Augmentology" a concise manual of reality for our digital age."

Mark Hancock,_Augmentology: Interfaccia Tra Due Mondi_

[Sponsored by The Ars Virtua Foundation/CADRE Laboratory for New Media]

Subject x [X] is a 27 year old American male. X began playing the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft [WoW] in June 2005. On Average, X will be logged into WoW between 2 to 8 hours per day. X has created 7 WoW toons or player characters/chars. His characters are located on _Frostmane_, a USA-based realm/server. His main [primary game character] is a level 70 male Gnome Warrior named _Xster_.

X plays Xster during the majority of the time he is engaged within the WoW environment. X has 5 alts [alternate game characters] which he plays sporadically. X also has a bank character which he uses for all in-world economic transactions. He is a member of a group of players who have voluntarily chosen to band together to achieve specific goals within WoW. This group is called a Guild. Xster’s guild is titled _Carpe Pwnum_.

X/Xster is currently immersed in a specific game variable within WoW. This game variable is an instance called _Karazhan _ [Kara] which is an example of a raid. X is present in the instance with 9 of his fellow guild members. Each member has been included specifically for their race, class and talent make-up.

The raid members have just completed one of their raid targets by killing a boss Non-Player Character or NPC. This boss encounter was difficult; it has taken the raiders 4 attempts to kill Attunemen. The unsuccessful attempts ended in the successive deaths of each raid member, otherwise known as a wipe. X decides it is time for a break and informs the other raid members that he’ll be afk [away from keyboard] for 3 minutes taking a “bio break”.

X makes this announcement through 3 channels. The 1st and 2nd are via text, using the /g and /ra commands to tell his guild “afk for 3″ and to tell the raid “afk bio”. The 3rd is via Ventrilo [Vent], a VOIP program through which he has been verbally communicating with his raid team, 3 non-raiding guild members and 2 out-of-game friends.

Before X leaves his computer, he positions Xster in a safe area in-game where he can wait in suspension until X’s return. As X types the /afk command, Xster appears no different to the other raid chars; the toon still loops through a basic standing state. Xster continues to function via base movements such as breathing and blinking as if X is still present and waiting at the keyboard. There are no visual or otherwise discernible char changes occurring in-game to indicate X’s absence apart from his text and verbal announcements.

X has moved to the kitchen and is now, in a geophysical sense, completely afk – an example of “hard afkism”. However, X is also in a hyper-aware state, conscious of the estimated time assigned to his game absence. X has the game volume turned up to allow for monitoring of the raid member’s voices and game sounds. Any heightened verbal intonations may indicate that the raiders require his immediate presence back in-game.

X rushes his food preparations and arrives back at his keyboard within 2 minutes. He switches back into WoW via maximising the game window but does not put on his headphones and thus does not resume his presence in Vent. He is told that several of the other raiders are still afk. He then alt-tabs out of WoW, checks his Insoshi and GeoSimm Philly accounts whilst still unconsciously checking the game via sound scanning [an example of "soft afkism"]. If a combat sound occurs, he will switch back into the game and resume his activity on Vent.

9 Comments to “Case Study X: An Example of _Variable AFKism_”

  1. WoW! Awesome case study you have simulated there. It is unfortunate that I am too “wiped” from not having enough “bio breaks” today…sigh! I am too AFK to even “raid” the fridge.

    I will try and write something remotely intelligent on here soon.

    In the meantime, will you be Returning To Keyboard (R2K) in time to WoW during Sunday’s Guild Office Hours?



  2. mez says:

    Hi Jer,

    Thanks for the feedback re: case study X. I do hope that ppl pick up on the fact that even _hard afking_ is a variable state; while X is technically away from his board, he’s still in an active [though remote] synthetic monitoring state.

    Unfortunately I can’t make it this Sunday. Here’s hoping you finish that charming mucus quest;)


  3. Hey Mez,

    We did not do the mucous quest…I did, however, get a Fire Totem for the next ritual :-)

    Well, I had better make more room for more comments for this case study posting of yours… Any comments about this posting, anyone?

  4. Ashendar says:

    Technically, X was no longer “away from keyboard” once they returned to their keyboard.
    Yes, i’m being pedantic.



  5. rubaiyat says:

    I have to agree with @ashendar, but I understand the level of awareness and attention. In this case afk is not about presence but attention and afk is not to be taken literally.

    This line of discussion has actually crossed networks for me and I had a lengthy discussion about this before reading it. One of the interesting things that came up deals with level of attention and the attention economy in the classroom. I find it interesting that my students often seem AFD (away from discussion) when IFOK (in front of keyboard) which poses an interesting juxtaposition of word and meaning.

    How good are you at having an in depth discussion while in an intense combat?


  6. Ashendar says:

    I like rubaiyat’s term AFD as a description of variable afk-ism. I also thought of AFE – attention focused elsewhere – as a possible abbreviation to describe this form of behaviour.

    As the example of rubaiyats’s students demonstrates, variable afk-ism is basically a natural human trait. The advantage with the synthetic world, dare i say it, is that one can claim they were AFK when they actually may have been AFD/AFE.



  7. I want to know if anyone is really AFWoW (Away from World of Warcraft) for any meaningful length of time ;-)

  8. Cookie Evans says:

    Hi Mez, I like your thoughts on hard/soft AFK and the various states of immersion and monitoring. I always feel uncomfortable when referring activities or states of presence being IRL, first life, or SL, especially since I feel that many of my relationships in and around virtual environments are dependent upon each other. As our understanding of reality and space become more and more convoluted, I feel that terminology along the lines of “In Real Life”, and “Second Life” imposes a dichotomy between the virtual and the real whose existence I can no longer be sure of. After all, how much of our “concrete” reality is manufactured or constructed around ever changing ideals of what reality should be?
    Additionally to what extent is our perception of reality shaped by the language with with we use to talk about it? I think this case study is a good step in the direction of updating the way in which we talk about synthetic and natural worlds and understanding the conflation of the two as an unending mixed reality.
    And while Rubaiyat and Ashendar bring attention and possibly some level of insecurity to the looseness with which specific/descriptive terms like AFK are being used, I find this looseness to be somewhat appropriate given the slippery nature of the reality to which it is being applied.

  9. Mez,

    I really am digging this line of thought you’re developing. The case study of X/Xster is quite helpful in illuminating your thoughts from the last post. Keep the observations and commentary comin’..

    I like this landscape you are delineating (maybe trips the the kitchen are an interzone between at keyboard and AFK states). :)

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