I decided to go back and explore “Social Island” because it felt safe for someone like me who was still learning how to play (use the controls and understand the interface well). While I continued exploring the space ‘Social island,’ I ran into a museum of tutorials. I found this space similar to what is […]
I decided to go back and explore “Social Island” because it felt safe for someone like me who was still learning how to play (use the controls and understand the interface well). While I continued exploring the space ‘Social island,’ I ran into a museum of tutorials. I found this space similar to what is traditionally considered a museum because information was presented in a passive manner, showing what players can do in other worlds in Second Life. Tomas Brown wrote an article about the four main roles that museums can fall into within videogames: the story-driver, the social space, the political/historical device, and the identity exploration. Second Life’s museum tutorials would mostly likely fall into identity exploration. While they ensure that the player is educated about in-game mechanics, the embedded videos constantly focused on the liberty that Second Life grants its players to be and do whatever they pleased. These museum-like spaces share many characteristics of the identity role of museums in videogames, because in these spaces, the player is better informed about how the virtual world enables total control and exploration of one’s identity.
Once I felt more comfortable with the controls, I I decided to do some intentional exploration in other game maps for my last session of gameplay in Second Life. The game world is huge, and requires portals to move from map to map. When I was exploring, I discovered an activist organization that created their own world to support their cause. The world had embedded images with hyperlinks to their Facebook page and Flickr accounts. Second Life is a 3D space that allows you to do almost every ‘thing’ that Ian Bogost defines in his book, How to do Things in Videogames. In Second Life, you can take snapshots (chap 10) and people have created portfolios of their avatars in Flickr. The game is art within art (chapter 1). Players are encouraged to create and sell their own creations. There’s even worlds completely built on the idea of titillation (chapter 15) because their are objects, apparel, and worlds that fall under “adult.”
While many other videogames focus on one or two of Bogost’s “things,” Second Life intends to be a self-contained, expansive virtual environment. I did not have the time or knowledge to explore all of the world map, The infinity of freedom in this game has allowed for players to find their various niches and expand on each of Bogost’s “things.” It does a great job at replicating (and sometimes enhancing) real-life events, actions, and activities. Almost anything that can be done in real life can be done in Second Life.
Tomas Brown, “The Role of the museum in Video Games,” Play the Past, (2014). See http://www.playthepast.org/?p=4717
Ian Bogost, How to Do Things with Videogames, University of Minnesota Press (2011).
I’ve been in many classes that reference Second Life, an expansive 3D virtual world built for socializing. So I decided to try it out! This blog post is about the tutorial and my reflection of its educational value. In videogames, the tutorials are usually a solo-venture. In Second Life, after choosing a sim character, you are immediately […]
I’ve been in many classes that reference Second Life, an expansive 3D virtual world built for socializing. So I decided to try it out! This blog post is about the tutorial and my reflection of its educational value.
In videogames, the tutorials are usually a solo-venture. In Second Life, after choosing a sim character, you are immediately placed in a virtual world with other new players. Some of them look just like you, because there are about 10 model sims to choose from. This immediately gave me the sensation of community, knowing that other people were learning the basics and might fail a few times. This initial stage also set the tone that Second Life is a social experience, whether it’s an adventure towards self-exploration or interaction with other players.
As I continued through the tutorial, I learned that we were in “Learning Island.” After the lessons which teach you the basic mechanics, you are encouraged to explore before going to “Social island,” since there’s no way to return.
I initially got frustrated, thinking that the game implied that learning is an isolated event. After some reflection, I think this was intentional and fits well with the purpose of Second Life. This separation communicates that learning emerges from interaction with others (learn more about Social Pedagogy here). Although Social Island doesn’t provide many opportunities to socialize directly with other players, I was free to explore the virtual space and learn through challenges.
There were two moments where my suspended belief was broken. There were times when, ironically, I felt alone in Social Island. I tried to chat with other players, and found myself assuming that each sim accurately represented their real world identity. How hypocritical of me! I was playing as a pear-shaped redhead – characteristics that in no way embody my real life identity.
As I was exploring, I happened upon a tablet that outlined the rules for game play. It was made very clear that although Second Life is a virtual world, the same social rules from the real world apply. You aren’t allowed to harass anyone. You will be punished for being rude or performing non-consensual behavior among another person. Second Life developers acknowledge that many players may want to take advantage of the magic circle that videogames traditionally embody. These rules are made clear so that people understand that there is little difference between the magic circle of real life and the one in virtual life. It is made more clear that the game establishes a safe space for all, and tries to democratize the experience for every player.
In my previous blog post, I spoke to how the design of Lumosity’s game and interface was heavily influenced by the “projected identity” of the player. This is not to evaluate the effectiveness of these brain games, but highlights the dynamic a desire to become intelligent and trust in technology to satisfy this goal. Lumosity’s […]
In my previous blog post, I spoke to how the design of Lumosity’s game and interface was heavily influenced by the “projected identity” of the player. This is not to evaluate the effectiveness of these brain games, but highlights the dynamic a desire to become intelligent and trust in technology to satisfy this goal.
Lumosity’s marketing targeted consumers who felt a need to become smarter. The “real world” identity of its consumers included people with serious medical conditions, older adults who were experiencing age-related cognitive decline, and students. The “virtual identity” was a concrete profile that Lumosity provided with age comparisons, self-evaluations, and etc. The “projected identity” of these targeted consumers drove Lumosity’s marketing, but was never backed up by scientific research. According to Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, “Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease.” Lumosity not only used the “projected identity” as their key marketing aspect, but highlighted how the games were co-designed by game designers and scientists. This raises some key issues about the human behavior: what makes science and research so ‘promising’ without question? What makes a piece of technology a qualified evaluation tool? Maybe their clients got tired of “traditional” ways of training their cognitive abilities, and found the appealing brain games more trustworthy.
When I reflect on my experience with the game, I have to ask: Do I believe that they made me smarter? I had fun, which is why it’s a casual game according to Juul’s definitions. As an educator, I did not find the games effective because the content is not situated, and therefore not translatable. The game designers focused so much on the procedural style of learning skills that they failed to create content that was contextualized in real-world experiences and isolated these skills to their steps and not their application. My “projected identity” is being developed in other ways, and without the need to rely on brain games that tell me I’m smart.
Lumosity to Pay $2 Million to Settle FTC Deceptive Advertising Charges for Its “Brain Training” Program
Mind the gap: What Lumosity promised vs. what it could prove
During the initial tutorial stage in which Lumosity accustoms you to the interface and gameplay, the game uses statistical data to compare you against other players in your age range. Your performance is represented on a bell curve. When you performed poorly, the game’s text remains “juicy” by directly rewarding your intent and ignoring the […]
During the initial tutorial stage in which Lumosity accustoms you to the interface and gameplay, the game uses statistical data to compare you against other players in your age range. Your performance is represented on a bell curve. When you performed poorly, the game’s text remains “juicy” by directly rewarding your intent and ignoring the game score. When I see that I have performed better than the majority, it was an ego boost and bar that was raised for myself. On the other hand, when I performed under the average, I was determined to better myself and more importantly, beat them. Once the tutorial is over, the game no longer compares you to other players, but instead measures your high scores and encourages you to be better than your ‘previous’ self. The design is meant to invoke competitive game play, and creates a difference experience when the competitor is oneself. This type of priming is intentional, and feeds into what James Paul Gee defines as the “projected identity.” This identity bridges the “real-world” identity with the “virtual” identity. According to James Paul Gee, the projective identity is to:
“project one’s values and desires onto the virtual character and seeing the virtual character as one’s own project in the making, a creature whom I imbue with a certain trajectory through time defined by my aspirations for what I want that character to be and become.” (page 55)
Lumosity continues to feed and prime my “projected identity” through a variety of ways. The juiciness is always encouraging of any progress that is made. When I don’t perform as well as I hope to, it never communicates that negatively. The explanations of games and their purpose prime me into believing that the game will help me develop a certain skill. Lumosity has the illusion of unmasking the ‘black box’, although I, as a player, have no idea how tapping on train tracks or swiping on the screen makes me a better multitasker.
In my third blog post, I will discuss more in depth the effectiveness of these brain games and the role of the “projected identity” in Lumosity’s marketing and design.
Gee, James Paul. 2003. What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.