Tag Archives: sean duncan

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. 🙁




I went to the annual conference for the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) for the first time last month and then to the annual conference for the American Educational Research Association (AERA) right afterwards. In fact, I flew directly from one conference (Orlando) to the other (New Orleans). The short story is that AERA is much bigger than NARST, that Orlando surprisingly kind of sucks for a conference due to horrible food choices and no public transportation or sidewalks, and that New Orleans during the French Quarter music festival is amazingly awesome.

Continue reading NARST and AERA

Digital Media and Learning conference 2011

Last week I went to Long Beach, CA for the Digital Media and Learning conference. It was great meeting a ton of people (too many to list, sorry), sharing a room with Moses Wolfenstein and Sean Duncan, having breakfast with fellow DML Summer Institute people, getting dinner with fellow Terror Novans, and seeing demos of really cool projects (cf below). The highlight of the presentations was definitely the ignite talks–quick 5 minute talks with an auto-advancing slidedeck. One presenter couldn’t make the second ignite session, so Alex Halavais took to the stage and did an improv talk with slides he had never seen before! And it was it was hilarious, on-point, and relevant!

Fiona Barnett's photo of Fab@Home

Last year, Jeremy Hunsinger and I set up an etherpad for the conference where anyone attending could collaboratively take notes and chat about the sessions. This year, I set up the same thing with a Google doc and blasted the url to Twitter periodically. I’m disappointed in the turn-out of the gdoc use, especially given that the theme of many of the talks was about collective and collaborative/participatory production and understanding of cultural artifacts, curricula, etc. I saw many people using laptops and iPads to take notes, but those notes will forever be sequestered, not shared. 🙁

My reasoning is that together we can attend everything. There were 7 concurrent tracks. Together we could have let everyone learn about each one.

As it is, I think the few of us who used the gdoc hit about a quarter of the sessions. I think for next year I’ll suggest an official gdoc or other collaborative note-taking tool be used.

There was also some backchannel activity in an IRC which got pretty snarky. I think that’s fine and quite entertaining but I wish naysayers in that backchannel would ask questions during the sessions they had particular problems with.

Overall, the type of talk around digital media literacies and games took a step backwards, I think… or maybe just treaded water from last year. There’s two things that contributed to this I think. It seemed like this year there were many more people coming from non-profits and non-academic places, so they had to be caught up with new-to-them ideas. Additionally, there was a confluence of people from different disciplinary backgrounds, so they too needed to step back a bit to lay some foundational common language down. One example was the IRC discussion about the label “gamer” and whether someone is a “hardcore” vs. “casual” gamer. I think it was a useful discussion, and, yes, it did help me better articulate things in my head. Yet games people such as the scholars who regularly attend GLS had already covered that ground a year or two ago.

Two highlights of the talks, besides the ignite talks, for me were both in a constructive/destructive technologies panel. Dan Perkel gave a fascinating study of deviantART community-based discussion regarding the sharing of work, ownership, privacy, “safe” space, and the nature of the interwebs. Stuart Geiger gave a very entertaining and eye-opening talk about Wikipedia bots and collective response to automated procedures, touching on guidelines and policies and how they affect user behavior and participation.

Next year, DML (March 1-3) will be in San Francisco right before GDC (March 5-9), so I won’t have to choose between the two again!



Digital Media and Learning Conference, day 1

Met up with Moses Wolfenstein, Ben DeVane, and Sean Duncan and hung out with them in their room overlooking the beach, later at a cafe after walking a bit, then back in their room overlooking the beach. Have I mentioned the beach? Here’s a shot of not the beach but still a nice view from the cafe we went to:

view from Goldfish Cafe, La Jolla

We then caught a shuttle up to the conference registration, opening talk by Craig Watkins, and then after talk reception.

Two most memorable things from the opening were:

  1. Henry Jenkins framed participatory culture as different than web 2.0, saying that he sometimes says that participatory culture started as early as web -10 back in the 1860s/70s when youth were creating their own activists news networks and even used the acronym “LOL!”
  2. Craig Watkins describing the shift from MySpace to Facebook in just 2 or 3 years among black and latino youth and how many of them engage with the web through their mobile devices. That the digital divide is not about access anymore but more about a participation in different arenas sort of divide.

When Henry was doing his thing he mentioned that he likes to tweet now and is sometimes frustrated with the 155 character limitation, likening it to how the youth back in web -10 had to individually set the type for their newsprints. I immediately tweeted that Henry must be part of some twitter elite and has access to 155 characters since everyone else gets 140. I don’t think anyone got that joke… but then I noticed that starting about 5 minutes in, we had about half a dozen people tweeting the exact same salient points from both Henry and Craig, so I decided to stop tweeting… I think Ian Bogost complained about the #dml2010 spam. 🙂

Another hella funny thing was hearing about how @dthickey’s cell phone was stolen by a sea gull *while* he was talking with his wife! She heard him screaming profanities, wings flapping, and then a seal bark, so Dan spent 3 hours where the seals were searching for his phone… eventually bought a Droid to replace it…

During the reception, I kept seeing people I know but didn’t get a chance to really talk or say hi, and I also kept seeing people who I swear I’ve seen somewhere else, possibly at IR10. I really ought to introduce myself if we’re gonna keep bumping into each other…

Noted that a lot of LIFE people are here: Roy Pea, Brigid Barron, Reed Stevens, Veronique Mertl, Robb Lindgren, Sarah Walter (though, she’s arriving tomorrow). It feels kind of odd seeing one part of my academic life starting to collide with another.

Also excited that Lisa Nakamura recognized me and said hi. And I love how almost the first thing she said was why isn’t anyone looking at various Asian populations who are just as disproportionately represented socioeconomically as blacks and latinos. (It’s quite true in Seattle…) Every time I see Lisa, I try to namedrop Reed College and Beth Kolko (though I didn’t get a chance to this time) because I wonder if she remembers me, so it’s great to be recognized without prompting. Also, I’ve had dinner with her husband in Denmark, and I could probably namedrop Julian. 🙂

Anyway, Moses and I ducked out from the reception early to go get sandwiches from Porter’s Pub.

Moses at the Porter's Pub at UCSD

Internet Researchers 10: Game session 10:30-12:30

All papers can be found online (though I think some of them aren’t the final versions like the one Sarah and I wrote): http://docs.google.com/View?id=ddzgskkg_33gfjbg39z

I created a backchannel for the conf at http://todaysmeet.com/ir10

twitter tag is #ir10

Thursday, October 8, 2009
Games, Industry, and Design

The Online Gaming Industry of South Korea
Peichi Chung

financial crisis examined thru globalization
lit from global media industry, existing theories:
-media imperialism
-national media vs. transnational media

New discussion: creative industry and cultural industry

Existing models that she looked at didn’t account for the Asian context well…
Tried to create a new model that borrows from a state market dynamics model

some background on South Korea
cool map of reach into other Asian countries by SK game companies

see photo for conclusions

Game Design Communities As Critical Spaces for Learning and Literacy
Sean Duncan

How are tools provided and how do communities form?
Move beyond “production” to negotiation, iteration, etc.

coding posts in game forums. Discursive codes, design codes, and content codes.
trying to get at “affinithy space” from Gee

looking specifically at Kongregate today
moving people from players to designers with Kongregate Labs (production tools)

Kongregate Labs forums focused mostly on programming issues, not design problems
novice programmers engaged in contest

affinity spaces need more consideration as commercial spaces. learning shaped by design constraints

Digital Distribution
Ryan Thames

overview of digital distribution and how it is diff than trad distribution

Are Wikipedians Really Gamers?
Brian Keegan – Northwestern

why did Nupedia fail but Wikipedia succeed?
how do existing motivational theories fall short?
can games inform design?

Nupedia was tightly controled: 9 articles after 9 months
Wikipedia: 600 articles in 2 weeks

interesting slide on motivational theories
[how does enlightened self interest fit?]

elaboration on ludic theory and how Nupedia and Wikipedia compare there
and then look at Ludemes and how Nupedia and Wikipedia compare there too.

Design principles:
promote curiosity, support intrinsic motivations, maintain openness, provide feedback, allow safe failure

New York last week

So I was at the State of Play conference last week, which put me in New York City!

Stayed with cousin Lee-kai on the west side. It was brilliant except that our busy schedules meant that we only actually hung out for like 3 hours total: a game of Race for the Galaxy when I arrived on Tuesday and lunch at Crema with Jafe (friend from high school and husband of Crema owner, Julieta) the next day. Lee-kai and his friends know RftG really, really well and basically kicked my ass even though just the week before I won a game at home. In my defense, I guess, I had some really crappy cards throughout the game and waffled on which specialization I should take. I don’t think that game is about diversifying at all, and I paid for it.

Crema was as fantastic as the last time I was in New York back in April 2008. Mmmmm. Other restaurants I got to try out were Big Nick’s (got a guacamole burger), Penang (got sizzling tofu which was good but had that weird slimy coating that I sometimes see on tofu; what is that stuff? Also, Krista-Lee thinks she got sick on the curry chicken… 🙁 ), Buona Notte (“the best” claimed the street hawkers), the cafe above Fairway on Broadway, Golden Unicorn (full on Chinese banquet, ftw!), and Katz’s (hot pastrami sandwich, yum). Pretty much great food all around.

Katz's pastrami sandwich
Katz's pastrami sandwich

Since I think the conference sessions were summarized pretty well by others (Raph, Tim, Bart, Sara, Greg L at Terra Nova, twitter hashtag #sop09), I’ll stick to the people I met. Anyway, I place more importance on the connections made and individual and collective collisions of people and ideas than I do on the sessions, so it’s pretty appropriate to list the fine folks I met.

Continue reading New York last week