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Player Characters as Devices for Supporting Learning in Massively Multiplayer Online Games

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  • 1. 1/16Player Characters & Learning in MMOGsFDG 2013, G4L Workshop 16/5/2013Player Charactersas Devices for Supporting Learningin Massively Multiplayer Online GamesIro Voulgariavoulgari@upatras.grVassilis Komiskomis@upatras.grDepartment of Educational Sciences& Early Childhood EducationUniversity of Patras, Greece
  • 2. 2/16Player Characters & Learning in MMOGsFDG 2013, G4L Workshop 16/5/2013MMOGs Player Character• MMOGs and Learning: game rules and mechanics,strategies, interpersonal, communication and collaborationskills• Player Character = Representation of player in virtualenvironment mediate interactions with virtual world and with others• Objective: Discuss the role of the player characters forsupporting learning• Transfer to the design of learning environments?
  • 3. 3/16Player Characters & Learning in MMOGsFDG 2013, G4L Workshop 16/5/2013Research Methodology• Mixed method research– Qualitative• interviews• expert players (N=27), various MMOGs– Quantitative• online survey Q12 “Why did you select that particular character (your maincharacter)? (select all that apply)” (Ν=240) Q13 “Do you have any other alternative characters (alts) in the game,and if yes, why did you create them? (select all that apply)” (Ν=208) multiple choice-multiple response• various MMOGs, >18y
  • 4. 4/16Player Characters & Learning in MMOGsFDG 2013, G4L Workshop 16/5/2013Theoretical Framework• Cognitive Support & Social Support & Affective Aspectof learning environments– Increase the efficiency of learning processes– Engagement with learning content– Positive impact on learning outcomes• (Boekaerts, 2001; Volet, 2001; Dillenbourg, Järvelä, and Fischer, 2009;Anderson et al., 2000; Sfard, 1998; Lave & Wenger, 1991; …)
  • 5. 5/16Player Characters & Learning in MMOGsFDG 2013, G4L Workshop 16/5/2013Player Characters and the CognitiveDimension• Content Exploration– different virtual characters - different gaming experience– access to different aspects of the game– characters as tools for exploring the content of the game• “[in Lineage] I knew that at some point I would have to cope withother characters, so I wanted to have a more global view of theirplaying style, their skills, and the strategies needed for confrontingthem. [...] I have also created an Orc character, a warrior, so as tolearn the skills they have, to see the playing style [...] I have alsocreated a Mage, so as to see their aspect of the game as well”• “[I created a second character] To increase the complexity of thegame”
  • 6. 6/16Player Characters & Learning in MMOGsFDG 2013, G4L Workshop 16/5/2013Player Characters and the CognitiveDimension• Progress and Support– "alts" to facilitate and reinforce progress– to support the group• “I needed a Dwarf [because] I needed to craft stuff, and the clan alsoneeded a crafter [...] so when I joined the clan I decided to create aDwarf”• “I created the Crafter character for the money [income]. [for] thesame [reason] I created the Spoiler; again for the money. For theProphet, I created him because you simply can’t level up without aProphet”• “[the character I created] was essential for my group”
  • 7. 7/16Player Characters & Learning in MMOGsFDG 2013, G4L Workshop 16/5/2013Player Characters and the CognitiveDimension• Immersion into the Narrative– narrative: backdrop for the progress– opportunities for thinking, assessing, researching, supportsa consistent and meaningful framework for the actions andtasks of the learners, situated understanding of the context– virtual characters: integral part of story and narrative,immersion in the narrative and story• “[the races] correspond to the four main tendencies of our modern [real-world]society, the global society. There is a theocratic race, a capitalist race, a race ofex-slaves, and a democratic race. The opponents of the ex-slaves are thetheocrats, and the opponents of the capitalists are the democrats” (EVEOnlineplayer, no v. characters but background story)
  • 8. 8/16Player Characters & Learning in MMOGsFDG 2013, G4L Workshop 16/5/2013Player Characters and the SocialDimension• Promoting Collaborative Interactions– complementary virtual characters, need each-other forresources, completing quests– collaboration• “Me and my team, we selected our characters together, after somediscussion and having as our main aim the best possible roledistribution in our team. So I took up the task of creating a warrior.The choice of the race was up to my personal aesthetic criteria.”• “[the different characters] close the circle of the game; theeconomic circle of the game. Someone will be a better miner, and sohe/she will work with the minerals and supply to the market. Theconstructor will buy the minerals and, since his/her constructionskills are better, he/she will produce more ships with less minerals”
  • 9. 9/16Player Characters & Learning in MMOGsFDG 2013, G4L Workshop 16/5/2013Player Characters and the AffectiveDimension• Selecting Playing Style– different game characters: different play styles, differentgaming experience– players select based on preferences, motivations, goals, andexpectations• “Based on the descriptions I had read and comments from other players, I decided Ilike that specific character type, the Kamael, the most, because it is designed to act inthe context of massive PVP and create chaos; it uses debuffs for disarming theopponents, leave them stunned, that is in a condition where they can’t attack for afew seconds. And that is what drew me to this specific character type”• “[My player character] is a long range combat character type. It doesn’t have to beclose to the monster. Short range combat frustrates me. It frightens me. I’m afraidthat the monster may kill me, because when you get killed you lose your XP[experience points]”
  • 10. 10/16Player Characters & Learning in MMOGsFDG 2013, G4L Workshop 16/5/2013Player Characters and the AffectiveDimension• Expression of Player Personality and Ideology– identification of aspects of virtual character story,personality, appearance, behavior, with aspects ofpersonality and ideology of player• "[my player character] is my opposite, my alter ego”• “[...] and certainly, due to my own personality and ideology, I selected ademocratic character” (EVEOnline player, no v. characters but backgroundstory)• “[I selected a healer player character because] I like helping other people”• “I like Dwarfs because they express a way of life different than mine”• "If someone wants to play the bad guy, he/she will select an Orc or a DarkElf”
  • 11. 11/16Player Characters & Learning in MMOGsFDG 2013, G4L Workshop 16/5/2013Player Characters and the AffectiveDimension• Emotional Bonding– reported emotional bonding with virtual character– time invested for progressing and personalizing– animations, appearance, name• “If you give a name to the character, you feel a bond with it. It’s likea pet. You take it home and it never leaves you”• “You create it, you love your character, you feel proud for it, youdress him/her, very simple apparel in the beginning, and then moreelaborate. You take screenshots and you see how he/she was at level10, and then at level 20, and 30, and you say ‘look how he/she was!’This is more or less how it goes”
  • 12. 12/16Player Characters & Learning in MMOGsFDG 2013, G4L Workshop 16/5/2013Player Characters and the AffectiveDimension• Appearance and Aesthetic Appeal– external representation, appearance of the v. character– element for reinforcing connection with player– players reported selecting v. character corresponding totheir aesthetic appeal• “[I selected] a Monk because I like martial arts, and a femalebecause some gear and some movements don’t show that well onmale models”• “For the race I have selected (undead), I was mainly based to myaesthetic criteria; it was the only race available that I liked”
  • 13. 13/16Player Characters & Learning in MMOGsFDG 2013, G4L Workshop 16/5/2013Criteria for the selection of the mainplayer characterQ12 “Why did you select that particular character (your main character)? (select allthat apply)” (N=240)
  • 14. 14/16Player Characters & Learning in MMOGsFDG 2013, G4L Workshop 16/5/2013Criteria for the selection of the secondaryplayer characters (alts)Q13 “Do you have any other alternative characters (alts) in the game, and if yes,why did you create them? (select all that apply)” (N=208)
  • 15. 15/16Player Characters & Learning in MMOGsFDG 2013, G4L Workshop 16/5/2013Conclusions• Identified patterns based on data, mapped in a learning framework• Player Characters = dynamic, multidimensional devices– Motivation, engagement, empathy, interactions with others• Powerful tool for constructing an effective and motivating learning experiencewithin a virtual environment
  • 16. 16/16Player Characters & Learning in MMOGsFDG 2013, G4L Workshop 16/5/2013Thank you!Iro Voulgari Vassilis Komisavoulgari@upatras.gr komis@upatras.grDepartment of Educational Sciencesin Early Childhood EducationUniversity of Patras