SV: SV: [xmca] Test (and some play and games)

From: Patrik Bergman (
Date: Mon Feb 13 2006 - 00:28:26 PST


Thank you for the links to the archives Ana.

So far I have been involved in creating a prototype for a game that should
help adolescents to collaboratively discuss their values regarding the use
of animals in pharmaceutical research and related questions. I took on the
project because it sounded so interesting, but so far it has been very hard
to do all on my own. The subject is so broad and I still wonder how it
should be expressed and evaluated in a game (even though we already have a

Meantime, I can understand why I have experienced so many difficulties: The
academic research on games and learning is still very young. Some recent
dissertations (such as,, and have started to
explore the educational potential in commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) games.
The two first ones look at the history games Europa Universalis II and
Civilization III, while the last one looks at the online game Lineage II.

The use of COTS games in classrooms is a growing trend, but even though
there are positive stories, many experience problems with the games not
being adjusted to the school curriculum, that they are far too complex, that
the teachers do no know how to evaluate or use the games, etc. Meantime,
more and more researchers are getting involved in the research field, which
will lead to more dissertations the coming years.

While we are evaluating the work put into the ethics game prototype, I am
(like so many others) involved in playing multi-player online games (mmogs),
and especially World of Warcraft. With my interest and knowledge in games
research and sociocultural theory, I spontaneously find connections between
theory and practice whenever I play together with my guild (a formal
gathering of players assisting each other). And the questions you asked
Steve are still very open ones, although some researchers have started to
find answers in relation to online games. However, the connection to
sociocultural theory as a framework to describe human development and
learning is still used far too little in this area, and I really think it
can be useful.

Engaging in a guild (offline and online) is, as several of you already know,
a very mixed and complex experience. Some researchers, like Steinkuehler
above, have started relating to authors like Lave/Wenger to describe how you
go from being a legitimate but peripheral player to being a more central
one. Meantime, my personal experience is that mmogs do not work that way in
a strict sense, i.e. being built so that the "masters" of the game have
learned everything after x amount of hours and are at the centre of the
knowledge structure, and that the newbies struggle towards this centre. As
soon as people join a mmog or a guild, contradictions occur, which in
themselves re-form the social activity and structure. For sure, a level 55
player can teach a level 8 player many things about the game world and its
rules. Meantime, the different roles, skills and races among the avatars,
and the difference in personalities and experiences in the players behind
the avatars will constantly change the structure of the group and the play.

Some academics have argued that a mmog cannot be defined as being a "game"
(and neither can simulation games like Sims) because the lack what many
consider being the necessary condition of achieving an end-state. In many
games, you fight a final boss, leave for a last mission, etc., but in mmogs
these final tasks are not there. The game world is constantly shifting, as
is the players involved in playing. However, I think there is no doubt that
people are playing in these games/social spaces, even if some things can be
rather mundane (such as raising your avatar's abilities (levelling) alone
just to catch up with the rest of the group).

In other words, this is still a very open field that needs to be explored
further and I look forward to hearing from you all.


-----Ursprungligt meddelande-----
Från: [] För
steve thorne
Skickat: den 8 februari 2006 21:57
Till: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Ämne: Re: SV: [xmca] Test (and some play and games)

hi Patrick (and all) -- welcome. just a few quick
questions/thoughts -- and you may be the ideal
person to field them!

i'm curious -- what sorts of gaming environments
might you be working on? for instance, do you
look at massive multiplayer online games (MMOGS)?
like earlier virtual environments and role
playing games (MOOs and Muds for example), these
newer spaces are quite interesting and dynamic.
and immense. many are international and
multilingual. some have internal economies that
interface with hard currency capital on the
outside (for instance, Worlds of War).

so, the question i'm wondering about is -- what's
going on in these spaces? is it "play" or
something else? researchers of
internet-mediated/enabled environments have
problematized rigid distinctions between on and
off-line social ontologies for a decade now.
conceptions of human activity as play or not play
is similarly a tricky taxonomy.

i'd welcome any insights or references you (or
others) might have regarding any of the above.



>Since I am completely new to the list, I have probably missed all the
>interesting discussions on the role of play and games for the development
>our minds and souls, but if someone here has any great insight they are
>willing to share, I am all ears.
>What I have found somewhat confusing/lacking is that most theorists talk
>only about the role of play when we are kids (in relation to zpd, etc.),
>what I wonder is what happens to play and games when we are grown ups. I
>truly believe play and games can have a substantial role in the lives of
>people today. As the highly materialistic and modernized world (or
>post-modern, post-post modern, etc.) asks a higher price of us for each
>year, more and more people play online games. Is this only to flee the
>thought that life is a veil of tears and nothing more, or is there also
>something else to it? Something more substantial, something that actually
>contributes to the lives of adult humans today?
>As stated, it might be that I have missed all the wonderful writings on the
>role of play and games in adult's lives from a sociocultural viewpoint, and
>then I am sorry for this. Otherwise, it would be interesting to hear what
>you have to say.
>Patrik Bergman
>PhD student in games and education
>-----Ursprungligt meddelande-----
>Från: [] För
>Michael Erickson
>Skickat: den 8 februari 2006 15:24
>Till: Xmca'ers
>Ämne: [xmca] Test
>Either it's been very quiet, or I've been bumped off the list.
>xmca mailing list
>xmca mailing list

Steven L. Thorne
Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics
Linguistics and Applied Language Studies
Associate Director, Center for Language Acquisition
Associate Director, Center for Advanced Language 
Proficiency Education and Research
The Pennsylvania State University
Interact > 814.863.7036 | | | IM: avkrook
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