• Pet Peeve: Sore Dominion Losers

    Correction: I should have realized this myself, but Donald Vaccarino is the creator of the Dominion board game. The iOS version I played was developed by Hammer Technology. It’s also, unfortunately, no longer available for download because the “official” client from Goku was launched summer 2012.

    Screenshot of Dominion on iPad
    Credit: Screenshot by Michelle A. Hoyle
    Image: Dominion on the iPad

    Photo of  many angry birds
    Credit: Photo by Newtown graffiti under a
    CC BY 2.0 License

    Image: It makes me so angry!

    A few Christmases back, a good friend “helpfully” gifted us with the original Dominion game. I say “helpfully” because Dominion is deck building game, although not in the sense of a collectible card game like Magic: The Gathering. Dominion’s base set includes treasure cards, action cards, and victory cards. You purchase these cards primarily with the treasure coin cards, trying to acquire more victory cards than your opponent. Action cards can act on other players, give you additional spending power, give you more cards, or increase your maximum number of permissible purchases.

    With randomness in its favour, Dominion is enjoyable to play repeatedly and quick once you’re familiar with the various action cards. It even plays well with only two players. Numerous expansions are available with different action card themes you can mix and match. We have them all, much to our bank account’s detriment. Thank you, “friend”. (-:

    There have been some extremely excellent board game adaptations for Apple’s iPhones and iPads, including Dominion publisher Rio Grande Games’ Carcassonne tile-building game and Days of Wonder’s Small World. Although some of these aren’t too bad for setup time, it’s nice to not need a big table and to start playing immediately. It’s also nice to play whenever you have the urge. I was therefore quite keen to see a Dominion application and finally there was one: Dominion by Donald X. Vaccarino. Hurrah!

    Read the rest of this entry »

  • Women in Games Special Issue

    If you’re interested in any combination of women and gaming, including some games-based learning, then look no further than the latest issue of The International Journal of Gender, Science and Technlology. It features a special issue on women and games, with articles and reviews. From the special issue’s introduction:

    In 2004 video games industry veteran Mark Eyles, then working at the University of Portsmouth, recognised the need for an initiative that would increase the representation of women within the gaming industry. The project Mark instigated – Women in Games (WiG) – began with a series of conferences involving an innovative mixture of people from academia and from industry. The aim of these conferences was to generate and promote initiatives and research that focused on narrowing the gap between men and women working in the games industry.

    WiG is now an internationally recognised organisation, still with this mixture of people from academia and from industry. In addition to the annual conferences, WiG members are now also involved in smaller events, online discussions and journals. Now, seven years on, WiG continues to grow and develop and we, in our role as members of the Steering Committee, would like to introduce readers to the special issue section of the GST journal.

    The articles included in this special issue reflect the multiple and overlapping aims of the Women in Games initiative. Each of these aims requires the interweaving of academic enquiry with industry engagement and dialogue, which has been an extraordinary strength of the WiG initiative.

    by Marian Carr and Helen Kennedy

    Read the rest of this entry »

  • “Multiplayer” vs “multiplayer”

    Photograph of Happy-Land book cover showing two children painting together
    Credit: Photograph by Dana Graves under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license

    Image: Photograph of 1923 “Happy-Land Drawing and Painting” book cover showing two children painting together.

    I was recently talking to someone about multiplayer games because she was in the process of developing a game that she initially thought could just as well be done as a single player educational game.  However, the real issue was what multiplayer really meant.  I have previously put forth the idea of Big OER versus little oer.  There is similarly multiplayer and Multiplayer.  Some incredibly popular games are really multiplayer.  In a multiplayer game, multiple people occupy the same space simultaneously, but the environment or the game does not foster cooperation or teamwork.  It may even be the case that what those other players do does not affect you at all directly.  A good example of this is Zynga’s Farmville. In Farmville, you have your farm, you plant your crops, and you buy whatever the nifty thing of the day is.  You can interact with your neighbours or your friends, but it is not required or necessary to progress through all the content of the game.  Another example that came to mind was GuildWars.  It sounds like you should be forming guilds and interacting with other people, but for many people it was initially very much a solo game.  The game even supported solo play by allowing you to hire NPC mercenaries to go on missions with you.

    Contrast this with true Multiplayer games where you do significantly better if you cooperate and group with other people or where the entire premise of the game is based around small communities of people.  For example, in World of Warcraft, most of the content is not accessible to solo players.  Solo players can complete independent quests, but good rewards, in the form of better gear, are available from five-, ten-, or twenty-five player instances.  In those scenarios, what you do does affect other people and they are often not afraid to let you know it.  If you fail to play well or appropriately, if you are in a random group of people—called a “pick up group” or PUG—they may kick you out of the group or verbally abuse you or both. Extremely difficult content is hard to play in a pick-up group.  It has been developed for cohesive groups of people, where the people are used to playing together either because they are all in a community together, like a guild, or because they are a regular cohort of players in a raiding group. Each player in a group in one of these larger adventures is important.  Each person has a role to play.  Each person can contribute to deciding how the encounters are going to turn out by their skill or their tactics.

    Read the rest of this entry »

  • Games, Blurred Boundaries, and Learning

    World of Warcraft screenshot of the blurred boundaries between zones.
    Credit: Screenshot by dyashman under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license

    Image: The blurred boundary between the Stranglethorn Vale, Duskwood, and Deadwind Pass zones in World of Warcraft.

    I posted this entry originally early in November, but somehow an entire paragraph disappeared, so I’ve re-posted it with a new date. — Michelle

    games based learning, i think has potential but learners struggle with transferring the learning & dealing with blurred boundaries #fote10

    @_arien I think you’re right that learners have trouble with learning when boundaries blurred like in GBL, because of context. #fote10

    @Eingang exactly, our minds still work in boxes and takes practice to cross between formal and informal contexts

    @_arien Blurred boundaries & different contexts are particularly problematic for, eg, people w autistic spectrum disorders. #h810 #fote10

    @_arien AR can help overcome the context issue/blurred boundaries of learning we were just discussing, because RL there too. #fote10

    The above is an extract from a Twitter conversation I had on October 1st during the Future of Technology in Education conference (#fote10) with @_arien.   Arien was attending the conference, watching Ollie Bray’s talk, while I was following the conference on Twitter.  Arien, as it happens, is one of my Open University H810 students.  Ollie Bray (@olliebray), of Learning & Teaching Scotland, was discussing the use of computer games in education.

    I think Arien’s hit the nail on the head: it is about context.  One of the reasons game skills don’t transfer to learning well is because learners/players do not see something in a game as being applicable to something academic.  Much learning we do is completely context-based.  Without the context of the “subject”, we do not necessarily think to apply something we have learned or maybe even realize that it is applicable.

    Read the rest of this entry »

  • Games, Research, and The OU. Notes on a Meeting

    These are some notes I made while at a meeting of Open University people interested in gaming, research, and learning on October 21, 2010.  It was organized by Jo Iacovides (The Institute for Educational Technology) and Marian Petre (Computing).  I received an invitation to attend early last month.

    Read the rest of this entry »

  • Open University Meet for Games Researchers

    Screenshot of a recent typical One guild meeting
    Credit: Michelle A. Hoyle Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 License

    Image: A recent guild meeting where Irana (left) was initiated into The One. As always, there was dancing, but things got a little “hot.”

    Colleagues from the Institute of Educational Technology (IET) and Maths, Computing and Technology at The Open University (OU) are inviting other OU staff interested in gaming research to a meeting next week in Milton Keynes. Here’s part of the blurb from the DigiLab post describing the event:

    On Thursday, 21st October, Jo Iacovides (IET) and Marian Petre (Computing) are hosting an informal discussion on gaming research, with the aim of getting people from the OU who are interested in the area to meet up. Whether it’s using games for learning, considering game design, using gaming as a medium for understanding strategy or interaction, or anything else game-related, it would be great to hear from you.

    As I’m interested in motivation, learning, and communities of practice formation within World of Warcraft, this is right up my alley. I know Jo Iacovides, one of the organizers, is also interested in some similar topics, as we’ve corresponded previously, but I’m eager to make some other connections.  I doubt it will get as “heated” as some of my guild meetings, but it should be interesting.

    PS: If anyone knows of cheap ways to get from Milton Keynes Central to The Open University, please let me know! I currently use the Raffles taxi service and it’s about £5.00 each way; the taxi fare is almost as much as my rail fare from London. Thanks.

  • MOOCs versus MMORPGs: A PLENK2010 Idea

    I signed up today for the new George Siemens and Stephen Downes connectivism course Personal Learning Environments Networks and Knowledge 2010 (PLENK2010).  This is a follow-on from last year’s massive online open course CCK09.  I didn’t have much time last year for CCK09, but I did attend a few Elluminate sessions.  In fact, that’s where I originated the concept of “Big OER” and “little OER” based on Martin Weller’s Pedagogy of Abundance presentation I attended as part of that course.  I thought it would be interesting to lurk around the edges of the new course. The course’s description is:

    In the last five years, the twin concepts of the personal learning environment (PLE) and personal learning network (PLN) have been offered as alternatives to more traditional environments such as the learning management system (LMS) and institutionally-based courses.

    During that time, a substantial body of research has been produced by thinkers, technologists and practitioners in the field. Dozens of studies, reviews, conference presentations, concept papers and diagrams are now available.

    The purpose of this course will be to clarify and substantiate, from the context of this new research, the concepts of personal learning environments and networks. Course facilitators and participants will analyze the research literature and evaluate it against their own experience with the intent of developing a comprehensive understanding of personal learning environments and networks.
    Downes, Siemens, and Cormier (2010)

    The course just kicked off this week and the first topic involves social networks, personal learning networks, and personal learning environments.  While I was reading through some of the postings on PLEs versus PLNs, it suddenly occurred to me that a massively online open course, especially one with this kind of structure, is not too dissimilar to the learning that occurs in MMORPGs.  In fact, I’d argue that good game players need to construct their own personal learning networks in order to understand the game and improve their playing. They’re both about social construction of knowledge.

    I think a great idea for a paper is contrasting the formal and informal learning networks people build in an MOOC like PLENK2010 and in  MMORPGs.  It could even be fleshed out with some interviews with 4 or 5 players about how/what they use during the course of game playing.  I envision it should be possible to construct some GPLN (game player learning network) diagrams similar to the PLN diagrams that Scott Leslie collected.  Here, for example, is Martin Weller’s PLN:

    Martin Weller's personal learning network

    I could make a similar diagram for myself, but with a specific game-playing focus.  I’m sure I could easily entice some other, more hard-core players, to make similar diagrams, if not as actual graphics at least as a list.  I really think there is something here.  The key point though is, even if there is, what does it mean if there is a similarity?  That I don’t know.  Any ideas?

    Downes, S., Siemens, G. & Cormier, D. (2010) Personal Learning Environments Networks and Knowledge ~ PLENK 2010, [online] web site. Available from: http://connect.downes.ca/

  • World of Warcraft and Me: A True Confession

    Elsheindra is Michelle's night elf druidAs part of a course under development at The Open University, I was approached as a known World of Warcraft player and asked to write a short paragraph or two on why I play World of Warcraft. I freely admit to failing to only write a short paragraph or two, but that’s probably because I’m passionate about World of Warcraft and my activities in it, especially given the prominence it plays in my life in so many areas. Read on to find out why I play World of Warcraft.

    Read the rest of this entry »