Learning, Motivation, Play and the X Box Generation

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Presentation prepared for talk at London Knowledge Lab (2004) entitled: Learning, Motivation and play and the X Box Generation. The talk discusses an ethnographic study of a gaming sulcuture that evolved around Halo Death Matches in a student house. Hoping to put a voice over on this sometime soon. But in the meantime I hope someone enjoys it.

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Learning, Motivation, Play and the X Box Generation

  1. 1. Learning, Motivation, Play and the X Box Generation: An investigation into the educational potential of collaborative computer games Russell Francis Oxford University Department of Education© Russell Francis (creative commons – attribution – non commercial - share alike) 1
  2. 2. Video games as learning environmentsI have long been struck by the power of the computer games to mesmerise, to hold theattention of otherwise restless children for hours and even days. I have watched otherwiseunruly children focus, study, collaborate, and problem solve. They read hint books, savecheckpoints, the better to be able to try „what if‟ scenarios. They consult, they create, theysolve. They do all the activities we wish them to do in pursuit of an education. What ashame that what is being learned is so trivial, so worthless.Now imagine a time when we transform education. When we can craft educationalproblems as cleverly as the game creators create theirs, allowing students to delve in thecomplexity of topics as deeply and as thoroughly as they delve into the games. Excite themto dive into the task, voluntarily working hard to learn the skills necessary to succeed. Onlythis time, the skills learned will be the ones necessary to be successful, well educatedcitizens of society: mathematics, history, writing, science, art and so on (Norman, 2003) 2
  3. 3. Literature overview 3
  4. 4. Selected works Joystick Nation (Herz, 1997) Life of Screen: Identity in the age of the Internet. (Turkle, 1997). An American Otaku (or a boy‟s virtual life on the net) (Tobin, 1998) Literacy, English and Computer Games, (Beavis, 1999). Trigger Happy (Poole, 2000) Report on the Educational use of Computer Games (McFarlane et al, 2002) Video Game Theory Reader (Wolf, 2003) What Video Games have to Teach us about Learning and Literacy. (Gee, 2003) Replaying History: Learning World History through Playing Civillisation III (Squires, 2004) BECTA Computer Games in Education Report (Dawes & Dumbleton, 2004) „Learning in Massively Multiplayer Online Games‟ (Steinkuehler, 2004) 4
  5. 5. Researching Games: Emergent Traditions  Psychological experiments in laboratory settings (Dempsey, 2002)  Case studies of COTS in the classroom (McFarlane et al, 2002; Squire, 2004; Kirriemuir, ???  Media / Cultural / New Literacy Studies. (Beavis, 1999; Poole,2000; Carr,? Gee, 2003)  Pure Games theory or design perspective ((Wolf, 2003)  Virtual ethnographies in MUDS and MMORPG‟s (Turkle 1997; Steinkuehler, 2004) 5Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0
  6. 6. A gap in the literature?  Few studies explore how gaming as a social activity, fits into peoples everyday life. Exceptions:  Identity in the Age of the Internet. (Turkle, 1988)  An American Ottaku: of a boy‟s virtual life on the net. (Tobin,1988)  Few ethnographic studies game play in domestic contexts  No ethnographic studies of collaborative game play in the home?  Xbox study aimed to make a small step towards compensating for this gap in the literature 6Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0
  7. 7. The Game 7
  8. 8. Halo: combat evolved Real time strategy combat simulation First person shooter in tradition of Castle Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake Product designed to spearhead Microsoft‟s bid to penetrate lucrative gaming market previously dominated by Sega, Nintendo and Sony Game has achieved unprecedented commercial success Single Player set on mysterious ring world inhabited by aliens.  Original characters and storyline (i.e. no copyright issues) Allows screen to be split into four individualised screens to support multiplayer death matches 8 Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0
  9. 9. Halo: combat evolved Game has achieved unprecedented commercial success. First person shooter in tradition of Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake. Real time strategy combat simulation. Product designed to spearhead Microsoft‟s bid to penetrate lucrative gaming market previously dominated by Sega, Nintendo and Sony. Single Player set on mysterious ring world inhabited by aliens.  Original characters and storyline. Allows screen to be split into 4 individualised screens to support multiplayer death matches. 9 Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0
  10. 10. The Game Play ExperienceClip from Red vs Blue Machinema Halo Fans site 10
  11. 11. Research Strategy 11
  12. 12. The Cultural Practice of Halo: socio-cultural approach  Case study of affinity group playing Halo: Combat Evolved situated in the „ecology‟ of a student house.  Method and analysis informed by sociocultural and activity theory.  Vygotsky (1978); Cole, (1996); Lave and Wenger (1991, 1996), Engeström (1987)  Multiple qualitative methods used to explore  Naturally occurring real world practices / activities  Triangulation of data from multiple sources  Reactive effects are treated as an interesting source of data in their own right 12Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0
  13. 13. The Halo Affinity GroupScreen Age Gender Subject of StudyNameYas 21 M MedicineBond 21 M MedicineTop Cat 30 M Statistical MethodsBurger 28 M BiologyThe Nish 24 M GeneticsThe Dane 26 F SociologyGinger 24 F Social PolicyTB7 21 F MedicineDeath 24 M Theoretical Physics Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0 13
  14. 14. The domestic scene Game Pads Chairs Stair Rail XB TV V Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0 14
  15. 15. Data Collection Methods  Full Immersive Participation  Participant observation  Focus group discussion  Semi structured interview  Video taped recordings 15Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0
  16. 16. Conceptual tools used as heuristics in analysis Zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1978) Legitimate Peripheral Participation (Lave & Wenger, 1991) Expansive Learning (Engeström, 1987, 1996, 1999) Second Selves (Turkle,1998) Psychosocial-moratoriums (Erikson, 1963, Turkle, 1998) Multimodal Literacies (Kress, 2003) Infomating vs Automating (Zuboff, 1988) Multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1993) Flow: (Csikszentmihaly, 1990) Amplification of Input (Poole,2000) Affinity Group Principle (Gee, 2003) 16
  17. 17. Halo Death Match as Psycho-Social Moratorium 17
  18. 18. Conceptual tools used as heuristics in analysis Psycho-social moratoriums are places where learners can take risk in spaces where real world consequences are lowered. Concept develop by Erik Ericson (Childhood and Society, 1963) in the 1950 in his attempt to understand adolescence culture Much associated with ideas of what the college years were all about Today the idea of college as time out seems remote “If adolescence no longer offers an adolescent moratorium than virtual communities do. They offer permission to play, to try things out. This is part of what makes them attractive “ (Turkle, 1998, p.204) 18 Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0
  19. 19. Formation of sub-cultural affinity group Screen names used in every day life Broke down barriers with group Halo related jokes, humour, stories & banter Players reputations depended on creativity and inventiveness demonstrated in sub-cultural practice Players start to perceive and value each other for distinctive talents and skills demonstrated within the gaming culture 19Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0 Share Alike 3.0 Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical,
  20. 20. In practice The practice of playing halo started to break down cultural barriers among group Creation of a psycho-social moratorium (Erikson, 1963 Turkle, 1998) This facilitated the formation of sub-cultural affinity group  Screen names started to be used in every day life  Halo related jokes, humour, stories & banter. Players start to perceive and value each other for distinctive talents and skills demonstrated within the gaming culture Participants identities within this moratorium depended on creativity and inventiveness demonstrated through sub-cultural practice Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0 20
  21. 21. “He‟s so creative, he always seems to have the new strategies before everyone else. Its like his suicide tactic where he threw grenades – I know he doesn‟t do that anymore because he doesn‟t really need to, but he was probably the first to do that, and the slipstream thing and probably the pistols as well. Also, one thing that came through Nas, he seems to attach an awful lot of importance to monitoring, constantly flicking backwards and forwards seeing what everyone else is doing. So he‟s aware of what his opponents are up to” Death, 2003 21Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0
  22. 22. Collaboration & Specialisation 22
  23. 23. Collaboration & Specialisation Single player game involves search for optimal strategy Open ended Multi-player game allows for creative experimentation. Players tended to specialise in weapon / role  Nas as fort defender.  TC as Driver  The Nish as a Runner  Burger Covers the middle ground.  Bond as rocket launcher expert  Research as sniper Game play constantly evolved driven by search for most efficient strategies and tactics Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0 23
  24. 24. Collaboration & Specialisation Did different roles suit different cognitive profiles? Gardner‟s (1993) Multiple Intelligence Theory  Twitch Speed of Death Match in Chill out suited Nas logical deductive and multi-tasking skills  The Nish preferred collaborative game were he could team up with someone who had the skills he didn‟t have  Burger‟s interpersonal / intrapersonal skills made him everyone‟s preferred partner in „Capture the flag‟ 24 Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0
  25. 25. Creativity, Flow and Playful Experimentation 25
  26. 26. Creativity, Flow and Playful Experimentation Dynamics of collaborative contest compelled one to experiment and innovative (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996) Innovate and adapt to the prevailing dynamics or die! Single player games involved search for optimal strategy Multi-player games evolved in evolutionary expansive cycles (Engeström, 1987) Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0 26
  27. 27. Creativity, Flow and Playful Experimentation Open ended nature of the game a major appeal Bond talks of „three degrees of freedom‟ that allows you to do „most things you can imaging doing in the real world‟ Players experiment and discover new strategies  Burger discovered the head shot  Bond delights in “coshing” with rifle butt  Nas discovers „slip streaming‟ Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0 27
  28. 28. Creativity, Flow and Playful Experimentation Lev Vygotsky (1978) Csikszentmihaly (1990?) ‘In flow, we feel that our abilities are well “a child‟s greatest self control occurs in matched to the opportunities for action. In play‟ everyday life we sometimes feel that the challenges are too high in relation to our “Play creates a Zone of Proximal skills, and then we feel frustrated and anxious. Or development of the child… Play contains we feel that our potential is greater than the all the developmental tendencies in a opportunities to express it, and then we feel bored condensed form and is it self a major .... In a really enjoyable game, the player is source of development‟‟ balanced on the fine line between boredom and anxiety. The same is true of when work, or a But no play without rules! conversation, or a relationship is going well’. Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0 28
  29. 29. Exotelic Motivators in single Results of death match displayed in carnage reportplayer game “Killing spree” audio complement for three successive kills Kill toll notched up on screen during game-play Actions determine how the story unfolds Rich audio-visual experience Amplification of input Immediacy of feedback provided Presence of a real audience Maintaining a reputation within affinity group Discovering new capabilities Autotelic motivators Innovating new strategies in collaborative game Opportunities for experimentation and creative expression 29 Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0
  30. 30. Game play as performanceand the role of the audience 30
  31. 31. Game play as performance and the role of the audience The presence of a real audience played a significant role in appeal of collaborative game. Central players were keenly aware of their reputation and position with hierarchy Challenge matches  Nas the Emperor Collaborative contests become spectator sport.  After the pub sessions Marginal and non-players supporting a particular team Multiplayer games had distinct and memorable narratives Burger comments:  I wish we could have got some of the great games on video Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0 31
  32. 32. 32
  33. 33. Xbox.com: What makes the site work? I think it turned into a kickass fan site because it stuck around. When you’re there from the beginning, and you add new content every day, folks tend to come back. Xbox.com: What has been the most rewarding aspect of running the site? The most rewarding part is the interaction with the fans. It’s amazing to watch what folks can do when challenged. We’ve had several contests that required more effort than just filling out a form, and the response was astounding. The Pillar of Art contest is a prime example. We challenged fans to create traditional media art and provided just enough cash to make it worth their while to mail the stuff to us, and we ended up with an incredible collection of material. We display it every now and then, whenever there’s a good opportunity. Xbox.com: What’s the most challenging aspect of running the site? That has to be the maintenance. Part of it is expectations—we provide new content almost every day, and we’ve been doing that for five years. Our staff hasn’t grown much, while the volume of submissions for the various fan creation sections increases weekly. Xbox.com: Tell us about the evolution of the fan creation sections. In 1999, we received no fan fiction, maybe two miscellaneous art submissions every week, and the odd PC wallpaper now and then. Today, we receive dozens of each of these things every week plus movies, flash games, and comics. Staying on top of it all, while maintaining a full-time job and having a family—I’m married and I have three kids—is not trivial! Xbox.com: And when do you sleep? Tuesdays, from 10:30 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. Xbox.com: Seriously? Of course not! I sleep on Thursdays, too.Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0 33
  34. 34. Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0 34
  35. 35. In the middle of the battle a Red emerges from the blue fort carrying a blue flag. Thecharacter stands in front of the combatants and in a high pitched juvenile voiceaddresses the fighters.Red: Stop fighting everyone, stop fighting...(The combatants stop fighting)Red: Everyone, everyone, Look unto me, I possess the blue flag!I have seen the top of the mountain and you shall worship me as though I were aGod.(three blues run up and cosh red over the back of the head)Red: (dying on the ground) I regret nothing, I lived as few people dare to dreamCut to shot of soldiers standing around, looking confused, not knowing what to do.Then they start fighting again. 35 Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0
  36. 36. Can this study inform the educational games debate? Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0 36
  37. 37. Games evolving in ideal learning environments?  „If you think about it, you see a Dawinian sort of thing going on here. If a game for whatever reason, has good principles of learning built into it‟s design – that is, if it facilitates learning in good ways – then it gets played and can sell copies, if it is otherwise good as well. Other games can build on these principles and, perhaps, do them one step better. If a game has poor learning principles built into its design, then it won‟t get learned or played and won‟t sell well. Its designers will seek to work elsewhere. In the end, then video games represent a process, thanks to what Marx calls the “creativity of Capitalism,” that leads to better and better designs for good learning and indeed, good learning of hard and challenging thing‟ (Gee, 2003, p.6) 37Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0
  38. 38. A cynical alternative Gee (2003) gives learning the pride of place it does deserve Games evolving into every more effective psycho-social moratoriums! Spaces that give free reign to anarchic play – an escape from routine Games allow players play in fantasy worlds Work is not play.! When a teacher instructs a child to play a game, does it remain play? Most of the knowledge and skills learn remain implicit, little evidence of serious critical reflection – except in interview – but that entails external stimulus – like a teacher! Therefore, isn‟t the notion of an educational game a contradiction in terms? 38
  39. 39. Harnessing subversive creativity in the service of education Immersive experience of game play can inspire a high level of creative production. Therefore why not:  Allow children to make their own games?  Potentially time consuming and difficult  Provide children with tools that amplify their creative skills and allow them to broadcast work to a real audience  Build collaborative and creative activities around commercially available games  See Tim Rylands‟ work with Myst Riven at Chewmanga Primary school)  Allow pupils to make machinema movies based on games that explore a particular issue and form the basis of a teacher led discussion  See forthcoming work on Revolution 39 Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0
  40. 40. Machinema Diaries: Revolution Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commerical, Share Alike 3.0 40
  41. 41. To be continued… Contact: russfrancis99@gmail.com Website: http://russfrancis99.wordpress.com/ Academia.edu http://gu-se.academia.edu/RussellFrancis 41

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