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We’ve discussed the connection between the lone internet user, sifting through endless webpages, and the flâneur— but how does the sudden appearance of other users and an unceasing interaction encouraged by all complicate this image of the user as a drifting observer? This question of how users engage with the interplay of exploration and interaction can be expanded to video games and the rise of online gaming. The solo gamer, wrestling with nothing but machine-bred adversaries, can take full creative license in filling any gaps in the structured narrative. The game is started, it is paused, and it is then revisited. The gamer molds much of the gameplay’s pace and tone. The narrative’s protagonist grows to reflect the user and everything else occurs in the context of this character’s presence and actions. How does the expansion of this gameplay into a multiplayer, networked experience alter the gamer’s perception of centrality? Online, the gamer plays alone and with others. In online role-playing games the gamer sheds much of the predetermined aspects of many single-player campaigns; the story is not only directed by the internal narrative elements placed by developers but also by the dynamic actions and decisions of users. Unlike the ambient acts of many single player games outlined by Galloway, in a multiplayer setting these scarce moments of user inactivity are filled by the actions of other gamers. As Galloway notes, “While the machine pauses in a pause act and the operator is free to take a break, it is the operator who is paused in an ambience act, leaving the machine to hover in a state of pure process.” (10) Networked gameplay strips the gamer of this ‘godlike’ pause ability. Interactivity spawns incessant activity. What does the gamer gain in return for the concessions accompanying connectedness? Galloway writes that in moments of ambience, “The game is still present, but play is absent.” The lack of these inactive instances of ambience in online RPGs gives rise to a gameplay in which often the (game)play is still present, but the game is absent. Characterized largely by the decisions of its gamers, the online world tends to grow to mimic the outside world and its ambiance of actions. By moving towards a gamer experience that reflects many aspects of society, does gaming lose some of its appeal as it abandons its otherness? Perhaps it is not so much a question of how play is becoming work, but of how (game)play is growing to reflect not only work, but also the tedious aspects of real life. Wark writes, “Perhaps the single-player game will become an anachronism, superseded by multiplayer worlds as venal and benighted as the rest of gamespace.” (17) Single-player games hold the distinct value of their focus on otherness— the gift of an unearthly active solitude and perceived centrality of the gamer.

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  1. […] “The solo gamer, wrestling with nothing but machine-bred adversaries, can take full creative license in filling any gaps in the structured narrative… The gamer molds much of the gameplay’s pace and tone. The narrative’s protagonist grows to reflect the user and everything else occurs in the context of this character’s presence and actions. How does the expansion of this gameplay into a multiplayer, networked experience alter the gamer’s perception of centrality?” – […]

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