Digital Detritus: What Can We Learn From Abandoned Massively Multiplayer Online Game Avatars?

Bergstrom Kelly de Castell Suzanne Jenson Jennifer
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) player data has been used to investigate a variety of questions, ranging from the sociality of small groups, to patterns of economic decision making modeled across entire game servers. To date, MMOG player research has primarily drawn on data (e.g. server-side logs, observational data) collected while players (and their avatars) were actively participating in the gameworld under investigation. MMOGs are persistent worlds where avatars are held in stasis when the player logs out of the game, and this is a feature that allows players to return after an extended absence to “pick up where they left off”. In this paper we explore the sorts of information that can be gleaned by examining avatars after their creators have played them for the last time. Our preliminary findings are that “abandoned” avatars still contain a wealth of information about the people who created them, opening up new possibilities for the study of players and decision making in MMOGs.


Gender in Play: Mapping a Girls’ Gaming Club

Taylor Nicholas Jenson Jennifer de Castell Suzanne
2007 DiGRA '07 - Proceedings of the 2007 DiGRA International Conference: Situated Play

To better understand boys’ privilege and girls’ educational disadvantage with regard to video games, this presentation aims to challenge the ways girl gamers are rendered invisible by gaming communities, researchers, and designers. Drawing from audiovisual research of a girls’ gaming club at an elementary school in Toronto, this paper explores the micro-interactions of a gaming session between five girls which is interrupted when two boys enter the scene and try to hijack their play. Using the MAP (Multimodal Application Program, developed by Suzanne de Castell and Jennifer Jenson) tool to visually chart and analyze the co-ordinated reactions of the girls as they put down their controllers and hold their bodies immobile during the boys’ disruption, this paper explores the tenuous relationship to video games these girls enjoy, even within a space ostensibly devoted to their play.


Digital Games for Education: When Meanings Play

de Castell Suzanne Jenson Jennifer Taylor Nicholas
2007 DiGRA '07 - Proceedings of the 2007 DiGRA International Conference: Situated Play

This paper documents the development of an educationally focused web-based game, Contagion, detailing how such a practical development project has led us to re-theorize questions about what is "educational," and how and in what ways that relates to the ludic. With reference to and within the framework of design-based research, we detail here the challenges we encountered designing this "alternative" game, and how we came to see content, not simply as "what the game is about" but as essentially tied to and enacted through all aspects of the game. We argue that content, that is educationally valuable knowledge, is infused through all relational aspects of the game as the player's activities accomplishments: character selection, art, narrative, programming, goals, game structures and play. Each of these aspects and challenges of game-design are explored in an effort to show how knowledge is constructed through these inter-related elements, and to further understand how and why that might matter to future game development projects.


Her own Boss: Gender and the Pursuit of Incompetent Play

Jenson Jennifer de Castell Suzanne
2005 DiGRA '05 - Proceedings of the 2005 DiGRA International Conference: Changing Views: Worlds in Play

This paper examines gender and computer game playing, in particular questions of identity, access and playful engagement with these technologies. Because computer-based media are not only central tools for learning and work, and because games and simulations are increasingly being recruited as educational and instructional genres, it is likewise exceedingly important, from an educational equity standpoint to examine the ways in which rapidly evolving computer game-based learning initiatives threaten to compound and intensify girls’ computer disadvantage, a cumulative dis-entitlement from computer-based educational and occupational opportunities.


Girls and Gaming: Gender Research, “Progress” and the Death of Interpretation

Jenson Jennifer de Castell Suzanne
2007 DiGRA '07 - Proceedings of the 2007 DiGRA International Conference: Situated Play

This paper is about the persistent absence of critical interpretation in work focused on gender and gameplay. Since its beginnings, research (and resulting practice) in this area has moved little if at all from the early work in the path-breaking Cassells and Jenkins volume dedicated to girls and gaming. In the currently very well-regarded and oft-cited volume on “girl-friendly” game design, Sheri Graner-Ray re-instates the gamut of gender stereotypes by now so familiar as to have become “canonical” for the field. In this paper we illustrate some theoretical, research, and practice dilemmas, and, drawing upon sophisticated interpretive work in gender studies and on socio-cultural approaches to research, we propose some tactics for rethinking the very terms and conditions of this by now clearly resilient orthodoxy about “what girls like best,” arguing that until we are able to be surprised by its findings, we can be fairly confident that games studies research into gender accomplishes little beyond re-instating and further legitimating inequality of access, condition and opportunity. This is no game: no fun, and no fair.