Monday, April 30, 2012

Leet Noobs: The life and death of an expert player group in World of Warcraft.

I recently read a book by Mark Chen: “Leet Noobs: The life and death of an expert player group in World of Warcraft”. A light reading, very pleasant narrative that gives a description of the gaming practices within a group. With digital media practices being a priority for many researchers, educators and designers, looking at practices and norms within social, online gaming spaces can be particularly fortuitous for understanding human learning and behavior.

This book provides an ethnographic description of how practice looks like in World of Warcraft (WoW), in a guild of 60 players who take up identities, learn the context and their teammates through game play. Chen spent over 10 months collecting data, ending up with about 600 hours of chat and about 80 hours of video data. In my opinion, this is a particularly interesting research task, as it deals with a context that is constantly in flux, there is no control, and there is great uncertainty regarding what a researcher can find.

One of the strongest features of this book is that it provides a holistic, and at the same time detailed, elaborated manner that a group came together and worked, followed particular norms and practices. “Well played”, “well researched”, and “well described” to the audience. The narrative is particularly powerful in that it provides an inside view of the practices and interactions: from designing the guild tabart, to leveraging differences between the various expertise levels, to raiding and frustrating moments.

Reading this book helped me understand what types of interactions I wanted to reinforce through my own research game designs. Interpersonal relations provide feedback and make ideas powerful. It was exciting for me to see how experts in the game came to become novices (in a sense) again and relearn norms and practices in the game. Players realized that effective continuation within the game would depend on mutual work, and therefore, teaming up with people that worked on the same quests seemed to be the most effective way of advancing. The various vignettes that Chen provides document the ways activity is organized among participants how things emerge throughout the game play.

Chen shows that expertise in a space depends on the social practices that players go through and the relationships developed through the limitations they have to deal with. Being part of a group is heavily dependent on “access to the micro-cultures” (p.168) of activity. In the particular study, negotiations within the group defined the level of trust, as well as the nature of the role members had for effective participation.

Structurally, this book does not follow traditional paths… After an introduction of the main terms Chen describes the process of leveling up his character. In the first chapter, he describes how everyday practice looks like in WoW, in relation to social and cultural elements. Then, he elaborates on how players communicated and coordinated while raiding and explains what is needed for a group to succeed (trust and conflicts among players). Later on, the reader receives a description of how combats can take place in WoW, as well as a picture of the relationships and practices within the activity system of the game. The last chapter is a documentation of how the group of participants faded.

I highly recommend this book to whoever wants to understand online gaming practices and have an ethnographic understanding of how one can organize research around decomposing such complex systems and activities. To whoever likes learning about games and social practice, and to whoever likes the adventures of diving into the world of games and research! 

Follow Mark Chen on Twitter: mcdanger

Reference: Chen, M. (2012). Leet Noobs: The life and death of an expert player group in World of Warcraft. New York: Pete Lang Publishing, Inc. 2012. Pages: 200.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My future, augmented reality tattoo...

WHERE THIS STARTED FROM... A couple of days ago Dr. Curt Bonk had a very interesting guest speaker in his online class on “The World is Open”. Craig Kapp from NYU talked about mobile learning, digital books, augmented reality, and demonstrated come really cool examples of his work (Title of the talk was: “Visualizing the Future: How Augmented Reality can empower faculty, inspire students, and bring ideas to life in the classroom.” Click HERE if you want to watch the full talk).
The augmented reality idea is fascinating to me, as all the creative and inspiring ideas one has, can be animated… How exciting is it to look at a cardboard an see a simple drawing, but when you look at it through your mobile device, it is something totally different: Little red riding hood tale coming to life, animals in the jungle running around, or even your creative imaginations!
THE CONSEQUENCES OF THIS TALK... So my question that sparked the idea for what you are reading now is whether one can create an augmented reality tattoo that others can just see as a simple square or something, but then when they look at it through their mobile device, the tattoo has… “flesh and bones”… literally! People’s creative imagination is endless. Such a tattoo can be “re-programmed” to represent a different idea/shape/design… If I had such a tattoo, I would never get tired of it! Seriously! I mean, we adopt different identities based on our interactions with others, we transform our dispositions about the world, life, etc. I find this to be an alternative way of creative expression that portrays identities, moods, feelings, etc in a very dynamic way.
How such ideas can shape the ways we look at creativity in daily life? How can such creations represent one's creative ideas? Where is this evolution of digital media taking us? And how are such opportunities influence how we express ourselves, ideas, messages, or stories? These questions are not explicit to the idea of a tattoo, but refer to general concepts of creativity with digital media. What are the limits? Or are there limits to creative expression?
WHERE THIS IDEA IS TAKING ME TO.... Body as an augmented reality platform... Is such a thing even possible? Well, it looks like it is! Check THIS out! I have to look into this idea more, but I think I want such a tattoo… yes, a square that means nothing, but really augments the reality I want to create through it. Here is the YouTube video of a flying dragon tattoo. And here is another awesome, singing animation tattoo.
I think I’m off to creating my Augmented Reality tattoo… ;)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Another, more complicated concept map

"The field of media arts presents many unique opportunities for educators and researchers wanting to encourage active learning, make the schooling curriculum relevant to youths’ out-of-school interests, and teach youth how to communicate through a variety of multimodal discourses" (Peppler, 2010, pp. 29-30).
This week I worked on making my concept map even more complex. A new layer of connections contributes with information on creating with media arts and tools in order to give answers to the question "what is the role of arts, computation and digital creativity in new media"? I focus on Peppler's work on media arts, on Reas's tools and on Dewey's ideas, as well as on Sefton Green's creativity ideas. I also draw from my own experiences with my studio projects so far.

You can view an enlarged picture of the concept map HERE.

The role of the arts, computation and digital creativity is important for new media. Peppler's paper showed that impact at the Computer Clubhouse in Los Angeles. As an example, that study highlights the importance that freedom in creativity can have in the ways new media are explored, used and also in the ways they convey messages. It seems that this freedom allows experimentation and exploration within the areas of new media, and people learn through alternative ways of using tools. She promotes the ideas around learning in and out of school, and new media being the diode to such creative learning practices. Scratch is a tool that allows for experiential, experimental and active creation and learning.

Dewey was a great advocate of experiential learning and viewed the arts as an experience through which we grow our identities and knowledge. Along those lines, Reas and Peppler both reinforce this argument with their work. Reas proposes new ways of communicating with the computer, related to programming languages and authoring tools. He proposes Processing, an open source software that allow users to create easily.

Our understanding of new media derived through the ways they are used in daily life. We all design with new media, we share our creations and reflect on them. Creativity is key to how designs are reflected, and how they are being taken up by the audience. The Scratch community is a context where designs are evaluated. Designers publish that work and the community views, engages with the design, rates it, etc. This becomes a process of reflection, as members view and understand the elements that a project has that make it such.

For our designs studios, this is another opportunity for exploration, experimentation and active learning. We take the initiative to give flesh and bones to our idea, and then we share it with the community. I personally learned a lot about the role of new media for learning, as well as about the affordances that new media provide for creative expression and learning. For example, atmosphir was one of the tools that make the greatest impression to me. It is dynamic, and powerful tool that allowed me to experiment with an idea I had, develop it and share it. Whether one is a digital native or a digital immigrant, people can use them in the same ways. Literacy in new media becomes significant in such cases of authoring and digital production.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Experimenting with atmosphir

I created a game level on and I called it "Cake marathon". Atmosphir is a game design platform that allows users to create their own game levels and share them with the online community. I find the particular kind of media to be a wonderful tool for creative expression. Designers (users) can create whatever they want, can provide whatever experiences they like and design different difficulty features for their audiences. Creativity is for me a major characteristic of good digital media. The affordances of the particular medium fascinated me because I could manipulate everything in ways that other media had not afforded so far. For example, I could easily lay out the blocks with just one click or by dragging my cursor around the grid. I could easily add and remove objects, an action that would be difficult to obtain unless someone had advanced programming skills.

Screenshot from my cake marathon. Click on it to access and play the game (also at:

For my example, I created a level through which players must jump across several cake pieces, cookies, orange and kiwi slices, as well as a candy bridge in order to reach the final flag. It seems very easy, but when I tested it, even I had trouble getting across! I think the role of the arts and creativity is major in media for the 21st Century. It is not only colors and graphics that make digital media so much better and attractive, but also the opportunities for expression they provide. Creativity in the particular context does not mean colors and graphics, indeed. Creativity seems to be measured through the difficulty levels and the designed experiences users come up with. I find this to be a very powerful property because it comes to redefine the ways we perceive creativity in online spaces.