World of Warcraft: Is It a Game?

Steven Levy, author of the fabulous book Hackers, writes this excellent column about WoW.
World of Warcraft: Is It a Game? – Newsweek Technology –

What distinguishes Warcraft from previous blockbuster games is its immersive nature and compelling social dynamics. It’s a rich, persistent alternative world, a medieval Matrix with lush graphics and even a seductive soundtrack (Blizzard has two full-time in-house composers). Blizzard improved on previous MMOs like Sony’s Everquest by cleverly crafting its game so that newbies could build up characters at their own pace, shielded from predators who would casually “gank” them—while experienced players continually face more and more daunting challenges. The company mantra, says lead designer Rob Pardo, is “easy to learn, difficult to master.” After months of play, when you reach the ultimate level (60), you join with other players for intricately planned raids on dungeons, or engage in massive rumbles against other guilds.

“Ninety percent of what I do is never finished—parenting, teaching, doing the laundry,” says Elizabeth Lawley (Level 60, Troll Priest), a Rochester, N.Y., college professor. “In WOW, I can cross things off a list—I’ve finished a quest, I’ve reached a new level.”

For the record, I tried WoW and just didn’t find it to my liking. The ‘grind’ to level up was to much work for me and not enough entertainment payoff — that and the lack of creative leeway. But I do see the appeal … if I had a group of friends to play with on a regular basis, and maybe a little more patience, I would probably be donig it every night. Possibly it’s a good thing it didn’t work out 😉

Still, I think Levy’s column does a great job of exploring the deeper social issues that make something like WoW work for upwards of over 6 million people all over the (real) world.

Anyway, the column ends with this: “Yes, it’s just a game,” says Joi Ito. “The way that the real world is a game.”

I don’t have the presence of mind to go into my issues with this statement at the moment, but I’ll just say that I do think there are things about games that, especially with the increasing digitization of all human experience, are making the physical world more and more gamelike. But I don’t think that’s what Ito means. Or maybe it is?

Dark Chocolate is the new red wine

A while back, the big deal was that red wine was suddenly great for you. While the hype was a little overblown, it turns out it was quite true, much to the happiness of those of us who enjoy red wine. (Especially Merlot, in spite of what that character in “Sideways” thinks.)

Well now dark chocolate is getting the same kind of hype. For a long time I’ve preferred dark chocolate to milk or other stuff — and now anything but 70% dark tastes awfully sweet and milky to me. Evidently companies like Hershey and Dove are now pushing their dark chocolates (fancier and more isoflavone-packed versions of them too) because increasing publicity of the health benefits are making it the latest medically sanctified indulgence.

Honestly, I’m not sure if I’d care if it was as bad for me as tobacco, I’d still have to eat the stuff.

While I used to be a big Ghirardelli fan, I’m now more partial to Lindt and especially the utterly perfect carnal tongue-gasm known as Scharffen-Berger. So, if you’re looking for something delicious for the holidays — or if you’re wondering what to get me for Xmas — look no further …

Scharffen-Berger Obsession

More Intel on the Roswell Castle House

Roswell castle house

Originally uploaded by inkblurt.

A friend sent me a link to some info about the house that’s almost as much fun as the house itself. The page on the DuPont Castle website (which has lots of info on other American castles, it seems) has a picture of the house along with tons of emails with various wildly differing stories about the house and its history.
There are some bits of information that sound more accurate than others.
It’s located on the corner of Cagle Rd and Hwy 140 in Roswell, GA.
I looked it up in Google Earth, and lo and behold, found it. Here’s a snapshot from Google Earth (links to the bigger version in my flickr stream).
From the overhead picture, it’s now clear that yes, indeed, there is a real swimming-pool moat around the whole structure.

Wacky Castle House

wacky castle house

Originally uploaded by inkblurt.

Last time I visited my folks, on my drive between their place up around Canton, GA, and the Atlanta airport, I ran across this strange castle-like house, tucked in the midst of semi-rural suburbs.
I’m dying to know what the heck this thing is.
It appears to have a moat around it, because in the front there’s a railing that looks like it goes into a pool (from my vantage point outside the gate, it was hard to tell).
Out back, it has a weird little smaller castle house like a pool house, maybe? And some creepy cartoonish character sculptures.
It must not be a very new house, because it has a gigantic TV antenna sprouting from one of the conical roofs. (I forgot the word for those things.)
There are a few more pics in the flickr stream, linked from the picture.
(Edit: See the new info on the house in this post)