Meaningful Play @ MSU

Just a quick note for anyone in the East Lansing area who’s interested in video games: MSU is hosting a conference through Saturday titled Meaningful Play. I’ll be speaking today (Friday) at 2:30pm, offering a synopsis of Pew Internet’s recent report on teens’ gaming habits.

So come out and let’s talk about who has the bigger collection of original Nintendo games (I’ll bet it’s me!).


New Pew Internet report looks at teen gaming and civic effects

During my last six months in DC, I worked almost exclusively on the Pew Internet Project’s most recent report, Teens, Video Games and Civics, which was released Tuesday. This report looks at the gaming activities of 12-17 year-olds in the U.S.: the types of games they play, how they play them, and the social aspect of gaming. Furthermore, the report found positive connections between gameplay and civic behavior.

Having been a gamer since about age 6 when I would play Space Invaders and Breakthrough on my parents’ Atari, this report is very near and dear to me. Gaming is now ubiquitous — 97% of teens play video games. this means that girls are now playing games about as often as boys, which was certainly not the case 20 years ago. I remember being one of the only girls in my gradeschool who actively played video games on a regular basis; while it didn’t seem to bother me at the time (because finishing Ninja Gaiden was too important!), I am heartened that kids share games to a larger degree now.

Based on the data in this survey, I think we can safely say that video games are not the devil-spawn that some more of the more outspoken conservatives like to proclaim. Gaming, like everything else out there, has a good and a bad side, but in my opinion, the good tends to outweigh the bad. Kids who game are not missing out on life, but are instead interacting with their peers, and in some cases, learning from their experiences and getting more involved with their community.

Learning the rules (the hard way) in WoW

When I moved to Michigan last month, I decided that one way I could bide my time while waiting for school to start would be by checking out World of Warcraft. Not only am I an avid RPG fan going back 20 years to the days of the original Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy, but online gaming research is a hot topic within my PhD program. So not only would I be having fun, but I’d be advancing my academic knowledge, I told myself. (Fabulous excuse, I know.)

At first, I started a character on a random server, not really understanding the whole concept of servers and how your character is locked to that server (unless you’re willing to pay the relocation fee). In fact, I didn’t really ask anyone for advice or look up anything online at first, choosing instead to just dive in. The game is rather self-explanatory on a basic level. As you get into the nuances, however, it can become very complicated. Especially when you are interacting with other players.

So I’ve been playing for almost a month now and have several characters on different servers so I can play with various friends. When playing alone in the last week though, I’ve had a couple rude awakenings that have shone me a very fascinating aspect of WoW community that surprises me, even with my research focus on online communities.

One would think that with so many players (10 million +), people would not be very organized. At the very least, one would expect there to be a high degree of things like flaming and lack of courtesy. This, however, is far from the truth. Instead, it is I, someone who thinks of herself as a generally courteous and polite person in the real world, who is repeatedly committing offenses and being reprimanded for not being “nice enough.” This amazes me. And people have no sympathy for my ignorance either.

Take tonight, for example. Two other players asked me to join a group. I didn’t need to join, as I was finishing a low level quest, but I accepted because I thought that it might speed up the process. For a reason I am not aware of, they set the looting option to free-for-all. I didn’t notice, because the only other times I’ve ever joined a group, it’s been set so that it is spread out among the group members. Yes, I should have realized this was not the case when I could loot all the enemies, but I just assumed since one of the two players was a high level player (level 65) and the other wasn’t jumping to loot the enemies, that they had gotten what they needed. When I got the item I was looking for, I asked if they still needed my help, they said no, and I left. Five minutes later, I am assaulted textually by one of the group members about how rude it was that I ninja looted everything when he needed an item (the same one I was trying to get coincidentally). I apologized and said that I had asked if they needed help. He proceeded to get very angry about it and how horrible what I did was. I said I was new to the game, not aware of all the rules, and asked why no one said anything as I “ninja looted” away. He decided to ignore this question and continued harassing me for a good 7-10 minutes, mainly just to drive the point home that I was horrible. I kept saying that if anyone had said anything, I would have stopped. Finally, I told him that now I know better and basically thanked him for reprimanding me. That seemed to placate him, and he wished me well. Very weird.

What I perceive from this interaction is that it is very important to the community of players (and perhaps critical to the world’s stability) that these unwritten rules of interaction be followed. Deviation from these rules needs to be punished quickly to ensure that no further infractions occur. This other player, who didn’t know me, had no reason to pursue the matter so far. I can’t imagine I affronted him to such a degree that he wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight, yet he still carried on a long conversation with me. And I actually felt bad afterward! Mission accomplished, I guess.

I also think it’s pretty safe to assume that the vast majority of players have been playing the game for a long time and thus know the “rules” inside and out. So maybe it made sense for this other player to assume that I was a veteran player who was simply taking advantage of the situation. This makes play even more difficult for new players like myself who may be venturing through the game without someone to guide them. While I certainly don’t forsee this instance of WoW “hazing” (for lack of a better term) to deter me from playing the game, it certainly does not make me feel like I am being welcomed with open arms. I guess in the realm of WoW, respect must be earned in hours of play. And I’m thinking I probably need a few thousand more hours of playing before I have half of it figured out.

“World of Wifecraft” puts men in their place

In the spirit of such spoof videos as Facebook in Reality, here is a hilarious video about using World of Warcraft to help men better communicate with their wives.

My favorite quote: “Do you know what it’s like to be killed by a level 70 and then spend the next 20 minutes scrambling around looking for your dead body? No you don’t, because you are a level 70 and you’re powerful because you have tits and whatnot.”

Picture of the day: I think I need to drop out of grad school and start a Nintendo-based baking business


First I found my dream wedding cake (that is if I ever actually got married – ha!). Then I discovered how to make “8-bit cookies” like Tetris boards (see my blog post from last month). And now, well, I only have one word for my latest discovery: W-O-W.

As you may know, I am an avid baker, even going so far as to contemplate a career if I hadn’t decided to sink my life savings into adding a “Dr.” to my name (I mean, really though, who doesn’t want to be called Doctor? And Dr. Vitak has such a fabulous ring to it.).

Well, all these delicious baked good based off Nintendo games I keep finding online could give me that push I need to change careers. Well, not really, but I do want to try to make these cupcakes. It actually wouldn’t be too difficult — more time-consuming than anything else. Maybe in four months or so, when I actually have a minute of free time, I’ll give them a whirl.

[Thanks Boing Boing!]

I never thought my love of baking and 8-bit video games could be combined into one awesome item…until now!

tetris-cookies.jpgPeople have way too much free time on their hands; HOWEVER, it occasionally works out for the benefit of mankind. Thanks to a lovely Flickr how-to by Eva Funderburgh, I can now impress all my friends at my next party with these gorgeous 8-bit cookies!

Yes friends, they are Tetris cookies. Eva and her husband use a Playdoh extruder, of all things, to squeeze out long rows of dough, and then lay the dough logs on top of each other to make patterns. After chilling, they cut the cookies from the formed roll and voila! Awesome patterned cookies from scratch.

I think I’m in love.

[Thanks Boing Boing!]

Mr. T pities the fool who doesn’t play World of Warcraft

How can you not love Mr. T? First, there was his role as the “baddest man in the world,” Clubber Lang, on Rocky III. Then, there was a four-year stint on The A-Team, a show about a group of ex-army men who somehow never managed to learn how to shoot a gun. I’m not really sure what he did over the next decade, but he worked his way back into our hearts with his guest appearances on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, where he shared with us his deep, dark celebrity secrets.

As if that wasn’t enough, now Mr. T has become a spokesman for the MMORPG “World of Warcraft.” Who would’ve thought that such a big, muscley, gold-encrusted man would have a soft spot in his heart for video games? Just another reason to love the man, the legend, the T.