Tag Archives: lisa galarneau

Games Learning Society 7 Rapid-fire Notes

Besides the notes from below, GLS was also about brats, beer, ice cream, short shorts, frat jocks with jean chaps, and the metagame. And tons of friends.
This year we sorely  missed Julian Dibbell and/or Lisa Nakamura, presenting to us something on griefing, trolls, gold farmers, subversion, etc. 🙁

Eric argues for deeper considerations of games as aesthetic forms and that they exist within situated contexts. The debate whether games are good is largely uninteresting because it too often focuses on the artifact and superficial gamification elements as instrumental. Rather, we need to start looking at meaningful experiences and beauty. We are in the ludic century.


HALL OF FAILURE: Curriculum Design is a Bitch
I Dig Brazil: a successful failure
Sanzenbacher, Angielczyk, Aronowsky, Joseph,Villanosa
Gamifying Participation: Felling the Talent Tree of Failure
A Failed Experiment? Teaching and Learning about Community in World of Warcraft
McKnight, Hayes
Let Me Know When She Stops Talking: Using Games for Learning without Colonizing Play
Steinkuehler, Pop.Cosmo
Halverson, Discussant

These failures are moments of powerful learning about dangerous assumptions when creating curriculum or interventions that include games. Two highlights:

  1. Sean Duncan’s appropriation of World of Warcraft’s Talent Tree to encourage class participation was a brilliant idea that failed in execution. He concluded that it just didn’t work, but Rich Halverson, the discussant, suggested that maybe it was because all of the talents he designed allowed players to opt-out of participating with the class. What if the talents were reworked such that they gave players the privilege to present or have the floor or otherwise participate more?
  2. Betty Hayes and John Carter McKnight’s experience with English grad students being introduced to World of Warcraft was hilarious, completely dispelling the myth that all students would want to play a game for class, would know how to play a game, and that it would encourage self-directed learning.
My tweets:
I dig brazil = example of curriculum design as fragile orchestration of content, medium, timing, yet best moments can be spontaneous #gls7
This keynote summarized the new NRC report. Constance noted that the report perhaps put more emphasis on simulations. Two take-aways:
  1. much of games and simulation research has focused on content learning, yet games could speak powerfully to all the 6 strands of science learning in the LSIE volume (pdf).
  2. there’s not yet enough evidence for using games/simulations for the 6 strands of learning, so there’s an opportunity for more research using this new framework.

It went well in the sense that we had a good conversation, though, I don’t think we got at the meat of the debate… or maybe we dodge the debate by basically agreeing that game communities are complex and highly particular. Lisa couldn’t make it physically and was our disembodied Skype voice. 🙂


All of the posters were great and I encourage you to check them out at your leisure:

I mostly paid attention to these two:
A Data-Driven Taxonomy of Undergraduate Student Video Game Enjoyment
Quick, Atkinson
Because I was about to give a presentation on modeling engagement the next day.

The Teron Gorefiend Simulator: A Perspective on Learning in Online Game Communities
Because Patrick provided a perfect example of a sociomaterial resource that WoW players used to be good players.


Keynote 3: An Ecologist’s Perspective on the Ecology of Learning Games

Basically arguing that games need to be considered as part of a larger ecology (of activity) with examples from MIT.


HALL OF FAILURE: Game & Assessment Design are Hard Too

The More We Know: Inside NBC News’ iCue, and Why It Didn’t Work
Klopfer, Haas
Simulating Failure: Why Simulations Don’t Always Work
Critical Gameplay Gone Critically Wrong
Modeling but Not Measuring Engagement in Computer Games
Chen, Cuddihy, Medina, Kolko
Hayes, Discussant

Another awesome Hall of Failure session. This is by far my favorite type of conference session  now. Brief take-aways: Carlton Reeve could use some way to make more transparent how game decisions have future impacts to consequences. Lindsay Grace is an amazing speaker and has created a bunch of games where he only gives himself 5 days to develop them. Both Jason Haas and I demonstrated an ability to use Google Image Search to find Fail Whales.

My tweets:

@Carlton I’d gladly collaborate with you! #gls7

Mostly talking about Quest2Learn. (Coincidentally, Aaron Hung’s new book The Work of Play just came out!)


FIRESIDE CHAT: Writing the Games-Based Dissertation
Wolfenstein, Chen, D’Angelo, Harper, Kelly,Chess

Surprisingly well attended! We decided to submit something to the conference proceedings. I guess navigating PhDs to completion is an universal challenge.


PRESENTATION: How Players Shape the Game
Scientific Play? How Players Remake World of Warcraft as a Game of Numbers.
Negotiating with the “Addictive” Characteristics of Online Games
Yut, Korea’s Monopoly: A deep relationship between game play and cultural practices
Lee, Halverson
DeVane, Discussant

Kristine Ask covers theorycrafting and how normalizing its practice is. Shawna Kelly tackles the controversial topic of addiction and how players who talk about addiction (regardless of how we define it) tend to be happier. Jules Lee introduces the audience to the Korean game Yut, looking at play in a similar study to Na’ilah Nasir’s look at African-American dominoes players.

My tweets (many more than in previous sessions because @the_real_rahjur was doing such a good job live-tweeting the ones we both went to):

players using theorycraft w/o understanding the numbers is kind of like academic work, actually – @kristineask#gls7
players, whether they care about theorycrafting, will encounter it and have their play normalized by it #gls7@kristineask

some guilds encourage pointing newbies to theorycrafting sites rather than just being “elitist jerks” #gls7@kristineask

some have described expertise development as basically a process of normalization, too #gls7

sobering case studies of gaming addiction from shawna kelly #gls7

gamers who manage their “addiction”–by talking about it, by setting goals–are happier #gls7 -shawna kelly

“gaming practice cannot be separated from gaming culture” #gls7Jules Lee on the Korean game Yut

surprisingly, during social play experts Yut players asked more questions than novice players #gls7 -Jules Lee

the type of question seems to matter a lot, eh? #gls7 Jules Lee

Jules Lee just cited Megan Bang! Dr. Bang is coming to U Washington next year. uhuh uhuh. /nod #gls7

also citing Na’ilah Nasir, who’s working with us at the LIFE Center. yup yup… 🙂 #gls7

expert gamers leverage resources-social ties to family, etc. (Lee & Halverson) *and* material tools (Ask) #gls7 (thx 4 supporting my diss!)

gaming practice *and* there4 expertise devlpmnt(!) takes place n specfc cultural contexts, compltly destroys cogntvst view o expertse #gls7


Three main points:

  1. In line with Eric, Eric, and, to a lesser extant, Constance, in saying that gaming ecologies need to be looked at, not just the game-player relationship. Learning environment matters. Setting matters. The how of implementation matters.
  2. Also along those lines, games are good at teaching systems thinking, procedural and logistical or computational thinking, not necessarily content knowledge.
  3. We have a digital media literacy divide that mirrors a general literacy divide, and it’s gotten worse since NCLB. Jim Gee names the biggest problem segregation within our school systems; not necessarily segregation by race but also by class, etc., where those with strong networks of support continue to outpace students who lack support.
My retweet:
rogueclone1138 Jennifer Killham
“this fireside chat has turned into a fire hazard chat” – @meems808 #gls7
I skipped this. Sorry. 🙁



Brief thoughts on guild management, inclusion, and positioning

Four years is a long time, relatively speaking, especially about Internet life and events. I figure four years is long enough that I can safely talk about some experiences I had as a guild master or officer that affected me. They left me thinking, were time-consuming, and took a lot of energy to manage at the time.

[Note: After writing, I’ve realized that I don’t really go into much detail, so I probably could’ve written this stuff down a long time ago, but I wasn’t sure what I’d write, so…]

There were two cases that I’ve previously written about or mentioned. First, there’s the two cases of inclusion that I wrote about in “Ethical tensions between the roles I play” where guildies weren’t quite fitting into the social norms of the guild. Second, there’s the case of a guildie who was gkicked due to an argument over loot rules. I wrote about this in “Play my way,” the chapter co-authored with Lisa Galarneau that was originally to appear in a book on the politics of play in virtual worlds. That book never got off the ground, so we recently revised it and submitted it to the Handbook of Research on Improving Learning and Motivation through Educational Games.

Anyway, one case I haven’t really shared before was when a woman in my guild claimed she was going to attempt to commit suicide. An interesting thing to note about this case was that it occurred during the atypical night of raiding that I wrote about in the “Communication, coordination, and camaraderie in WoW” paper in Games and Culture. The timing of her call-out for help significantly contributed to me not paying as much attention to the raid as I normally did, which, in part, added to the “off night” feeling that led to our nigh raid meltdown.

<enter description of suicide attempt here> [Note: maybe some day I’ll write about it fully, but I’ve realized that I don’t need to describe it more now…]

All of the above events were ones that I wasn’t expecting to encounter while managing a guild.

There’s a nod-with-a-smile-knowing-better-now-that-I’m-wiser kind of feeling when I think back at the time of our guild formation. There were five of us who were friends outside of the game. The only reason I was the guild master was because I took the time to run over to the guild house and buy the charter. Other than that, my thought was always that us five were a quintumvirate or pentumvirate or whatever word is used with a ruling body composed of five people. When we were naming the guild ranks, I chose Overseer for guild master, mostly trying to stay in character as we were Horde-side on an RP server (with the other ranks being Officer, Veteran, Grunt, and Peon). Yet, the nominal marking of me as the Overseer positioned me in a role that came with additional responsibilities. These were projected onto me from both guild officers (the other four members of the ruling body) and the regular guildies. Often when tension would occur, a couple of the other officers would argue (somewhat jokingly but somewhat seriously) that I should handle the situation because I was the Overseer. Eventually, I came to understand that it was easier for guildies to see one person as the de facto leader, and I began to accept the de jury role as my actual role.

T.L. Taylor suggested I expand on my “Ethical tensions” paper to focus more on the mediating role I found myself in, between officers and regular guildies. Not only did I have to deal with the problem guild members, I also had to figure out a way to reconcile competing opinions among the officers about how to do that management work. And, of course, I had to do this partly because of my title but also partly because I felt obligated to intervene on behalf of the guild members such that they were being treated fairly and responsibly. This compulsion to ethical behavior was in tension with what seemed like the norm (or stereotyped norm) of game group management, which was to just boot the non-socializing guild members and be done with it (AKA just boot the fuckers).

Our guild prided itself on being relatively inclusive and flat, though one officer put it nicely when he pointed out that the emphasis was on the word “relatively,” since we *did* in fact exclude those who clearly did not fit in–mostly people who weren’t articulating and communicating effectively. To be and feel included necessitated a certain level of communication and social awareness. So, when it was suggested by other officers, to just gkick the problem guildies did not seem to me to be in line with our guild credo. It was one thing to not invite someone to be a member of the guild because it was clear he or she didn’t fit in, but to kick someone out once he or she actually was already in needed justification. It needed to be explained and described with specific examples of problem behavior so the non-socializing guildie could present a counterargument.

But those values of negotiation were in full conflict with our notion of what game playing was. We were there to have fun–not to work, not to deal with drama. Again, I can smirk now, knowing what I know and having a better sense of what it means to play in an online game. Play *is* work. Playing with others necessitates negotiations of roles, responsibilities, and social norms. With enough others, there’s going to be conflict or misalignment. That’s a given, and the world won’t get better by refusing to deal with conflict. Refusal to resolve conflict excludes those who need a help-up in participating legitimately in the community. (Are you down with LPP? Yeah, you know me…)

One could argue that it all comes out in the wash, that people who are excluded from one group eventually find another where they fit in. That’s the beauty of a critical mass of people in an online space. But I think this possibly leads to the forming of more and more insular groups, and I consider it a problem that perpetuates the intolerance we have in offline life. That’s not the world I want to play in.

Nick Yee once asked me why I wanted to help the problem guildies become acclimated to the guild and/or find an alternative suitable guild for them to play with. When he asked me this, all I could say was that I felt compelled to help others when I could. Maybe I thought that as someone who valued education, it was hypocritical not to want to help others. (Channeling Malaby) I can now say that acting in social settings is always a contingent move towards the display of cultural capital. And as a person who values diversity, inclusion, and democracy, I sometimes have a strong compulsion to help others learn how to be successful in their contingent acts of play/work. This was especially true when I was positioned within my guild as the Overseer who had accepted certain responsibilities to live up to the guild’s stated values.

(This all sort of speaks to positioning theory… I was positioned by others into the role of someone who is in charge of handling guild conflicts. I (re)positioned myself into a role that compelled me to mediate conflicts in a way that I thought was ethical and fair. Who was doing the positioning? Did I accept or rebel or simply transform my position?)

In case you’re interested in academic references and/or don’t feel like clicking on the in-line links: