All posts by markdangerchen

Mark Chen is an independent researcher of gaming culture and spare-time game designer. He is the author of Leet Noobs: The Life and Death of an Expert Player Group in World of Warcraft. Currently, he is looking into experimental and artistic games to promote exploration of moral dilemmas and human nature, researching DIY subcultures of Board Game Geek users, and generally investigating esoteric gaming practices. Mark also holds appointments at Pepperdine University, University of Washington, and University of Ontario Institute of Technology, teaching a variety of online and offline courses on game studies, game design, and games for learning. He earned a PhD in Learning Sciences/Educational Technology from the University of Washington and a BA in Studio Art from Reed College.

things to do

Here’s my list of things to do:

1. write about ethnography in an online game.. and get really nitty gritty

2. post my writings about adventure games

3. put up an annotated transcript from MC or Onyx so people can see how complex things are

4. write an article about games and coordination in games FOR gamers

I’m going to let go of my fears, instilled by academics, that I shouldn’t publish anything other than finished stuff. If you take one of these ideas and do it, that’s great! My version will be different than yours and we can share data.

Even though buses (or more to the point, people on buses) smell, there’s something to be said about the time to reflect.

I was thinking about AERA today… the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting is in San Francisco this year. I’m not there. Just like I didn’t attend / won’t be attending the Games, Learning, Society conference, the Education Arcade conference, and GDC this year and last… I just can’t afford it. My parents live in Sunnyvale and my brother lives in San Francisco, too, so even though I would save a bundle on not having to stay in hotels, I still can’t afford it. And I got really pissed off. (Coincidentally, I was thinking about this while waiting for the bus. Someone ought to make a movie about how much thinking happens on or around buses or subways…) I mean, part of the way to get your name out there is through networking. The most valuable thing about conferences is the face time you get with colleagues. But people who are not funded and cannot afford the fees on their own are shit out of luck. We have to work that much harder through other means. While I could just buckle down and be a good boy and work with the system… I dunno… It just seems unfair.

Wow… I have an audience!

Amazingly, someone besides me has read my blog! And I’m proud to say that David Silver himself has commented on what I wrote about regarding academia which was spurred by meeting him on the bus earlier this week… Scroll down to that post and read his comments!

musical selection

Last night Robin asked why I keep playing old stuff from the 80s and early 90s when I listen to music at home. My answer was that I felt nostalgic and that the modern rock / alternative music is melancholy at heart with tons of wondering what the hell is wrong with the world and why is love so difficult… Anyway… I dunno. I mostly listen to music just for something to have in the background while working and when I want something to not pay attention to in the background it either has to be electronica with no lyrics or music that I’ve pre-screened. And since I am so out of touch with music nowadays, I basically have to pick stuff I’m familiar with… Last night I was listening to The Cure, INXS, and New Order.

Lots of new stuff

I think this initial wave of postings will die down in a week or so… I’ve been saving up a bunch of stuff to post. I have to dig up a short thing I wrote up about adventure games during the Summer-O-Adventure-Games last year and post that, too.

I just added the GaSWorks wiki page to my links. I’ve never quite felt comfortable in that group since they emphasize the simulation part of “games and simulation.” I always felt like we just couldn’t communicate very well since I’m focusing on non-design work… qualitative in nature even!

It’s a shame that the group I felt most comfortable in is in hiatus these past two quarters. We had such grand designs for a UW website, too. ah well…

David Silver and academia and publishing and…

I happened to see David Silver, professer in Comm at UW who is leaving soon for greener pastures, on the same bus as me yesterday morning and asked if I could sit next to him. I’m currently taking an Information School class taught by Terry Brooks on digital culture. Each week we have a guest who has a conversation with Terry for the first hour of the class. Last week, it happened to be David, and his conversation with Terry was refreshing and enlightening. So it was great seeing him on the bus.

Actually, 3 or 4 weeks ago, my group for a how-to-write-policy class was meeting with Beth Kolko to get feedback from her about our proposed policy at a local cafe here in Ballard, and David happened to stop by the cafe to get some coffee or something, and Beth introduced us there. Funny how things coincide from different angles….

Anyway, hearing about David’s talk on academia, especially academia in a R1 institute, was very refreshing and gave me assurance that I’m not the only one who feels like there is something kind of strange about academia. When I said earlier that he is leaving for greener pastures…. that was slightly tongue-in-cheek. Arguably, UW is supposed to be one of the greenest pastures around.

But academia is totally “broken” (his word!). At the least, there is a very real tension between valuing teaching and learning and preparing people for the future versus valuing research and getting published. The fact that a R1 emphasizes research more than students is not necessarily the problem. The problem is that this R1 represents itself falsely to different audiences. Any student coming to UW thinking they are going to get a great education might get a shock when they realize not all professors actually care whether they learn. Actually, that isn’t exactly right. I think almost all profs DO care about student learning, but the whole system–in terms of getting tenure, getting grant money, and gaining respect in the field–completely disregards student learning. Who gives a shit?

I sometimes feel that academia is an elitist club where ideas and knowledge is generated behind closed doors and sent out to the masses only in finished publishable form. And what a form… all that jargon… It’s arguable that the knowledge is really only being shared with others in specific disciplines who can actually understand what they’re reading.

And there is constant pressure. Even as a graduate student I feel the pressure. I have to get published, I have to get my name out there, etc. Well, I’ve read some of the stuff out there and I call bullshit. Some of it is total crap with no evidence. So, I’m going to self-publish everything I write and put it on this blog. I will try to get published in peer reviewed journals just like everyone else, too, but you know what.. I don’t need a long list of published work to make myself feel legitimized. I’d much rather my work was out there for the gamers as my primary audience… which changes everything.

The web and digital culture has changed everything. Peer reviewed journals are antiquated. It’s an old artifact of the totally borked tenure system. If academics want to walk the talk of being a community of open sharing of ideas, they should be putting up their work for all to see and comment on with the understanding that all work is work in progress (Progress?). How many times do I have to read articles about Everquest or Ultima Online? I mean, who the hell still plays those? It would have been much more useful to read about the research studies while they were happening…

hmmm social networking

Sooo… I put up my social networking profiles… lessee if I can generate some positive hits on google or something by being really well connected with myself.

added my papers from last year

In keeping with playing catch-up, I’ve finally uploaded the papers I wrote for classes and conferences last year. Five new papers are up. Well, technically, 2 papers, 1 research methods write-up, 1 powerpoint presentation, and 1 software design spec. I’m particularly interested in the issues I bring up in the ethical dilemma paper

collecting data officially

A week and a half ago I finally received approval from human subjects for my research study looking at how players communicate and coordinate and cooperate in World of Warcraft. It took 3 months for the approval, but is well worth the effort. The hang up was me recording voice chat that the raids I go on use. I’ll be recording text and voice chat for our Majordomo and Ragnaros fights in MC, for our Onyxia runs, and for Harsh Winter’s new raid into ZG. I’m only looking at the end guys for MC because our raid has routinized the other bosses, and I’m mostly looking at how a raid improves over a month. I’m really excited about ZG, actually, because for most of our guildies, high-end raiding is a new thing. I can see from the get-go how we divvy out roles and figure out strats that cater to our particular raid make-up. Fun!


Holy cow. Single player RPGs are dead. Long live single player RPGs! Why the hell am I wasting my time on a designed timesink (World of Warcraft) when I can be playing the engaging Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion instead? Wait a minute… I HAVE been playing Oblivion instead! Is it worth jeopardizing 2 years of ethnographic work? Oh, hells ya. But I’m not… It would be worth it though… 🙂