Category Archives: Academia

Hitman coaching

So, a friend from high school, Grey, was here during the crazy week of papers, professor deaths, and emotional turmoil. My apologies to him for not being able to devote as much time as I had hoped to gaming.

We and another high school friend of ours who also lives in Seattle did, however, get to make it to a monthly boardgame fest held by a couple who work for Wizards of the Coast (well, at least one of them does I think). Anyway, they have a lot of games. We played Killer Bunnies, some color-matching card game, Cartejena, Witch Trial, some ship moving collect and sell resources at ports game, and that archeological dig game with the tokens… Sheesh.. I need to remember the names of these games better.

We also played Hitman Blood Money on my PC. I had played the previous Hitman games and also played a bit of Blood Money before Grey showed up. He played a little on his own at night but one morning we were playing together. One would watch while the other played and we would switch off whenever someone failed. It was pretty clear that I knew the levels and the patterns of people walking around and what events were happening more than he did for any given level/mission. So when he was playing and I watching, I had to think about how much information should I give Grey and how much should I just let him explore on his own.

Actually, it felt a lot like how I felt when I was looking over TEP students' shoulders while they were working on their websites or blogs. Just thought I should write that feeling down before I lost it… What was similar about both was that I could feel the students and I could feel Grey wishing I would just tell them what to do. But in a game, part of the fun is exploration and discovery. I think that should be part of learning, too, and believe strongly that the best way to learn something is to just mess around with it for a while with a goal in mind. Am I wrong?

I don’t fit in sometimes…

A couple of guys from MS are coming as guests to a GaSworks meeting. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t really feel comfortable in the GaSworks group. The problem is that my view of the world is very different than theirs. I feel like there’s no room for me there. And even if they say my opinions are valued, what does that give me? Are they really valued? Truly? All I usually get are blank stares. I don’t think there’s comprehension. (This whole thing reeks of the general feelings some minorities in our college feel, and the futility of trying to explain what that feeling is…)

That along with the fact that I have a conflicting overlapping meeting on the same day led me to tell the organizer that I couldn’t make it. She’s good at guilt-tripping though and cajoled me into going for the first bit of the meeting at least. Is it just me or is it crazy to expect gamers to meet at 8:30 in the morning? (Something about gaming culture vs. engineering culture maybe can go here… which is pretty much the problem.. that they are so focused on creating educational systems. I’m just not convinced they can speak to gamers instead of just emulating game-like things… similar analogy here between ethnography and mimicking ethnographic methods?) But maybe the guys at MS who are coming DO get where I’m coming from, so I should probably go.

Part of my reluctance is the other meeting I have is the last one for the TEP TAs this year which is basically the last time I will see a lot of new friends I made this year.

On top of that, it is off-campus. You know the concept of “white privilege?” Well, in the US, an analogy could probably be made to “car privilege.” I’ve also stated before that to get ahead in academia requires a good amount of money so you can attend conferences. It is soooo against introverts and the disabled. And the poor… which unfortunately in the US also means ethnic minorities and women. but now I’m just rambling.

Games for Change Conference. June 27th and 28th, 2006. New York, NY

Games for Change Conference. June 27th and 28th, 2006. New York, NY

Wow.. I wish I had money.

I feel dirty…

I just shotgunned friend requests on myspace to a bunch of people in COE… Some of them prob have no idea who the request is from.

Dr. Mike’s Blog » Blog Archive » FAQ for Uploading a Picture to Your WP.com Space and Adding it to a Post

Dr. Mike’s Blog » Blog Archive » FAQ for Uploading a Picture to Your WP.com Space and Adding it to a Post

Handy…

David Silver again!?

Wow, I gotta say… the bus definitely has its moments. Today, David Silver and I happened to meet up on the bus again! this time on the way home.

Here’s something cool. My initial inclination was to say that the conversation was one-sided, in that all we seemed to talk about was my current research, but you know what? David is a terrific person to talk to and bounce ideas off of… Normally when I find myself talking about what I’m doing, I’m doing most of the talking, but this time there was so much back and forth with David continually pressing me to clarify… it was great! So, we did sort of just talk about my research but the dialog was so very organic that it didn’t feel one-sided.
Anyway, I just also have to say that it is totally awesome to talk to someone who actually finds what you do interesting. How validating!

Parallel papers on my research

I am writing two papers this quarter on my ethnographic research in World of Warcraft which focuses on how people (learn to) communicate and cooperate in a high-end instance. Here's the catch: while one paper will be written as a regular academic paper suitable for publication in a journal, the other version will be for gamers and published on this blog. We'll see how it goes…

Becker on writing

I recently read Becker's book Writing for Social Scientists. Wow. It addresses several reasons why people sometimes feel paralyzed when tasked with writing about their research. It is simple yet very inspiring, letting me see that I am not alone with some of the feelings I have about how unnatural the writing process is… I would highly recommend it for anyone who wants to write about research… actually, anyone who wants to write in general.

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…