Tag Archives: Games Research

A series of interesting choices vs. the appreciation of banality

These two stories appeared in my feed reader back to back!

The first covers tips on how to create interesting decisions for players (with information transparency), playing off the highly quoted “a good game is a series of interesting choices” (or a series of difficult decisions, etc.).

The More You Know: Making Decisions Interesting in Games by Jon Shafer on Gamasutra

By contrast, we have an analysis of Pocket Planes and how its banality and uninteresting choices cause personal reflection. Wow.

A Series of Uninteresting Decisions by Ryan Kuo on Kill Screen

After thinking about this on the bus, I wonder if this dyad of articles points to the fact that meaning from games can come from either within the game or outside of the game. With the Civ games (that Jon Shafer worked on) having lots of info and difficult decisions means that meaning is derived from understanding what that info means and recognizing patterns in the algorithms of the game. With Pocket Planes, it sounds like the choices about what actions to take are pretty nonexistent; understanding the game rules comes pretty quickly. The player is then left with the choice to just chuck it and move onto another game or find meaning in his or her understanding of the game in relation to some other thing outside of the game. In the case of Ryan Kuo, he found meaning when he examined the relationship between the game and himself/his actions (not meaning inherent in the game rules).

These kinds of understandings don’t always naturally happen… I think particular players are equipped to derive these types of meanings. And now that I think about it, I think both can be scaffolded. The question to a game designer is which kind of meaning making does he or she want with the game and how will that be scaffolded, not just designed in the rules?

Dissertation ready for download

Here’s the PDF (4MB) of my dissertation:, submitted to the graduate school on September 2, 2010:

Leet Noobs: Expertise and Collaboration in a World of Warcraft Player Group as Distributed Sociomaterial Practice

Now to make it into a book…

Leet Noobs dissertation defense presentation slides

In case you want to check out the slides I’ll be using tomorrow:

I’ll be recording the presentation to be uploaded later and a version with my voice will be uploaded to slideshare later. Sorry, no live streaming! 🙁

Prelim charts of my data

So, I uploaded the graphs I’m currently messing around with, created with amCharts (using data from a MySQL database) and added to in Photoshop. Check out my graphs!

WoW Data Visualization


I finished the revision of one paper on Monday.

Now I’m working on another paper on expertise development, but for it I want to display some graphs of participation turns over time from two different nights in Molten Core. The thing is that I found a couple of cool free web apps (amCharts and TimePlot) that do pretty graphs and such so long as the data is in the right format.

So, yesterday I spent the day converting those two nights (the first time we encountered Ragnaros and the first time we killed Ragnaros three months later) to a delimited text file so that I could import them into a sql database. I created an additional table that has attributes of the participants, such as alias, gender, class, and whether that person was an official leader.

Now I want to display a graph of activity during the fight and pre-fight times. I also want to break it down by the character attributes I listed. I want to confirm whether women participate far less than men do, etc. Or maybe it is confounded by character class or whatever.

My curent problem is that I have to relearn PHP and SQL today so that the data is formatted for the graphing software. :p

Meanwhile, my updates to this site are very irregular. Read my Twitter feed for slightly more regular updates if you so care…

Back in Seattle. Can’t blog. Writing papers.

So, I got back to Seattle (on the 12th) after my brother and Nancy’s wedding celebration in Berkeley (on the 10th), capping the end of a month-long trip to the Bay Area for me and a short weekend trip for Robin.

I have an ass-ton of stuff to post here but I haven’t due to lack of time.  I’ll try to keep this short, and I might have to add links and photos later.

1. Last week I was busy learning Illustrator and then using it to make some pretty title graphics for a French translation to the Dangerous Decibels Virtual Exhibit.

2. This past weekend, Robin’s high-school friend Liz and her boyfriend Rob were visiting.  They went to a wedding on Saturday while Robin and I did some house chores and caught up on some movie watching.

3. Last night Michele Knobel emailed me comments to The Witcher review I’m working on.  Unsurprisingly, I need to beef up the academic literature part.  🙂  She was kind enough to send me ideas with regards to moral development models and such from Kohlberg and Gilligan as well as some other ideas for how to talk about moral education and stuff in my review.  Due at end of this week if I want to make the issue deadline.  Otherwise it’ll wait til the December issue.

4. I’m also writing a review for Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword for the DS, also for Michele’s e-Learning journal.  She sent me a review copy of the game, after all… I suppose I have a moral obligation to write something.  :p  Seriously though, I think it’ll be a short but good overview of how badly I suck at action games and the various causes of failures in games (poor game ui design, poor player cognitive ability, poor player physical ability, and lack of motivation) and what this means for educators/teachers who are thinking about incorporating games in the classroom.  What if not everyone can/will play them??  Due date ditto above.

5. I need to add a bit more in my paper on ethical dilemmas while being a guild leader in WoW that I’m using for the In the Game Workshop in October.  Due Sep 1.

6. I have only an outline for another paper that I’m writing about expertise development in World of Warcraft for the new journal Transformative Works and Cultures.  I figure a solid week should be enough time to write what I need to.  It might suck at first but I think I just need a rough draft at this point.  Due Sep 1, also.

Games Learning Society 4.0 webcasts available

This is probably like a week old… but I just checked and the videos of the various presentations are up.

Two very good ones to check out are Jullian Dibbel’s presentation on griefers and their benefits to society and Lisa Nakamura’s talk on how race-but-not-race matters with our hate on gold farmers.

Check out all the videos at http://hosted.mediasite.com/hosted4/Catalog/?cid=b8aa7b8a-fac1-4e7b-80cb-9551d26a414c

Chat transcripts of the Convergence Conference

I’m having technical difficulties uploading the videos I recorded during the Convergence Conference on Virtual Worlds that occurred in World of Warcraft earlier this month. Those videos will be uploaded shortly. Meanwhile here’s the chat transcripts from the three sessions.

Yes, I started a Rickroll… 🙂 Slightly disorganized, since the panelists and attendees were all using guild chat, but I didn’t mind the chaos. Read about the session and panelists at http://convergentsystems.pbwiki.com/Session%201

  • 20080510conference.txt – Chat from Convergence Conference, Day 2, Sat May 10. Panel session. Questions included learning in VWs.

A little less disorganized. Chat backchannel with Terror Novas about making it more orderly, but I felt uncomfortable with the idea of enforcing control. Maybe it’s a generational thing? I thought the stream of info was fine and that the panelist answers could just be in a separate channel, rather than forcing non-panelists into silence as seemed to be suggested. Read about the session and panelists at http://convergentsystems.pbwiki.com/Session+2

A massive info dump where lots of attendees discussed answers to the day’s questions. Afterwards there was an in-game wedding and then a raid on Sentinel Hill. For the Horde! Read about the session at http://convergentsystems.pbwiki.com/Session+3

Also, check out my screenshots!

Convergence Conference in World of Warcraft, May 9-11, 2008

messing with RSS feeds as WordPress widgets…

As you can see above…

I’m joining Terry Schenold and others in the Critical Gaming Project at UW, and part of what we’re doing is setting up/maintaining a website with a blog and a forum, so I’m seeing how forum posts could be showcased on a blog by using mine as a testbed.  🙂

Second Life vs. WoW, as panel session… Fight!

Today, tomorrow, and Sunday, there is a conference on virtual worlds research being held in World of Warcraft (noon Eastern Time, Earthen Ring, US, Horde side, Science guild). If you can’t join, you can watch the live feed each day at World2Worlds.

I’ll write-up full comments after this weekend when Gray and Song Gong (house guests who need someone to play boardgames with!) leave.

I have to say, though, that the panelists and moderators and that whole format worked a lot more in WoW than what I’ve seen similarly attempted in Second Life, but part of it was that I knew exactly how to manipulate WoW’s interface so that I could easily follow the chat. I also was able to /chatlog it all and Frapsed it all as a half-size movie to my HD. Now I have to compress the videos for storage (my HD is FULL!).