Experts and Novices or Expertise? Positioning Players through Gameplay Reviews

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In this paper we attempt to unpack the meanings of “expert” and “novice” in games research. A literature review reveals unreliable definitions and inadequate operationalization of these concepts. Nonetheless, researchers default to recruiting experienced players for games research projects to the exclusion of novices. We take an interactionist approach to argue for reframing the expert/novice dichotomy in terms of expertise, which all players possess. To support this empirically, we explore how players’ interactions with video recordings of their gameplay exhibited their expertise with digital games. We report on the analysis of the gameplay of one research participant who played 20 hours of the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft over a six-week period in 2012. By involving the participant in focused discussions on selected recorded segments of his gameplay, called a gameplay review, we leveraged his insight and interpretations of his own activity. The gameplay review method creates reflexive space, positions the player as an expert in his or her own understanding, and draws on player expertise as interpretive data.