25 June 2008

Review - Leadership in Gaming

Utrecht University and IBM organize a symposium, hosted by Eduverse, on ‘The Play Element of Learning Leadership’ in De Balie in Amsterdam, June 24th.

Students from the MA programs New Media & Digital Culture and Game & Media Technology (Utrecht University) present their findings on leadership in online games such as EVE Online and World of Warcraft. The startingpoint for their research are studies done by Seriosity and IBM, which can be found here. Guest speakers, live and virtual, will add their views to the discussion. Besides in person, the event can be attended inworld, as it will be broadcast live in Second Life.

Last night I watched the live streaming of the conference at the de balie

The subject was Leadership in Gaming.
Program and Info

The Symposium websites at Eduverse and debalie

One of the speakers was Tony O'Driscoll

Dr. Tony O'Driscoll (aka Wada Tripp) describes the evolution from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 to Web3D.

Whilst there were a number of informative presentations, I thought the symposium failed in two key areas.

Firstly, the subject matter was MMORPG's, that is
(Massively multiplayer online role-playing games) such as World of Warcraft, Eve and Second Life. Whilst the subject of the changing nature of the web was covered comprehensively, the history of gaming was completely omitted. MMORPGs evolved from the MUDs and MOOs of the nineties. In 1995/6 I spent a lot of time in Lambda MOO and considerable researching the media and its social implications. What I found at the symposium was that participants were discussing phenomena of MMORPGs without acknowledging the early research into multiplayer internet communities. This is an issue that I have raised before.

When I revisited RPGs after a ten year break, I discovered that SL, for example, is simply Lambda MOO with pictures and an economy. All the issues regarding communication and representation existed and were discussed in Lambda, the creative factor existed in the programming of objects and in spaces. You couldn't fly in Lambda, but you could create a room and an online character and invite people into your space to interact.

Initially Lambda was quite geeky, you had to have geek skills to participate so the participants tended to be mature and educated. Then, when internet browsers became available and the media made it popular with teenagers, the interesting people left.

I felt that a large part of the material presented as "new discoveries in game theory" were already covered in the overlooked MUD/MOO literature.

The second area where I felt the symposium failed was in that of gender. At the very end of the program a student presented a paper on gender bias in World of Warcraft. She had spent time playing as both male and female characters. Again, no reference was made to the existing research from roleplaying games such as Dungeons and Dragons, or from the early internet RPGs. This was also evident in the post presentation discussion.

I've experimented in both areas. As Dungeon Master I have presented my players with enchanted armour that reversed their gender and then observed the results. Very amusing. In Lambda I played many characters of various genders and types, I had one called "YourMum" who entered the room and checked to see if you were wearing clean underwear. Also very amusing.

The paper on World of Warcraft gender bias was very interesting and well presented and generated the most discussion. Where the conference failed with regard to gender was in its marginalisation. The only speaker who addressed gender as a leadership issue was this one. And this is supposed to be a post-feminist society.



Here is the program and videos from the February 2008 Symposium on World Wide Web.

Contact info and details of participants is available here: Symposia01 Flash Page Click on “Events”


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