I have a boilerplate bio!
New new bio (Oct 2018):
Mark Chen (PhD Education, University of Washington; BA Fine Art, Reed College) is an independent games scholar and part-time professor of interaction design, qualitative research, and games studies at the University of Washington Bothell. They oversee http://esotericgaming.com, an alternative publication outlet that celebrates gaming diversity through detailed accounts of arcane and marginal gaming practices. Mark also wrote Leet Noobs: The Life and Death of an Expert Player Group in World of Warcraft, an ethnographic account of how a new team learned to excel through the use of game mods and then died in a fiery meltdown catalyzed by the same mods. In a previous life, Mark was a webmaster and game designer for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Mark wants a die-cast 1st generation Soundwave for Christmas. You can read more about Mark on his blog at http://markdangerchen.net and reach him @mcdanger
New bio (July 3, 2014):
Mark Chen is Director of Pepperdine University’s Gameful Design Lab where he is promoting social agency through the development of expertise in gaming practice and game design. He is also helping faculty incorporate playfulness and game mechanics into course work, designing experimental and artistic games that explore moral dilemmas and human nature, and researching esoteric gaming practices. Mark is the author of Leet Noobs: The Life and Death of an Expert Player Group in World of Warcraft, which details how a new team learned to excel in WoW and how the team died in a fiery meltdown as expert practice moved towards tech-supported efficiency and away from other forms of play. He earned a PhD in Learning Sciences/Educational Technology from the University of Washington and a BA in Studio Art from Reed College. You can read more about Mark on his blog at http://markdangerchen.net
Mark Chen is an independent researcher of gaming culture and spare-time game designer. He also holds appointments at Pepperdine University, UW Bothell, and University of Ontario Institute of Technology, teaching a variety of online and offline courses on game studies and games for learning. Recently, Mark was a post-doctoral scholar at UW Seattle in the College of Education, working with Computer Science & Engineering’s Center for Game Science on evaluating science and math games such as Foldit and Refraction. He was also helping the Educurious project by integrating games and gameplay into the redesign of high school biology, English, and algebra. He has a new(ish) book out based on his dissertation work on learning in online games titled Leet Noobs: The Life and Death of an Expert Player Group in World of Warcraft. Currently, Mark is looking into experimental and artistic games to promote exploration of moral dilemmas and human nature, researching the communication practices of BoardGameGeek.com users, and writing reviews of free game-making tools. Prior to doctoral work, Mark was the webmaster and a web game developer for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. He holds a PhD in Learning Sciences/Educational Technology from the University of Washington and a B.A. in Studio Art from Reed College and grew up in the Bay Area as a child of the 80s. You can read more about Mark on his blog athttp://markdangerchen.net
That’s kind of impersonal, so read further for personal commentary that I’ve written on this About page over the years:
[Edit (March 27, 2013):
Three years on the job market for a faculty position, so far. I’m either not teacher ed or science ed enough (for education schools) or not computer science enough (for game design programs). I’m now reorienting my life and offering consulting services.
This website will reflect the change. Hell, I probably shouldn’t be so frank in my About page and put something like “Mark Chen is blah blah blah” on here…]
[Edit (February 20, 2011):
But it also seems I’m pretty good at it. Pretty good list of publications for someone who’s essentially been working alone, I think. Pretty sweet job even though it isn’t a professorship.
Also, various people have emailed me over the years saying they’ve read some of my papers. Others have left comments here or emailed telling me how much they appreciate the candid nature of my ambivalence towards academia. I value these much more than lines on my CV, so: you’re welcome and thank you.]
[Edit (November 1, 2007):
This is the personal statement I used for the Spencer dissertation fellowship application.
The use of games for learning resonates with me personally. I have a lengthy history with games of all types including both table-top and digital games. My life as a gamer affects the lens through which I see games and through which I interpret learning theories applied to games. I also feel a strong sense of duty and desire to help society, to educate others about social problems and enact social change. These two once disparate interests have become one.
After working for several years for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, designing educational mini-games, I realized that my history as a gamer allowed me to make instructional activities more engaging and effective because I was able to apply many design principles from games to my projects. Yet, once I arrived at the University of Washington to study instructional design, I became more knowledgeable about social issues and concepts about social structures. In an Educators for Social Justice (a student organization in the College of Education) meeting, I realized that online gaming life is a mirror world to offline life and that the same kinds of social issues could be found in this supposed equalizing, democratic space. My ensuing depression and anger—emotions borne of my background as a gamer who cares—is what qualifies me for the work I want to pursue. This is my world. I want to fight for it.
I plan to continue to play to my strengths and focus on new media and learning. I will attempt to write for a general audience as well as for the academy. I want to be sure to reach the gamers I write for and be grounded in authentic public experience. I also want to help the growing games research movement stay critical and relevant as the online world rapidly changes.
My journey from gamer to gamer-researcher has been a process of transformation, and I am now set to participate, continually learn, and lead. I think a life as an academic will allow me to serve as best I can.]
[Edit (October 22, 2007):
I’m further along in my PhD program now. A lot has happened in the last year or two in terms of interests and finding myself. I’ve become more socially aware and am part of Educators for Social Justice, a grad student group in the College of Ed here at UW. There’s too much shit going on in the world to sit idly by and not do anything about. That goes for in-game worlds, too.
I’ve also found a renewed sense of purpose, making the PhD program more transparent for other new scholars. I’ve made the revision process for one of my major papers completely transparent so others can get a sense of what revising for submission looks like, at least for me. Also, I am working on making all of the ethnographic data I collected publicly available. That is a huge, daunting task, but it seems to me, at least in education, people are too protective of their data. Aren’t we supposed to be opening it up in the name of service?? As I start work on my dissertation, I plan on uploading drafts and initial analysis, too. If you think I’m doing shit work, let me know. Fuck Screw my fear.]
There is a disconnect between my life… my REAL life… and my academic life. You see, I am a gamer. I’ve been playing games with gusto, a feverish passion, sometimes guilt, and almost always with a critical eye for a long, long time.
I am part of Generation X. I am a slacker. I grew up among Yuppies. I was a child of the 80s. I was raised in Palo Alto. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life. I FEEL very strongly that I have a duty to help society and the Earth, yet I have no ambition. I’ve never worked for the commercial industry. I am tolerant, optimistic, idealistic. Cynical, pessimistic, misanthropic. I love everyone and hate everyone.
I love games. I love thinking about them and talking about them. I hate reading about them and writing about them. I hate academia’s constant pressure to publish. I love academia’s constant pressure to do research. I like analyzing. I hate the speed at which I am expected to analyze. This year I’ve discovered I love teaching. I hate this unsettling feeling in my stomach. I feel envy seeing others publish and I feel I have a lot to contribute, to add to the conversation, but no drive (and no money). What is going on? Why do I feel like if I don’t publish, I will lose my chance? This question is especially important since I keep telling myself that I won’t even be going into academia after I graduate. Why do I feel the need to be competitive then?
This blog will hopefully help me get things straight and discover who I am, why I am where I am, why I sometimes feel crazy, and why sometimes I feel I am the only sane one in an insane world. At the same time, I hope to chronicle my life, the games I play, and interesting tidbits from colleagues, news sources, or other blogs about games and games research.