• “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.

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  • Howard Rheingold Interviews Me (Part 1)

    Screen composite of Howard Rheingold and Elsheindra together
    Credit: Remixed by Michelle A. Hoyle from an image of Howard Rheingold by Joi Ito

    Image: Howard Rheingold and Elsheindra, Michelle’s World of Warcraft character, together at last.

    Howard Rheingold contacted me in September to interview me about World of Warcraft and learning, because he knows I’m researching communities and learning in World of Warcraft.  We were finally able to meet up today for the interview.   He is working on a book about the kinds of skills people need for life online.

    His first question was: What kind of collaborative skills have I found to be valuable from World of Warcraft?

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  • WoW Learning Project as A4 Poster May 2010

    WoW Learning Project Questions PDF image

    The V.C. was doing a surprise (to us) departmental visit last month. We had a bit of notice and it was decided that everyone doing projects in our research group should produce a one-page summary of their work. This could then be presented to the V.C. I whipped up the following. As I haven’t completed the analysis for my recent survey into motivations in World of Warcraft, I couldn’t include any of that, so I focussed on the underlying ideas in the project.

    Downloadable Resources:

  • Levelling Lifelong Learning: Annual Progress Review

    Elsheindra the healy-dealy night elfI have my annual Ph.D. review meeting tomorrow afternoon. As usual, I’m more than a bit nervous, especially as I made the big step this academic year of completely dropping my former Ph.D. work and starting a brand new topic that intersects the boundaries of my three main interests: communities, learning and teaching, and Internet-enabled technologies. As part of the review process, we’re asked to produce a 4-page report that explains what we’ve done since the last report. In your first year, this report ought to focus on your thesis proposal, although many students won’t yet have one. I do have some ideas about what I want to do and how I am going to go about it. I’ve made an online version so that it will be indexed and easily findable by others interested in World of Warcraft and e-learning.

    The 30-second summary: Examine how metaphors and game design of World of Warcraft motivate people to learn and to work, with an eye to transferring motivation, social knowledge building, and persistence to online higher education practices, like community building for lifelong learning.

    Click the “More” link below to continue reading the online version of the proposal and progress report. A downloadable PDF version is also available.

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  • What Am I Doing? The Two-Sentence Summary

    For the last several months, I’ve been engaged in various activities all with the same intended goal: generate a concrete idea about what specifically I want to look at in Michelle 2.0, my new Ph.D. I’ve been mind mapping, writing permutation programs, brainstorming, discussing, writing essays, and writing thesis proposal plans. The most successful thing was probably having to sum up what I’m doing briefly for a visitor to the research lab’s weekly meeting this morning. While it answers the Twitter question “What are you doing?”, it’s too long to fit in 140 characters but it does fit into 40 words.

    Q: What are you doing?

    A: Looking at how metaphors and game design of World of Warcraft motivate people to learn and to work, with an eye to transferring motivation, social knowledge building, and persistence to online distance education practices, like teaching and community building.

    There you go. Now we all know!

    I’d just like to point out, though, that my ability to verbalize it so coherently and concisely is a result of all the other writing and thinking I’ve been doing. If I hadn’t written the essay in November and the extremely rough paper outline for a thesis proposal on Sunday, the idea would not have coalesced so concretely. Time, background cogitation and serendipity seem to be strong features of my new Ph.D. For me, not knowing exactly what I wanted to do, has been sharply focussed by talking, reading, writing, and going to seminars. It doesn’t matter what the seminars were or how relevant. It’s amazing how much I’ve drawn out of the motivational reading group I was participating in when I didn’t even know I was interested in motivation. Connections appear where you least expect them. The important thing is to take the leap and do.