplishments and prestige in games for their communities to thrive. Most implementations of selling power, including what we know of Diablo 3, undermine these fundamental aspects of the game.

Diablo 3 is still something I'm very excited about, and it's extremely likely that I will be staying up to play it the night it launches. However, I worry that the community of the game will suffer for decisions like this one.