Monthly Archives: April 2005
How Kids Build Community: Cyberstyle
My daughter belongs to a Nickolodean sponsored website, The N , originally designed for tweens and teens. She has been participating in the message board community on this site for almost three years.
Board participation is reward based; the more you post, the more credits you get. These credits are used to buy your base avatar and accessories such as hairstyles, clothes headphones and jewelry. But this is not the only way to accumulate points. The boards have strict rules about posting any personal information, and has a zero tolerance for private chatting (no passing around your msn or aim to people you meet on the n). They have implemented a reward based snitching system. When a member sees posts that go against the board rules, the person who reports the infraction gets credits added to their account. If a member makes a false report, they are penalized by having credits removed from their account.
I’ve been thinking about this method of keeping the boards clean. Sharing personal information is prohibited – and for good reason. What is the difference between having each other responsible ‘police’ the environment and the company having monitors that canvas and delete posts? What are the implications in an anonymous system? What does it teach kids?
The internet offers kids so many spaces to call their own – even if some of them are owned and operated by corporate america with flashing banners, its better then the mall i wandered endlessly at her age. (in that it offers more opportunities)
On a side note, they recently made some structural changes, raising the age of participation to 13. Sadly, my daughter no longer has access to the account that she has been cultivating for almost three years. Although her 13th birthday is in a few months, she has created a new avatar to continue participating in the community – but she was put in the position that she had to lie about her age in order to create a new character. She will regain access to her old avatars on her thirteenth birthday – a day she looks forward to for so many reasons. But I question the company for taking her access away without notice.. and since its so easy to lie about your age, what was the point?
Playing with Pictures
Just figured out how to get pictures posted to blogger… i apologize in advance =)
Working Backwards – or – The Make Work Program
Over the last year working on my various pieces of paid and personal research, I have become known to do things the long way. I am constantly being told that I am making more work than is necessary to get the task done. Yet, each time I am faced with a new project, I cannot fathom any other way to get from point A to point Z without going through the whole alphabet.
Last summer, I worked on creating a bibliography for our research group. I had to search and judge what articles and books were quintessential to a game studies biblio. Now, to be fair, I did not have to start from scratch. There was a small biblio in place, and there are several online. But to get outside the box, to be as up to date as possible, I ended up reading the bibliographies of those references already out there to see who kept popping up over and over again. Took along time to go through it all, but in the end, I felt I had a decent grasp on the literature. In this case, I was told that I made things longer/more complicated than necessary.
I am currently working on a methodology paper, where I have to search and select relevant articles/books on a particular type of method. The only problem is that the method itself is an “outside the box” method, so there is no comprehensive list per se. We want to know which articles are the most cited, pertinent etc to what we are trying to accomplish. I went to the library, even enlisted the help of the librarian and the sociology librarian. They were slightly baffled as to a short, quick path to get the information I needed. So, in the end, I am returning to my “make work project” finding anything out there that appears relevant, reading their bibliographies and trying to draw a web from there. It will be worth it in the end (imo) but taking the long way around these things tends to eat up valuable time. Often, I’m left asking myself why i always have to walk all around the outside of the box to get the job done.
For those looking for the fast and fun road to social theory. By no means a new discovery for many, but wanted to post the link.
Girls & Games
For the most part, my academic interests in games tend to exclude gender issues, but on a personal level – as a mom of 9 and 13 year old girls, the issue of gender and games is unavoidable. They are both very aware of the sexual connotations and gender roles written into most games. Today, my other half (gamer extraordinaire heh) brought them to EBGames for some saturday afternoon fun. Along with the obvious game choices they brought home (The Incredibles and Van Helsing) they also brought home a game called Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat. Now, I have not seen the game played yet, so I have no idea if it is good or bad, but what struck me was my girls’ reactions when they came home from the store. “Mom! We found a pirate game where the hero is a girl!” my youngest exclaimed, and “And she’s pretty covered up to!” as my oldest daughter shows me the back of the box depicting a well dressed female pirate with some modest(?) cleavage.
My girls understand the media and its use of sexuality. They have seen my EverQuest character get a breast augmentation in year three of the game’s release, and have watched countless, action packed hours of sexy heroes and villains on television, movies, video games and magazines. Although they often display an air of irrelevance to the scantily clad women, their reactions today made me realize that given the choice, they wouldnt mind seeing a little less flesh while being entertained.
To be fair, I understand that while children play video games, unless explicitly created for a 12 and under audience, most games are not geared towards children. I take the images and content with a grain of salt and a good chat with the girls, but I have to say, I was glad to see them so excited over a potentially positive game model for girls.
I’ll let you know how it pans out =)
Images to Words
I have to say, i have a new found respect for my friend over at WhimsyInc. for being able to use images to express so much. I am working on a presentation for monday, where i am attempting to make a simple MS Slide show that will demonstrate the issues i am discussing to save on the verbal descriptions. When i first started this part of the project, i thought nothing of it, figured it would be as simple as finding a few screenshots, taking some of my own, and stringing them together. Although that is mostly what i did, it dawned on me that a simple screenshot may have been fully representive to me – someone who has been playing the game for almost 6 years, and as the one describing my version of the phenomena of identity in mmo’s – but to someone who has never logged into a game, who has a hard time to fathom the game space and interaction that occurs there, the task of accumulating and organizing screenshots that will not get a direct explanation was far more difficult then i could have ever anticipated. My hats off to you Neale.
There is a conversation currently happening on the digra/gamesnetwork mailing list that discusses the pros and cons of delineating the boundaries that make up an academic field. Although this, in no way relates to the particular topic at hand, it is the root of it.
This conversation led me to think about boundaries. We all have them. In our relationships and social interactions, our parents gave us boundaries when we were kids, cities have boundaries too. But one of the unique features of the internet was that the boundaries were as vast and wide as the internet itself. That one can click and click and click in endless, boundariless virtual world. I anticipate the comment that indeed, there are boundaries online – such as password protected sites, or pay-for access memberships, but that goes against the point im trying to get at..
i have realized, that in my daily online routines, I have drawn my own boundaries. My online neighborhood consists of a small web of sites that i can access through each other, or, from my home (favorites). I turn on my computer every morning, grab a cup of coffee and click through my sites, read an article here, check the weather there. But lately, I have been getting bored quickly. The blogs that have replaced the morning news have not been overly active latetly, and there has been little else in my neighborhood to look at.
But when i think about venturing outside my 20 site neighborhood, i get a sense of ‘leaving home’. A sense that i am crossing a boundary that i made out of routine. And i question what it is about my routine, my neighborhood of sites that makes me feel like i’m (uneasily might i add) chartering new territory. And in times of anxiety, I always come back to the same old sites.
Guess this is more of a rant then a thought out, point laden post, but with all the talk of online community, recent conferences about solo play never really being solo (due to the interaction of man and man created machine) and boundaries, i have been thinking about how i have created my own ‘safe space’ online – and why i dont like to leave it.
Although for many, game studies is a known, emerging academic field. With many upcoming conferences, and the growing number of available resources, game studies is evolving nicely into a well-rounded discipline. Of the many signs of good things to come from this field (yes i am a tad biased!), the upcoming Games & Culture: a journal of interactive media is good news.