Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Slowly but surely...

Sorry for the lack of updates - I've been busy on too many levels for my own sanity! You see, it all started a few months ago...

...a CUPE union strike shut down York University for three months. Yes, 3 months. It wasn't a pleasant experience and York received really bad rep. Throughout the strike, I went back to work for the Toronto District School Board while concomitantly finishing up renovations with my girlfriend for our new place. In between all of that, however, I managed to get in many hours of Maple! ^_^ (I hadn't Mapled like since summer of '06!). Much to my elation, I reached Paladinhood much earlier than anticipated due to the Thanksgiving Day event and heck, I plowed through until 130 while I still had the steam! Paladinhood is amazing! It's everything I anticipated it to be and more.

Unfortunately, now school is back in session and we're cramming to make up for lost time. I was overwhelmed by work, but slowly I'm making headway. Currently, I'm writing a paper applying Foucault's concept of governmentality to MapleStory - perhaps that doesn't sound too enticing, but it's very interesting stuff. After that, I'll be writing a paper on human/computer interactions. Once I get those two things out of the way, I will be working on my formal proposal to begin fieldwork for my thesis. I don't want to miss the 4th year anniversary events (-wow, I sure have been playing MS for a long time!), so I will be working double time to get that submitted and approved by the Ethics Board on time.

I'm looking forward to getting back into MapleStory. EvilCowKing has been sitting idly by... worst of all, I'm incredibly close to being able to purchase a Horntail Pendant + Egg. Nevertheless, my new place is almost finished, I've upgraded my computer's video card, RAM (-no more lag deaths on boss runs!) and purchased a G11 Keyboad and MX Revolution mouse. ^_^ It's gonna take some hard work and cutting copious amounts of hours from sleep, but I'm determined to start fieldwork in May. Here goes...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Parallel Challenges

I can't believe September is already upon us (-and I'm still not a Paladin! -_-")! My first graduate semester begins next week. I'm a bit anxious about the amount of readings and anthropological theory I must tackle before fully delving into my project, but I'm very excited about it. Here's a quick rundown:

Firstly, I recently upgraded EvilCowKing's equipments (-including a sweet 123 W. Att. Blood Eye ^_^), providing a huge damage boost (+17k on Blue Wyverns), which has really motivated me to get to that 4th job advancement. I'm really digging the game and being a WK and eager to make it to 120. I've really needed this because I've been in a slump since Grind fell apart in April due to the "Guild Hack" issue and most of my friends quitting shortly thereafter.

Secondly, I've been brainstorming ideas for new topics for research and there's just so much I want to cover - GMs, private servers, MapleStory icons (Tiger, FangBlade, BSUCLA, to name a few)... There are all these different possibilities at this point. It will be a real challenge to break this all down and really hone in on a very focused topic.

Thirdly, I've been granted funding through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. An enormous 'thank you' goes out to all of my referees for their support, as I could not have obtained the funding without them! This funding really alleviates my schedule - leaving me more time for Mapling and $$$ for NX bling! haha

EvilCowKing faces 8 more rigourous levels before 120. Similarly, I face academic hardship before enveloping myself in my thesis, but overcoming the obstacles will make reaching my goal all the much sweeter.

I was an unskilled Beginner,
who trained as a Swordsman,
withstood ridicule and discouragement as a Page,
and shone through in the darkness as a White Knight.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Barbarians, er... White Knight at the Village Gate!

w00t! I'm in! The level 95 BW WK is packing his bags to rock academia! ^_^

Admittedly, this notice has been long overdue (- I never got around to publishing my earlier draft entry about the tediousness of the graduate application process), but I have been accepted to the Graduate Studies Program in Social Anthropology at York University!

Most importantly, the proposal for my master's thesis on MapleStory culture has been approved and I couldn't be happier about that! Truthfully, I must admit that despite all my hard work, I'm still surprised that I find myself about to embark on a two-year university project based on the study of a 2D video game! Nevertheless, I have a clear goal to challenge misconceptions of gaming in academia, and I intend to follow through on that.

As of writing this, I have about 2 weeks left before I finish my undergraduate degree, so I can't claim full status as a graduate student yet. Nevertheless, when all the paper work has gone through and everything is official, I will be further updating this blog. I'll have a spiffy new Zak Helm to show off too!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

FoG Burnout, Absence, Friendships...

Looking back, I can't say I know how I survived the intensity of the 2nd Anniversary 2x EXP Event during May. I was grinding at least 5 days a week while working full time as an Educational Assistant, under which capacity I was heavily involved in the school production, the school's talent show, formed and performed in a rock/metal band with some of my grade eight students, and presented an award at graduation. June kept me busy and away from MS, but even after school ended in late June, I just had a complete withdrawal from MapleStory. I realized that my ambition to grind was thwarted and I was ambivalent, if not reluctant, to go back. I found myself asking: What was my motivation for playing? Despite earning my 3rd job advancement and Jr. ship in one of the most elite guilds in Windia, Illusion, I could not convince myself to play. I was absent for about three months during which time I focused on music theory and bass guitar, Diablo II: LoD, and even dabbled in WoW for a bit.

However, my absence gave me a renewed perception. In that time...

...the economy 'suffered' from *mass* deflation - 60% Glove ATT scrolls that I had been planning to sell for +8M (a reasonable price then), were now less than 1.8M.
... Illusion, headed by Ichigo522, Gac, slowly began to unravel, as more and more people were just 'disappearing,' Gac included, and the guild drastically dropped in the rankings.
... many of my peers greatly surpassed me in levels.
... and, let's not forget, several new towns where added.

When I returned in early September, I was surprised to be greeted warmly by many people - Tim, Linda, Dave to name a few. Rather than being booted from the guild and pronounced 'a deserter,' I was welcomed back openly. Further to my surprise, just shortly after my return, Linda and Tim, who where both very active during my absence (Linda was 11X when I got back!) and displeased with the current guild situation, included me in a discussion of guild politics wherein we concluded to found a new guild, 'Grind.' Indeed, guilds situate one within vast networks of power, mutual benefit and reciprocity.

Very recently, I was struck by a sudden quandary - I have been actively involved in online gaming (co-operative and competitive) for at least seven years in various games - StarCraft, CounterStrike, Diablo, Diablo II: Lord of Destruction - yet, despite all of this, I would have been (and to a certain degree, still am) hesitant to call many of the people I have met online 'friends.' MapleStory has certainly challenged my perceptions of friendship and I am only now coming to realize that. Indeed, I can now say that I do consider many of these people friends. Evidently, community created through guild membership and friendship networks are fruitful areas for future research.

As for EvilCowKing, now level 75, he is really beefing up - and I am spending millions in obtaining the best possible gear that I can afford for him (4.5M for a +5 Str Dark Dragon Babuta [-I didn't know they existed until a few days ago], 13M for a +10 Str Orihalcon Platine with 5 remaining slots; unfortunately, I'm still stuck with a level 60 weapon [finely scrolled with 2 10%s and 1 60%, which, I might add, is greater than a level 70 Judgement with 6 60%s]). Nevertheless, it's taken its toll financially and I'm now left with a meagre 10M in the bank. Considering that Ghost Pirates will be very expensive training, being poor is extremely undesirable. After all, how can I pass up +20% and hour?

Lastly, on a more academic note, I'm working on/will be working on grad school application stuff over the next while. Let's hope everything goes according to plan...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Reaching the Threshold...

A little late notice... but I am proud to say that I finally reached WKhood!

I blazed through my 60s at an incredible speed thanks to the 2x EXP 2nd Anniversary Events. The grind at FoG was, without doubt, one of my most memorable experiences in MapleStory. The last 2x EXP event (May 30th, 2007) was actually quite funny, too. By this time, after a month-long series of events, I had a regular FoG party - myself, Malinmar (Page/WK), xSos0Def (Sin/Hermit), FrideRice (I/L Wizard/Mage), with a few other regulars filling in the 5th and 6th spots (PlayingSatan, Thrythwig, steal4fun). During that event, Rice reached 70 early on, followed by Malinmar, who also reached 70 a few minutes later. Then I hit 69 an hour after that, and xSos0Def hit 70 about ten minutes after. There was a lot of jubilance as Malinmar and xSos0Def (both fellow guildmates in Illusion) completed their respective 3rd job advancements.

As for me, level 70 came about a week later - and, quite to my surprise, it was a big event! ^_^ Many guildmates showed up at FoG, Ichigo522 included, to help slaughter Golems for that final 5%. We dominated the entire map!

After that, it was a long trek back and forth between El Nath and Perion in order to obtain the quest items I needed to advance. Random Maplers who saw me on the boat between Victoria Island and Ossyria encouraged me and congratulated me on making it that far - a stark contrast to the "lol page" remarks from before.

I had a few close calls against Black Bull's clone, but I emerged victorious. Reaching the Holy Fields in the snowy peaks of El Nath was a bit a challenge too (-and so was having to do it all over again after I realized I hadn't refined my Dark Crystal ores into crystals! xD). And now, after 11 months, I'm a White Knight!

(Interestingly, Malinmar and I, the only WKs in the +60 member guild, are complementary to one another - I'm a guy, she's a girl, I'm a 1H BW WK, she's 2H sword WK, I went with Fire Charge, she went with Ice...)

I look forward to seeing what new experiences and friendships I will encounter, and what new doors this will open in terms of my continuing research in MapleStory.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Participant Observation and KSing at FoG...

A central tenet of anthropology is participant observation, a research method where the researcher lives for an extended period of time with the community being studied. This method serves both as an analytical and data collection tool, and is a very common practice amongst modern anthropologists.

The early decades of anthropology are often referred to as 'arm chair anthropology,' because anthropologists of the time did not go out 'into the field.' That is, intellectuals such as Lewis Henry Morgan, constructed grand theories about human evolution in their libraries, studies, etc. and then 'supported' their ethnocentric claims with travellers' accounts, missionary reports, etc. - (sometimes questionable) works written by others. Clearly, participant observation was considered of little value.

Another key source of information for anthropologists are interviews with community members. Interviewees, referred to as 'informants,' can make invaluable contributions to ethnographies (anthropological studies). Therefore, it is imperative that an anthropologist has strong connections with knowledgeable individuals in the community.

I am grateful and proud to be a part of Windia's most elite guilds, Illusion. However, in order to conduct further research, I need access to even more individuals than guildmates. Already I am making more attempts to befriend more Maplers. One basic way is through partying. Throughout my entire time on MapleStory, most of my experiences revolved around solo grinding. Only now am I coming to realize that partying has many potential, long-term benefits.

Yesterday I reached 66 during the 2x EXP event while training in a full party with some awesome individuals. We dominated FoG and drove away most would-be KSers. =) It all happened quite serendipitously, as I was only intending to party one of my recent buddies - a fellow Page. When the opportunity arose, I expanded the party to include a sin, DK, fighter and cleric. It was great.

I believe that some aspects of my initial research were hampered by my class and level. I was in my mid-50s at the time, and although I was able to recruit informants (-on facebook, anyway), getting respect was difficult, as I was often confronted by "lol page" or "lol bw page" remarks. Now that I'm nearly a WK, I've noticed that random Maplers are much less hesitant to party me and to actually talk to me. Things are looking good. ^_^

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Side order of academic, please!

I've been deliberating how "academic" (or lack thereof) I should keep this blog. I figure I will try to balance out the academic progress of my research with the progress of my character.

In which case, this post will contain little academic content! =O

EvilCowKing is nearing White Knight-hood at an incredible speed! =) Yesterday I gained +75% in one long sitting which consisted of FoG grinding during 2x EXP and then some MAD questing at Korean Folk Town, since I really wanted that lvl 65 +5 Str cape. (I blew 3M on an Str scroll that failed -_-") My girlfriend, in "RL" and "IG," (UndyingIce) and several guildmates came along as well. Tim, (Thrythwig), another Jr. Master in Illusion guided us through KFT. He's a low-dex warrior who's only a few levels above me. However, I'm embarrassed to see how much less damage Cow King does next to him -_-" When I get filthy rich, I will go low dex too!

Either way, I'm not discouraged. WKhood by the end of next week is almost guaranteed! ^_^

Thursday, May 17, 2007

In the beginning...

Okay, so perhaps level 63 doesn't count as 'the beginning'...

Nevertheless, you're here and you're probably wondering why you're even bothering to read the blog of some 1H BW WK. Yes, I said 1H AND BW. I came across a very interesting thread by justsomeguy on SW, and it certainly got me thinking about my own minority role in MapleStory. Perhaps here I can help mitigate the bad reputation of BW users, and 1H users as well while I conduct my research...


My name is Sebastian Campos, and I'm a 5th year undergraduate student at York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I believe I'm one of the very few Maplers out there who not only plays MapleStory, but studies it academically as well.

I've been deliberating this for a while now, but today marks the day that I 'officially' set out on a new mission - a two year mission, in fact - to continue studying MapleStory culture as part of my Masters' degree in Anthropology.

But this is just a game! You can't be serious!

Long ago, anthropologists, (loosely,) individuals who study cultures, believed that in order to study culture, they had to travel to distant lands - places they believed were remote and untainted by 'Western' culture. That is, the 'home' was geographically distant from 'the field.' That began to change in the 1960s, notably with the avant-garde work of Hortense Powdermaker on Hollywood. Since that time, there have been many valuable contributions in studying culture 'at home,' and although traditional research models continue, non-traditional studies are much more common than they were before. My work on MapleStory is part of this movement. Basil Market, Sleepywood, Maple Tip, Hidden Street, are but a few sites that are a testament to the proliferation and diversity of MapleStory culture. Evidently, MapleStory is much more than just a game.

But World of WarCraft is soooo much better! Why not study that instead?

I've never played WoW, and I'm sure it's great. But I'm not interested in studying its culture at the moment. Truthfully, anthropological studies in MMORPGs are scant, yet, most of the studies conducted thus far, express favouritism towards 3D MMOs like EverQuest and World of WarCraft, largely ignoring contemporary 2D MMORPGs. I do not wish to follow these examples; I know MapleStory - this, fairly 'simple'-looking 2D side-scrolling MMORPG - has a rich culture, and I intend to study it as part of my graduate studies.

Hmmm... there might be something to this study of yours after all...

I have already conducted research and written a 50 page paper on MapleStory (-I'm working on getting it published). But this is not enough - there is still a lot more to be discussed. As such, if you would like to help me with my research, please get in contact with me. I am looking for committed Maplers who can picture themselves playing MapleStory for the next two years, who can tell me about its culture. (Believe me, you may know more than you think you do!) I am not actively conducting research at the moment, but having some committed buddies wouldn't hurt (-I have a bizarre habit of befriending individuals who seldom play or quit).

Happy Mapling!


Guild: Illusion

I am a proud Windian.