• The 2010 WoW Learning Survey’s Design

    General:

    I spent a substantial amount of time designing the first survey for the WoW Learning project. I was initially unsure what data would be useful, but I knew I wanted enough data to make statements about particular groups of people: men were more social, most women created tank characters initially, millennials were using WoW more for learning, etc. That resulted in the three-part design of the survey: in-game demographic data, the essay question about play motivations, and real-world demographic details. Privacy was important and encouraging people to complete was also important. It was reasoned that in-game demographics were details people would not be as sensitive about, so they were asked for first and real-world demographic details left until the end. It was also recognized that many people would not complete the essay section. Putting the in-game demographic details first meant that certain types of data could be collected that could also be used for other purposes, e.g. answering whether women initially choose healer characters. After use by a small test audience, the survey was modified to include sample answers or explanations of how answers should be calculated.

    Where possible and sensible, permissible option lists were used to help reduce the need for data standardization after the survey. For example, I know there are only so many WoW character classes and roles. I know that players can only belong to one of several types of realms. In the case where I wanted time estimates from players, providing a list of ranges means everyone’s has the same degree of accuracy and is expressed in the same units. This was not deemed necessary for year of birth, country of residence, and nationality; they were left as free text. The birth year worked out fine, but some normalization had to be done on the countries and nationalities, e.g. English and Scottish changed to British and Belgium changed to Belgian, etc.

    Read more to download the survey as a PDF and see options for specific questions.

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  • The Game Is Afoot at FoTiE 2011

    As part of this year’s Future of Technology in Education conference (#FOTE11) in London on October 7th, I participated in the 140-second challenge, where I had 140 seconds to explain how the future of technology might be gaming. The talk fit exactly into the 140 seconds and seemed to be well-received.

    Someone asked in Twitter for more precise numbers on women WoW players. Unfortunately, those seem to be hard to come by. My own research survey had about 21% (in 2010). Nick Yee’s 2005/2006 surveys of 1900 players included about 16% women. M2 Research (2010) said estimates put women at 40%. I think the reality is somewhere between those, probably closer to 30%. If you know of any large-scale, precise demographic breakdowns, please let me know!

    The text of my talk is below and is a much shorter version of the themes explored in Persist or Die: Learning in World of Warcraft. That version includes references.

    October 28, 2011 Update: The FOTE11 team uploaded the video to iTunesU.  All five #140-second speakers are in the same video. I’m #4 and my presentation starts at around 7m 47s.


    Robertpupil the WoW player

    Image: Robertpupil prefers note-taking and remembering as learning strategies.

    I’m Michelle A. Hoyle, an Open University course chair. My University of Sussex doctoral research examines communities and learning in World of Warcraft. I have 140 seconds to explore gaming’s influence on learning.

    First, some myth busting. Popular media portrays gamers as young males who spend too much time alone in dark basements playing games. The reality? 70 to 80% of WoW’s millions of Western world players are adults, with women comprising somewhere between 20-40%. About 80% play with someone they know and they’re spending 21 hours a week playing versus the average TV-watching Brit’s 28.

    Why is this relevant to higher education? It’s similar to online HE’s population. HE’s an institution that’s in crisis and I don’t mean financially. Our teaching and assessment are likely catering to the “Roberts”, an HE student archetype  typically employing remembering and understanding—low-level Bloom’s Taxonomy activities. Universities used to be full of “Susans”, operating at the much higher levels of synthesis, evaluation, and analysis—critical thinking activities I see occurring voluntarily in WoW.

    Susanlearner the WoW player

    Image: Susanlearner tries to integrate new material into her existing worldview, using synthesis, evaluation, and analysis.

    But is there learning there?  In 2010, I invited WoW players to write an essay (yes, an essay!) about why they play. I examined 39 essays for learning behaviours. In addition to analysis, modelling, and experimentation, several reported playing to learn or to practice a foreign language. Others wanted to improve their social skills or learn more about themselves or other people. There were also real-world skills: guild leaders needed diplomacy and other leaders regularly coordinated large teams. Teamwork and collaboration were often motivating factors. That ignores other activities I know happen, such as story writing or movie making.

    Much in WoW is boring and repetitive, not unlike education. Persistence and isolation are problems in online HE. Understanding what brings disparate people to form learning communities in these games could be very powerful for developing successful online environments and learning activities. Some factors we know, like allowing failure, because we often learn more from our mistakes, but there are others. Read more about the learning and background issues on my project blog. The future of education may well derive from games, even if it doesn’t involve playing games, because… there is useful learning happening there.  Thanks!

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  • Persist or Die: Learning in World of Warcraft

    Back in March, I gave an invited keynote at the JISC Scotland/Consolarium Game To Learn: Take 2 conference in Dundee, Scotland. The abstract read:

    “All you need to understand is everything you know is wrong.”—Weird Al

    My mother told me cleaning toilets builds character if done repeatedly. The other night five friends spent more than three hours dying over and over again while playing World of Warcraft (WoW). She never said anything about dying. I found cleaning toilets only gets you clean toilets. Dying and playing, however, teaches you important things. Demons, dragons, dwarves, and possibly folklore, you could see, but learning, love, and leadership?

    Sounds crazy, but it’s true: World of Warcraft has something to say about learning. Prepare yourself, because everything you thought you knew is wrong.

    The talk went very well and the slides were available shortly after the talk via SlideShare, but I was somewhat remiss in preparing a version for the blog. You now have a choice of formats:

    1. The original slides (slightly cleaned up) via SlideShare.
    2. The original slides and notes (slightly cleaned up) via SlideShare.
    3. A downloadable PDF version of this blog post.
    4. This blog post.

    The blog post version represents a written version of the original talk with some of the more important slide graphics reproduced in the body of the post. It can be read without the original slides. Enjoy! If you have any comments, feel free to leave them.

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  • Upcoming Talk: “Persist or Die! Learning in World of Warcraft”

    I have been invited to give a keynote at the forthcoming Game To Learn: Take 2 JISC Scotland/Consolarium conference in Dundee, March 17th to 19th. My remit was for something provocative, bold, and possibly disruptive about the potential benefits of games like World of Warcraft for higher education.

    Persist or Die! Learning in World of Warcraft
    Michelle A. Hoyle

    “All you need to understand is everything you know is wrong.”—Weird Al

    My mother told me cleaning toilets builds character if done repeatedly. The other night five friends spent more than three hours dying over and over again while playing World of Warcraft (WoW). She never said anything about dying. I found cleaning toilets only gets you clean toilets. Dying and playing, however, teaches you important things. Demons, dragons, dwarves, and possibly folklore, you could see, but learning, love, and leadership?

    Sounds crazy, but it’s true: World of Warcraft has something to say about learning. Prepare yourself, because everything you thought you knew is wrong.

    My talk will be on Friday, March 18th. The conference is free to attend. Perhaps I’ll see you there?

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  • High /Played Times and Meaning

    Graph demonstrating that Aluminio's reported character played times add up to more time possible in 4 years
    Credit: Michelle A. Hoyle under an Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

    Figure 1: Graph demonstrating that Aluminio’s reported character played times add up to more time possible in 4 years

    In a previous post, I said that a player’s /played time in World of Warcraft (WoW) can be used a good indication of their experience in WoW.  In my 2010 April survey, I asked respondents to report their /played time for three types of characters: their first character ever created, the character on which they currently spend most of their time, and the character on which they enjoy playing the most. If the characters were the same, they were asked to repeat the information. When I did my calculation, I ignored any entries that were obvious duplicates. I also asked people to make an estimate to the nearest half year of how long they had been playing World of Warcraft.

    While entering data in from my 2010 April survey, I noticed that case S1-025 contained /played numbers that did not add up.  In the raw survey data, the participant—whom I have called “Aluminio”—listed 3 characters:

    1. Human priest ranged, played more than 700 days
    2. Gnome mage ranged, played more than 900 days
    3. Human paladin tank, played more than 900 days.

    That adds up to more than 2500 days. Aluminio also reported playing World of Warcraft for a total of 4 years, which amounts to 1460 days. That’s far, far short of the more than 2500 days claimed for playing his three characters, as is clearly evident in Figure 1′s graph. It is impossible for someone on their own to have played all 1460 days 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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  • /played Time as a Measure of WoW Experience

    While reading Nardi’s et al’s Learning Conversations in World of Warcraft (2007) recently, I was struck by a passage describing their methodology:

    Our research is based on participant- observation fieldwork. Each of us created at least two characters and joined at least one guild. We have jointly played for over 25 months and continue to play.

    How much experience did they really have in World of Warcraft? Was the 25 months calendar time or in-game time? These are the questions that immediately went through my mind. I quickly concluded that it was not  25 months of in-game time as that would be more than 18,000 hours of play. Even among three people, that seemed unlikely even if they had been playing since the game was released. That led me to think about measuring game experience in immersive worlds, like World of Warcraft.

    Typing “/played” in World of Warcraft will tell a player how many days, hours, and minutes they have spent online since creating that character.  This can be a more useful measure of a player’s experience with the game than elapsed calendar time.   For example, I have been playing since World of Warcraft’s public release date in February 2005.  My /played time is 268 days on my main character over a 69-month period.   Contrast that with someone else who, over that same period, only plays two hours a week.  Their /played time would be about 25 days (see Figure 2). I obviously have more experience in the game, even though our elapsed calendar time is identical.  There is an assumption there that I spent the time doing something in the game and not just chatting or idling, but it is going to be a more accurate measure of experience.


    Credit: Michelle A. Hoyle under an Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

    Figure 1: Screenshot of questions in April survey

    I asked respondents to report their /played time for three types of characters: their first character ever created, the character on which they currently spend most of their time, and the character on which they enjoy playing the most. If the characters were the same, they were asked to repeat the information. When I did my calculation, I ignored any entries that were obvious duplicates.

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  • One-Page WoW Learning Project Summary

    Screenshot of WoW Learning Project PDFIn May of 2010, our research group was having a surprise visit by someone high up at the university and we all had to produce project information sheets on short notice.  As I had not yet completed the analysis for my recent survey into motivations in World of Warcraft, I couldn’t include any of that; I focussed on the underlying initial motivations and ideas for the project.

    Downloadable Resources:

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  • Looking for WoW Researchers & Educators

    Melanie McBride's WoW Character
    Image: Melanie’s Character

    Fellow Canadian and WoW player Melanie McBride (@melaniemcbride) is composing a Twitter list of educators interested in using World of Warcraft & massively multiple online games for teaching and learning. Get in touch with her on Twitter or check out her list if that’s you.

    I’m looking to connect with other people doing research in World of Warcraft or similar MMOs in learning (formal or informal), motivation, or community formation. While I’m especially interested in higher education and distance education, if you’re working in other areas, including training, professional development, or compulsory education, I’d love to hear from you about what you’re doing. You can get in touch with me via this blog, as @Eingang on Twitter, or at the University of Sussex (eingang AT sussex DOT ac.uk).

     

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  • Guild Purpose Coding: Attempts and Thoughts

    Joy of Stats Book Cover
    Photo by bourgeoisbee / CC BY-NC

    Joy of Stats Book Cover

    I have been working recently on importing data into SPSS from the first part of my April survey on World of Warcraft motivations. This has been a fairly straightforward process for the most part. The exception is the last question about the respondent’s guild type and purpose. The question was presented as the following:

    In a short sentence (140 characters), describe the primary purpose of the guild in which you spend most of your time, or enter “no guild”.

    Example: I’m in a social guild that believes in random acts of kindness. We love to dance but we also raid end-game content with other casual guilds.

    I am not happy with how the coding for the type and purpose is going. When I created the SPSS codebook for that part of the survey, I initially broke it down into two parts: a type and a primary purpose. The type represented a breakdown primarily between “social” and “hardcore”. The purpose could be a key activity or a purpose. The divisions were chosen based on an an initial review of the received responses (see Table 1).

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  • Why Do You Play WoW Survey Now Closed

    Thanks to everyone who participated fully or partially in my first survey Why Do You Play World of Warcraft. The survey, which opened April 4th, is now closed.

    For those who entered the contest for Blizzard Store pets (one of which will be the new Celestial Steed mount released on Thursday), I’ll be accepting entry codes for the rest of the week and announce the winners next week. If you didn’t get a code to participate but you did complete the full survey, you can get in touch with me at the project’s e-mail address of wow.learning AT sussex.ac.uk and I’ll see if I can sort it out.

    I was hoping for at least 25 responses and ideally around 50. 51 people completed the first page on in-game demographic details and 39 people completed the whole survey, so that’s not too bad at all. For me, now the fun begins: data analysis. Starting next week, I’ll begin the process of going through all the short answers provided and coding them as to motivational themes. Results will eventually be posted here, so stay tuned.

    Again, many thanks to those who took the time to help me by participating in the survey or by letting others know about it!

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