Mark Chen is an independent researcher of gaming culture and spare-time game designer. He is the author of Leet Noobs: The Life and Death of an Expert Player Group in World of Warcraft. Currently, he is looking into experimental and artistic games to promote exploration of moral dilemmas and human nature, researching DIY subcultures of Board Game Geek users, and generally investigating esoteric gaming practices. Mark also holds appointments at Pepperdine University, University of Washington, and University of Ontario Institute of Technology, teaching a variety of online and offline courses on game studies, game design, and games for learning. He earned a PhD in Learning Sciences/Educational Technology from the University of Washington and a BA in Studio Art from Reed College.
GLS was crazy awesome, as usual. They brought back Hall of Failures, rebranded the pre-conference educators symposium (as Playful Learning Summit), and kept the fun micropresentation and Well-Played sessions. It’s cool seeing the conference organizers play around with session formats to make for a better experience. Reminds me a lot of the similar push at DiGRA two years ago (and I assume again this year). There’s so much of a festival feel to it now that I’d almost suggest ditching regular paper presentations altogether. (I didn’t go to any regular sessions.)
One interesting thing is that a lot of learning scientists were there this year since CSCL was happening also in Madison right after GLS. A common comment I got from CSCL folks was that some of the rigor wasn’t in the research presented. Personally, I focus more on ideas, theory, innovations, so it didn’t bother me much. The main criticism I have of CSCL is that it’s *boring.* I don’t mean the research isn’t exciting; often it’s really great stuff. I mean that the traditional format of paper presentations where people speak in monotone or read their bullets just doesn’t do it for me anymore, so I’d take the excitement, call-to-action, rants-and-raves feel of GLS any day. If I’m interested in criticizing your research methods and findings, I’ll do it by reading your papers where I can closely look at those things. A presentation, imho, should convince me that it’d be worthwhile to read your papers.
These two conferences were back-to-back during Canada’s annual Congress, which is sort of a massive gathering of all Canadian humanities and social science associations to simultaneously hold their annual meetings at the same place. It was crazy awesome. The dorm room at University of Victoria really sucked, though.
Anyway, below’s my portion of the panel for CCA, a presentation called Death by Chocolate-Covered Broccoli: A Case Where Gamification Killed Gaming Practice, on how rating fight performance, adding guild achievements for raid progression, gearscore, etc. — IE, rewarding particular activities (IE, gamification in its worst form) — led to the destruction of my WoW raid group. I basically gave the same talk at CGSA (but delivered and covering slightly different things since the audience were gamers), titled Massive Meltdown, but I’m not including the slides here, since they’re almost identical…
Last week at the American Educational Research Association annual meeting, I co-facilitated / presented at a workshop on Understanding Inequalities in Digital Media and Learning. The other presenters were Betsy DiSalvo, Justin Reich, Nettrice Gaskins, and Katie Davis.
You can read good summaries by Justin and Nettrice:
And here’s the concept map that we created based on the workshop activities:
Like Justin, I don’t normally use the term “digital divide” when I talk about the landscape of inequalities to DML. Actually, I don’t even normally differentiate DML from non-DML issues. To me, it’s all about different ecologies of practice and how educators need to prepare students to be adaptable and capable of achieving in different settings. I see the broader landscape of practice / policy as filled with a bunch of different competing groups that have contentious values. These groups all vie for dominance (sometimes intentionally, sometimes obliviously). IE. One could probably say I’ve got a Gramscian view…
But part of that is because of what I presented: stuff from my World of Warcraft studies. In Leet Noobs: The Life and Death of an Expert Player Group in WoW, I talked about how the group I studied developed expertise with the game and learned new sociomaterial practices to find success in a new team activity. To become an expert means doing the things that experts do (rather than just knowing the things that experts know), and that means access to expert practice is of utmost importance. But during my studies, WoW practices were changing at a rapid pace. What was considered legitimate changed. It was very dynamic and emergent.
Here’s the handout I prepared in case you want to read this all in bullet form: NormalizedPlay (pdf) and the slides:
The thing is, the group I studied initially started this new activity together because they were all friends and wanted to continue hanging out and having fun. They didn’t actually care much about how far into the activity they got; it was mostly an excuse to hang out. As the game community’s norms about what constituted expert play changed, and as the group I studied learned new ways of improving their play efficiency, new ways to coordinate, new tools to incorporate into their network of gaming, etc., some of the players began to focus more and more on progress and efficiency as the goal of playing. IE, they became expert players (or more precisely, their expertise changed with the game’s definition of expertise), but this was in tension with the glue that held the group together. The group fractured and died in a fiery meltdown. Former friends bickered over performance and used the expert tools to surveil each other’s efficiency.
What’s this mean?? Any profession or learning community will develop new ways of doing things better. Better = more efficient. This narrows legitimate practice. But that’s a good thing, right? We don’t want a medical doctor or engineer who “does things differently.” Yet, at the same time, the group I studied were friends! They liked hanging out with each other. Were they playing the game wrong? Part of the problem is that Blizzard, the makers of the game, seemed to embrace this new push into number crunching and efficient play. They started ranking groups by their progress and later on even introduced an achievement system to reward certain actions. My former group would have never gotten an achievement for “hanging out.”
And so I added a post-it to the workshop’s activity that read, “How do we design interventions that do not delegitimize existing cultures?” Make everyone read Freire, I guess… /shrug
I guess all this is to say that there’s a lot more at stake than the simple construct of the “digital divide.” Progress always leaves someone behind. Forming and reforming new ways of doing things will always marginalize someone. How as educators do we minimize this as much as possible, and when do we sit back and realize that the costs may not outweigh the benefits? How do we recognize when to intervene and in what ways?
Also, completely unrelated, in thinking about today’s realities of DML, I keep thinking about MOOCs and other newfangled initiatives to reach a wider audience. MOOCs are great and all but, as Justin presented during our session, they’re not really helping address inequality. They may be reaching some people who weren’t previously being reached, but the majority of MOOC students are those that already do well, have gone to college, etc. MOOCs help those who have a natural tendency to learn. Shouldn’t we focus instead on helping people develop that spark? Help them become self motivated, self directed… rather than assuming everyone is (by pushing for solutions that only serve them)?
In turn, draw top card and decide whether to place it in the common pasture or to place it in private pasture. Place cards face down.
Up to 20 cows can be placed in private pasture.
Common pasture can only hold 60 cows before it is full.
[Designer note: Either this or maybe instead the common pasture can only hold 20 cows but is reset each round. Either way, the numbers probably need tweaking.]
Once all cows have been allocated, reveal them and see if the common pasture went over 60 cows [Note: or 20 if using the round limit instead of game limit]. If so, it has become full and all the cows on it from the current round have run away.
The next round starts, but the start player rotates.
[Because players go in order, earlier players can bluff about the number of cows they placed in either their private or the common pasture. It’s predicted that earlier players will use the common pasture while last player may lean towards using his or her private pasture.]
Bonus 10 points for any player who places 4 or more cards into private pasture. [This hopefully encourages risk taking with the common pasture. Does one play it safe by throwing his or her high cards into a private pasture, lowering the risk that the common will go bust? Or does the player go for quantity of cards for bonus points?]
Bonus 10 points for any player who places 6 or more cards in the common pasture. [Again, this rule is meant to encourage players to take risks with the common pasture.]
Include the face cards. They are worth 0 cows. Players play 10 rounds instead of 7.. [This would potentially increase bluffing.]
What if each suit had 2 1s, 2 2s, etc. up til 5s. Then lower the private and common limits to 10 and 30 maybe…
If this works, start tweaking the deck, perhaps adding suits, etc. and retheme with art.
Could scale with fewer or more players: Common pasture holds (15 x number of players) worth of cows.
A solo game probably be made where a dummy player is set up and the soloist just draws a random card from the dummy player to place in the common pasture each turn.
So, here’re my August plans! Huge thanks to Brooke Hunter at Reed for making this happen.
This is primarily for Reedies, but others are welcome to apply. It’s basically a Maker space kind of set up. A bunch of smart people dropping in when they can to collaborate on game-related projects. I’m taking donations for food, transportation, etc. :)
I recently joined the Ballard Writers Collective, and now I’m webmastering for them and doing freelance web work for local authors.
They’re a great group, led by Peggy Sturdivant, who, among other things, are exploring non-traditional forms of publishing, firing ideas in my head about how to find workarounds to the semi-broken academic model.
Many of the authors need web and new tech help. It’s easy and enjoyable for me since most of the work is WordPress related, but I forget sometimes how difficult it can be to enter the digital space, having basically been a cyborg my whole life…