GLS 2008 – Games as Gateway Drugs

Elizabeth and Lane Lawley

GLS 2008 - Elizabeth and Lane Lawley - Games as Gateway Drugs
This was a great fireside chat session and really, a great close to my time at GLS 2008. Elizabeth is is the director of the Lab for Social Computing at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a gamer (three level 70’s in WoW!). Elizabeth was also a professional online casino and played at different online casino like 666CASINO, a legit online casino that lets you win real cash. Lane, 14, is Elizabeth’s son, and was influential in Linden Lab’s creation of a teen grid for Second Life.

The discussion revolved around the good things that often emerge as a result of a player’s immersion into video games. Lane, for example, developed an interest in 3D modeling and programming as a result of his experiences in Second Life. This has been one of my biggest arguments in favor of video games, and I’ll simply cite my earlier post, “10 Educational Things I Learned From Playing MMORPG’s.” Again, I encourage readers to add to this list!

Another discussion that emerged during this chat was the critical need for parents to be involved in their child’s life, specifically their gaming life. Parents, if your kids are playing video games, by all means, play with them!

Official GLS Session Entry


GLS 2008 – Games and Incivility

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.

GLS 2008 – World of Warcraft Roundtable

GLS 2008 - World of Warcraft Roundtable - Mark Chen's Research

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.


GLS 2008 – Games and Learning in Practice: An Educator Panel on Implementing Curricula

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

GLS 2008 - Kevin Jarrett Presents His Work With Students in Second Life

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: Great idea! Hope it flies!

GLS Conference Entry


GLS 2008 – An Elf, a Knight, and a Princess Walk Into This Bar… Virtual Friendships 7 Years Later

M. Hayes, W. Phipps, C. Steinkuehler

GLS 2008 - An Elf, a Knight, and a Princess...Constance Steinkuehler

What an awesome fireside chat!  Hayes, Phipps, and Steinkuehler discussed their experiences as guildmates over the course of the past seven years playing Lineage, Lineage 2, and World of Warcraft.  It was very interesting to hear a discussion of many of the social issues I’ve encountered as a guild leader over the past eight years.  There are truly some fascinating social issues that arise in a virtual, somewhat anonymous environment like the ones you find in MMO’s.  I found the discussion of community-maintained ethical/moral norms, in game, particularly interesting especially when comparing the social systems that grew up in Lineage (in many regards similar to my experiences in Dark Age of Camelot) versus those that have arisen in World of Warcraft.  The social dynamic of MMO’s has clearly changed.  The discussion of how we perceive individuals based on our online experiences with them and how that changes when we hear their voice with a voice-com. system like Ventrilo or even more dramatically should we meet them in real life was also intriguing.

The education implications for these issues are equally fascinating.


GLS 2008 – Creating a Culture of Critical Game Designers in Elementary Classrooms and Clubs

K. Peppler, A. Diazgranados, D. Fields, Y. Kafai

GLS 2008 - Alicia DIazgranados Explains Her Work With 2nd Graders and Scratch

2nd Graders and students taking part in an after-school club utilized Scratch to design games and then engaged in critical evaluation of theirs and others’ games.

By using Scratch and game design as a context, students created video games and then engaged in evaluation of each others’ work.  Students created their own rubric for evaluation that utilized language specific to Scratch and game design in general.  Students eventually learned how to not only provide an evaluation (with the rubric as a guide) but also began to offer support for their position.  The 2nd grade math was integrated in the use of classroom response systems and  and interactive white boards.

Another group of students utilized Scratch’s social-network-oriented project sharing feature that allows people to share their projects in a YouTube-stye format.  The evaluation in this instance provided by the social network.  “Friending, commenting, and browsing” of Scratch projects on Scratchr developed.  Students in this group also utilized “remixing,” or taking others’ projects and re-designing or modifying them.  Ultimately, students began expanding beyond their own network to find projects and contacts.

Scratch is available for free download at:


“Students are creative and always giving you data.  As a teacher, I am both educator and researcher.” – Alicia Diazgranados

“Students like to have fun.  Did you notice that?”  – Alicia Diazgranados


GLS 2008 Educator Scholarship Recipients Get Hands-On Experience With Gaming

The 2008 Games, Learning, and Society Conference offered about fifty educators from around the world a scholarship to attend this year’s conference in Madison, Wisconsin.  Many of these educators had the opportunity to get their first hands-on experience with some of today’s top video games.  Games such as World of Warcraft, Rock Band, and Wii Fit, to name a few, were available for them to try.  It was a very exciting beginning to the conference.  To see more photos, check out my Flickr badge on the right, or click the image below.

Educators Test Drive Games at the GLS Arcade - GLS 2008