Tag Archives: digra

The long rambly update… April 09 edition!

A lot has happened in the last few weeks:

A Comparison of Collaboration across Two Game Contexts: Lord of the Rings Online and World of Warcraft

To better understand the nature of virtual collaboration, we present analyses of high-stakes team activities, known as “raids,” in massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs). These situations are hotbeds of collaboration, which is increasingly recognized as a valuable twenty-first century skill (Karoly & Panis, 2004). Raids usually involve a great amount of communication and coordination of actions, interdependence of teammates, leadership, and execution of strategy, similar to elements of collaboration in other settings, such as business (Reeves, Malone & O’Driscoll, 2008), surgical teams (Edmondson, 2003), the military (Salas, Bower & Cannon-Bowers, 1995), control room teams (Patrick, et. al., 2006), sports teams (Eccles & Tenenbaum, 2004), and educational settings (Mercier, Goldman & Booker, 2006). These raid events often span hours at a time and are often repeated over several months before the raid zone is cleared, i.e. when the team is able to successfully defeat all of the enemies. Existing studies of learning in MMOGs include gaming as a constellation of literacy practices (Steinkuehler, 2007, 2008), scientific argumentation in web forums around game strategies (Steinkuehler & Duncan, 2008), and learning game ethos, strategy, and fact-finding with peers via chat (Nardi, 2007). Yet other research has looked at the development of social skills (Ducheneaut & Moore, 2005) and the build-up and leveraging of social and cultural capital to succeed in game activities (Jakobsson & Taylor, 2003, Malaby, 2006). Previous work on raiding has included a focus on providing an ethnographic account of in-game activity and the realignment work needed after moments of failure (Chen, 2009). Without cross-setting comparisons, however, it is difficult to uncover which aspects of gaming are specific to the game world and which can be thought of as enduring qualities of expert collaborative group practice.

To make cross-setting comparisons, we analyze gameplay video, audio conversations, and text chat data from two popular MMOGs, The Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) and World of Warcraft (WoW). Using a participant-observation approach, we examine two semi-stable teams of players who spent several weeks learning to be successful in a raid. In particular, we examine collaborative behavior and communication for two raid battles in each game: one successful battle, and one unsuccessful. The four cases were coded based on adaptations to work team behavior frameworks (Rousseau, et al., 2006), situation awareness measures (Patrick, et al., 2006), and a coding system used in examining differences between problem-solving youth groups (Baron, 2003). Informed by theories on the relational networks of human and nonhuman actors (Latour, 1988, 2005), which includes considering the distribution of cognitive work within ecological settings (Hutchins, 1995a, 1995b), and the assemblage of such systems as applied to games (Taylor, forthcoming), our analyses focus on one aspect of practice, the communication of expert players. This communication includes voice and text chat, and the patterns that emerge when looking across game sessions. By comparing two games with different designs (e.g. team size, player abilities, and scripting of battles) and cultures (e.g. roles, expectations, preferred mode of communication, and use of external tools), we can discover what is common about these collaborative activities, giving us an insight into what is common about teamwork and collaboration in virtual tasks that require a high degree of technical skill and coordinated effort. Themes emerge concerning situational awareness, psychological safety (Edmonson, 1999, 2003), problem solving (Barron, 2003; Roschelle, 1992), and critical communicative practices necessary for success. Results are discussed in relation to collaboration research in other non-virtual settings.

  • Yay! Submitted something to the Digital Games Research Association conference (DiGRA, London, September 1-4). I’ll hear on June 1 whether it is accepted. I can’t post what I submitted yet… Blind review and all…
  • Yay! I’m in a reading group this quarter that focuses on actor-network theory and activity theory. Right now we’re reading Latour’s Reassembling the Social. Read the above abstract to get a really, really brief summary, though I realize it isn’t written for non-academics…
  • Yay! I’m taking Isaac Gottesman‘s Educators as Intellectuals class (again, but this one is different than the one two years ago). We are reading biographical, philosophical, and ethnographic accounts of what it means to be an intellectual/activist/educator and writing our own historical, situated accounts… There’s some crazy connections being made between this and the sociotechnical stuff I’ve been reading… Gross, for example, argues that Rorty was shaped by his relationships with others and that social and cultural capital played a huge part in his development, more so than any inherent agentive trait. Here’s the full list of what we’re reading:
  • Yay! I’m going on the Microsoft, EA, and GarageGames sponsored Foundations of Digital Games (FDG) conference next week, which takes place on the Disney cruise ship, sailing the Bahamas. 🙂 Cabining with Roger Altizer! We’re going to hit up Disney World first. Hopefully, while he screams like a little school girl, I’ll just be giggling (like a little school girl).
  • Boo! Robin is sick this week. I was sick for like a day, but her’s is lasting a week so far…
  • Boo! Ushki also got sick this week. She was constipated something fierce.
  • Boo! Our water heater exploded on Thursday. Apparently, it’s a power vent heater, costing about $1000 more than a regular water heater ($1500). But, on top of that, the contractors who built our townhouse cut some corners and did some really strange things with their install of the water heater, snuggling it in a really tight space in the garage that is too small for modern water heaters. Furthermore, our heating system uses the hot water system, complicating matters a little, as the dudes from Fast Water Heater Co. install a new water heater in a new space. We originally got a quote from O’Neill Plumbing that seemed high, but I was at the office and Robin was stuffy headed so we didn’t quite understand the complexity of the situation. When we got a second quote from the Home Depot referred Fast Water Heater Co., the prices were actually about the same: $2700!! Boo, indeed. We went with Fast since Jason took the time to explain the situation very carefully (three times! me, Robin, my mom).
  • Yay (and Boo)! I’m going to go to State of Play (SoP, NYC, June 18-20), and Dan Hunter, the guy organizing it (and fellow guildie) is offering graduate students free conference registration and either free room and board or some money for airfare! There was talk about folks who were going to be at Games Learning Society (GLS, Madison, June 12-14) carpooling over to NYC. That sounded like fun but I’m having problems getting a confirmation that that is actually happening. Given that I now need to pay for this new water heater somehow, I fear I might be skipping GLS this year… 🙁 If I get into DiGRA, I hope Phil remembers his conversation with me about getting LIFE to pay for it…

Also:

  • I’m ramping up video analysis of a specific kid and his video game practices for ESTG’s ethnographic study.
  • I’m an officer for Educators for Social Justice (ESJ) this year, and this quarter we’re organizing a panel on teacher education and social justice issues.
  • I’m helping the Associated Students of the College of Ed (ASCE) set up a website next week.
  • The IT Crowd is pretty good.
  • The Red Dwarf final episodes finally were aired. Odd Blade Runner references. I think the third part (of three) fell flat.
  • I just finished playing Drakensang. Very linear. No narrative decision points to speak of. Very detailed combat system. German. Felt kind of like Drakensang : The Witcher = Icewind Dale : Baldur’s Gate (or maybe even Planescape).

Spent the last four days at iSLC

So, this year instead of being an instructor for the Teacher Education Program (TEP) here in the College of Education at the University of Washington (UW), I’m an RA (research assistant) for a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Science of Learning Center (SLC) called LIFE (Learning in Informal and Formal Environments). (How many acronyms can I put in there? 🙂 )

There are six SLCs:

  1. Center of Excellence for Learning in Education, Science, and Technology (CELEST) – most brainy
  2. Learning in Informal and Formal Environments (LIFE) – most “everything is about life, dude”
  3. Pittsburg Science of Learning Center (PSLC) – most original name
  4. Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center (SILC) – most visual
  5. Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center (TDLC) – quickest, yet slowest
  6. Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2) – most spatial

This past weekend the UW branch of LIFE (which also has branches at Stanford and SRI) hosted the second annual grad student and post-docs inter-center conference. It was pretty cool meeting all these other learning sciences students and hearing about their research. We were able to share tools and resources, findings, methods, theories and ideas, and some good drink and company at local bars after each day’s events.

There were a number of us interested in games for learning, from the use of virtual environments for studying the effects of 1st person vs. 3rd person POV on learning (Robb) to testing social vs. non-social feedback for navigation tasks (Dylan Arena), from task oriented vs. social oriented cultural learning goals (Amy) to collaborative activity-based multiplayer mouse control (Neema).

The first day, Sarah Walter from Stanford arrived early so we could meet and brainstorm proposals for upcoming conferences. She does almost the same research as me except that:

  • I am focusing on trying to map the way a raid group works to an ANT or distributed cognition model where she’s focusing more on specific collaboration practices.
  • My data only includes what players were already doing (chat logs, video, web forum threads), while Sarah’s got some interview and survey data in addition to what I’ve done.
  • I’m looking at a 40-person raid in World of Warcraft, while Sarah’s group is a 12-person raid in Lord of the Rings Online.

We quickly saw that it would be easy to start using the same coding scheme and collaborate on analyses so we could compare our settings and findings. We’re writing abstracts to submit to IR10 (Milwaukie, Oct) and DiGRA (London, Sept). Prob will also submit to GLS (Madison, June 10-12) but she’s going to be at CSCL in Greece (lucky!) at the same time as GLS.

On Friday, we had a full day of poster sessions and then workshops on inter and intra center collaboration. We need a match.com for researchers, one that pushes info to participants when something new of interest (maybe tag based) gets added rather than depending on us to go visit a site routinely. Does that exist?

Afterwards, dinner at Portage Bay Cafe was pretty good. Met Vanessa who researches media realism and its effects on arousal.

On Saturday, we had presentations and workshops on current research and tools. The workshop I went to was the video analysis one and ELAN (presented by Sarah Fish and Naomi Berlove of VL2) looks great!

On Sunday, the conference was technically over, but I spent the day working at a cafe with Sarah Lewis (also from Stanford), lunch with Turadg, Erin, Ruth, and Ido (all from CMU), and working at a different cafe with Turadg. Sarah and I talked a bit about our programs and profs and politics. Very informative. 🙂

Turadg showed me some cool stuff he’s been working on that might help me with my chart creation… using python and pickling and a make file and such rather than going through all the crazy manual steps I’ve been doing with a text editor, excel, sql, flash, and photoshop. He’s also working on a collective web tool for learning that I’ve agreed to help with (though honestly, I only have a fuzzy image of what it is) and runs the Open Education Research blog.

Anyway, for anyone interested, below is the poster I presented (based off of the paper I was working on last month) at the conference. Also, you can get the bigger PDF version (13 MB).

Visualizing Chat Data in WoW
Visualizing Chat Data in a WoW Player Group