on December 7, Blizzard will launch its newest expansion Cataclysm. What is fascinating for long time and regular players about this release is how they have approached the buildup to it. The sense of bereavement players already feel is no doubt going to increase dramatically in the next few weeks as the rest of the changes are revealed and players have a chance to experience the true extent of them. This is a new sensation for players, and a risk for Blizzard, a company known for innovation in game design. Players aren’t used to experience the loss of whole regions of a beloved game, and watching the grief process will be interesting.
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Archive for the 'Virtual Worlds' Category
I think Lisa Galarneau has it exactly right in her prediction that vanity multi-user online graphical environments are going to be the next hot trend in virtual worlds and simulations. She was writing in response to the announcement of Planet Michael, a vanity virtual world environment based loosely on Michael Jackson’s life, music and imaginings that will be released late in 2011. While the announcement is somewhat derisive, it’s possible to see some real potential for public figures in this concept.
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thinking about the concept of questing as used successfully in a multiplayer online gaming context, like the one in World of Warcraft. For those who have been gamers for many years, this is an obvious application, and one that will appeal to and be readily accepted by the new generation of “wired” workers who have grown up with technology and multiplayer games. It might be more difficult to convey to non-gaming managers or executives, however, even though it’s just a variation on the carrot-and-stick paradigm. Here’s how it might work.
Forterra recently sold its OLIVE 3D platform to SAIC, and that was There.com’s clone product. Maybe part of the deal was that There would close, and not compete. Or maybe Makena’s private ownership, having parted with Forterra and it’s OLIVE, was ready to get out of the virtual world business and on to the next big thing. Or maybe the rigid controls that so appealed to corporate security interests got in the way of the user experience. What do you think?
None of these is worth a full blog posting, but I found these things to be fascinating or very promising, and thought I’d blog them all anyway for my own reference. WoW and psychotherapy, Betterverse.org, brain controllers, altering time perception, cloning heroic dogs and regenerating lost teeth.
Communities in virtual world parallel traditional communities in that they can be affinity groups, gaming groups, family groups, business groups, fan groups or just about any other sort of community. 3D environments enable participants to have a more realistic interaction with one another than is possible using text chat tools.
Warnog must not sleep. He comes across as a surly, know-it-all, berating parent type person. He starts early in the fight to lambast everyone in the zone for giving it all way, for being losers, for not knowing how to play, etc. He criticizes the attempts of other players to give guidance or directions. He ridicules failures when the “horde” team has a success. As a result, he has become a phenomenon. He is one of the few characters on our server whose name is instantly recognized by 75% of the more experienced players…but not necessarily in a good way.
Researchers at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia have developed a new computer system architecture that can carry out gesture recognition. The early version of this technology uses “data gloves” that allow the computer to monitor the user’s hand or shoulder movements. This input can then be fed to a program, a game, or simulator, or used to control a character in a 3D virtual environment.
Just because one sad person has a bad romantic experience caused by a meeting a virtual personality in the real world doesn’t make a virtual world a bad or a worthless place any more than being injured on a roller coaster ride at Coney Island makes all theme parks dangerous.
Time for some more new and emerging technologies. This time it’s more helmets and devices to allow the disabled to participate more completely in 3D virtual worlds and MMOGs, social search engines that may reveal more than you know about yourself from the Web, and the new evolution of wearable computing.
I was all set to talk about technology and activities that make virtual worlds accessible to the 1.3+ billion globally who are disabled, and then I was pulled up short and reminded of why those things are important — people. Today I discovered Wilde Cunningham.
Current financial uncertainty finds organizations focusing on the status quo and cautious, instead of pursuing innovative opportunities. Individuals, however, are becoming increasingly comfortable with, and in, immersive virtual environments, and are looking for ways to bring them into the work place. Ten years ago the opposite was true. It’s like biorhythms for virtual worlds.
If I were an HR director, I’d have ask seriously whether recruiting in a virtual world is worth my staff’s time and effort today. The payoff just isn’t yet there. The fundamentals of virtual worlds and technologies are moving into the mainstream for sure, but it will be 5-10 years before they are so ubiquitous that virtual world recruiting will be truly effective. On the plus side, it’s still inexpensive…
UK virtual world consultants KZero develop marketing and brand-driven campaigns for companies and brands seeking to maximize opportunities in the virtual worlds space. They have some novel research that’s worth checking out.
One thing is sure. Mobile devices and virtual worlds have a future together. Like most relationships, though, there will be a lot of talking and disagreements before they successfully arrive at the altar. More takeaways from the vBusiness Expo sponsored by Clever Zebra.
Today I participated in Clever Zebra’s second vBusiness Expo virtual conference. Nice people running the show and a very good list of topics and presenters. Unlike their first conference, which was conducted in Second Life, this one was held in a specially created 3D space using Forterra’s OLIVE platform. The 3D environment added nothing to the experience, and in fact, detracted from it, since it was a big distraction from the content of the speakers’ presentations. However, that said, here is some very useful and interesting information I took away from the presentations.
A few weeks ago, I had an interesting discussion with a Gen Y person about his cell phone. Being a baby boomer myself, I am more than a little fascinated by the intuitive way that generation absorbs technologies into their routine lives. So will Generation Y be the first 3D generation? I think it still depends on many things, as these conversation excerpts from several young people show.
Last week as I was putting together a presentation on virtual worlds for a class, I discovered how my point of view has changed on Second Life. If you look back two years ago, I was skeptical about it and didn’t think it deserved all the hype it was getting. After a year of delving into SL and exploring all the variety it has to offer, I can now say without reservation that it is the best virtual world out there for content creators/builders and people who just like to explore. So far, anyway.
Today I had a reason to go back and search for a video I had saved in my favorites on YouTube, and completely by accident I came across a great set of video interviews by Henrik Bennetsen of the Stanford Humanities Lab from the Metaverse U conference at Stanford University last February. It’s a great evening of entertainment if you are interested in virtual worlds.
Last year I made several presentations to executive groups about Second Life and other virtual worlds. The overwhelming response I had led me to create a workshop comparing the features of many of the current virtual worlds to help business leaders understand their options so they can make solid decisions about what works best for [...]
Things are moving very fast in virtual worlds now — too fast for anyone to keep up with everything that is happening and the ideas that are springing up like mushrooms after a rain. That is especially difficult for corporations, governments and other large organizations to deal with, so here is a list of some practical applications that these groups can set their focus on. I’ve distilled it from a number of leading sources that have weight and credibility in the field.
Users and organizations face disappointments with today’s virtual worlds. It’s time for leaders and aspiring leaders to become knowledgeable of virtual worlds and to contribute to making them the positive and constructive platforms they will become. How? Take any one of these 11 disappointments, and start a crusade to change it! There are reputations and careers and satisfaction to be achieved by those who get involved now. This is the ground floor of a groundswell.
Right now we are in the explosive “pre-cambrian” period of virtual worlds, just as we were almost 15 years ago with the Web. Everything I am reading is pointing in one clear direction — the creation of transportable avatars. We have a long learning curve ahead of us, but what is emerging is important and will change everything, even if we just don’t yet know how!
I disagree, however, with the assessment that SL is a “barren wasteland” or dying. What is dying is the hype that generated a lot of curious one-time visitors last year. Only people who are inexperienced in virtual worlds would measure their effectiveness on the amount of traffic. That is the equivalent of counting page hits on a web site. No one can experience the potential of virtual worlds by dropping in once or twice for two hours and assuming they have seen enough.
Today my little avatar went to a strange location in Second Life to take a “class” on scripting from someone I have never met before and know nothing about. The attendees where there for different reasons, but when we completed our task at the end, we were exhilarated! Learning by doing is definitely the best way.
The National Academy of Engineering has declared “enhance virtual worlds” as on of the top challenges of the 21st century. This is getting serious!
Yesterday I attended a virtual presentation in Second Life hosted by Metanomics. It was one of those bizarre, amazing and wonderful experiences that sometimes just happen. I was sitting in my real life office, watching my avatar in Second Life sitting in an audience of about 50 avatars watching the Emory attendees in real time watch us watching them! It was an amazing and relevant experience.
Do we really need deep interpretations of games? I don’t debate that many game developers are well educated and are aware of myths, legends, and the literature and competitors relevant to their work. I simply don’t think it’s meaningful in any way for academics to ascribe deep meanings to stories and characters that, for the most part, are based on earlier myths and legends that were meaningful to people. This article gave me a good laugh.
The high visibility of Second Life and its virtual economy have made virtual worlds a common discussion point in many Board Rooms. There are two types of virtual environments: gaming and social. Both may be used to achieve different educational objectives. Although the technology for virtual environments is improving rapidly, it is not yet robust enough for most business-critical processes. Businesses probably have a window of 18-24 months to develop a virtual training strategy and begin implementing a technology solution.
There are an increasing number of organizations that lobby developers or provide a product to help the disabled or those with limiting conditions to participate in a variety of games and learning simulations. Some new ones are referenced.
There are some obvious types of learning simulations, like the Microsoft Flight Simulator or the Wii sports games. Some other useful ones for a variety of purposes are included here.
China’s newly-announce Chinese Recreational District puts virtual worlds on the legitimate map. In the 40-square-mile area of West Beijing, they intend to open the largest virtual worlds park in the world, and are establishing a virtual economy that will interact with real world economies worldwide. They will target businesses to help them do business virtually. It sounds very exciting, but are there causes for concern? We’ll soon see. It opens in June, 2008.
Brookstone announced the opening of its 3D virtual retail store on the Web. It can be accessed using the Kinset browser plugin, and provides a good user experience — as long as the user’s system uses Windows XP and has a lot of memory.
As much as I love virtual worlds, I don’t see the value of turning a core business tool like email into some sort of Super Mario Brothers levels quest. 3D Email is a flawed product, but a good example of the kinds of mind stretching that will have to happen for 3D or virtual reality to have a meaningful impact on everyday business. I believe it’s important, however, to applaud valiant attempts at something completely new, even when they fail.
It’s been over a year since I wrote anything about machinima, and since then it has started to take off. Here are some of the new things I discovered when I went surfing last night to find some entertainment.
Here is my suggested definition of “Virtual Worlds”: A persistent simulated space inhabited by multiple concurrent or nonconcurrent users who share a sense of physical embodiment that enables them to interact imaginatively with others and experience real world outcomes. Think of it as a concentrated definition. Here’s how I got there…
A lively cheer or clapping, a broad laugh, a back flip or spontaneous dancing can be effective and expressive social interactions in virtual worlds, if timed right. Avatars, however, are sadly lacking in the kind of social development that could make immersive worlds even more realistic and expressive.
Japanese scientists have created an experimental device with great promise for people with debilitating movement disorders. The small helmet enables the wearer to animate a 3D avatar in Second Life so it will perform basic movements just through thought impulses. It’s not yet up to the quick response time needed for competing in a first-person shooter, but it’s a giant step forward!
In some virtual worlds, for some specific applications (like raiding in WoW), voice chat works. For purely conversational socializing in 3D, the jury is still out. We are still learning how to use the tools that can make a 3D conversation as informative as a face-to-face chat. We seem to have mastered the sound quality issues. Now we just need to make it more intuitive to use. That won’t be a quick fix.
Gartner research seems contradictory, yet it makes sense. Governments (and companies) can be in Second Life or any other virtual world today simply to get familiar with the issues, concerns and technologies involved. The barriers to entry are low–it’s free–and their employees can learn free, too, by just trial and error, without the expense of formal training! At a certain point, these organizations will unquestionably move the game indoors, and initiate a virtual world or 3D intranet on a server behind their own firewalls. They aren’t going to abandon it now.
Here is some background on virtual worlds and some additional examples of how non-profits and other organizations are experimenting with applications of virtual worlds to real world issues. Examples of how non-profit organizations and others are using Second Life for non-profit objectives.
This is Part 2 of a series. Many organizations are excited about virtual worlds technology, and are still trying to figure out what they can do with the virtual world concept. Here are some examples of what various business groups are doing today. Keep in mind that participation is growing faster than anyone can keep up with, so this list is by no means exhaustive!
While 3D virtual worlds have their flaws, security and scalability issues, and detractors, mainstream business and government are starting to get engaged with the concept, which is a very positive sign. That means budgets, and budgets mean opportunities for creative new concepts and technology improvements. The excitement is definitely building in corporate offices. If the technological improvements needed to pass corporate CIO muster can occur quickly, we may be at the tipping point.
The Gate is one of those breakthrough ideas that will result in a complete change in how people interact, both in business and in their personal lives. This coming weekend, on October 5-7, there will be a portal set up between real life and Second Life on Odyssey island. It’s being billed as an “interdimensional [...]
Virtual worlds/ simulations/ metaverses are stepping up onto the legitimate stage in a big way. Linden Labs reports they must install 120 servers per week, each hosting 1-4 “regions” or islands, in order to keep up with demand for land in Second Life. Gartner Research says current trends suggest that 80 percent of active Internet users and Fortune 500 companies will participate in Second Life or some competing virtual world by the end of 2011. A breakthrough in technology will have to occur. Second Life is just not that scalable in its current form. But you can see the signs of the future — the metaverse, the intraverses, the 3D web — in just what’s available today.
It makes me a little uncomfortable that Second Life is the platform businesses are starting to coalesce around. Itâ€™s simply not the best platform for a number of reasons. It just happens to be the first one that spoke the language of business â€” money. Personally, I want 3-D interactive worlds to be ready to apply to day-to-day uses. They just aren’t there yet.
Gaming provides a rich and unmatched opportunity for people of all ages to learn valuable lessons about human nature, good and evil, the value of preparation, equality, dealing with diversity, leadership, economics, merchandising, setting priorities, and team play. Who knew that games taught such important life lessons? I have noticed that…
Looks like we are headed for some answers to the questions I’ve raised before about the reality of virtual goods, and the legal (and ethical) issues the trade of them raise. The Tax Man is poised to weigh in. Maybe.
I have a love-hate relationship with machinima. The love comes from the concept of being able to make my own video clips while I’m inside a virtual world and then turn it into something creative or useful. My hate comes from my lack of skill with it! In fairness, it’s not all my fault.
Some possible scenarios from a 3D learning environment used in a corporate environment, describing how quests and problems lead to learning with real world value.
What was marvelous about Active Worlds in the early days was it was the wild West. Anything could happen, anything could be built, anyone could go there…a participant’s imagination was the only limit . They were on the leading edge of social worlds, holding virtual exhibitions in a giant exhibition hall, creating a virtual school and college, where real world students and teachers conducted classes. They even sponsored supervised summer camps where kids built 3-D worlds in teams to win a prize. AW was way ahead of its time.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past two years, you have no doubt read an article or seen an interview with someone talking about some sociological phenomena or other that occurs in virtual worlds. The line between games and real life is blurring. Research on the Internet raises a host of novel ethical challenges, and only Linden Lab’s Second Life seems to have addressed the ethics of research using virtual world avatars. I find this interesting.
Gaming guru Edward Castronova plans to develop Arden: The World of Shakespeare as a new gaming landscape, based authentically upon Shakespearean times, that submerges players in period costumes, environments, and language. Just imagine — a game where the most valuable treasure is bits of dialogue from Shakespeare’s plays! It’s a little hard for me to envision, but an important initiative all the same.
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Part 2 of my risky look at a wild and wonderful way of working! This part describes the 3D interactive environment that could change everything about online learning and knowledge management.
Looking ahead is always fun, wrong, fascinating and ridiculous, but I’m going to give it a try anyway. Here’s my own vision of a wild and wonderful place to work 10 years from now…assuming there are still such things as corporations and we don’t all work from home! If you’ve been wondering what an immersive learning/knowledge management system might look like, read this!
It looks like the knowledge management “profession” is not the only group to have definition problems creating confusion in the rank and file. Game developers face the same problem.
Ads in games are inevitable, and truthfully, as long as the game developers pay great attention to maintaining the game ambience and environment, players are not likely to object. Game development costs rise with each generation of games, and for game developers, alternatives to help offset that cost and keep the price to consumers low are desirable. Gamers, of course, are concerned that advertising will bog down game play and alter the game environment so that they will no longer be “games”…just another merchandising venue. Here are some possible advertising scenarios.
My gaming experience recently has been about getting my little gnome rogue to level 60, and I succeeded last week. I applaud World of Warcraft for attempting to keep the high level players engaged in the game. Having known and played with characters of every class, I never get over being amazed at the level of detail this game manages to deliver. Every class is unique and has special abilities. Every class is fun to play. I think I’ll just enjoy being level 60 again for now, and start saving my gold to buy a high speed mount. I know I’ll need that whichever way the fortunes of a rogue blow…
If you are an educator just starting to look at learning simulations and games, this article may save you some time. Most educators don’t have much personal experience with games or gaming technologies, and it’s important to understand the basics in order to develop or license simulations appropriate for your specific needs. This article (by a gamer) covers genres, gaming engines, and other resources you may find useful in your quest. It only scratches the surface!
Not all teaching games are simulations, but many popular and readily available titles can teach valuable life lessons and provide solid educational experiences. Some of the newer mainstream games also have complex learning scenarios integrated into them, however educators unused to playing games themselves can fail to see it. Here are some examples of off-the-shelf games and what I think they have to teach.
While learning in virtual or game environments can’t fully replace traditional learning, there are strong indicators that games, especially multiplayer games, are rich environments for the disabled, and may aid both their development and integration into society. Virtual reality-like games may be the ultimate rehabilitative learning device.
Creation of anything new has its own unique challenges, and creating the perfect UI for new games is a complex challenge for game developers. In multiplayer games, the complexity is compounded by the need for players to be able to interact and communicate with one another. A good UI is one that enhances the ambience of the game, delivers functionality efficiently and is instinctive/invisible to the user. But players want more than that — they want to be able to customize everything and feel like they are immersed in the game. Here are the results from an informal survey of experienced MMOG players.
Maybe it’s the male/female difference that’s often alluded to, but I found it a welcome relief not to wield a staff and cast spells and hack and slash for a change! The new Korean game Audition lets your avatar execute all the popular hip-hop dance steps you could never do in real life and compete with others doing the same thing. It’s a lot of fun for a change of pace, but doesn’t have the enduring allure of the smell of old leather, cold steel, and dragon scales on a frosty morning…
I was happily surprised to see that I’m not the only person who is bothered by the frequent “updating” of EULAs that players are forced to accept without recourse. There is something instinctively troubling about being forced to accept changes made to an end user license agreement after you buy a product, and then having no recourse to dispute it or challenge the game company’s right to demand what it is forcing you to agree to.
2old2play.com has an interesting story categorizing types of multiplayer online gamers. I found my category there!
This week, an Associated Press story revealed that online gaming has had a big impact on “box” game sales. Playing games on the PC, whether it’s via online casual sites or through MMO subscription play, has been increasing. I think it’s the interaction of people in the process of solving game challenges that makes multiplayer games so fascinating for adults. Games are learning by doing, which adults favor, but they are also vehicles of self-expression and achievement. The human element makes them completely unpredictable, and fascinating.
I had no idea that there were so many games on so many specialized topics out there! Iâ€™m not talking about games that you can buy in Best Buy or Wal*Mart. Iâ€™m talking about specialized games that I would call â€œplaying with a purpose. Look what I’ve found! (and these only scratch the surface)
C/NET released its Must Have Games list today. For the most part, expected titles are there, but there are a couple of surprises.
And now for something (old and) completely different! A salute to some visionary game design.
Designers and developers have to walk a fine line between novel graphic design consistent with the theme of the game and the array of capabilities the interface must enableâ€“without intruding on the play area more than absolutely necessary. Not only that, it must be understandable at a glance…with little or no training required, because most players will not read a manual, and will jump right into the play. So what are the critical UI elements, who has done it right, and what do players dream of for the future?
Think of your favorite MMOG or video game for a moment. Now think of a scene or instant when you broke through or defeated something you struggled with in that game. Now imagine you had to do it with only your mouth as a controller â€“ lip movements, small puffs and sips of air, hitting a button with your tongue, pushing a bar with your chin or cheek, biting a sensor with your teeth. Then go watch the video of 23-year-old quadriplegic game designer Robert Florio. It will put the rest of this article on game accessibility in context.
Yea for science! Gaming is not only fun, it’s a healthy activity for seniors! A 2002 Harvard University report cited significant increases in reaction time for gamers over 60, while researchers at the University of Rochester reported that video games can help improve vision. Tests on nongamers found that playing just 10 hours of fast-paced video games improved their eyesight. Gaming can also hone reflexes. There are other health advantages cited, too. If you are reading this, chances are you are already a gamer, and not looking for something new to try yourself. But in case you have an aging parent or grandparent or sister or neighbor who might benefit from learning to play, I’ve included a couple of tried and true games you could suggest.
What do the Chinese government, Hezbollah, the Republican Party, and the U.S. Department of Defense have in common? All are using online games as propaganda to recruit sympathizers and/or convey political messages. It’s a new tool for an ancient purpose. And they are succeeding. How else can so-called freedom fighters respond to their so-called oppressors without fear of retaliation? Games are being adapted to achieve ends outside of simple entertainment, and we are just starting to experience the societal consequences.
In multiplayer online games, there are no saved games or “do-overs”. Players need to learn quickly to use the tools of the game in a way that encourages and empowers them. Learning must be quick, because the player is anxious to get into the real game. Here’s how some games have implemented their training support for new players.
Speaking from a user’s standpoint, creative approaches to moving characters from Point A to Point B in multiplayer games are important for the overall gameplay experience. Solving the challenge of how to move characters around the game as they interact with the environment and other players is a critical success factor. Here are some of the many options available and how they’ve played out in MMOGs I know.
GoogleMaps use satellite imagery to enable users to travel the world vicariously and zoom in (in many areas) to the level of their own neighborhood. Landmarks and buildings are shown, creating a fascinating opportunity for game designers to create games that would use GoogleMaps as the basis for the game world. Here are some of the kinds of games that might be created and what might be interesting about them.
In the “some people have too much time on their hands” category…I think we are witnessing the birth of a new art form. Has filmmaking using gaming content and in-game tools ever been done before? Take a look at this brilliant little sepia tint film called Racing the Grimtotem. It recalls silent movies, is scored with haunting music from the film City of the Lost Children, and edited masterfully.
Heads up, game designers and developers. New research says that 47% of players in MMOGs are now women…and it’s increasing. You want women to play your game and stay with it? You need to change a few things for that to happen, including a better range of avatar choices. It will pay off in the long run. You are in this for the long run, aren’t you?
The Game Runner is an exercise treadmill that looks similar to the one you may have gathering dust at home; however, it has been modified to serve as a game controller for first-person shooter games. What a great solution to the lack of exercise and foggy brains many gamers grouse about. Run fast here, go fast there!
MMOG game designers are intrigued by the special dynamics and interactions of players in groups, and have experimented with optimum group sizes, tending toward larger and larger-scale formations for high end game scenarios. Here’s a 20-year review of groups and grouping dynamics in a variety of MMORPGs from my own experience.
Mark Wirt’s excellent presentation at USENIX’05 is a well-rounded behind the screen technical look at what makes MMOGs so challenging to design and operate. Recommended reading. I don’t say that lightly.
Can games teach leadership? The U.S. Army has embraced multiplayer games as a training and leadership assessment tool. Their challenge is to develop leaders who can deal with complex problems. Research supports that multiplayer games are an excellent quantitative assessment method to identify emergent leaders.
I think that alternate reality games (ARGs) could revitalize the Democratic party! A week ago, Democrats came out strongly for a technology strategy supporting new scientific research programs, space, stem cells, innovation, healthcare, etc. Rep. George Miller of California said, “The federal government must make innovation in science and technology its top priority for economic growth.” So far ARGs have been commercial and primarily geared toward young, tech-savvy people…but aren’t those a demographic that both parties are trying to woo and get to the polls? Just imagine if politics were considered “fun” or “cool” and the Democrats were to get the halo effect from that! Here’s why I think it would work.
While some of these are not exactly new ideas, they are still uncommon and represent some of the most interesting new developments and concepts that I’ve seen related to the future of multiplayer gaming. They include virtual trading cards, rentals of streamed games, ARGs, adaptive AI, and P2P MMOGs. Five years from now, MMO gaming will be completely different! Are there other interesting developments I’ve missed?
Why make a “multiplayer” game if you aren’t going to lavish great care and attention on the social dynamics that will make it easy for players to communicate with one another in a meaningful and expressive way? The range of social gestures the game designers give to players actually inspires them to use their imaginations to stretch the limits of the tool and participate with others more creatively. Games are a shell within which player interactions occur, and games that don’t get the social interaction components right fail. Social dynamics trump game concept.
Since the late 1990s, even though games and simulations have been proven to add value to the learning experience, there have not been a lot of breakthroughs in corporate education. But that is changing as game developers start to focus resources on building “serious games” that organizations can use to study play and optimize the real-life processes they model. It’s a natural win-win. Games facilitate improved decision making and are the most insidious type of learning there can be — and game developers have an opportunity to extend their business models.
Research shows that (most) women and men are attracted to different gameplay components. Today as I re-read my previous post, I was interested to see how clearly my dilemma represented the female point of view about games.
A willing suspension of disbelief propelled me head long into a love of roleplaying games (RPGs) more than 25 years ago, and made me an anomaly among my family and friends. Until recently I kept my gaming life and interests meticulously separate from my real world life. Now I want to integrate my gaming hobby and my business sensibilities. What if I become cynical about the business of gaming? Will understanding the mechanics behind the scenes, or getting to know the industry leaders, spoil my innocent enjoyment or be exhilarating? I’m looking for advice!
The fundamental motivation for all game-playing is to learn. Parents throughout history have used games to teach children — the earliest tribal knowledge was passed down through simulations and stories. There are other motivations to play games that have little to do with learning, of course. Some of them are discussed in Part I of this article. Research shows that in multiplayer games, players emote more frequently and with more intensity than those playing on their own. They are more engaged. Still skeptical? Get some of your friends and family members who play multiplayer games to show you the environments they spend time in and explain to you why they like to play. It may change what you think.
Why people play games is one of the most important questions for the gaming industry, and it’s important for any organization that wants to increase collaboration, knowledge sharing, and learning. Games are structured activities that create enjoyable experiences, allow the gamer to be in control of their experience, and receive immediate reward and satisfaction for their accomplishments. But it’s more complex than that.
What makes some games easier for people to play than others? What constitutes the â€œstickyâ€ factor that makes people continue to play even flawed games? Here are some suggestions. Developers: ignore at your peril!
Game developers often fail to obtain enough customer input in the development phases, ignoring just how well the players know and understand the game. Player collaboration in the design process is a key element in a gameâ€™s success, yet which player faction should the developer listen to? Here are six player groups. How can their play styles and needs be reconciled in a way that enables game developers to make good decisions?
In 2003, Marc Prensky wrote an interesting paper in which he used gaming as a metaphor for a digital language understood almost instinctively by the younger generation or “digital natives” who have grown up with computers almost from birth. Games may be the most engaging intellectual pastime we have invented, he said. Yet the older “immigrants” don’t play or understand the language of gaming well, if at all. They tend to distrust the medium. With all the millions of people who play MMOGs today, it’s silly to ignore them as a potential teaching tool.
The concept of “farming” in MMOGs is not new. All games that have a “leveling” component to them require a certain amount of repetitive grinding to get the experience needed to advance your character. Players who appear to be primarily from third world countries have turned gaming into a creative way to supplement their normal (low) family incomes, by selling game currency and items in the real world. While it’s true they often have limited English ability, it doesn’t mean automatically that they are Chinese, yet they are collectively referred to as “Chinese farmers” in a derogatory way. The farmers are laughing all the way to the bank.
I could subtitle this “Or Why My Freaking Staff Cost 400 Gold”. Months ago, when my current favorite MMORPG was new, everyone was friendly. A quiet gnome named Perber sneaked up on us and started buying low and selling high — exerting upward price pressure, and creating a storm of hostility. What a great lesson in economics and human nature!
Established guilds in MMOGs share the features of healthy, mature communities anywhere. These are described by Richard McDermott. What’s often overlooked, especially in gaming communities, is the importance of charismatic leaders.
Why do multiplayer game systems get so much energy from participants, where knowledge worker systems don’t? Here are my notes and thoughts on an interesting session by Steve Barth and (in absentia) his colleague Celia Pearce. Work structures us, but games let us be free to be and do anything. Millions of people are playing MMOGs, and most express strong passion about them. Many gamers put in more than 20 hours per week in virtual worlds. That means there is something of value there, and we can apply this to knowledge management. But how?
As a multiplayer gamer for nearly 20 years, I’m inclined to agree with Ted Castronova that online games are a different animal from what game developers have been successful with in the past. It’s more about governance than game design. Drawing on the parallel to communities of practice (CoPs) in the real life world again, it’s obvious that CoPs in a large organization are a valuable way of organizing a business into villages of people around common interests or knowledge. MMOG gaming worlds mimic the closed worlds of large corporations. Like large Japanese companies in the 20th century–they are self-contained social and cultural worlds. It’s a viable business model.
Today I came across a fine article by Jim Gee called “What Would a State of the Art Instructional Video Game Look Like?” He argues that good commercial video games are designed around a good theory of learning, and can engage deep learning. Games may require players to assume an identify foreign to themselves in order to force a particular type of learning or game experience. They have an important role to play in learning, from childhood to adulthood and even into old age.
When organizations first consider creating thematic interest groups or communities, most make the mistake of treating them like any standard, heirarchical business activity. Surprisingly for them, this standard approach often results in failureâ€”for a lot of reasons. Communities are by nature egalitarian. The members are either experts in the community’s knowledge domain, or aspire to be. In knowledge management, there is a strong parallel to guilds in the gaming world (see this post).
MMOGs are little universes unto themselves, just as large corporations are. When a new game starts, the people who join the game come from a variety of backgrounds, and have little understanding of what the game is about and how they should participate. Very often they join guilds or clans within the game. Guilds are self-regulating and self-managing. They provide both governance and the means to provide players with a sense of belonging to a group where they can be known and make a difference–a dynamic also found in communities of practice.
The ability to customize character interactions with a broad range of behaviors is an aspect of MMOGs that makes them compelling for players. Some interesting work may be starting on the uses of language in gaming and related social interactions. Take a look at Nate Combs’ related blog at TerraNova.
In the real world, non-verbal gestures are a foundation for interpersonal communication. In games, “socials” play a similar role. Socials are a low risk way to initiate a conversation with another player. They are a low investment type of communication that can be ignored or acted upon, depending upon how you feel, what you may already know about the other character, or the role you wish to play with your own character.
“Some are tempted to think of life in cyberspace as insignificant, as escape or meaningless diversion. It is not. Our experiences there are serious play. We belittle them at our risk.” Sherry Turkle, Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, 1995. And here’s another good quote I just found today. “Games [...]
Social network maps are useful predictors of interactions and behaviors. social networking map displayed at PlayOn that maps social dimensions of networks within World of Warcraft at the guild level. The sociotechnical framework of MMOGs definitely provides a rich environment that can be adapted to problem-based learning, and also supports other theories of computer supported collaborative learning.
Iit’s the social interaction among the humans behind the characters that differentiates a MMOG from a box game and makes them so stimulating and “sticky.” MMOGs are business writ small. The dynamics of human behavior are all there. Learning occurs simultaneously in all directions: top down, bottom up, core to periphery, periphery to core. It’s easy to see how a MMOG could provide a structured, yet creative, environment for education and participatory learning experiences–the kind educators tell us are critical for effective and lasting adult learning.
Research tells us that 70% of North American adults have tried multiplayer gaming. If you haven’t, here’s what you would expect when you first set up your account and log into the game. Game designers today normally provide a narrative backstory that gives the game design a context. They offer quests, puzzles, or tasks for the players to accomplish. But it’s the ability to interact with other players inside the game that makes the experience surprising, interesting and extraordinary.
Today I was reading some reviews on Amazon.com of Steve Johnson’s excellent and interesting book, Everything Bad is Good For You. One of the reviewers gave a thoughtful assessment of the book that lines right up with my own beliefs about the value of gaming and how today’s MMOGs stimulate learning in ways that two generations ago (maybe even one!) were impossible.
What excites me about the confluence of gaming, learning and knowledge management is its potential to reignite the enthusiasm of workers and open their eyes to a new way of interacting as they work toward shared goals. What I discovered from the interest shown at the KM World conference was that business executives are interested now. More than interested — excited and even hopeful that a more game-like approach will increase the effectiveness of and participation in KM and learning systems.
As is true in communities of practice, multiplayer online game members do not start off with social rules or agendas programmed into the software. An environment for interaction is created, there are rules for interacting correctly with the system, and there is a stated purpose for being there. There are no rules of leadership, so leaders emerge on the basis of their actions and knowledge. Both KM systems and game environments are complex social systems where unexpected events can happen and previously unknown people can rise up to be leaders. There is an opportunity for gaming to influence KM systems once the complex social interactions of online multiplayer gaming become more widely understood.
Torill Elvira Mortensen wrote that multiplayer games are “secluded, exclusive arenas of play, which represent themselves as places rather than non-places. They demand the same manner of identification as crossing the borders of countries – they ask for a name and a password – identification unique to the player. ” All this security around identity gives members of the gaming community confidence that the people they think they are interacting with are, indeed, the people they think. It makes characters/players accountable for their actions, and ensures they receive the rewards or blame incurred by their styles of participation. The parallel with knowledge management systems is obvious.
Today’s session on Collaborative Learning & Games hosted by Steve Barth was one of the best sessions of the conference so far. Yes, it does dovetail with my own personal interests, but it was obvious from the participation of the audience- and that we all stayed over for more than 10 minutes–that the topic struck a chord beyond just me.
For adults who have never played multiplayer online games (especially role-playing games or RPGs), it can be baffling when co-workers, neighbors or otherwise “respectable” adults confess to having an alter-ego named Hawkslayer or Aeria who is a night elf priest or hunter with a play date to go finish a quest for a rare dagger. It can be even more baffling to discover that 70% of the female characters in the game are actually played by males. And that the average gamer is an 18-year-old male when you are a mature female (cough) years older than them! MMOGs today are highly sophisticated worlds containing a microcosm of human nature, and as a result, they are fascinating to observe (and to play).