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Cross-Disciplinary Research Collaboration

Oct. 29th, 2009 | 01:32 am

 The article, “Smoothing the Waters: Observations on the Process of Cross-Disciplinary Research Collaboration,” seemed appropriate to our class because so many of the students come from different academic backgrounds and majors. Here, the author primarily provides a study of the dynamics of researchers from different disciplines, but also notes the advantages of cross-disciplinary research. He discusses the roles of vocabulary, metaphor, intermediaries, negotiation, and story lines as integral parts of collaborative research, because communication can often be one of the most difficult aspects of this type of research, particularly when dealing with peers who have a background in a different field.

His most important, and most salient point, is that collaborative research is not only convenient (for it saves one person the burden of having to be an authority on a variety of subjects), but it can also lead to “meaningful debate about theory, methodology, and technique, to the benefit of all involved.”

As our class continues in the research process, I think it is important to draw upon the knowledge and experiences of each student. While many people in the class are studying Communications, there may be some students involved with International Studies or Art, both of which would be useful disciplines when discussing transnational play. I am sure Dr. Delwiche is aware of the fields in which we are all interested, but it might be helpful to remind each other of our diverse backgrounds, so if we have questions, we can go to one of our peers for their insight. 

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Dungeons and Dragons Online in Serbia

Oct. 20th, 2009 | 09:57 am

         The advent of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games in the last decade has increased avenues for international communication by providing players with a casual and entertaining way to keep in touch or to meet new people. While playing Dungeons and Dragons Online, I met Zelijko, or Zac, a Serbian man who allowed me to interview him about his gaming habits and transnational play.

            Zac is a Human Cleric on the Thelanis server playing from his home in Serbia. He is a twenty-one year-old student at Belgrade Business School and is studying Information Technologies in Business. He does not currently have a job, so he has plenty of time to do what he really enjoys—cooking. His favorite thing to cook is a dish that involves cooking mushrooms in hot oil and garlic, then adding salami and mixing it all into sour cream. He likes to watch House M.D. and Heroes, which he keeps up with online. He also goes to concerts and plays games in LAN with his friends frequently.

            In Belgrade there are many centers where people can go and play LAN on a network already established, much like Internet cafes in the United States. There is evidently a whole mall in downtown Belgrade devoted to LAN centers and a few game shops. Zac said that this is where he became “addicted” to MMOs growing up. He uses the word addicted loosely, because really they are just a fun pastime for him. He only recently started playing Dungeons and Dragons Online because he is able to get it free in Serbia. He also enjoys World of Warcraft and Warhammer, and he just got Aion Online to give it a try.

            Zac says that, to him, MMOs are a great way to meet new people. He primarily plays video games for the social aspect, claiming that at first, his neighbors were the ones that convinced him to play Dungeons and Dragons. Now he gets together regularly with the people in his neighborhood and they play in someone’s living room or in a LAN center. He enjoys meeting new people in the gaming world, and has friends in DDO from Serbia and many countries of the European Union, the United States, and even a few from Asia.

            The types of collaborations in which Zac engages are similar to those described by Nardi and Harris in their article about WOW. Not only does he engage in “Structured Collaborations with Friends and Strangers,” like when he goes to a LAN center or plays with his friends from his home, but Zac also stays in contact with friends in other countries through the game. Some of these friends are ones he has met in the game world, while others he met elsewhere and now keeps in touch with using DDO or WOW. According to Nardi and Harris, “WOW promotes offline social connection by providing a shared activity. Friends who live in different cities may keep their friendships going in part by playing together.”

            In Serbia, playing video games is probably about as popular as it is in the United States. Zac said that many people in Serbia play video games, but it is generally the younger generation’s domain. Serbia does not manufacture its own video games, but the same games that are popular in the United States are popular in Serbia, probably because many of them come from Asia.

            Most people play video games from their homes or from Internet cafes or gaming centers, but many of these people do not have laptops that they can bring other places with them. Zac has a desktop, so when he plays with his friends, they either connect in game, or go to a gaming center, where computers are set up for everyone. Gaming centers are very popular because the Internet in Serbia is not always fast and reliable, so playing on a closed network is the best option. Of the seven-point-five million inhabitants of Serbia, about one-point-six million are Internet users.

            Individual games are more expensive in Serbia than in the United States, but the consoles themselves seem to be cheaper. Computers themselves are more expensive in Serbia as well, but no so expensive that middle class households cannot own at least one. The most popular gaming console is the Nintendo 360, and though he plays video games frequently, Zac claims he has not seen a Wii in months. It seems that the Wii is not very popular in Serbia, and Zac had never even heard of Wii Fit or a Wii balance board.

            Zac has very strong feelings about censorship and the harsh criticism that some games and gamers endure. He is especially amused and perplexed by Fox News, which he is able to watch in Serbia, and their extremely conservative slant. He noted a controversy in 2008 surrounding a sex scene in a video game called Mass Effect and the issues raised by the fact that the woman reviewing the game and calling it pornographic had never actually played it. Zac is a proponent of the rights of gamers to enjoy their pastime without criticism from those not part of the gaming culture. 

            Zac has lived in Serbia his whole life, but he has some choice words about his government. Serbia, he says, “is a nice place to visit really. Most people are fun, prices are low, government are dicks.” Zac is quite liberal politically, so the fact that the government in Serbia is traditionally controlled by those with the most money is distressing to him. He notes that whoever has the most commercials and the most posters around election time will win.

            The Serbian government is currently a Democratic republic, which Zac thinks is a great improvement over previous governments installed there. He has not ever voted in an election, but he said he feels that the current government is doing much better than the party previously in power and he wants to support them. He plans to vote in the next election. The President and the Parliament are elected every four years in a general election, and the current President is Boris Tadic.[4]

            There was a monarchy in Serbia decades ago, but now the descendents of the monarchs live in Greece and do not even speak much Serbian. They maintain the titles, but they have no influence or power.

            Zac remembers the war in Yugoslavia and the bombing in his country. Serbia is still not a part of NATO because NATO bombed the area in what Zac considers to be a misguided show of power. The country is still facing rebuilding, but he hopes that soon it will be a member of the European Union and that tension between the Serbs and Croats will continue to lessen.

            Because the United States is such a world power, many Serbians have paid attention to recent political changes here. Zac said that he has never met anyone who likes George Bush, but that most Serbians are optimistic about the Obama administration. Serbia has universal healthcare, so the notion of not having it is foreign and confusing to Zac. He does not understand the aversion to the proposition by some governmental leaders that America adopt universal healthcare, nor does he understand why Americans are so frightened by the notion of socialism.

            Though Serbia has universal healthcare, Zac notes that, “it sucks.” The healthcare system in Serbia is based on mandatory health insurance, as well as private insurance provided by local companies. Zac said that it is not so bad if you can afford a private clinic, but for everyone else, it is very inconvenient, involving much waiting and fees. His grandfather was recently diagnosed with a prostate tumor, and then scheduled for a scan three months later. He did not feel that he should wait so long, so he went to a military academy and paid for the tests out of pocket. When he returned to the hospital with his test results, he was informed that they would not accept tests from the military academy and he needed to wait three more months to get tested at the hospital. As of now, Zac’s grandfather is still waiting to be tested in Serbia.  

            When asked about transnational play, Zac commented that he is very excited by the fact that he is able to communicate with people all over the world in the game context. He notes that many players believe in stereotypes about Serbian players, and Zac himself admits to stereotyping players from Saudi Arabia. People tend to think that Serbians are short tempered and mean spirited—a notion that Zac claims is somewhat true. He said that of every nationality he plays with in World of Warcraft, he gets along the worst with other Serbians. After a year in WOW, he made a big raiding guild composed only of Serbians that turned out to be disastrous. Mostly, though, Zac has great relationships with transnational players. He hopes to move to England someday, and he already has a number of friends there that he has made in the game world.

            Zac speaks (types) perfect English, an accomplishment he credits to MMOs. He studied English in school a bit, but he mostly learned it through in-game chatting. Even when talking to other Serbian players, most young Serbians in the game chat in English, because it is the most widely used gaming language. It seems remarkable that Zac’s dream of one day moving to England and working for a computer company there is partially made possible by his time spent playing MMOs.


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Detective Wii

Oct. 11th, 2009 | 09:47 pm

 Check out this new use for the Wii balance board!


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Sorry! is a stupid game.

Sep. 17th, 2009 | 08:49 am
mood: sleepysleepy

Usually I just play games. I don't really analyze the dimensions present while I'm hiding behind a door or purchasing the Boardwalk. After our in class analysis, however, it seems that there may be much more to many of our familiar childhood games than I at first believed. 

Like Monopoly. Long and involved, yes. Difficult, not really. AND YET! And yet, it has so many different dynamics. My group was able to identify territorial acquisition, trading, collection, race to the end, and building as core dynamics of Monopoly. Turns out game designers have that job for a reason. 

Then, of course, there were games like Sorry! and Trouble. Granted, none of us really remembered how to play the two games, but neither of them are very involved. We could not identify any core dynamics other than race to the end in board games of this nature. Perhaps this is necessary in games geared toward younger kids, but come on, Parker Brothers, let's challenge the next generation a little. 

In analyzing the core dynamics of games, I noticed that some dynamics seemed to be missing from the list. If one were to analyze Trivial Pursuit, for instance, you might note the dynamics race to the end and collection, but the object of Trivial Pursuit is to answer questions correctly. I think there needs to be some dynamic that addresses knowledge or skill. This dynamic would probably be less prevalent in outdoor games and video or computer games, but many board games require knowledge of certain subjects to complete them.

The same could be said for game shows, which we did not really address in class, but are similar in nature to board games. Japanese game shows were mentioned briefly which, like many outdoor games, require a degree of kinesthetic skill to do well. Just as the best players of Duck Hunt must be good at destruction and prediction, the best contestants on Wipeout! must have some athletic ability to succeed. 

The reason that dynamics such as knowledge and kinesthetics do not appear on the list of core dynamics in the book is probably because both are acquired skills, whereas dynamics such as  chasing and evading and race to the end seem to be more basic, almost innate practices. 

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We need this.

Sep. 16th, 2009 | 04:39 pm


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Sorry I'm posting from class....

Sep. 15th, 2009 | 11:01 am


10 Most Perverted Old School Video Games


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Sep. 15th, 2009 | 10:17 am

 Wii Bowling Ball Attachment:


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Wii Sports gives me undeserved self-confidence.

Sep. 15th, 2009 | 01:08 am

I don’t do contact sports. I do ellipticals. Treadmills. Stationary bikes. Sometimes free weights. Never balls. Never human interaction. No chance of injury.

 I have never had an athletic or coordinated bone in my body. Even when I was little and my mom tried to get me to hit a plastic ball with a giant plastic bat, I just stared at her, waiting for the good part. I still have an irrational fear of balls flying at me. I don’t play catch; I duck. 

My point in all this is that there are no balls in Wii Sports. No contact. It’s fabulous!

I played Wii tennis and Wii bowling. I Wii boxed. I hit a Wii homerun. The only tool I used was the standard Wii controller, but I’ve heard tell of more elaborate contraptions for the individual sports. Online I found a JoyTech Sports Pack that includes golf club, tennis racket, and steering wheel attachments that fit right on to the Wii controller that is already used for the games. It is not necessary to change the ways one moves with the controller in hand, but the feeling of playing the sport and holding the apparatus does become more genuine. XCart Pro sells slightly different versions of the golf club, tennis racket, and steering wheel, as well as a modified baseball bat and a more conventional crescent-shaped video game controller.

The main aspect of Wii sports that disappointed me was Wii bowling. I mean, not to brag or anything, but I scored quite a heft number of strikes. When I bowl on an actual lane with an actual ball, I generally end up with a score somewhere around 60. No joke. I feel, therefore, that this Wii bowling must be flawed in some way. Granted, I would probably never hit a home run or knock out an opponent with a swift smack of my bony knuckles, but this bowling thing really gets my goat. I wasn’t able to find any sort of attachment to make Wii bowling feel more accurate, nor can I suggest something. You really don’t want to have to clear a space in your carpeted living room to send your controller rolling into the wall. Maybe some added weight would be good though?

 The only Wii experience I was able to have was with Sports, but I did wander on to YouTube to observe some players in action. I watched a “Wii Sports: Motion Plus Demo” and, I’m sorry to say, it looks awfully boring. Maybe I am just not as stimulated as the average person by video games, but idly moving one’s wrist slightly to the left or right to fly an imaginary plane over a Technicolor landscape looks as if it would become boring very very quickly. Of course, I cannot tell just from this video what the goals of the individual games are, but from this side of the screen, they seem better suited to the septugenerian crowd.


Because I know so little about video games in general, it is difficult for me to comment upon other games that might employ the same kind of interface as Wii Sports. Perhaps role playing games could utilize some sort of sword attachment that sends signals to the computer to make battles more interesting and engaging? I think a great way to get exercise would be to have some sort of treadmill that can attach to one’s computer for games like EverQuest. Those avatars do so much running back and forth, yet here I am, sitting in my lounge chair, poking at my love handles. I do feel like much of the hype made about the effects of video games on children’s health is just that—hype—however, I also feel that kids should get up off their asses more. If their avatar is going to run somewhere, make the kid run too! We’ll call it the EverQuest diet. It will be the next new fad. Jennifer Aniston will sing its praises. Just you wait.

This was almost me the other day. 


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The definition of nerdy

Sep. 8th, 2009 | 02:44 am


If you are a regular consumer of video games, then I am the person who made fun of you in high school. Sorry about that. Of course, now I’m the odd duck, the uber uncool kid in the room full of gamers. Karma’s a bitch.

 I’m used to taking Art History and Drama classes, or at least something in the arts and humanities realm, so classes dealing with sociology and even (DUN DUN DUUUUNNN) computers are a little out of my comfort zone. I can’t even speak the language. To me, a race is something like Native American or Caucasian, and a guild is what those short folks with the lollipops in The Wizard of Oz belonged to.

 I am excited by the prospect of studying and becoming a part of this crazy world whose existence has only recently been introduced to me. I had no idea that this gaming world is indeed a world with a unique culture and decorum and vocabulary. I am interested to look at this world from a sociological viewpoint, and okay, I’m kind of even enjoying playing Free Realms. And by kind of, I mean I’ve completed several quests and I think my avatar is pretty rockin’.

 Which brings me to the point of this post. Avatar. WTF is that? Well I obviously know now, but for anyone else in the class struggling to get a grasp on this new lingo full of tech words and acronyms, I have complied a list of words one should know to seem less of a tourist in the gaming world.


MMORPG – Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games

Avatar – your game self

Alt – alternative character; you play one most frequently, but use your alt for variety or as a mule.

Race – different types of player beings (Ex. elf, gnome, wizard)

Items – a way of character automization (Ex. weapons, armor, etc.)

PVP (Player vs. Player) – setup that allows you to fight players from other groups and kill them (Ex. Axis vs. Allies)

BMI (body mass index) – calculation of fitness

Guilds – groups of players who get together to accomplish common goals

Ethnography – immersion in a different culture from an anthropological perspective

Richard Bartles – designed the first virtual world in the 1980s

 That’s it for now, but I’m sure this list will grow rapidly. If you have any contributions, leave them as comments and we’ll keep on adding to the list! We’ll have a dictionary before we know it.

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