WOW Pod is featured in Make Volume 19, 2009!
WOW Pod at the MIT Museum from March - September 2009
|The WoW pod was being exhibited at the MIT Museum until September 2009. The interactive AFK cookset is still demoed at the MIT Media Lab, Tangible Media Group.|
Watch the WoW Pod's movie!
The WOW Pod is an immersive architectural solution for the advanced WOW (World of Warcraft) player that provides and anticipates all life needs.
Inside, the gamer finds him/herself comfortable seated in front of the computer screen with easy-to-reach water, pre-packaged food, and a toilet conveniently placed underneath his/her custom-built throne.
When hungry, the gamer selects a food item (‘Crunchy Spider Surprise’, ‘Beer Basted Ribs’, etc.) and a seasoning pack. By scanning in the food items, the video game physically adjusts a hot plate to cook the item for the correct amount of time. The virtual character then jubilantly announces the status of the meal to both the gamer and the other individuals playing online: “Vorcon’s meal is about to be done!” “Better eat the ribs while they’re hot!” etc.
When the food is ready, the system automatically puts the character in AFK (‘Away From Keyboard’) mode to provide the gamer a moment to eat. When the player resumes playing, he/she might just discover his/her character’s behavior is affected by the food consumed in real life — sluggish from overeating or alternately exuberant and energetic.
The exterior of the WoW Pod mimics the look of authentic WOW architectural structures, whose swaths of flat, pixellated surfaces digitally recreate the built environment of an imagined past. But upon crossing the threshold and entering into the WOW Pod’s interior, the player finds the digitized look actually becomes the real life experience that World of Warcraft simulates.
More info about WoW by Cati Vaucelle
World of Warcraft is the world’s most popular massive multi player online role-playing game (MMORPG) with over 11.5 million monthly subscribers. The player navigates their character (or avatar) through an incredibly expansive world of fighting monsters fulfilling quests, joining groups and guilds with other players. The game allows players to customize their avatar: race, gender, and class are selected in addition to skin color, hair color, piercing, tusks, etc. You start out looking pretty homely. However, as a player gains experience and wealth in the game she aggressively hunts specific pieces of gear to increase her characters abilities and look more “epic” than less accomplished players. The ability to highly customize your character, to choose what quests the avatar will accept, and the highly social aspect of the game made World of Warcraft not only the most popular video game ever but also one of the most addictive.
The WOW experience is dependent on what kind of player you want to be. Casual – go on quests, play every now and then and probably pass on anything too committal. Social – Wow becomes your virtual community of choice. You have friends. You interact with them everyday. This takes precedence over killing bosses or getting loot. You probably belong to an organized guild of your friends with minimal hierarchy. WoW has full voice chat functionality. It isn’t uncommon for people to log on just to interact with their social network while their avatar just chills out in one of the game’s major cities. Raider – You’ve maxed out your level. You painstakingly research the best way to optimize your play style. You’ve easily played more than 30 days of game hours. You belong to a guild. It is fairly militaristic with initiates and leaders and raid leaders and class leaders, all with clearly defined responsibilities. As a result of this organization, you and your guildmates , between 2-4 nights a week, venture into the most difficult dungeons and defeat bosses that most players never see, with the best gear as a reward. That’s 2-4 nights a week for 2-4+ hours at a go. Gold Farmer – You exclusively play the game’s internal auction houses and the most lucrative most repetitive quests to then exchange game gold for real money via ebay.
There is so much more to this game, it really is incredible, but these are some of the distinctions and terms that are key to the WowPod.
The primary vehicles to get your character to advance in the game are quests, instances and raids. Quests are most often done alone and require simple tasks to net experience, gold and loot. Instances require 5 players of complementary abilities, healers, damage dealers, damage takers, to work together to kill bosses and get better rewards than are available with quests. Finally, raids require complete coordination between 10 or 25 players who face a level of difficulty where one player’s missed heal, or mis-positioning relative to a boss can kill an entire group. Raids are high pressure and high commitment but also offer the highest gear reward. Many guilds won’t even consider taking you into their raid groups unless they know you can raid a minimum of days with that guild during the week, often two or more.
The need for such a Pod?
When you raid, you’ve got 24 other people from all over the place, all sitting there ready to go, ready to try to kill such-and-such a boss. Many nights, you try for hours and come away empty handed. It’s just that hard. The result is a pretty high pressure environment where breaks are frowned upon. If you’ve got to wait every 10 minutes for someone to heat up their microwave dinner, the whole group falls apart. The WoW pod plays on this context to anticipate all life-needs of the “advanced” wow player. Hardcore raiders could definitely use a pod. I could even imagine a raid leader instructing a group to get in their pods because they would have also calculated exactly how many extra minutes of boss-killing attempts they would have gotten by the use of such a thing. That’s just the way raids are.
Emptying a dish washer, for instance as in the video, interrupts your gaming experience, and the gaming experience of your raid group. At the higher levels of the game, you are dependent on one another to venture into the newest and most challenging content. If your gaming experience is interrupted, it will be perceived by your peers as a waste of time as they wait for you to get back! By cooking and eating in the wow pod, not only does your avatar take care of the food for you and announce to you when the food is ready (so you don’t have to wait in front of the stove), but it also triggers discussions among peers. Imagine if every player had an AFK cookset. An entire culture could emerge in these games around the mediation between the virtual and real culinary world. You already see this in the game. “Raid food” is synonymous with Hot Pockets because the current raiding environment doesn’t afford the opportunity to cook anything significant. We used to make fun of each other during raids when you’d hear a player over the voice chat wolfing down chips, “sounds like raid dinner for Cati”.
What materials is the Pod made from?
The walls are made of MDF wood painted with lacquer. We printed stencils in acrylic sheets to create the texture and pixels on the outer shell of the Pod. The inside is made of skin and fur, skin that Steve hunted with his father back in the day when most kids were at home playing duck hunt.
For WOW we wanted to design a Pod that is both from the fantasized universe of WOW while also representing the actual experience of the game. The resulting flat, outside surfaces of the Pod are pixilated like the skins of the buildings you see in the game. The inside of the Pod supports a “real” fantasized experience with a wood-stained throne/toilet/computer enclosure, and organic materials (no pun intended).
Do the avatar’s always announce the same thing when the meal’s about to be ready? What does she announce?
Each recipe triggers a different avatar response, from comments to behaviors. Jungle stew puts the avatar in a jungle mood and they start dancing around before going AFK. After the avatar eats the food they will fall asleep or sit down and wait for the player to catch up with their dinner. When the player comes back from snacking, the avatar will resume from its “AFK” mode and behavior.
How were you able to sync the avatar with the cooking device?
There are three pieces: a servo controlled hot-plate, a semacode reader, and a piece of software that I wrote to connect between them and the avatar. Each food packet, when scanned, is identified. It cues an avatar behavior, turns on the hot-plate and starts a timer based on the required cooking time. When the food is almost ready, the avatar gives the player more cooking instructions for the final preparation of the meal. Finally, when it is done, the avatar again reminds the player and the hot-plate automatically turns off.
What are the reactions of players towards the Pod?
WoW players I met LOVE the WoW Pod and want one! It's like a custom furniture feature directly relishing in the game. The fascinating part is the fact that this artifact appears to have been extracted from the game and is now part of your bedroom! However, it is an art piece with no intention to commercialize it. This often gets lost in the blogosphere. I presented the project to many WOW players who would all love to have a pod in their room, to the exception that they would rather have it closed with an LED sign at the door of the pod that says “ Busy, raiding, come back in 5 hours, mom!” We wanted the door to be opened because, as an art piece, we wanted to avoid the superficiality of the pod as a tool exclusively for isolation. Yes, these games can be time-consuming and all-enveloping, but working within that culture, we have an affection for the game and its players. We wanted the pod to express the dialog between the player and their avatar in the context of their game needs.
Any plans to make WoW Pods and/or AFK Cooksets to sell?
Even though the WoW pod is fully functional in its hardware and software, it remains an Art piece. However as part of my PhD I am researching on ways to link the physical world to the digital environment, and virtual massive multiplayer’s game. I am hoping to look into the cookset as means to provoke exchange, discussions about the food lives of players in relation to their habits. They took care of their avatar, feed them, give them water, make them do crazy adventures; Now their avatar will take care of them, feed them and give them water!
WoW Pod progress
A quick movie on how the avatar reacts to the food.