header image

[Academic] Advancement!

…And in other news, I advanced to candidacy last week! As of December 2nd, I am a PhD Candidate!


Time to figure out my dissertation topic.

[Academic] #GamerGate Lecture

Today I led a lecture with my colleague Kate Ringland for ICS60: Computer Games and Society at the University of California, Irvine.




And it went really well! The students contributed a lot of really quality insights in the discussion at the end about games as art, the light and dark sides of #GamerGate and where we can go as a community from here. Way to be professional, students. I’m proud.

[Implications] What’s in a Name? Naming Practices in Online Games

Now that this project has wrapped up, I’ve had a few people asking about what the implications for the research are. Mulling it over for awhile, I’ve come up with two different topics to which this exploratory study applies:

Design Implications: If there is one takeaway message from this project, it would be that names are important. Creating a name, choosing a name, and identifying with that name, were all discussed as important practices for online gamers. Some participants discussed the practice of “name selling,” the practice of reserving a name to sell it later, something that we see in many online communities. It would not be hard, then, for companies to edge their way into this market. Offering a paid “name reserve” for future titles could be an easy way for developers to monetize the practice of creating an identity, and a way for players to ensure “their name” is not taken when they join a new game. Obviously the ways to go about this could vary: how much does it cost? How long do you hold the name for? What if two individuals try to pay to reserve the same name? ArenaNet already explored this market with name reservations from Guild Wars 1 to Guild Wars 2 with relative success. I believe other companies with long-standing titles can also get in on this market.


Policy Implications: While the most recent event (courtesy of Facebook) surrounding “real” name drama has ended, I’m sure this won’t be the last time we here about an attempt to force users to identify themselves online by their real names. We saw it a few years ago from Blizzard Entertainment with the Real ID System, and since these events, people have been discussing the possible harm “real” name policies have for users. As active participants in online culture, creators of online communities, and researchers of online life, we need to educate ourselves about the repercussions of implementing systems like this. While this study was just the first in a series of several name and identity related projects I would like to look into, it is already clear what an integral role name-creation plays in online gaming communities. We can’t just look at identification online as “real name” vs. “anonymity” anymore. There are communities that exist where pseudonymous identities have reputations, relationships, and histories associated with them that matter to users and invalidate the claims that anonymity online frees users from their moral compasses.

[Publication] CHI Play 2014!

To say I am excited about my first publication in grad school is the understatement of the year. My paper, “What’s in a Name? Naming Practices in Online Video Games,” looks at how players create, use, and reuse character names in online games. And it was accepted for the 1st Proceedings of the CHI Play symposium! PDF of the final paper will come in a few months, and I’ll see all you other attendees in October!

[Games]: Guild Wars 2 – Back Into the Breach!

So after screwing around with the Guild Wars 2 character creator a few weeks ago, apparently a bunch of my friends decided to pick up the game…looks like I’m venturing back into Guild Wars 2.

New avatar time?

[Reading Club]: The Proteus Paradox

Title: The Proteus Paradox: How Online Games and Virtual Worlds Change Us – And How They Don’t

Author: Nick Yee

Background: The Proteus Paradox is basically the culmination of the last 10 years of Nick Yee’s life. For those of you not very familiar with gaming research, Nick Yee was part of a duo that had the largest, longest-running data collection on World of Warcraft ever. It was a big deal! You might have heard of him from his website, The Deadalus Project, where he conducted a bunch of surveys, interviews, etc. and reported back to the community with his results. He’s become a pretty “household name” for a lot of game researchers, and was one of my inspirations for going into game research [I even got to work at the same company with him for about a year! Unfortunately not on any of the same projects, but we did get to talk a lot. I was enamored the second I saw a Revoltech Professor Layton figurine on his desk]. In comparison to a lot of “research” texts, this book is actually really accessible, and the Kindle edition is pretty cheap on Amazon.

Synopsis: The book is set up so each chapter covers a different research topic, including player demographics, in-game romances, how your behavior changes when you use different avatars, gold farmers, gender differences, and virtual persuasion. Most of the concepts are talked about in reference to topics in Psychology, which is the author’s background field. The book is riddled with cool research analyses [MMOs may be better places for shy people to start off relationships because social pressures of the offline world aren’t present] and quotes from interviews with players [“In Anarchy Online, some people believed that wearing certain gear was the way to gain certain drops and would spend hours farming gear so that they could farm other gear.”] that make the book really engaging and entertaining to read.

You Might Be Interested in this If…: It’s a great overview of some big topics online gaming research, so if you’ve ever been sort of interested in that, this might be the book for you! Alternatively, if you have a history with MMOs, you will be hit with a lot of nostalgia waves from this book and memories of people that you played with doing the things mentioned in this book. It’s a “fun” read in the sense that you’ll be learning a lot neat gamey facts, and written in a way that you’re not dragging yourself through dense material. Also: if you like throwing down knowledge on people who talk about how terrible video games are for you, definitely pick this up [80% of MMO players play with real life friends or family! BOOM. SOCIAL OUTCAST STEREOTYPE BUSTED!].

My Opinion: When I picked this book up, I thought it was going to be a really academic theory heavy in talking about the topics it did [I was sort of looking forward to this because I’m a huge nerd], but the fact that it was written in a way that literally my 13 year old cousin who is developing an interest in games could pick it up and read most of it successfully and in a way she could understand was sort of cool! This book definitely intends to bring information about games user research to the gamers and game skeptics themselves as opposed to keeping it at conferences and in journals [that only stuffy academics read anyway, honestly] so the community knows what’s going on too. Overall, definitely worth the read!

If you’re interested in this, you may also want to check out an AMA Nick Yee did on Reddit regarding his work.

[Games]: Guild Wars 2 – Character Creator

So after a long respite from the MMO scene, I decided to venture back into Guild Wars 2 last night. I already had a max level Sylvari Ranger, and her hitting level cap was pretty much when I lost interest in the game, so rather than throwing myself into a meta I wasn’t familiar with I decided to go back to the character creator and try something new.

I had never really explored the customization options for male characters in the game beyond the Sylvari, so I decided to explore what kinds of characters totally weren’t being made based on the screenshots I had seen of various Guild Wars 2 scenes.



Next time I feel the need to play a fabulous wall of a mustachioed man, I know what game I’ll be going to.

[New Job]: Nerd Kingdom

Exciting news! since I just got all the managerial stuff squared away I feel like I can make an announcement officially: I am now a behavioral sciences intern with Nerd Kingdom!

I’ll be doing some miscellaneous work for them through the rest of the academic year, but come summer we’re hitting things full force. So look forward to some sweet, sweet scientific results come Fall 2014.

Also, for anyone who has not been following it, check out TUG, Nerd Kingdom’s current baby and work in progress.