Tag Archives: mia consalvo

Foundations of Digital Games 09 recap

Ok, lessee…

At the end of April I went to Foundations of Digital Games. A lot of the sessions were on AI and procedural programming for computer and video games, which isn’t entirely related to what I study, so I went swimming, hot-tubbing, sailing, etc. instead. But the sessions on game studies (Jose Zagal, Mia Consalvo, Jesper Juul, moderated by TL Taylor) was good.

Jose (who I’ve cited for his, Rick, and Hsi’s look at cooperation in the Lord of the Rings boardgame, and who worked with a couple of other students including Amanda Ladd [careful, my virus protection program claims there’s a trojan associated with her site… no idea if that is true] who was also at the conference (as an undergrad!)) did a paper on the current qualities of game reviews, breaking out the moves and arguments they make into 9 or so different categories. The problem is that they only chose IGN and Gamespot to look at, which means they were missing out on a whole slew of alternative review sites such as Adventure Gamers as well as missing print publications. Maybe there’s no difference in terms of what reviews do, but maybe there is.

Mia presented a study on the online community around the hidden object games Mystery Case Files, specifically Return to Ravenhearst, describing how the kinds of talk on their forums is just as rich and varied as the kinds of talk on MMOG forums.

Jesper (along with Marleigh Norton at MIT) took a deeper look at difficulty in games, showing how difficulty can come from both the game and with the game interface and that these are actually very blurred. There’s a difference between bad interface design and an interface that is meant to be difficult to master. In fact, such games as Wario Ware are actually all about figuring out the interface. So, the assumption that good UI is always an intuitive or invisible UI isn’t always a good assumption to make.

There were other sessions on creating a game development department or bridging industry with academia, and those were pretty good. The take away message I got, though it wasn’t necessarily explicit, was from Magy Seif El-Nasr and Kurt Squire who said they’ve been going to GDC for several years, first as a grad student. GDC is expensive, but the point I got was that you have to be visible, that building a relationship with industry folks takes time. That’s pretty much the reason why I’ve been trying to go to as many varied conferences as possible, though I’ve been limiting mine to ones that don’t cost a fortune. I wonder if I should start going to GDC, though…

Constance Steinkuehler and Yasmin Kafai were both at the conference, too, so there definitely was some representation from the Learning Sciences. One grad student I met, Al Yang pointed out, however, that it seemed like the different disciplines and/or schools, despite being stuck on a boat together, were relatively cliquish.

Other notables I met were Chris Lewis (who sneered at my Strongbow), Jack Stockholm and Veronica Zammito, both from Vancouver and guildies from Terror Nova! What sucks is that I didn’t meet them all until the last day, so we hardly talked at all. 🙁 Being stuck on a boat isn’t really as limiting as one would think…

I also met a bunch of people (Bob and his family, Mark, Gene) from Utah who work with Roger Altizer, my cabinmate, who I met at the Internet Researchers conference in Vancouver a couple of years back.

Cy from Microsoft, Brian from EA, Noah from UCSC (who edited First Person and is part of Grand Text Auto)… many more.

All in all, really fun conference. Bolt is a good movie.

IR9, day 2, 9am: State of MMO game studies

State of MMO game Studies: Identities, Participatory Culture, and Structural Forces

Roger Altizer
For a Pound of Virtual Flesh: Tales of Trade in World of Warcraft


(TAP while playing)

bbc and Ge Jin’s accounts different (normal gamers v. poor laborers, etc.)

Gamer Generation//Revolution documentary

Dan Burk (UCI)
Copyright and Paratext in On-Line Gaming

gaming capital (accumulating expertise, social status, etc.)
drives play but also drives cheating

[Mark]but cheating seems to attempt to bypass in-game (ludic) capital, not necessarily social capital.. actually disengaged with social capital since leveling affords the time to gain social capital (and cultural capital)[/Mark]

Developers and others should think about designs, control methods, etc. that affect what you gain by cheating… how much of total gaming capital is derived from ludic expertise? Is the expertise performative or purely appearance based?

covers a brief history of copyright and derivitive work in other media and then games and different forms of control in games

Mia Consalvo
Translating Vana’ diel: The Hybrid Culture of Japanese and Western Game Players

ffxi and japanese influence of videogames
history of western adoption of japanese art (otaku going back to impressionists)

history and lore presented in game lets those who’ve played previous games display gaming capital

hybrid place that isn’t japanese and not western but allows players to encounter the other

Cassandra Van Buren
World of Warcraft Machinima Makers

foundations: film history, emergent participatory culture but becoming commercialized

reform game space into your own narrative

study is two fold: documenting and looking at machinima as posthuman creative activity (ethnography), wants to capture the different ways its done before they become standardized or commercialized(?)

Dmitri Williams (and Tracey Kennedy and Bob Moore)
Behind the Avatar: The Patterns, Practices and Functions of Role Playing in MMOs

looking at RP in mmoRPgs

mix between quant and qual work
Dmitri did the number crunching and Tracey did the ethnography
RP high groups tend to score higher in having been diagnosed with depression, addiction, etc.

used Nick Yee’s motivations scales (immersion, achievement, social)
RPers more focused on social and immersion and not so much achievement

the people that Tracey interviewed had very specific reasons for RPing… escapism, etc.
about half of them volunteered that they were using it as an outlet for therapeutic outlet

same numbers of RPers on all servers

IR9, day 1, 11am: Multiplayer gaming

On the 15th I went to the In the Game workshop and then dinner party afterwards. I’ll skip that and go straight to the conference which started on the 16th, but here’s a photo of my breakfast spread. 🙂

From Copenhagen, Oct 15

Celia Pearce
Identity as place: Trans-ludic identities in mediated play communities-The case of the Uru diaspora


  • fictive ethnicity attached to virtual place
  • diasporic discourses of displacement
  • imaginary community v. imagined community

method includes:

  • feminist eth, etc. but also
  • ethnography as game (Denzen)

Refugees of Uru would evaluate different VWs and games as possible places to migrate to.
They used the same identities from place to place incl. clothing/avatar appearance.
They also recreated architectural artifacts (like the fountain, the common hub for the game Uru) to keep cultural artifacts and continuity in space/place.

It was the loss of Uru that led to the creation the identity/community.

Celia mentioned briefly a conference happening at Georgia Tech.

More info on Celia and her research can be found at http://cpandfriends.com/

Emily Hannan
Virtual worlds: Forming relationships online and offline within gaming communities

Unfortunately, Emily was a no show.

Luca Rossi
MMORPG guilds as online communities: Power, space, and time in virtual worlds

Not in so many words, but essentially, I think Luca is saying that shared goals are sometimes in conflict with individual goals, which is something I’ve been thinking a lot about as I write my expertise and socialization paper.

Luca claims that guilds are not fluid and getting in and out is difficult.

I don’t think that is true for all guilds… not true for many guilds in fact, or maybe just on my server?
Also, he conflates guilds with raiding! Why do people still do this? Did I have a completely abnormal server?
In my experience, people might have to go through some sort of application process but to leave a guild (breaking up friendships, aside) is actually quite easy.


Luca then the use of tools to manage time and to lower downtime such as calendars, etc.

How conflicts are resolved: Hirschman voice/exit concept -> when conflict happens you talk and then /gkick as last resort.

gkick is a form of power

He didn’t cover conflict management in detail but just 3 ways to leave guilds.
It would be more interesting to talk about the tension between personal and group goals. Then also talk about specific motivations for leaving or staying. What is compelling about staying that people put up with drama? Do some players recognize that management and work is needed for the labor of fun?

Also, he didn’t show us anything from outside of the game. Isn’t there a whole social economy that affects power dynamics and reputations?

I thought what he covered is basically was very superficial, but maybe it’s a language barrier…

Mia Consalvo
Where’s my montage? The performance of hard work and its reward in film, tv, and MMOGs
Mia and her students were in a seminar that did an exploration of what a Unit Operation is (from Bogost).
A “unit” is a building block, and each medium uses a different procedural rhetoric to express them.

I see units as genre conventions that have certain qualities and attributes that can be expressed across media.

They used the “hard work is rewarded” unit and tried to see how it is expressed differently in different media.

montage in films = (bypassing) grinding in games, etc.
montage is done by cutting/pasting in films, cheating in games

Rettberg’s corporate ideology (Yee says this too)
puritan work ethic, myth of american dream

Roger (who was sitting next to me) makes a good point in that there’s a performative act while playing games that is different than in other media. Does that make comparing texts harder to do even if a common unit can be found? In other words, the expression depends on the actions of the player, not just the author… and different players might do different things such that the unit is fungy.

Also, what operations are happening between units that are making unique or maybe not unique meanings to players? I thought Ian’s emphasis was not the unit but the various combinations and connections and networks they created and related to each other.

For a static text, units operate with each other and create a narrative meaning. For games, it seems like it is much more emergent and that specific units might not surface for all players.

Most of the questions about Mia’s talk came from niggling about the the content of the unit (grinding and montage) and not the concept of the unit. Ah well…

Total aside, wouldn’t it be great if Blizzard announced to everyone that we’d all be moving to a different, better game without all this crap grind?