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Megan Boeshart

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English 894 – Networks

Synthesis

Introduction

World of Warcraft is a massive multiplayer online role playing game created by Activision Blizzard. The game was initially released in 2004. The game has continued has continued to operate as a pay to play subscription game now for over a decade retaining over millions of players. This semester I’ve primarily focused on the user interface of WoW, focusing both on the default user interface that players use upon opening the game for play the first time as well as the use of add ons also known as mods, or community created interface modications that players create in order to meet certain needs for play that the default interface does not provide. Blizzard has even taken this into consideration as it has modified the default UI several times over the course of the game, often implementing modification ideas that users had created in order to make the default UI a better experience for the player.

I chose WoW was my OoS this semester because my focus in English studies is partially focused in Game Studies. WoW’s long life allowed me to see changes that have taken place within the user interface over a period of time, as well as allowed me to consider the UI that has become a convention for MMOS–considering the ways that games may adopt or deviate design elements from the WoW UI and how that affects the way players respond to the UI.  My familiarity with the game also allowed me to bring knowledge of the UI without having to do extensive research that wouldn’t have been possible to complete this semester with someone unfamiliar with the game.

Game Studies, while interdisciplinary, has a lot of scholars that work in Game Studies that are housed in the English department. Game Studies also intersects with several larger areas of English Studies including Rhetoric and Composition, which is where I come at this OoS from. Discussing UI, design, and the tracing of associations that players make as they play is of particular interest to rhetoric, with a strong emphasis in visual rhetoric. These intersections open up the potential of considering the visual rhetoric and how we read games within English Studies–considering not only critically reading narrative elements, but procedural rhetoric, visual rhetoric, as well as considering the production of texts (in this case modifications and the documents that accompany them) by players and the labor of game creation that players take on in addition to their play.

My goal in this synthesis is to begin discussing several theories, or a frankentheory that could be used to discuss user interface design, visual rhetoric, and how players make sense of and read the game they are playing. In order to do that, I’ll be pulling from three theories that we looked at this semester– Actor Network Theory, Hyptertext, and Norman’s Perceived Affordances and Contraints.  Case Study #2 and #3 in particular helped me to make connections between these three theories and the ways in which these theories allow (and don’t allow) me to look at the game through certain lenses.  Ultimately, it seems necessary that these three theories work together in order to have a better understanding of how players navigate the game space based on the UI experience and their own associations and way of reading the game.

Theoretical Framework

The main theory that I am working from is Latour’s Actor Network Theory. Latour calls for a sociology of associations, which is focusing the tracing of associations, or “social does not designate a thing among other things, like a black sheep among other white sheep, but a type of connection between things that are not themselves social” (5, emphasis his).

One of Latour’s focuses is on trying to make researchers aware that the experiences of the actors and how the actor should be able to have a role in describing the action taking place; to trace the associations themselves. It privileges these narratives, encouraging actors to have an active role in how their narratives and their own thought process of connections should be viewed. Latour points out that it is actually a drawback for sociologists (or researchers of any kind, really) to just assume that they know more than the actors (participants). I could see how actor-network theory could draw from narratives for the purpose of studying these traces.

Since Actor Network Theory encourages actors to narrate the social associations, or the agency taking place, I think it would be very beneficial to actually have actors (players) in the network discuss how they interact with the interface because it may provide insights that the researcher may have overlooked. So it would allow the researcher to trace associations between the actor and the interface. Especially when actors may modify the interface in a game like World of Warcraft by creating their own interface add-on or using a community made one, rather than the default one in the game. Coupled with a think aloud protocol and eye tracking software, and I’m thinking about the video Dan made with the eye tracking software of him playing World of Warcraft, a researcher could have several sources of data for an actor network theory reading of someone’s play session.

For instance, I looked into several different user interfaces used by various players of WoW, that I included previously in reading notes. The following tiled image can be clicked and viewed individually with captions.

However, Actor Network theory doesn’t necessarily provide me with the language to talk about the tech or design issues within the network, such was when describing the user interface, which I think are necessary in order to look at this part of the OoS and to do the kind of research to have a critical understanding of the visual rhetoric at work here. This gap in language is why I chose Hyptext and Norman’s Affordances and Constraints piece to help fill in these gaps.

Hypertext allows me to begin to fill in some gaps, particularly when it comes to tracing the agency or movement within the network of an actor’s play session. Also multiple discussions of hypertext could potentially be used here, I think that Joyce in particular allows me to fill in this gap while also complimenting actor network theory and it’s privileging the narratives of the actors. Joyce feels that one of the possibilities for hypertext lies in the ability of the reader to become the author in some ways. He writes, “Hypertext readers not only choose the order of what they read but, in doing so, also alter its form by their choices” (19). Ultimately the author holds the ability to decide what to read and in what order, which alters the message of the text. While I don’t think he was originally considering the reading the hypertext of an interface of a game, I think his point here fits better within a game system than a typical text, even an online text that follows typical written conventions. The interface hypertext communicates player choices to the game and the game responds based on the player’s choices. It acts as a much less linear space than typical online texts like web articles that tend to mimic traditional print media.

This seems particularly useful when considering that players will likely encounter a different narrative based on the choices they make in the game–even from the onset of clicking “Play” in the Battlenet requires players to make decisions such as the server to join, the faction to join, and then the race and class of their player. A player is likely going to experience the exact same starting zone in terms of code differently playing a Troll mage on the Dalaran server than on the Cho’gall server for instance–And this only considers the server alone. The server type changes the social exchanges that people may experience, whether they will receive guild invites right away, how many people will be talking in chat, etc. Players may also be more interested in gear rather than reading quest text, or the opposite could be true. Maybe one player tends to play through trial and error while another player clicks and reads through tool tips. Hypertext provides a way to think about the way that players interact with/read the same code differently and how their “reading” paths diverge and line up.

Looking back at my ANT/Hypertext analysis in Case Study 2, when I considered my ANT reading of the ways that I read the hypertext when planning to do a pet battle, I have a pretty specific organization strategy that I use when I plan to do pet battles.

wowinterfacemarkup
Typical interface I use when pet battling in WoW

I gave a step by step discussion of my typical actions before engaging a baby spectral spider in pet combat. While I gave a step-by-step ANT reading, paying special attention to the ways that Hypertext functioned in that reading, I think if I watched a video of eye tracking or even click tracking of when I play, there may be pieces that I missed. The tracking of the hyperlinks clicked would allow me to have a path for reading my play session. Tracking that would also be useful in addition to think aloud protocols, because some of the clicking becomes so routine and ingrained in the player after extensive time has been spent in the game that it may be something the player doesn’t even register as taking place, or it becomes so normal to them, they don’t consider the thought process behind doing it unless it is pointed out. Ultimately, the hypertext in games like WoW allow us to see the different path that players may take in reading the text–unlike a typical article for instance that is typically read from top to bottom, left to right (obviously, people can scan, skim, look at headings only) and this is typical. It would be interesting to see if games are typically read the same way, even initially, or if the reading path is vastly different depending on the player.

So while Hypertext does allow me to have the language to talk about that reading path, it’s only because it fits in with actor network theory when considering a video game that it works–Hypertext on its own isn’t enough to do this. The tracing of associations, particularly with attention to how the actor narrates that tracing using actor network theory, is necessary to actually gather useful information using hypertext about how games are read. While Hypertext begins to allow me to have the language to discuss issues like this, it doesn’t necessarily take into account design elements, both as perceived by developers and by players (this last part is key, since it works directly into the actor network theory).

Don Norman’s Affordances and Design, particularly his discussion about perceived affordances is useful when thinking about World of Warcraft‘s interface and about the customizability of that interface. I think talking from Norman’s work also allows me to discuss the ways in which WoW’s commercial success and domination of the MMO market for over a decade allowed them to make design choices that are now seen as the norm among MMOs and other MMOs are often expected to conform in certain design ways or risk players becoming frustrated with the user interface and experience.

Norman’s Affordances and Design allows the OoS to be looked at as both a whole or in pieces, depending on what aspects of design the researcher is interested in looking at. In this case, it would depend on how users discuss the design in their think aloud protocols or during interviews where a researcher is tracing their use of the user interface. In using Norman’s affordances and constraints in terms of design, players, or users are the those privileged with agency in the network. He writes, “for in design, we care much more about what the user perceives than what is actually true” (1). We rely on conventions that users are familiar with, as well on the individual users’ perception of the design to make decisions about layout. This is certainly the case in World of Warcraft, in a number of ways. One of WoW‘s interface design has become a cultural constraint for other MMOs because the interface design has become a convention among MMOs, due to when the game began (over 10 years ago now) will a large following. Many MMOs have tried different kinds of interfaces or battle systems and have been met with critique, usually comparing that MMO to WoW. There are expectations of the MMO interface that fit solidly within WoW’s interface design style. While there are constraints involved here, it is one that Blizzard placed upon itself, but left loopholes for additional changes for its own interface. They have used player innovation to allow them to make small changes over time without disrupting player experience. The interface has not remained static for a decade. Rather, WoW developers have turned to addons and the features that addons give to the interface to help them figure out how to adjust their interface in order to provide a better user experience for their players.

The relationships between nodes using Norman’s affordances and designs theory is mediated through the player and the types and directions of the relationships between the nodes depend on the play style of the player, as well as through how the player has modified or chosen not to modify the user interface. While developers provide the interface, it is vast enough that two players doing a similar activity will interact with the nodes in very different ways. To be able to confirm this, I’d likely need to do more research. I thought particularly of the work Dan and Alex are doing with the eye tracking software, especially Dan’s recent video of him playing WoW. Think aloud protocols would also be helpful here, to determine how players are navigating the interface and how their intentions move through the network between nodes, specifically in regard to how their avatar moves through the network between the nodes.Norman’s discussion of “perceived” affordances is particularly useful when thinking about World of Warcraft’s interface because the affordances can be different depending on the player, which is important for design purposes, but also in terms of tracing the network and the associations. Players likely navigate the interface as well as use modifications based on their perceived affordances of the interface, or what they believe the interface allows them to do.

For example, a perceived affordance of WoW’s interface may be that it is customizable. This allows players to change design elements in order to make their user experience better depending on their individual needs. The interface provides an array of information about the avatar so that the player can interact with the game, and the customization allows the player to receive this information in preferred ways. Being able to understand the perceived affordances that the player sees when working with them through think aloud protocols for instance, may provide us with insight of where players see these affordances, as well as the constraints. This information would probably be particularly useful when considering things from a visual rhetoric perspective.

Why Bring ANT/Hyptertext/Affordances and Design Together?

I ended up coming to the conclusion that these three theories would mesh well together into the Frankentheory as I worked through looking at my OoS in terms of user interface, especially when working through the second half of the semester. Writing Case studies 2 and 3 solidified this in my mind. For me, looking at interface design and user experience is a new OoS, something I was interested in, but wasn’t entirely sure how to approach. As I’ve been piecing things together this semester, one of the themes of all three of these theories is the emphasis placed on the user/player/actor/reader. I think it is this central connection that allows these theories to work so well in tandem.

I imagine the research questions being something along these lines:

  1. How do players narrate their own experiences with the user interface?
  2. How do players perceive design and how does it affect their choices in a game?
  3. How do players navigate the user interface network and how is their perceived navigation different from the navigation in terms of moving from node to node via hyperlinks?

While these research questions would be of particular interest to me specifically looking at World of Warcraft, I think these questions could be applied to multiple types of games, including over MMOs. I also think that researchers interested primarily in user experience in regard to the customization of interfaces might benefit from the use of these theories together too.

Using the theoretical framework of the ANT/Hypertext/Affordances & Design frankentheory would be useful in addressing these questions. I specifically considered a study that used eye tracking software/click tracking software while research participants played World of Warcraft. Using interviews and think aloud protocols would be a key component to the study, which would mean that the user/player would be a central part of the analysis. While I discussed this briefly above, each of the parts of this frankentheory prioritize the user/player. In ANT, Latour spends time discussing how important it is for an actor to be given the ability to narrate the tracings and that their point of view is important for the researcher to consider in their analysis. Since the theory I’m proposing, while a frankentheory, is very focused as an ANT reading, interviews and think aloud protocols are necessary so that the player has a voice in narrating their play–discussion their intentions and logic for the choices they are making. It also provides insight that the tracking software pay potentially miss since the researcher may be more likely to come to conclusions based on their own experiences and logic, rather than that of the participants.

Joyce and Norman work their way in mostly in terms of their vocabulary, as well as conceptualizing of technology and design and the impact those have on how a player reads a game differently than a traditional text. Joyce discusses the potential of hypertext because readers not only choose their own path of reading when using hypertext, but these choices impact alter the form of the game in this case. The reader/player focus of this fits closely into analysis of gameplay, because the play style and activities of the player ultimately form the game for that particular player–it creates a reading that could be potentially different from another player’s.

Norman’s perceived affordances focuses on the user/player because the use of perceived means that the reading of the design elements will be different among players, that there are an infinite amount of affordances and different players/users will notice different affordances.

It is this central point where all of these theories mesh for me– providing adequate tracing of connections with vocabulary that tackles several aspects of the UI and how players read the game (including the design). Norman and Joyce account for issues of design and tech that may not be seen as easily in ANT without them, especially when doing an ANT reading of a video game.

What the Theory Brings to English

I think the proposed theory is particularly useful in the subfield of Game Studies under the umbrella of English Studies. It provides a way of looking at the game beyond simply analyzing only the main narrative of the story presented by developers, or focusing entirely on narratology. Also, since the frankentheory is interested in participants’ readings of the games, it isn’t entirely invested in the other extreme of ludology either. Rather, it seems value in both what the game presents, as well as the various ways that users/players/readers navigate the game and considers several elements including design, game mechanics and user interface, as well as individual play styles and perceptions.

I think that this Frankentheory brings something to English Studies because it provides a way of looking not just at games (which scholars in English are interested in!) but also ways of looking at multimodal texts that are very interested in visual rhetoric and how users/players/readers “read” and navigate these kinds of texts, bringing in vocabulary that covers hypertext and design. It also lines up nicely with usability studies within the digital humanities, connecting to another area of English Studies. Having the ability to move across the discipline is useful and provides opportunity for bridging work between subfields.

Also, since the frankentheory centers on the user/player/reader experience and values the voice of the participant in the research process, the theory fits in with larger conversations within digital writing research about ethics, including seeing the value in participants acting as participants (and the researcher being able to use participant language). Perhaps this is where I see a lot of potential for this frankentheory, as I see it blending technology work with the humanities, rather than separating the two.

Works Cited

Blizzard Entertainment. World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor. Activision Blizzard, 2012. Online Video Game.

Joyce, Michael. Of Two Minds: Hypertext Pedagogy and Poetics. Ann Arbor: U of MI P, 1995. PDF. Class Google Drive.

Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social. Hampshire: Oxford University Press (2007). Print.

Norman, Don. “Affordances and Design.” Jnd.org. 1-6. Web. Class Google Drive.

 

Mind Map (Non)Redo

http://popplet.com/app/#/2960396

I decided not to redo my mind map because I’ve been very happy with my current organization for it. I organized my map around some major ideas within the class: Networks, Discourse, Rhetoric, and Theory. I also color coded red nodes as things that were mentioned tangentially within theories that we read, but we didn’t read first hand. I also color coded concepts/author together and grouped them together. I found that it helped keep my ideas organized throughout the semester. I made connections when concepts or authors were mentioned in other work. I made connections between each other and the major nodes and many of them overlapped on those concepts.

 

Ambient Rhetoric Reading Notes

Summary

Rickert’s goal in Ambient Rhetoric is to get scholars of rhetoric to see the potential in the viewing rhetoric from the ambient perspective. He says, “we are entering an age of ambience, one in which our boundaries between subject and object, human and nonhuman, and information and matter dissolve” (1).  He says that “we do not need a new rhetoric, however; rather we must work anew with what has been brought forward in rhetorical theory and practice…[Rhetoric] can no longer be understood solely as subjective, verbal, visual, or even performative art” (33-4). In order to define and understand ambient rhetoric, Rickert draws upon several areas of scholarship including Heidegger, cognitive science, materialism studies, embodiment work, Biesecker, Latour, Miller, ecology, music, and words like dwelling and attunement.

Connecting Things

I thought it was pretty fascinating that Rickert was pulling from so much scholarship, including work we’d looked at in the class, such as work from Biesecker, Latour, cognitive science, Miller, and ecology. One specific connection I saw was Rickert’s discussion of humans as privileged actors and how that isn’t necessarily a good thing. I thought about Latour, and ANT. I realized that while ANT recognizes the agency potential of nonhuman things, it still privileges human actors in the sense that it says they can narrate the experience or the tracing of associations. We’re not really able to have nonhuman actors/actants do that kind of narration. I realize that these are limitations, but also understand why Latour still says that it is important for this kind of narration to take place, so that the researcher and her (his) ideas don’t override the thoughts, ideas, etc.

Although Rickert defines ambience multiple times, the definition I found easiest to understand was in the introduction where he writes, “ambience here refers to the active role that the material and informational environment takes in human development, dwelling, and culture, or to put this differently, it dissolves the assumed separation btween what is (privileged) human doing and what is passively material” (3).

Ambient Rhetoric Mind Map

http://popplet.com/app/#/2960396Screenshot 2016-04-20 at 5.11.20 PM.png

I added nodes to Rickert’s node on ambient rhetoric. I also drew a lot of connections between Rickert and other scholars, including Miller, Biesecker, and Latour. Also made connections between Ambient Rhetoric and ANT and Ecology.

Case Study III + Pregame Synthesis

Introduction

Don Norman’s Affordances and Design, particularly his discussion about perceived affordances is useful when thinking about World of Warcraft‘s interface and about the customizability of that interface. While I have discussed the ways in which players might move through the network, via my own ANT reading of two different interfaces that I use while playing and through considering the ways the Hypertext plays such a heavy role in the experience of gamers, I haven’t necessarily considered the interface in terms of design and the affordances and constraints are present through the use of the interface, default or otherwise. I think talking from Norman’s work also allows me to discuss the ways in which WoW’s commercial success and domination of the MMO market for over a decade allowed them to make design choices that are now seen as the norm among MMOs and other MMOs are often expected to conform in certain design ways or risk players becoming frustrated with the user interface and experience.

Literature Review

There is ongoing work focused on the interface/design aspects of World of Warcraft, even with focuses on affordances. There is particular interest in the ways that players engage with the customizable interface and the use of addons in World of Warcraft.  In my last case study I pointed to a survey study conducted by Targett et al 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). Prax takes a more qualitative approach in how he looks at the addon community as a whole, interviewing several key members of the addon community. Prax is interested in the ways that addons have influenced changes that Blizzard has implemented into the default interface. I’ve considered these issues myself as I’ve played World of Warcraft and have experienced patches that included changes that Prax discusses.  For example, Prax discusses the standard implementation of Power Auras, or visual cues for when a character in game experiences certain effects (buffs or debuffs, for instance). Originally this was an add on, but later was implemented into the default UI by Blizzard for all players. Other work, such as that by Crenshaw and Nardi examines the social affordances in World of Warcraft, specifically focused on the ways in which the interface allows players to use social features of the game. They also discuss some of the changes to social affordance that have come about over time. One example they use is the Group Finder interface. This allows players to queue for dungeons and find other players to collaborate together much more quickly. This was implemented in 2006 and has been updated several times to make it faster and easier for players to group up together.

Analysis

Norman’s Affordances and Design allows the OoS to be looked at as both a whole or in pieces, depending on what aspects of design the researcher is interested in looking at. For my purposes, I’m looking at the typical default interface provided by Blizzard and what the perceived affordances and constraints are.

Similar to the last case study using ANT, the network nodes act as the small pieces of the interface that can be rearranged, clicked on, or change due to the player’s activities.

wow
My default WoW interface. Screenshot taken in-game in March 2016.

Examples of nodes include spell buttons that players can click on with the mouse cursor or by pushing specific keys on the keyboard bound to specific spells or buttons. These appear at the bottom of the default interface, the action bar. Some of these are created for the player by the Blizzard default UI, however, players can customize this through the macro interface. Other nodes include hyperlinks that are part of the interface that allow users to access parts of the game like a character sheet, a list of pets that the player has collected, or social tabs that allow the player to queue for dungeons or see who is online in their guild at the time. Players also have some choice as to where specific spells are placed on the action bar, though addons are necessary to do more complex customization.

In using Norman’s affordances and constraints in terms of design, humans, or users are the those privileged with agency in the network. He writes, “for in design, we care much more about what the user perceives than what is actually true” (1). We rely on conventions that users are familiar with, as well on the individual users’ perception of the design to make decisions about layout. This is certainly the case in World of Warcraft, in a number of ways. One of WoW‘s interface design has become a cultural constraint for other MMOs   because the interface design has become a convention among MMOs, due to when the game began (over 10 years ago now) will a large following. Many MMOs have tried different kinds of interfaces or battle systems and have been met with critique, usually comparing that MMO to WoW. There are expectations of the MMO interface that fit solidly within WoW’s interface design style. While there are constraints involved here, it is one that Blizzard placed upon itself, but left loopholes for additional changes for its own interface. They have used player innovation to allow them to make small changes over time without disrupting player experience. The interface has not remained static for a decade. Rather, WoW developers have turned to addons and the features that addons give to the interface to help them figure out how to adjust their interface in order to provide a better user experience for their players. Prax discusses this in his article, “Co-creative interface development in MMORPGs- the case of World of Warcraft add-ons.” He gives a variety of examples. As a player, I’ve seen examples of this first hand. In 2009, during the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, a new addon became very popular, called “Gear Score”.  The addon would rate your gear with a number. Players started using these number as a way to determine if players had good enough gear to enter raids with the group and be helpful members of the raid. (I’ll say this now: I hated the add-on and I hate that it was basically added into the game by developers). By the following expansion pack, Blizzard had added item level into the game directly. Players could inspect each other to see item level. The add on was no longer necessary. The use had become so widespread that Blizzard had adopted it into the interface for all players.

The relationships between nodes using Norman’s affordances and designs theory is mediated through the player and the types and directions of the relationships between the nodes depend on the play style of the player, as well as through how the player has modified or chosen not to modify the user interface. While developers provide the interface, it is vast enough that two players doing a similar activity will interact with the nodes in very different ways. To be able to confirm this, I’d likely need to do more research. I thought particularly of the work Dan and Alex are doing with the eye tracking software, especially Dan’s recent video of him playing WoW. Think aloud protocols would also be helpful here, to determine how players are navigating the interface and how their intentions move through the network between nodes, specifically in regard to how their avatar moves through the network between the nodes.

Norman’s discussion of “perceived” affordances is particularly useful when thinking about World of Warcraft’s interface because the affordances can be different depending on the player, which is important for design purposes, but also in terms of tracing the network. The ethnographic work conducted by Crenshaw and Nardi specifically focuses on what they saw as social affordances within World of Warcraft. One of the affordances they discussed was through interface design change with in the inclusion of Group Finder starting in 2006, later including the Random Dungeon queue. They discuss that the group finder allowed players to find groups quicker, which should mean more interaction socially between players. Though the researchers spend little time talking about it, they do mention that some players were unhappy with how this change affected how players interacted in group situations. So while there is a perceived social affordance, in terms of how the relationships between players were built and sustained changed significantly between the initial launch of the game and implementation of the group finder. This likely seems confusing, so I want to provide an example. When I first began playing the game, the group finder did not find random players and put you in a queue. You listed yourself there if you were currently searching for a group. It took time to invest into doing dungeons, even at low levels. It took time to find players and cooperate together successfully to complete a dungeon. While this was often frustrating, it also meant that players worked hard to build up reputation and capital with each other so that everyone could become friends in the game and help each other out in the future with less hassle. This often developed into friendships that lasted beyond the specific dungeon. It led to me joining a guild, as well as a large list of friends I could call on whenever we had a myriad of challenges we were facing in game. Since the implementation of the dungeon finder, cultivating these relationships happens less frequently and is often more difficult. Players often enter dungeons with others and do not even greet each other, let alone trying to collaborate or get to know each other. While there is a convenience in the system, and dungeons take much less time (due to upgrades in gear for low level characters, as one reason for this), it becomes harder to find players to interact with socially in a sustained way. These experiences end up acting as both perceived affordances and constraints, just depending on the particular player.

Another perceived affordance of WoW’s interface is that it is customizable. This allows players to change design elements in order to make their user experience better depending on their individual needs. The interface provides an array of information about the avatar so that the player can interact with the game, and the customization allows the player to receive this information in preferred ways.

Some of the affordances the interface provides players is the ability to communicate with other players through various chat channels located in the bottom left of the interface. Key bindings, typically through “r” allow players to quickly respond to other players that message them without needing to click on the chat box and allows them to continue playing while they talk with other players. The chat box also alerts players when their friends log into and off the game, as well as when guild members come online. While all of these features can be adjusted or changed by the player in certain ways, the perceived affordance is that it allows players to interact with other players easily and conveniently. Maps, could be another perceived affordance that the interface provides. The interface provides several maps– both the mini map in the top right corner of the screen, as well as a larger map through the “m” key. This brings up a large zone map. Players can also zoom out to see the continent, the planet map, as well as a further map that shows multiple planets.The maps allow players to be aware of the place they are currently in, such as being able to see where quest objectives are in relation to their current position, but also situate themselves within the larger continent for when they are traveling between zones or continents (especially useful with the ability that players now have to fly independently through zones on a flying mount). Players used to be constrained by predetermined flight paths, but once players reach a certain level now they are able to fly using a mount between zones at will.

I think that Norman’s theory allows me to discuss a lot in terms of design within the interface, probably so many things that I need to narrow it down. I actually think that the discussion of perceived affordances and constraints actually works very well in tandem with Case Study 2, where I used hypertext and ANT. The case study has helped me make decisions about my synthesis.

Works Cited

Crenshaw, Nicole and Bonnie Nardi. “”It Was More than Just the Game, It Was the Community”: Social Affordances in Online games.” HICSS. Web. 14 April 2016.

Norman, Don. “Affordances and Design.” Jnd.org. 1-6. Web. Class Google Drive.

Prax, Patrick. “Co-creative Interface Development in MMORPGS- the Case of World of Warcraft Add-ons.” Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds 4.1 (2012). 3-24. Web. 14 April 2016.

 

Synthesis Pregame

As I mentioned in my conclusion to this case study, Norman’s theory allows me to discuss what the interface allows and does not allow the player to do, which would fit well in with my discussion of ANT and Hypertext that I used for Case Study 2. At first I looked at the larger aspects of the game in terms of genre. I thought it was productive, but later theories led me to look closely at the interface instead. Looking specifically at the interface has allowed me to recognize the layers of networks even within only one part of the gamer’s experience, the interface, while playing World of Warcraft, something I hadn’t considered previously.

For, for the synthesis, I will be using Actor Network Theory, with Joyce’s Hypertext and Norman’s affordances and constraints discussions to help me fill in the gaps and provide vocabulary for me to use when doing the Actor Network Theory analysis. As a scholar within Game Studies as well as in Rhet/Comp, I think I can bring these together to discuss issues of visual rhetoric, as well as larger discussions of social interaction and communication between players that would be both useful to scholarship in Game Studies and Rhet/Comp. I think that’s why I ended up turning towards World of Warcraft, because while I am interested in it as a player and as someone within Game Studies, I also often come at my scholarly work through a rhetoric/composition lens. I’m interested in the composition practices of players, even through visual composition, or non-traditional texts like the coding and dissemination of addons.

 

sociogram

Reading Notes – Castells

Summary

Castells discusses the move of the global society from an industrial age to an informational age. Castells spends a lot of time discussing the transition to global capitalism and the power dynamics and hierarchies of the network that capitalism has put into place. However, he does note that “the hierarchy in the network is by no means assured or stable” (414).  Castells also discusses the process in which the Internet came about, discussing ARPANET and the development of Silicon Valley.

Chapters 5-7 discussed varying topics such as mass communication/mass culture, space, and time within the new information age. Chapter 5 included a lot of historical information about new communication technologies like television, but also touched on newer phenomenon such as self-production of media (366-370), identity on the internet in games such as MUDs, and computer mediated communication. Chapter 6 focused on the space of flows, or rather how quickly information can be shared as well as shared between different physical spaces quickly through newer communication technologies. Chapter 7 focused on what Castells called timeless time, which he defined as a phenomenon in which newer technologies like bio-technologies and communication technologies are making it more difficult for us to have a biological sense of time.

Identity and MUDs

Chapter 5 was particularly interesting to me because it discussed the virtual communitities,  which tied well with my OoS (not sure if this was purposeful in assigning this to me, but it worked out!).  It was interesting to see that one of the first psychoanalytical studies of internet users was on a group of users of a MUD. I appreciated Wellman’s keypoint that “virtual communitites do no have to be opposed to physical communities: they are different forms of community, with specific rules and dynamics, which interact with other forms of community” (387). I haven’t spent a lot of time looking at more recent work on virtual communitities, but it does seem that they are moving away from an initial argument, which was that they were just easy escapes. As a game player, I’m often tied to multiple communities, both virtual and physical. I’ve also found a lot of great friends that I’ve become close to through virtual communities. Particularly in multiplayer online games, players act within several virtual communities simulataneously. For instance, players are within the large community of players within a particular game, but players also likely have a friends list that acts as a network of friends that they often do things with, as well as many players are part of a guild. The guild functions as a social community where members get to know each other and do activities like raiding and player versus player battlegrounds. The layers of social networks even in a singular game I think really speaks to the layering of networks that Castells discusses throughout the book.

guildlist
Guild roster interface. 

Mind Map- Castells

 

This week I made a new node for Castells. I linked Castells to the larger node Networks, as well as connected Castells between several other theorists we have talked about this semester, such as Foucault, Prior et al’s CHAT, Guattari (production/capitalism), and to Spinuzzi. I also connected Castells to our How Things Work week where we focused on the Internet and the process in which different technologies were formed, which Castells spends a significant amount of time discussing. Screenshot 2016-04-14 at 4.18.43 PM

3D Network – Castells

3ddrawing.jpg

This is a 3D rendition of Silicon Valley and the network between the various cities and Stanford that allowed Silicon Valley to take shape. Castells’ talks about this network on pages 62 and 63. He spends time discussing the distance between various places such as San Francisco and San Jose, and Palo Alto. Castells writes, “It was this technology transfer from Shockley to Fairchild, then to a network of spin-off companies, that constituted the initial source of innovation on which Silicon Valley and the micro-electronics revolution were built” (63). For this network, the cities act as nodes for companies and development taking place within a specific area, in between all of them, that becomes known as Silicon Valley.

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