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Gambling and gaming: Eerie similarities

April 21st, 2010 Bartman No comments

Last night on ESPN’s E:60 show, they ran an interesting segment on In-running wagering. In a nutshell, this is a method of gambling on games that are already in-progress. The gambler can use a handheld device provided by the Casino, or they can sit at a station resembling a cubicle, driven by touch screens to make wagers. The whole operation is driven by Cantor gaming (they are doing some extremely interesting gaming technology development). They built a computer with complex algorithms that, within seconds of a basket or a ‘change of state’ in a game, re-calculates odds within seconds. Over the course of a single game, one man had played a total of 89 wagers.

Listening to the gamblers ESPN interviewed, this type of gaming is eerily similar to online video gaming. One man described In running wagering as ‘the grind’, a term used consistently by players in MMOs talking about their advancement. The gambler stated that making $300-$500 a day is a solid outing, ‘It’s all part of the grind, slowly moving up and gaining money in small amounts’. He also discussed how the immediacy of In running wagering turns him on, similar to how the immediacy of online worlds engages millions of people every day.

They even interviewed someone in Vegas that treats addicted gamblers, and his concerns mirror exactly the concerns of online gaming addiction treatment professionals. When immediacy is such a big engagement factor, it’s very difficult to disengage. You can get drawn into something in a very deep, meaningful way based on the constant feedback loop, providing data streams at an alarming rate.

I always saw a loose connection between gambling and online gaming, but this piece by ESPN really strengthens the tie. Toss in the recent situation in South Korea where a massive betting scandal has been uncovered involving the top Starcraft players (remember, StarCraft is a HUGE spectator/sponsor sport there), and I think we’re just at the tip of the iceberg.

Categories: Games, Research Tags:

Example of scientific discourse via World of Warcraft

November 19th, 2008 Bartman 2 comments

I posted about some of the research going on regarding scientific discourse and virtual worlds in the past, and an interview with a top raiding guild, Vodka, provided another great example. When asked how they approach a new raid encounter within the game:

When we first approach a new encounter, we typically just throw ourselves at the boss a few times without any real plan just to see what is going on, which may sound silly, but during each of these attempts we are observing as much as we possibly can and recording as much data as possible so that we can begin analyzing it more thoroughly in order to develop a strategy. Once we have collected some information about the encounter, we can then determine what type of damage output we will be dealing with, which will then answer the question of what type of healing we need to counter it, and then we can move on to things such as positioning, what the best type of DPS is going to be, and what tanks will give us the best results. Once we have all of that figured out, we can begin testing different iterations of our strategy to see where the flaws are and then work on resolving them. Eventually we will have a strategy that will work long enough for us to see if there are different phases to the encounter, and determine whether or not there are any types of enrage timers or anything. Once we have that information, we go back to our original strategy and figure out how to adjust it so that we can deal with anything new that is introduced to the encounter in the later phases. Eventually we end up with a well rounded strategy that we are confident will work for us and then we begin doing reps over and over until the boss is dead.

If you simply read the snippets in bold, this could just as easily be someone talking about a design challenge, a production challenge, a supply chain challenge, a management challenge…you name it. This is the scientific method, a systematic approach to problem solving, that apparently our schools are doing a TERRIBLE job teaching these days (Miller 2004; Chinn and Malhotra 2002; National Research Council 2005; too many to list…) This also exemplifies problem-based learning, something the College of Information Sciences and Technology prides itself on. I’m simultaneously embarrassed and excited that our educational system is doing so poorly with this form of discourse, yet games are doing it so well.

Cripes, this PhD stuff must be getting to me if I’m citing academic articles in a blog entry. Apologies!

Virtual Worlds: where are we going?

November 6th, 2008 Bartman No comments

I had a chance to sit down and talk with colleague Will McGill yesterday regarding a Second Life project for industry dealing with deception. We got talking virtual worlds, and he pointed me to a fantastic chart:

VW Q3 2009 populations and demographics
*click thumbnail to go to original, hosted by K Zero

A picture is worth a thousand words, eh? I have another post on that topic alone, but I’ll save it. A few things to point out in this chart:

  • The numbers are extremely bloated. Several colleagues were shocked that “Habbo Hotel has 100 million users!?!?!” Not really. Simply by visiting the Habbo Hotel website, you’ll see they have just under 6 million active users in the last month. This is still an astounding number, but pales in comparison to the listed 100 million mark. Seems the people behind the graph decided to publish TOTAL accounts created for the virtual worlds vs. active user base (usually tracked similar to website stats: unique visitors per month).
  • Trends with the blue and red dots (worlds in development and current worlds on the market). Particularly, look at the upcoming saturation of worlds aimed at 5-to-11 year olds. Insane. Then there’s a gap with only a few worlds on the market and NO new worlds in development for 11-to-15 year olds. Then you see another spike from about 15-to21 year olds. Then again a dry area from 21 all the way to 30+ years of age.

What does it all mean? Time will tell, but I get the sense that the market for virtual worlds aimed at “tweens” will become saturated quickly, just like what we see now in the MMORPG space. The market can only support a certain number of these worlds, and many are bound to fail. Second, just by looking at the right side of the graph, you can make the assumption that many, MANY kids that are moving into High School and, in a few years, college, will be EXTREMELY versed in these worlds.

The gaming and virtual trends are glaringly obvious, but why then is it so difficult to create educational gaming and virtual world software that students find engaging? I have some of my own reasons, but would like to hear some of yours.

World of Warcraft enhancing scientific discourse

November 5th, 2008 Bartman 3 comments

While waiting in line yesterday to vote, I had a copy of a paper by U. of Wisconsin scholars C. Steinkuehler and S. Duncan titled “Scientific Habits of Mind in Virtual Worlds“. As I continue with my PhD dealing with collaboration in virtual worlds, the work of Steinkuehler is a nice change of pace. It’s academic, but not so academic that it puts you to sleep after the first page. Plus, she has a great ability to succinctly and clearly illustrate the value these virtual worlds bring to education. This article cites several education scholars calling for new educational models (ex: Dewey) and discusses the value of teaching scientific discourse to students. The article argues that our current school systems, especially K-12, is doing a poor job of this.

The article focuses on World of Warcraft discussion forums, particularly the Priest Class forum. Using frameworks from past research, including the American Association of the Advancement of Science, the authors categorize a dataset of posts from the priest forum. For anyone that plays WoW and checks the forums, you’ll immediately notice two things:

  1. There is a LOT of discussion about how to allocate talents points and how to most effectively use your skills in various situations
  2. The official WoW forums draw a lot of Trolls who post nonesense and incite flame wars

What I found interesting is that the majority of the posts (over 80% I believe) dealt with social knowledge construction “meaning, the collective development of understanding, often through joint problems solving argumentation.” In essence, people are leveraging the idea of collective intelligence or wisdom of crowds to make themselves better WoW players through scientific discourse on the forums.

I would be VERY curious to find out what the same study would yield when looking at a different WoW forum, the one found at the Elitest Jerks website.
I know, not the most appealing guild name, but somehow this guild’s forum has turned into THE place to go to have logical, data-driven discussions of various WoW mechanics. People constantly post screenshots of datasets from inside the game, text logs of game-related encounters, spreadsheets to calculate your characters abilities to .01 level. Insane stuff. I’d wager if the authors focused on a site like this, the number of posts that contain some level of scientific discourse would go from ~80% to the 95% area.

Yes, playing world of warcraft can help build skills you’ll use in the real world. Frequently.

Categories: Research, Virtual Worlds Tags:

Identity

August 12th, 2008 Bartman 1 comment

I just got back from the first talk at the Learning Design Summer Camp, an event that Cole has blogged about recently. Cole and Scott gave a good recap of their graduate course on Disruptive Technologies. They had a slide or two about “identity” and how students felt about publishing course-related work to publicly open spaces (blogs, twitter, delicious, etc). I asked how many of their students continue to use these tools outside of class. But as they talked, my thoughts shifted to “Have their online identities changed once class ended?”

I was recently pulled into a research project on identity in online game worlds, so the concept of identity is generating a lot of ideas. I started to look at my identity (more likely, identities).

I have my professional identity. This could be broken down even further:
- my teaching identity (how I portray myself to my students and act in the classroom)
- my IST identity (how I interact with my IST colleagues and projects)
- my ETS identity (which is different than IST, much different organization, culture and projects)
- my blog identity here

Then if I move to my personal identity:
- friends and family identity
- World of Warcraft identity (which could probably be broken down into in-game identity, forum identity and ventrilo identity)
- online social identity (Facebook, other social sites my friends and I use)

I could break this down further, but the point I’m trying to make is that each of the audiences I interact with in the above scenarios, I interact with differently. Each group of people sees me in a slightly different light…am I portraying different identities? Certainly, especially when you look at the professional vs. personal identities. Some overlap definitely exists with friends that are also colleagues, Warcraft guildmates that I interact with in real life, etc.

It got me thinking about student identities in the disruptive technology course. Twitter seemed to be THE tool for the course that was used heavily, mostly for course-related conversation. But after the course, did students start to migrate to social identities within Twitter? Or in any of the other tools that were used for learning purposes during the semester?

On a side note, I did learn about two technologies I plan on leveraging in my Spring courses:
- Harvard’s Live Question Tool. This appears to be a GREAT way to generate questions while giving a presentation, and allowing my students to guide the direction of the talk. Seems to work similar to clickers, but a very inexpensive yet powerful alternative.

- Pligg. I wish I had a link to Cole and Scott’s pligg site. Basically each student had to post a single blog reflection each week of the course. Students evaluated one another’s posts through a voting system. Each student had 3 votes per week (18 students total). Once a blog post received a certain threshold of votes, it was promoted to the front of the Pligg site. Again, a great way for instructors to gauge interest and the students to help drive the direction of the course.

Cole and Scott made a great point about teaching a course in this manner: you, as the instructor, are giving up CONTROL of your course. You need to be agile. This likely scares the hell out of most faculty members, but if it’s something we can embrace and experiment with…it could lead to MUCH more engaging course experiences, for both the instructor and the students.

Categories: General, Research Tags:

Paper Accepted

April 14th, 2008 Bartman 1 comment

A colleague of mine, Dr. Dave Hall of the College of Information Sciences and Technology, asked me if I’d be interested in collaborating on a paper for a conference on Data Fusion a few months back. We just got the news that the paper has been accepted! I do my share of presentations at conferences, but this is the first refereed piece of work I’ve been a part of. I’ll post the PDF here (if allowed), but for now here’s the abstract:

Rapid advances in visualization technology and virtual world tools provide opportunities for improvements in multisensor data fusion. These technologies can re-engage the human user in the fusion process, improving multi-analyst collaboration, enhancing data understanding by engaging the analyst’s visual pattern recognition capabilities, and providing new mechanisms for hypothesis generation and understanding. The virtual world environments can leverage gaming concepts to provide rich story-telling capabilities. Much like the traditional use of cases or logical templates for target identification or event/activity detection, gaming concepts involving characterization of characters and world views can assist the formulation and evaluation of hypotheses for non-traditional targets. As new requirements emerge for fusion systems to support asymmetric warfare and non-traditional operations, these technologies become increasingly important. This paper provides a perspective on these concepts and argues for a systematic theory-driven approach to explore these enhancements to data fusion, grounded in human-in-the-loop experiments.

C. M. Hall, D. L. Hall, S. A. H. McMullen, M. J. McMullen and B. K. Pursel, “Perspectives on visualization and virtual world technologies for multi-sensor data fusion,” in Proceedings of FUSION 2008: the 11th International Conference on Information Fusion, Cologne, Germany, June 30 – July 03, 2008.

Not exactly the typical content for around here, but something I hope to continue.

Categories: Research, Virtual Worlds Tags: