in Gaming, General, Libraries/Info Sci

Gaming in Libraries 2005 – The Gaming Generation & Libraries: Intersections – Constance A. Steinkuehler

When: Monday, December 05 2005 01:00 PM
Where: American Dental Association, Chicago
More Information:
My Role: Attendee
‘games’ tends to conjure up pac-man or first person shooters. She’s going to talk about another genre which is getting more and more popular press: Massisvely Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs).

What are they?
-Highly graphical 2 or 3-D games
-Online social interaction
-Persistent virtual worlds
-Real-time, perpetually accessible
-Loosely structured by open-ended (fantasy) narratives, but…
-Players free to do as they please
-“Escapist fantasy” yet emergent “social realism” (Kolbert, 2001)

Lineage II is set in a medieval time period. “In three years of playing this game I have learned more about military strategy than I have ever wanted to” and “you wouldn’t beleive how much time you spend in meetings online”.

Why bother with these?
Socially Significant – Literally many millions of players are taking part. One year ago there were six million (the size of Chicago and LA combined), and that number has risen astronomically since.
Economically Significant – Full in-game economies have developed, complete with things like inflation. Players often sell in-game items on Ebay for real money. As a result, exchange rates can be developed. The world of the game Everquest II is actually the 77th largest national economy in the world. When this data was gathered a year ago, Its currency was trading higher than the Yen and Lira.
Intellectually significant – Collaborative problem solving, social networks, etc. Like in real life, cross-functional teams develop. The fantasy space looks more and more like ‘Fast Capitalism’.

The literacy scare – “The collapse of literacy and the rise of violence in the electronic age”
The media loves to write scare headlines like this. In fact, these games are literacy-intensive.
-In-game talk: The abbreviations of netspeak are frightening at first. In these games it is a functional requirement of needing to communicate as much information as possible in a few key presses.
-‘Orally’ delivered narratives of in-game events are told between players
-In-game letters are sent between characters
-Success in the game requires use of outside technologies (web browser, research, voice communication, etc.)
-If you ask players in the game about their info-seeking behaviors, they point out that the fan-generated resources and compendiums online are the most useful.
-Fan-run wikis, discussion boards, personal game blogs, and massive clan sites emerge
-Fan fiction: Players write (often at very high levels) stories taking place in the game world. The best develop followings.
-High school players say they like to create multi-month writing projects(!)
-“Whatever you want to call it – just keep doing it!”

Games are not replacing literacy activities. They are literacy activities.

What about quality?
Some (admittedly not all) literacy practices meet and exceed national standards.

Society has both a fear of new technology and a fear of youth culture. It is a fear of what kids are doing, not whether or how well they’re doing it.

How do players gain the skills to run high-level game activities?
Apprenticeship and learning from more experienced players. Many classic educational theories are reflected in these interactions, even when the ‘teachers’ have no formal training. Not just skills, but values are passed on.

A true meritocracy – Most of the time, personal appearance in real life plays no role whatsoever. One powerful leader in Lineage II was in real life an illegal immigrant who was waiting to apply for American citizenship. Imagine the power of letting kids play out what they can’t be in real life.

Awareness of different ‘games’
-Multitasking across multiple ‘attentional spaces’ (school, work, online, etc)

Primacy of the subjective
-McLuhan: “searching not for goals but for roles, a striving for an identity that eludes.”
-As employees, give gamers a role they can powerfully inhabit.

Why should libraries care about videogames? (I missed some of these, she went fast)
-Intellectually rich environments
-Collaborative problem solving
-Literacy practices (compare to libraries)
-Enculturation into practices & perspectives

Science & Art
-Some players spend all their time coding modifications to game code, for free, that thousands use.
-Others spend hours creating movies using the in-game visuals. Some are viewed by hundreds of thousands of players.

These games are developing into the “third places” where social networks form. Libraries also fill this role.

She had to skip over a lot of slides at the end due to lack of time. I can tell Constance is really into this topic area and knows her stuff.

Games, Learning & Society Conference – June 15-16 in Madison, Wisconsin.