Julian Dibbell presented “Sympathy for the Griefer: MOOrape, Lulz Cubes, and Other Lessons From the First 2 Decades of Online Sociopathy,” a fascinating look at those who are “spoil sports” in virtual worlds/games. This session tapped into some very strange territory regarding play and the “rules,” spoken and unspoken, surrounding play and interaction online. Fascinating!
Following Julian, Lisa Nakamura presented “Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game: The Racialization of Labor in World of Warcraft,” detailing her research in the emerging stereotypes surrounding “Gold Farmers” in MMO’s like World of Warcraft. It was a fascinating discussion. I also had the opportunity earlier in the day to be a part of an informal discussion between Lisa and others regarding the phenomenon of gold farming and how the player community views it. In my early MMO experiences, such as EverQuest and Dark Age of Camelot, the player community, in my opinion, had much stronger views against the practice of gold buying, though I think the player base of World of Warcraft has a much looser view of the practice of buying gold. That’s ironic and hypocritical, of course, in light of the fact that they shun the farmers. I’ve never seen the need to buy gold in WoW, especially since the upper end of the economy is so inflated with daily quests and easy money.
Edd Schneider’s presentation on “The Temptation of Virtual Misanthropy: User Exploration in Virtual Environments,” was both funny and fascinating. Edd’s research had folks who’d never played Grand Theft Auto, try the game, however, they were told that their role was as a fireman whose job it was to protect the city from fire outbreaks. Before playing, players were warned that they should be careful while driving their firetruck as to avoid running over pedestrians, that the police would arrest them if they did, and that there existed criminals in the game that might try to subvert them from their tasks. Considering the nature of the GTA series, this is hillarious. What’s even more fascinating is how long it took before these players killed their first person, either accidentally or intentionally.
A variety of researchers briefly explained their research in and around the game, World of Warcraft. Afterwards, we broke to mingle with the researchers to get a better idea of their research. There were some interesting discussions:
- Academics are no longer simply researching the games externally, but now immersing themselves in it. There has possibly been a “chaging of the guard” due to the fact that many researchers today have grown up playing video games.
- Social capital is important.
- When explaining research results, there are sometimes problems resulting from an audiences lack of experience or knowledge of games like MMOs. Find analogs to help explain to non-gamers!
- Quest logs are learning management systems!
- A video explaining MMOs ground up and targeted to teachers or academics who’ve had no experience with MMOs is needed.
Several educators presented this morning from a variety of levels, elementary to community college. Each of them have unique ways in which they’ve integrated gaming into their respective curricula. Kevin Jarrett described his work with teens in Second Life working with Peggy Sheehy’s kids on Ramapo Island on the Teen Grid. During the session, Peggy was able to give me a brief tour of some of the kids’ projects that had been imported into the main grid… Awesome! Kevin Jarrett’s blog is available at http://www.storyofmysecondlife.com/
Candace Barriteau Phaire showed her work with students in mathematics using popular sports games like Madden 08. Students studied athlete statistics, formed their teams, played their teams against each other and studied the underlying math. What a great integration!
Maggie Hommel explained her work with the Park Ridge Public Library in Illinois. One of the most interesting things they did is that they began to check out games for consoles like the XBox. Their board feared that book checkouts would decline and in fact, they increased. Libraries seem a promising place to integrate gaming in after school programs.
Dona Cady explained her work with community college students using World of Warcraft, Second Life, and Active Worlds to supplement her English Composition courses. Students wrote stories from the perspective of their characters. Very cool.
Tripp Robbins and Bill Chamberlain outlined their proposal for a virtual world development environment while they also demoed their work with Neverwinter Nights Two. “We can’t keep trying to fit square pegs into round holes,” Tripp said, referring to our attempts to use existing development environments like NWN2 for educational purposes. Though they do work, the man-hours needed for development and the learning curve are daunting. They’re prosing a new project at: http://newnexus.org. Great idea! Hope it flies!
GLS Conference Entry