Tag Archives: Games Research

Aaron, Gray, and Song Gong all in town

for a week of total geekdom.

We’re going to try to play at least these games:

  • Long Live the King
  • Game of Thrones
  • Arkham Horror
  • Grand Theft Auto IV
  • Dungeon Twister
  • Pandemic

And we’re going to the Seattle Art Museum‘s Roman exhibit (with a slew of Reedies–“slew?”  gaggle?  grouping? an anarchy of Reedies maybe?).

I’ll post game write-ups and photos if I have time.

This comes at a time when I’m trying to write a game review on The Witcher and morality in games.  I’m also going to submit something for a pre-conference on games ethnography happening as part of AoIR 9 in Copenhagen in October.  Due in one week!  But if I don’t get in, there’s also a doc consortium happening there and the deadline to submit for that is in 3 weeks.  🙂

Malone on Curiosity

Malone on Curiosity

Nice write-up on academic Thomas Malone from Only a Game

Things to do in the next 8 weeks…

  1. expertise in World of Warcraft poster and paper – I’m presenting a poster at this year’s International Conference for the Learning Sciences as part of a bigger poster session on expertise. Basically, trying to argue that experts who get into the end-game of WoW have to relearn and adapt their expertise for the new endeavor of raiding. Must read more distributed cognition and adaptive expertise literature… After ICLS, which is in The Netherlands late June, I go to Madison, Wisconsin again for Games Learning Society and hopefully present the paper that the poster is based on. er… will be based on. the supposed paper that the supposed poster will be based on… Anyway, I posted the abstract for “Leet Noobs” a while back, so you can read that at least. :p
  2. game review of either The Witcher or the Ace Attorney series of games – Michele Knobel mailed me via Facebook if I would be interested in submitting a game review to eLearning! She and co-conspirator Colin Lankshear are bigwigs in the new literacies line of research. Check out a book they edited called A New Literacies Sampler (the full text is available for download free!) featuring a chapter by my former advisor Jen Stone! I’m either going to do a review of The Witcher and how morally ambiguous most of the situations in the game are, which is great and what I think games need more, and contrast that with other RPGs and link it to Gee’s projected identities idea from What Video Games Have to Teach Us… OR I could write about the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney line of games (which now includes Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney) and link it to literacy and narrative. My plan is to write an outline for each of these and compare the two… maybe write and submit both eventually. The reason why this’ll take a while, I think, is that I want to link it to academic literature.. not just a game review, in other words. Aaron Chia-Yuan Hung sent me one of his that he did on Bully, and I was floored by how he linked Rockstar’s game with academic stuff on bullying and school cliques. So now I have to step it up, too…
  3. some papers for a class I’m taking called Poetics of Play in Digital Role-Playing Games – This includes a summary/presentation on a book outside of the readings. Since most of the readings cover games theory from a textual or player-game perspective, I’ll either highlight TL Taylor’s Play Between Worlds or one of the case studies in Gaming Lives in the 21st Century.
  4. and uh.. my dissertation proposal
  5. oh and I need to finish up that engagement paper finally.

ICLS poster session

Phil Bell‘s crew, the Everyday Science and Technology Group (a research group at UW composed of Phil’s PhD students and a post-doc), and some other people also associated with the LIFE Center (Learning in Informal and Formal Environments) submitted a poster session idea about everyday expertise to the International Conference of the Learning Sciences 2008 (Netherlands, June 24-28).

One of the posters features my work with World of Warcraft raid groups. Anyway, the session was accepted and a final version of the session description, including abstracts for the various posters, is being edited right now. The updated abstract I turned in to the group for editing is below:

Leet noobs: Expert World of Warcraft players relearning and adapting expertise in new contexts

World of Warcraft (WoW), like many other massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), can actually be seen as two different games. The first is the journey of exploring the game world and advancing the abilities of one’s character or avatar either through solo play or in groups of up to five players. This acts as a proving grounds or gateway for the second stage of WoW—joining a raid group of up to 40 players to kill all the monsters in “high-end” or “endgame” dungeons for the treasures they guard. Within a larger online games ethnography (Chen, in review) similar to others that describe player practice and learning (Steinkuehler, 2007, and Taylor, 2006), I have found that invitation to join an end-game group is contingent on a player’s reputation as an expert of WoW‘s underlying mechanics and rules. It is also necessary, however, to have proven oneself as someone who works well with others and understands his or her particular role in a team. Upon joining a raid group, players soon find that the conditions that determine expertise have changed because the activities and player practices have changed to fit the local context, which includes raid-specific tactics and new communication norms. It becomes clear that expertise is specialized for individual roles, depending on character type, and that to succeed as a raid group, players need to draw on their distributed expertise and knowledge (Hutchins, 1995), each doing their part while trusting others to do the same, so that collectively they act as a coordinated whole. Yet the actual skills and abilities an individual player uses are reassessed for how well they complement other players’ resources. Thus, once-expert players become novices or “noobs” to relearn expert or “leet” gameplay, yet they are not true novices because they already have a good understanding of the game system. Rather, they are leet noobs who must realign and adapt their expertise for new social structures and norms that emerge above the underlying game through joint venture. This poster highlights examples of learning individual expertise as well as new distributed expertise needed for raid group success.

Chen, M. (in review). Communication, coordination, and camaraderie in World of Warcraft. Games and Culture.
Hutchins, E. (1995). Cognition in the wild. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Steinkuehler, C. (2007). Massively multiplayer online gaming as a constellation of literacy practices. eLearning, 4(3), 297-318.
Taylor, T. L. (2006). Play between worlds: Exploring online game culture. The MIT Press.

revision of WoW paper submitted


I briefly mentioned this last month, but my WoW paper finally got reviewed and recommended for acceptance pending revisions. I submitted the revision today. The two main issues were:

  1. Not enough in the meat of the paper that ties it back to theory from the beginning of the paper. It appeared that the reviewer knows all about game theory (individual incentives for cooperation) and thought that the description of raiding and the conclusions didn’t refer enough back to it. Ironically, I deliberately cut out some game theory talk because I needed to make the paper shorter but also because I wanted to deemphasize game theory and mental constructs. Rather, I tried to describe actual player behavior and practice. But I realize that what I actually wanted to do was contrast mechanics-based incentives with socially constructed incentives. So I did that in the revision.
  2. The raid group I was in is not a good case study as most raid groups are comprised of members from the same guild. I really am not sure the reviewer is right here, but conceded in the revision that my group might have been different from the norm due to the particular conditions of the Horde faction on my server. But ethnography and case studies, as far as I can tell, will always emphasize the differences and uniqueness of particular groups. That’s the whole point; to make the mundane seem extraordinary and to make the extraordinary seem mundane.

Anyway, for my dissertation work, I’ll be moving away from social dilemmas and game theory towards social construction of meaning, distributed cognition, and social dynamics and power relations.

I also plan to do a review of the raid groups I can identify and figure out exactly how many of them are guild exclusive to see if my raid group really was out of the ordinary. Blizzard (as evidenced by the Armory) and the game research community certainly subscribe to the notion that raids = guilds. I just don’t buy it yet.