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Megan Boeshart

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English 840

Blog Post #5 – Monograph

Citation: Chen, Mark. Leet Noobs: The Life and Death of an Expert Player Group in World of Warcraft (New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies). Peter Lang Publishing, 2011 Nov. 30. Print.

Summary and Recommendation: Chen’s ethnographic monograph, while within game studies, comes from an Education & Literacy background. The range of disciplinary influences on game studies has helped me gain perspective on how interdisciplinary game studies is. Chen made it very clear that he viewed games as a place where expertise was gained. He sees games and the skills players learn within them as having value outside the game, which he acknowledges is not a view that is widely shared. This point of view and his discussion of literacy provided a clear lens of how he was viewing the ethnographic work he was doing. While Chen doesn’t make it clear that this lens came after his initial research, his time spent in the game in terms of observation and decision to focus on the raid group points to this as being similar to traditional ethnographic study. I’d recommend it for anyone interested in ethnography in virtual worlds because he spends time clearly laying out the information around his study, allowing newer researchers to get a feel for setting up an ethnographic study in a virtual world.
Chen lays out a solid context for where and when his research took place. He immersed himself in World of Warcraft and his study took place within a 40 man raid group that raided together between October 2005 and July 2006. Chen does provide a clear explanation of his participant selection, including names of participants (with pseudonyms or usernames isn’t exactly clear) and how often each participated in the raid being studied. While there isn’t discussion how exactly the raiding group formed, some more context about the game might be necessary to understand why, especially since this isn’t a one guild raid group which is often found in WoW, moreso now that raiding group size has downsized dramatically. It would definitely be difficult for someone unfamiliar with WoW to really understand this process, which really isn’t a failing of Chen’s so much as the specific need for the researcher to be immersed within the environment being studied.  His coding seemed particularly focused on his epistemological framework games as way to learn expertise and solve complex problems. His discussion of tools was useful, but did not include information about what player add-ons he had used throughout the process. It also isn’t specified what tool was used to do the voice recording or how conversations/video were determined to be worth recording.

Blog Post #4 – Pedagogy at Play

Summary & Recommendation:

Danielle Roach’s dissertation Pedagogy at Play: Gamification and Game Design in the 21st-Century Writing Classroom is situated within a games studies and cultural studies methodology. The foundation of her approach is “a series of interviews with writing instructors who use games and play in the classroom” (26). She uses these interviews as a sample of the ways writing instructors include games in their courses. She also collected other data including texts about gamification as well as games. She is specifically interested in the language used by educators to talk about games and gamification with attention to voices as the core of the project. The organization of the dissertation chapters followed four common threads based on responses from the interview participants: (1) playful pedagogy, (2) writing classrooms as game environments, (3) writing about games, and (4) writing in and for games (42). Ultimately Roach says that the project “by examining narratives about the inclusion of games and play in the classroom, [the] study seeks to consider how the examples offered by instructors compare with literature and prevailing attitudes about games and play in the classroom” (47).

One of the places that I thought was interesting was in the interview process that what the term game(s) meant was not completely clear. This has begun to make me consider when I look for participants if I should ask for any game or focus specifically on video games or table top games. Still on the fence about that. Roach clearly sets out her theoretical framework through the literature review, as well as sets our her methodology, including study design clearly in her methods chapter. I found it very helpful that Roach spent time discussing how she solicited a population for her study (something I wish I would have read before I wrote my IRB proposal since our projects seem very similar). I also found the discussion about research tools such as using Skype and the recording add-on Evaer useful for considering how to implement specific tools in the interview process. What I realized is that Roach’s interest and study are similar to my own ideas for my study (though mine on much much smaller scale). I think it will be very useful to me for my project this semester and I plan to use it as one of my sources.

Citation:

Roach, Danielle Roney. Pedagogy at Play: Gamification and Game Design in the 21st-Century Writing Classroom. Diss. Old Dominion University, 2015. Web. 3 March 2016.

Blog Post #3

Citation

Hawreliak, Jason.”Heroism, Gaming, and the Rhetoric of Immortality.” Diss. University of Waterloo, 2013. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.

Summary & Recommendation

I’ll be focusing my blog post on Chapter 6 of the dissertation where Hawreliak discusses the Terror Management Theory (TMT) and two experiments that he helped design and administer as a research assistant. I’ve chosen the focus on this chapter, because most of the dissertation is focused on close reading, however this chapter is specifically focused on a study.

Hawreliak begins with a discussion of TMT theory and a literature review to contextualize the experiments, as well as explain the purpose for using TMT theory. I felt this was useful because it illustrated the steps taken to decide why a theory was fitting in order to answer the specific research questions Hawreliak had. His focus for the analysis is on the second experiment. He writes, “the second study (E2) applied TMT to videogame analysis, and asked if playing violent videogames would lead to increased a) Death-thought accessibility, and b) Worldview defence” (310). Participants for the study were recruited from the University of Waterloo’s undergrad Psych courses and given credit for participation. Participants played two different games: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Paintball 2.  Hawreliak explained the rationale for the choice of games, highlighting that both are first-person shooter games (FPS), but Call of Duty is in the context of war and death, while Paintball 2 has no depictions of death and is a friendly game of paintball. After participants had played either one of the games, or no games for 20 minutes, each was given a 17 page questionnaire on pen and paper.  The results section noted that there were not the clear results expected by the hypothesis, and the experiment was only ran once, which Hawreliak noted as a weakness of the experiment, but he said it should be “primarily viewed as an attempt to apply TMT to videogame analysis” (322).

I found the study interesting, but it seemed very crammed into one small section of the dissertation, although it seemed like it may have warranted more space. A lot of acronyms were used and were not clearly defined which made it difficult to read. While some discussion of the questionnaire was present, there wasn’t an appendix or further information about what the questionnaire contained. I found it a bit inaccessible for someone new to this kind of research and probably wouldn’t recommend it since it doesn’t even seem to be the primary focus of the dissertation as a whole. There were also some assumptions that Hawreliak made that I was uncomfortable with. He had a significant number of women in his study, and he wrote, “since men tend to be more familiar with the FPS genre than women, future iterations may want to set parameters when it comes to participant gender” (316). This seemed like a very stereotypical assumption that didn’t come from any data or sources. I was pretty disappointed with this comment and the following discussion on gender that seemed to ignore gaming statistics about female players.

Blog #2

A Study of User Interface Modifications in World of Warcraft

Targett et al’s article “A Study of User Interface Modifications in World of Warcraft,” discusses a survey study conducted by the team of researchers in 2007 and again in 2011 that was interested in the World of Warcraft users that were creating and using user interface modifications or UI mods.  The goal was “to study the effect that user created interfaces have had on WoW and its community of users” (Targett et al).  In order to study these effects, the researchers created an online survey that specifically looked at four aspects of the UIM (user interface modification) community. These four aspects were “(R1) the backgrounds of its members, (R2) their attitudes towards modifications and the community itself, (R3) their use of UI modifications, (R4) the characteristics and motivations of users who create and share modifications” (Targett et al).

The researchers used a scientific approach to formatting the write up of the study. They began with an introduction that discussed HCI or Human-Computer Interaction in tandem with the popular trend of user interface modding within the gaming community and the success that World of Warcraft has had because they allow players to make game modifications. The researchers hoped to find “a middle ground between HCI and Game Studies” (Targett et al). The researchers then provide background information that provides definitions for key terms such as HCI, User created content, and UI modification to provide readers with accessible information about the topic(s). This background includes screenshots from World of Warcraft to illustrate the user interface and example modifications that players may use. The following section focused on sthe research instrument and methodology. The survey was developed with the R1-R4 aspects listed above and was conducted online in from Jan. 1, 2007 to Feb. 28, 2007 and again in 2011 from June 1 to July 31 in order to do a comparative study. It was advertised through a Google AdWords campaign and on several online forums related to WoW, including Curse, a mjaor WoW UIM hub. The purpose of the study being conducted twice was to verify “survey participants’ suitability for study and reliability as a resource from which to extract information about the game” (Targett et al).

In the discussion section, the researchers noted that based on their findings that they support “the idea that an interface for a game is best developed in association with its users” (Targett et al).  They also discuss that there may be evidence that Blizzard has actually made user interface changes based on the UIM community. However, the researchers also note “that one disadvantage of a user-modified interface is the pressure it places on the user community to create and support software” unfunded (Targett et al). It is against Blizzard’s terms of service to get any compensation for creating mods.
For me, this study was really interesting and in depth, particularly with the use of statistics. Despite my limited experience with statistics, the charts and information were presented clearly and it was easy for me to follow along as the researchers reported the results. I would recommend this article, specifically to anyone looking to do more quantitative data collection using video games or video games communities, because it is easy to follow and provided in depth review of methods and methodology, as well as connections to previous literature and potential openings for study.  The references section also provides a link to the technical report done by the researchers that allows the reader to view the questions asked on the survey as well. I found this really helpful because it provided such specific examples and information about the study and how it was conducted and I think many articles lack these details because of various constraints.

Works Cited

Targett, Sean, Victoria Verlysdonk, Howard J. Hamilton, and Daryl Hepting. “A Study of User Interface Modifications in World of Warcraft.” The International Journal of Computer Game Research. 12.2 (2012): n. pag. Web. 06 Feb. 2016.

 

Blog Post #1: Me and Lee: Identification and the Play of Attraction in The Walking Dead

 

Summary:

Taylor et al’s article “Me and Lee: Identification and the Play of Attraction in The Walking Dead” is about a microethnographic participatory research project focused around eight players of the point and click adventure game/visual novel The Walking Dead.  The game has similarities to both the graphic novel and television show in terms of the world, however the main characters of the game are Lee and Clementine.

The purpose of the study was to explore “whether, how, and through what processes the players form associations with the game’s playable character” (Taylor et al). The researchers carefully provide a literature review, detailing the limitations of avatar/identification research that has been conducted within Game Studies. Their methodology was meant to be on a small scale with exploratory aims. They provide a working schema for accounting for these associations as “attractors” or complex categories: simulated (relating to the ludic gameworld), lived (relating to player real world experience), conventional (player’s relation to other similar types of genre or media), and situated (localized and embodied settings of play).

I felt that the study provided a lot of pertinent and useful information, including the detailed lit review, participant descriptions, and methodology walk-through. I thought this would be really useful for anyone beginning work in Game Studies, because it provides such a strong description of the study, but also of the intention of the study and why the researchers set out to do the research in the first place. I had previously considered microethnography for studying games, but Taylor et al also included the participatory turn on this research, which they observed isn’t typical for the microethnography, at least not in game studies. They had participants look back at particular moments of play and reflect on their decision making. It was through the descriptions and reflections of participants that Taylor et al determined the four attractors that explained how players form associations with in-game characters. I really appreciated the detail included for it being article length and found it useful for considering my own microstudy this semester.

Citation:

Taylor, Nicholas, Chris Kampe, and Kristina Bell. “Me and Lee: Identification and the Play of Attraction in The Walking Dead.” Game Studies: International Journal of Computer Game Research 15.1 (2015): n. pag. Web. 27 Jan. 2016.

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