This is a response to K7GO's private comments on my on-line contesting story
(you might begin by reading his words at the bottom).
I agree with almost everything you are saying, which means I need to be
clearer in stating my mission:
I am *not *trying to convince young people that ham radio should compete for
their attentions with MMORPGs. Others might wish that, but I agree with you
- it is not a credible objective.
What's more, it is ridiculous to draw parallels where they do not exist -
radio contests are not ROLE PLAYING games, nor are there 3-D in the virtual
sense - only the real one. But they are massively multi-player, and they
on-line in every sense except the strictest modern interpretation of the
term. (BTW, contesting is a MMOG, not MMORPG)
My goal is to talk to my fellow contesters.
Games that pitch players in battle are but a small corner of the on-line
gaming world. One of the most successful games ever is FarmVille with more
than 81 million active users, and 31 million daily users (year-old stats) No
battles, no fights, just cooperation in what amounts to laborious tasks -
plowing, managing crops, etc. As one friend called it, "poke with cows."
The term "epic" means "*very *imposing or impressive," and "surpassing the
ordinary." A Joan Baez concert may be entertaining, but Woodstock was epic.
A soldier running 26 miles to deliver a message is an interesting historical
footnote. 43,660 people finishing the New York Marathon is epic. Doing
urban planning exercises in a 1980s version of SimCity might be
entertaining, but 1.2% of the world's population tending to FarmVille crops
that don't exist is epic. Working a new one is cool, CQWW is epic.
The newbie experience is quite different from the elder player - this
applies to newbie contesters and gamers alike. When my sons first showed me
World of Warcraft, I thought it was about killing wolves and taking their
loot - and eventually you might graduate to killing other players.
Nothing was farther from the truth.
The purpose of the battles was to improve your skills, and the loot was for
buying armor and the like. Killing other players is cruel, and of interest
to the 1% of players who roughly correspond to the sociopaths in the general
population. As I watched my sons progress, they leveled up their characters
to the point where they could participated in raiding parties that required
the incredibly coordinated efforts of dozens of players, each with their own
specialized skills, honed over hundreds and thousands of hours. Millions of
people were doing this simultaneously - my sons knew they were immersed in
something of epic proportions, and eventually I saw it too. (BTW, "elder"
does not mean old.)
Of Bartle's four gamer types (look it up), "killers" are the rarest.
"Achievers: win with the cooperation of others (not at their expense),
"socializers" relish that cooperation, and "explorers" love to discover new
things - but don't need to win. Who among contesters is a "killer?" I
daresay few; some of us (like me) are "achievers," most casual ops and
members of contesting clubs and multi-op efforts are socializers, and those
of us who advance the technology are explorers. And the battles between FRC,
YCCC, and PVRC are as epic as they are friendly. Contesting is like WoW, not
DOOM or its modern variants.
Who among serious contesters hasn't had an adrenalin rush when bagging a new
multiplier (or working just about anything a continent away on 160)? But
adrenalin plays a small role in serious game play - it is mostly for
hooking the newbie.
Flow is the main thing - and yet most people don't even know what it is.
When my wife watched my sons play WoW for 8 hours at a clip, she thought
they were crazy, but I knew exactly what was going on, for I have sat down
to play CQWW for 48 hours without sleep. According to Mihály
Csíkszentmihályi, "flow is completely focused motivation. It is a
single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate in harnessing
the emotions in the service of performing and learning." (from wikipedia).
Athletes call "flow" being "in the zone." Once you experience it, it can be
the most addictive feeling around. It is the memory of hours of flow, and
the anticipation of more to come, that has me working 100 feet in the air
repairing my antennas, traveling to far-off lands, constantly leveling up my
skills. It isn't about winning, it is about the hallmark of flow: "a feeling
of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task." Flow only comes
when a difficult challenge meets high skill in an all-consuming activity.
When you are in flow, you can ignore everything else. A friend owes a
10-year-old record in CQWW to the fact he had an impacted tooth that was
excruciatingly painful - but only when he stopped operating.
99% of the people who fill out my logs in the contest may think I'm crazy,
but the 1% at the top of the leader boards know *exactly *what I'm talking
about (although they might not have heard these words before). Think about
it; something is motivating people to go to the extreme lengths they do, and
believe me, it ain't about adrenalin or winning a piece of paper. Maybe
DXing is about that, but contesting for the elder players is about flow.
My mission is to inspire awe in our hobby - not among young gamers, but
among you all. Learn how to express this, and you will be able to recruit
new people. Don't do it, and you'll lose to the competition for their hearts
I was driving to a science conference from New York to Boston with a
colleague and his teenage son. When I told him there was an HF transciever
in the car, he said he had Skype on his cell phone and we could call
anywhere in the world, and we could talk to people we knew, not random
He didn't understand. So I told him.
"Using a little box of electronics, and about the same power as just one of
the 11 light bulbs in my kitchen, we are going to send electrons up and down
a piece of wire wrapped around 7 feet of fiberglass on the roof of our car.
Invisible light would boil off this wire, and spread out all over the globe,
bouncing off the upper atmosphere, the ground, the atmosphere, the ground,
perhaps many times, and most of these photons would be absorbed or diluted
as the spread out over the globe. Yet enough might land on another tiny
piece of wire somewhere on the planet and induce electrons to move back an
forth there too. Another person who shares my interest might stumble across
those electrons and decide to reciprocate. And we will talk to each other."
His jaw dropped.
Our car trip wasn't long enough. My friend and his son could not believe
their luck to experience such a miracle as we swapped photons with people in
Italy, Russia, Brazil, and perhaps a dozen other countries.
I have to go now to pack for my trip to TI5N to operate the ARRL DX contest.
Like dozens of others, I will get in an aluminum tube, and travel 7 miles
above the earth at five sevenths of the speed of sound to a land thousands
of miles away to sit down at the home of just one of my million brothers and
sisters to push electrons around his crop of aluminum. I will exchange beeps
with thousands of you, but my goal is not to win a piece of paper that says
"1st place, 15 meter single band" but to experience flow and the awe of it
all. There is no way you can tell me this isn't going to be an epic
experience for me. And if it isn't going to be one for you, all I can say is
that I hope you level up some day.
It wasn't until we began creating virtual worlds for a multi-billion dollar
industry that we really began to study in earnest what makes for a
compelling experience. The goal of my article is to discuss what we can
learn from these designers of worlds so as to more fully appreciate our
sport, and to improve upon it. For many, I also hope to rekindle the awe you
experienced in your youth, and if you do that (and hang around with young
people), you'll find that it rubs off.
Brooke N2BA (soon to be /TI)
PS. Come on guys - start telling me your personal epic contesting
experiences. I know you have them - cough 'em up.
On Tue, Feb 15, 2011 at 5:58 AM, Lew Paceley <email@example.com> wrote:
> Hi Brooke,
> Personally I find your proposed article a bit of a stretch. Online MMORG
> 3D gaming is really nothing like ham radio. The backbone of all good MMORGs
> is not an epic story line (which provides context but little more) but
> rather Player versus Player combat. Essentially, the "contest" runs 24x7
> and your preparation and skills determine whether you "live" or "die"
> (virtually). There's a strong element of adrenaline involved in 3D gaming
> that as a noobie contester I haven't found mirrored in any ham radio
> activity. Yes, there are other activities that many games support but these
> activities are typically centered around player versus NPC (Non-Personel
> Characters, ie. computer driven robots) or activities designed to generate
> in-game money.
> Another unique characteristic of 3D gaming is that it is highly interactive
> and very visual which again has no direct equivalent in ham radio. While
> I'm not sure I understand the goal of the article I can tell you that trying
> to convince young people that ham radio has a lot of the characteristics of
> a 3D video game is not a credible objective IMO.
> My $.02.
> On Mon, Feb 14, 2011 at 4:30 AM, Brooke Allen <firstname.lastname@example.org>wrote:
>> Interestingly, I just queried QST for an article I'm entitling "Ham Radio
>> Contests - The Original MMOG" (MMOG=Massively Multi-Player Online Game).
>> They are interested, and I hope to get this done in the next few months
>> (work and contest commitments permitting).
>> This article is still being formed, so I want your feedback.
>> I will discuss many of the attributes of game design, evident in good
>> - Easy to play, hard to master.
>> - Flow (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_(psychology)
>> - Leveling up: Visitor>Novice>Regular>Master>Elder Player
>> - Badges and Leader boards (certificates, trophies, Top-10 listings, etc.)
>> - Collections (DXCC, WAS, etc.)
>> - Aesthetics and emotional engagement: Surprise (JT1 calls over the pole),
>> satisfaction, pride, gratitude (QSL cards), etc.
>> - Community, administration, policing, and chat boards (like this one)
>> - Social style: Playing alone with others (single op),
>> - Bartles player types (Achievers, socializers, explorers, killers)
>> I will make suggestions for improvement that are informed by what the game
>> design community has learned:
>> Onboarding - the process of getting someone started (what if there was a
>> frequency on each band where volunteers help onboard casual operators who
>> would otherwise find their operating weekend destroyed by a contest),
>> tutorials, etc.
>> The Engagement Loop - adding missions, quests, unlocks, in-game currency,
>> custom leader boards, progress bars, etc.
>> In her book *Reality is Broken*, Jane McGonigal makes the case that,
>> compared to modern well-engineered games, the real world is not very
>> engaging. She explains that we need to bring game mechanics to how we
>> educate and motivate ourselves to learn and work. My favorite quote from
>> book: Noel Coward said, "Work is more fun than fun."
>> The best games take players on an Epic Journey, and the best MMOGs are of
>> Epic Scale.
>> The difference between ham radio and on-line contests is that our game is
>> played (for the most part) in the real world.
>> Ham radio has played a central role in my personal Epic Journey:
>> - By the time I'd graduated from high school, I'd talked to perhaps 30,000
>> people world-wide, and exchanged postcards with thousands of them, and
>> was knowledgeable and curious about the world's people.
>> - I knew of the invasion of Czechoslovakia hours before the news broke.
>> - I have operated from about 30 countries (and I leave Wednesday to work
>> ARRL CW from Costa Rica, a new one for me).
>> - After Papa Doc died, I made 7 trips into Haiti bringing in transcievers,
>> amps, and antennas to re-equip numerous hams, and I was part of the first
>> contest operation from Haiti in 22 years.
>> - While living in Japan, I relayed news of the Gorbachev Coup to Siberian
>> - During the Nicaraguan earthquake, I helped man a key station for a week
>> providing relief communications.
>> - Ham radio has even informed my career as a securities trader - digital
>> low-pass filters help us make thousands of trading decisions a day,
>> implemented through software that looks suspiciously like a contest
>> program, except that ticker symbols don't have numbers in them.
>> - Even the expense of winning a contest has been a positive, motivating me
>> to levels of career success I would not have otherwise achieved.
>> Some times I feel that many of us fail to see our lives as a Truly Epic
>> Journey, don't see how *awesome *our hobby is, and do not take full
>> advantage by allowing it to shape our lives (present company excluded).
>> We can learn a lot from gamers. And we can teach a lot too.
>> Would everyone please send me your ideas for my article, particular your
>> Epic Journey stories.
>> Brooke, N2BA
>> On Sun, Feb 13, 2011 at 2:15 PM, David Gilbert <email@example.com
>> > With all due respect, Steve, I suspect that you have never actually
>> > played any modern online multiplayer games. It is a far richer
>> > experience than any ham radio contest, and I can't imagine any online
>> > gamer being persuaded to join us based upon some sort of legacy appeal.
>> > It would be like expecting an audiophile to spend any serious time (and
>> > serious dollars) to listen to old wire recordings.
>> > I really enjoy radiosport (in fact, it is probably the only operating
>> > aspect of ham radio that still has significant appeal for me), but I
>> > enjoy it because it has a history for me and it's a focused event ....
>> > kind of like seeing how many free throws I can make in a row on the
>> > basketball court.
>> > Online multiplayer gaming, though, can be incredibly complex with
>> > literally several dozens of different player types that each have
>> > strengths and weaknesses versus one another that sometimes change
>> > depending upon the environment. The permutations are truly staggering.
>> > It often takes years for most gamers to get proficient at these things,
>> > and it also takes lots of study ... there are several online wiki's that
>> > describe aspects of any particular game in great detail and also outline
>> > key player strategies. How do I know all this? My wife and son are
>> > both avid gamers, and I can tell you right now that anyone who claims
>> > today's youngsters are not drawn to ham radio "because they aren't
>> > willing to work for it" is ridiculously off base and simply kidding
>> > themselves.
>> > Consider also the impressive audio and video implementations in most
>> > online games, the ability for group voice interactivity via free
>> > applications like Ventrilo, the occasionally clever background game
>> > scenarios, and minimal hardware/software cost. The overall comparison
>> > to competitive ham radio is not favorable in the least. It is entirely
>> > possible to be eminently competitive in online gaming with a $500
>> > computer (which most people have anyway), a decent internet connection
>> > (which most people have anyway), and maybe $250 per year "operating
>> > cost" (online subscriptions, game upgrades, etc). That's cheaper than
>> > many folks pay for their cell phone hardware and service, and it's a
>> > heck of a lot cheaper than what I've invested to be a semi-competent
>> > contester.
>> > Maybe someone can prove me wrong in a few isolated recruiting instances,
>> > but I'm pretty sure it won't be very many.
>> > 73,
>> > Dave AB7E
>> > On 2/11/2011 6:30 AM, Steve Sacco NN4X wrote:
>> > >
>> > > Having said that, has anyone considered that we, as radiosport
>> > > enthusiasts, should be trolling for new blood in the electronic gaming
>> > > world? I'm very serious! Consider that playing on a console in one
>> > > thing, but can't we lay claim to being the "Original electronic
>> > > gamers"? Surely there are some whose curiosity would be piqued!
>> > >
>> > > 73,
>> > > Steve
>> > > NN4X
>> > > EL98jh
>> > >
>> > >
>> > _______________________________________________
>> > CQ-Contest mailing list
>> > CQ-Contest@contesting.com
>> > http://lists.contesting.com/mailman/listinfo/cq-contest
>> Brooke Allen
>> CQ-Contest mailing list
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