Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Spymaster: New Twist to Flames & Cyber Bullies?

Photo: Spy vs Nerd Wired CoverSpymaster is the latest sensational Twitter game that was just recently launched on Facebook as well. Ben Parr wrote on Mashable that, "Spymaster has become the standard in Twitter games." I got invited a while ago from one of the people I was following on Twitter. I didn't get around to try it out until yesterday. I loved the interface, the premise, and the connections that I can make to my friends. By this morning I was hooked. Just like I get into World of Warcraft or Westnoth (the open source, turn-based, tactical strategy game) I started carrying out espionage tasks as much as I could.

I left my Twitter followers alone though. I figured there would be a ton of auto-tweets and messages if I played it. I know to what point my obsession can run with RPGs. (And no, I'm not too old to be playing games, thank you.) I lucked out that the Facebook invasion was launched last week. My Facebook posse (though weaker spy ring) is more tolerant with game messages since they also play games. They're also friends who I've met, who can control what they see as opposed to the Twitter crowd who I talk to mostly for professional exchange of ideas.

So today I explored other parts of the Spymaster universe. I read the Directorate's blog and signed myself to the Spymaster Fan site, which is using the Ning custom social network platform. There's also a Spymaster Fan group on Facebook if you want to network with other spymasters.

What I saw in the forums at the Spymaster Fan site didn't surprise me. There was a woman who said she'd be quitting because another spy master had been assassinating her, winning, and getting her assets. She equated her losses to be a case of harassment and bullying. Those who replied to her SOS post (including me) wanted to gang up on the fellow and assassinate him in return. After all, making and helping allies is a part of the game.

Apparently picking on certain spy masters as target to be assassinated on a schedule is used by some as game strategy. It's not a bad game strategy, but it's a boring strategy. It takes the fun out of the game. I've picked on lower level newbies from time to time but never the same target. That's just really really boring. Plus we have the whole of Twitter and Facebook universe to explore, which means two hundred million or so potential spy masters are out there.

While it's not really nice to be picking on just one person because you know the odds are in your favor, it's not really the case of cyber bulling either. Cyber bully implies that you don't really have any choice and you're psychologically attacked. Here you have groups to turn to for help and other spy masters who are willing to help you. It's also the premise of the game. After all being a spy means you'd be at risk for assassinations and psychological warfare. You should also know that you've already agreed to notifications etc.

Here's a screen shot of the 'dossier' of the spy master who had been attacking the woman spy master. Judging from the messages, it has both the 'assassin' and the 'victim'. And maybe other spy masters as well.
Screen shot: spymaster dossier
In dossiers screen names don't come up like regular messaging boards because they're not supposed to be a wall or a messaging center. It's a heated discussion. There will be more heated discussions over wins and losses. And there will be wars between groups. I'm interested to see addition of new spy group affiliations other than the Russian, CIA, and MI6. Personally I'd like to see Mossad and RAW (Research and Analysis Wing - India).

As to controlling cyber bullies on Spymaster, ground rules should probably be developed. In certain games there would be ground rules or pre-defined system settings. But this is a spy game -- you ARE supposed to be killing each other. Maybe people are taking their role playing too seriously. (Another thing that is so common in RPGs or MMORPGs.) Maybe Spymaster should develop algorithms or "cooling off periods" in place for spy masters. What's your take on this?

P.S. If you are playing the game you can add me to your spy ring by sending me a friend request on Facebook. Send the message "Spymaster" along with your request. If you're on the Fan site, you can go ahead and add me as a friend. If you're in the CIA, you can join this group. ^_^!

Update: Here's a great post on Spymaster and why people play it. You'll understand more.

Photo by: Whiskeygonebad

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