I haven't blogged much this week because, like a proper student, I wanted to get my homework done first - meaning I needed to blog about the Convergence of the Real and Virtual Conference (or WoW conference) I attended last weekend.
A guild named "Science" was created for the conference, and we all posted our real life information next to our names:
One of the guild members observed the difference between a scholarly guild and your typical WoW guild:
Session 1 focused on Research in World of Warcraft, as well as other virtual worlds. Prior to the session, several attendees posed for a photo with Thrall before heading to the conference room - a lovely stretch of beach east of Ogrimmar.
The session was co-chaired by Bonnie Nardi from the University of California, and Hilde Corneliussen, from the University of Bergen, Norway. The panelists were Celia Pearce, Nic Ducheneaut, and T. L. Taylor. The chairs were responsible for fielding questions from the audience and asking some pre-set questions of the panelists. Questions dealt with studying human behavior, using WoW for qualitative and quantitative research, how WoW-culture affects real life culture, what aspects are missing from current research on games, use of the term "magic circle" to describe the relationship between game and non-game states, and then some audience questions. The discussion was really interesting, talking about the strength of WoW as an environment for ethnographic study and social construction of virtual worlds, and the fact that collecting quantitative data from the WoW interface is very easy and useful - you can pretty much collect a complete record using audio, video, and text. As part of this research, you can observe a gradual emergence of post-modern ethics, relevant to real world situations. When talking about the transference of game skills with real life, one researcher said that Wow is similar to the Army Tank Corp's interface, that the game prepares warriors of the future, using small unit tactics as an example. Some of the areas targeted for future study were the development of social capital, game creation, and the virtual world inhabitants' relationship with game creators.
There was quite a bit of discussion about player demographics, particularly the always-hot gender issue. Current data suggests that only between 10-30% of players are female (and as a point of reference, only 11% of game designers are female). A possible research topic that arose from this discussion was the gender perceptions of the magic circle concept (link).
After the panel, several of the attendees went on an expedition to Thunderbluff, with a few scenic stops along the way. I took quite a few screenshots!
There are more at my WoW Conference Set.
Session 2 coming soon!