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MMO Money Magazine

Writings on the business of fun: Virtual Worlds and Real Money Makes Online Gaming a Big Business. My economic view on the world of online games - without the hype.

Author: Inktomi

Sandbox: what it really means. (To me)

Posted by Inktomi Wednesday June 3 2009 at 12:21AM
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 First off I would like to thank MMORPG for our Aion Weekend Beta Keys! This is going to be a great experience for all of us to get a first taste of the game that we all have been raving and ragging about. I’m looking forward to actually playing with some of the people that I see on the site, playing with some old friends that will be there and our new “sandbox.”

A box full of sand ... sounds fun.

   Lately the term sandbox has become a catchword in the MMOG community as a way to describe an open virtual world. Some of us, namely the editor of the site Jon Wood feels that it is misused and isn’t a correct term to describe an open world game. I agreed with his theory until today when I turned a page in my sociology textbook in college. And yes, I take summer classes, I want to graduate sooner. This paragraph I found made the term sandbox fit perfectly as a MMOG description: The book is called “City Scenes” by J. John Palen

A new “function”

               A sandbox us a place where adults park their children in order to converse, play or work with a minimum of interference. The adults, having found a distraction for the children, can get on with the serious things of life. There is some reward for the children in all of this. The sandbox is given to them as their own turf. Occasionally, fresh sand or toys are put in the sandbox, along with an implicit admonition that these things are furnished to minimize the level of noise and nuisance. If the children do become noisy and distract their parents, fresh toys may be brought. If the occupants choose up sides and start bashing each other over the head, the adults come running, smack the juniors more or less indiscriminately, calm things down, and then, perhaps in an act of semi contrition, bring fresh sand and fresh toys, pat the occupants on the head and disappear once again into their adult involvements and pursuits. - Palen

I was floored.

               I had to read it three times, to make sure that it really meant to me what I thought it did. I urge you all to do the same, then move on so I can make comparisons that you can identify with. The adults in this scenario are of course the game companies and their staff of forum, pr and online game managers. They are responsible for running the show and create the box, the sand and the toys. 

 

We, the gamer society, are the children here. We come to the sandbox and play with others while the adults are busy creating a better sandbox, more toys and refining the sand (we hope). As the community complains about the sand or the toys the adults grudgingly try to fix the sandbox as best as possible, and if we are all good hopefully we get some new toys and a bigger box. 

 

 

 

Crocadilly tears.

               However, the adults cannot just run to every crying child and not that they should, because if you know children, you know how prone they are to break down in crocodile tears. They are busy at work, the serious business of making money and we are taking our playtime as serious as we can. Everything is fine as long as we are playing nice and not beating each other over the head. If we don’t play nice or start breaking the toys, or messing up the sand so that other members leave the box that brings quick reaction from the adults. They can’t have certain people chasing all the other children away, and then they will not be able to keep such a large box going. It better be a fun sandbox, because the children are very fussy and are quick to tell others not to play. Even if they are still sitting in it; Isn’t that funny?

               Now, reading this entirely, do you think the term still applies? I think it applies more than ever, but my last question on the subject is, would you rather pay for a sandbox, the sand and get all the toys included or would you rather get free sand, free box and pay for the toys? It all counts on how many people that actually come and play with us; the more the merrier the adults say as they work on improving the existing box and create better ones.

Play safe and hope to see you in Aion,

~Ink

 

Death1942 writes:

I think the term sandbox should not be taken so literally.  The original context for the term was basically just a world with the tools in it to create our own content (much like a sandbox) it does not really go much further than that.  All games have that adult supervision reference in them somewhere wether it be balancing PvP or distribution of rewards, it applies to most games.

 

So yeah, its not really a sandbox in the way we view one in RL, it's just a simple term slapped onto the games so we can differentiate it from the rest.

Wed Jun 03 2009 5:52AM Report
Fr0z1nDuDe writes:

by your definition of a sandbox... every game of every genre are sandboxes

Wed Jun 03 2009 8:57AM Report
MagicManICT writes:

Death, did you bother checking the publication date on that book? "City Scenes" was published in 1981. The term definitely applies to the subscribers, players, and developers in MMOs as Inktomi states. However, I will agree with you that this only barely relates to how the term is defined by game developers and players.

Props for posting this, Inktami (a week after....) It gave me a good chuckle to read this analogy. It's cute to apply an analogy from psychology to the system, as it relates very well the creator/consumer aspects of this industry. It doesn't help those that are trying to understand what the clear definition of a sandbox game is in an MMO. Unfortunately, better minds than mine have tried creating that definition and too many developers have picked it up as a buzzword that barely applies to their product.

Tue Jun 09 2009 11:09AM Report
Inktomi writes:

 Mopicman,

It's actually a sociology text that is being used currently in universities. I know that technology is prone to advance faster than education but these analogies stand true "according to college PROFESSORS" that still reign true within modern culture present day. 

A week after ... what? I didn't realize there was a timing issue involved.

I don't expect anyone to take what I write as a law or a mantra, but it was something I read that caught my interest and could apply it to current events on the site. 

Have you written anything recently I could read to "broaden my horizon?"

Tue Jun 09 2009 2:21PM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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