Event: It’s More than Just a Game: Best Practices In Video Game Research Design and Methodology – ICA 2012 Preconference

It’s More than Just a Game: Best Practices In Video Game Research Design and Methodology
ICA 2012 Preconference; sponsored by Game Studies Interest Group

http://www.icahdq.org/conf/2012/preconferences.asp (seventh link on the list)

Date and Time: Thursday, 24 May 11:00 – 17:00

Location: Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State U located at 555 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix AZ 85004, less than one block from the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel (CRONK 314); part of ICA2012 Phoenix

Limit: 60 persons

Cost: $ 20.00 USD; $5.00 USD Students (Registration includes pre-conference attendance, a catered lunch and food and beverage refreshments throughout the day. GSIG members will also unlock the “pre-conference” achievement badge)

More info after the jump

Abstract: Scholarly interest in video games has grown almost as fast as popular interest in the medium itself. Yet, the study of video games – be it experimental or critical – brings with it a nuanced set of challenges, as the medium often finds itself somewhere between video (analogous to television and film) and game (analogous to logic puzzles or sports competition). This issue of definition is not trivial, as it speaks to larger methodological concerns when attempting to understand both how video games are played and how game play affects us at the cognitive, affective, and behavioral levels.

Organized by the Game Studies Interest Group (http://game.icahdq.org/ohana/website/index.cfm?p=56927916), this pre-conference will bring together scholars interested in studying video games to discuss best practices in designing research aimed at studying video games. Leading game scholars from diverse backgrounds have been invited to lead discussions in their areas of expertise by drawing from personal experiences and theoretical considerations within a variety of contexts and epistemological to studying video games. Notably, our pre-conference will be designed to support ongoing dialogues both during and following each session, providing attendees with a true “workshop” environment with which to refine their own research programs.

The goal of this pre-conference is to provide all attendees with an opportunity to reflect on and plan future video game research with a small group of similarly-interested colleagues. To this end, attendees will be encouraged to submit a video game-related research proposal abstract (no more than 500 words) prior to the pre-conference that they are comfortable sharing with conference attendees. We will share these abstracts with our discussion leaders to help stimulate conversation during the events, and we will also post them to an accessible web page prior to the pre-conference so that other attendees can read through them and seek out potential collaborations at the event.

Attendees are encouraged to bring research ideas, laboratory notes, raw data sets and experimental designs with them to the pre-conference. During our workshop presentations, attendees are actively encouraged to work on their own projects with each other and the presentation discussion leaders; workspaces will be provided to facilitate this format.

Tentative Schedule of Events:

*All events held in The Executive Board Room (CRONK314) of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Communication, Arizona State U, 555 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix AZ 85004

11:00 a.m. – Noon: Informal lunch and “meet & greet”

Wrap buffet, including: beef, turkey and vegetarian options; pasta salad and Caesar salad; cheese, bread and crackers board; chicken chimichangas; chips and salsa

Opening comments from Game Studies Interest Group representatives

12:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.: Data Acquisition: Best Practices for Understanding Players, Their Motives, and Their Experiences

As video games continue to soar in popularity, increased scrutiny has been placed on understanding gamers by policy-makers and scholars alike. Yet, our understanding of gamers is limited by the quality of data we are able to get regarding their makeup, motives, and experiences while playing. This panel will discuss how we study gamers from a critical, socio-psychological, and psychological perspective.

Workshop leaders include: Jeoren Jansz (Erasmus U, NETHERLANDS) on the psychology of gamers before and during gameplay; Leonard Reinecke (U of Mannheim, GERMANY) on the intrinsic motivation of video game play; John Sherry (Michigan State U, USA) on developmental processes in gaming from childhood through adulthood; Gerald Voorhees (Oregon State U, USA) on using psychoanalytic and cultural studies as critical tools to analyze gamers; Dmitri Williams (U of Southern California, USA) on working with game publishers to make sense of server-side player data

2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.: Constructing a Game: Better Research Through Better Stimulus Design

Having evolved from the two-dimensional monochromatic presentations of Pong, today’s video games represent the cutting edge of computing technology and narrative engagement to fully immerse users in vivid and interactive environments. While these aspects of gaming are central to their immense popularity, they present unique challenges to researchers wanting to understand the many nuances of the medium. This panel seeks to walk participants through these nuances by presenting a comprehensive look at video game design, from storyboard to special edition.

Workshop leaders include: Ashish Amresh (Arizona State U, USA) on the mechanics of video game design; James Gee (Arizona State U, USA) on viewing video games as learning experiences; Sven Jockel (U of Erfurt, GERMANY) on using “off the shelf” video game engines to create experimental environments; Wei Peng (Michigan State U, USA) on best practices of developing or choosing treatment and control stimuli in games research; Bonnie Nardi (U of California-Irvine, USA) on viewing game design through the player’s own ethnographic lens

3:45 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. The Spread Gun Isn’t Always The Most Accurate: Pairing Up Methodology With Research Questions – Collaborative Workshops

The first session focused on data acquisition techniques and the second section focused on stimulus materials. Building from the above discussions, the final panel of the day will discuss how to apply certain methods to certain research questions. Directly following this discussion, pre-conference participants will break into smaller groups to collaborate on projects.

This session will end with closing comments and research charge by pre-conference organizer Nicholas David Bowman (West Virginia U)

Workshop Leaders Biographies:

Ashish Amresh (Arizona State U, USA) is an Assistant Professor in the College of Technology and Innovation and is leading the Computer Gaming curriculum initiatives at Arizona State U, where he founded the Computer Gaming Certificate and the Camp Game summer program. Dr. Amresh’s workshop discussion will cover some basics of design, mechanics, controls and flow in video games, as well as potential connections between design methodology and experiential learning. He will then facilitate a discussion with attendees on how these themes may influence game studies from a Communication perspective.

Jeoren Jansz (Erasmus U, NETHERLANDS) is a special Professor of Communication and Media in the Department of Media and Communication. Dr. Jansz’s workshop discussion aims to address motivational issues in videogame research. Different theoretical perspectives (e.g., U&G, SDT) have contributed to the emerging empirical tradition of measuring what motivates people to play. A critical assessment of available concepts and theories will obviously be part of the workshop; however its focus is on discussing the strengths and weaknesses of different research methods (quantitative and qualitative) and measurement instruments. The workshop will be truly interactive: participants are invited to submit their own past research or planned future research to be discussed during the meeting.

James Gee (Arizona State U, USA) is the Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies at Arizona State U. Dr. Gee’s workshop discussion will focus on the topic of learning within video games and the task of studying how video games facilitate learning. He will introduce his own extensive work in this area, provide recommendations for approaching the study of games for learning, and then facilitate a discussion with attendees about potential research designs in this area.

Bonnie Nardi (U of California-Irvine, USA) is a faculty member in the Department of Informatics in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the U of California, Irvine. Dr. Nardi’s workshop discussion will focus on ethnography as a critical methodology for studying how video games are actually played by human persons conceived holistically as sociocognitive agents. Ethnography entertains questions beyond (or in addition to) narratology or play analyzed statistically as decontextualized variables. Her new book Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method (Princeton U Press) provides inspiration for her remarks.

Wei Peng (Michigan State U, USA) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Telecommunications, Information Studies, and Media, Michigan State U who is also affiliated with the Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) lab and the Health and Risk Communication Center, both at MSU. Dr. Peng’s workshop discussion will examine best practices of developing or choosing treatment and control condition stimuli in video game related experimental studies to ensure internal, external, and ecological validity.

Leonard Reinecke (U of Mannheim, GERMANY) holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from the U of Hamburg and is a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Media and Communication Studies at the U of Mannheim, Germany. Dr. Reinecke’s workshop discussion will present an argument for video games as intrinsically motivating experiences. Research has demonstrated the ability of video games to satisfy a set of intrinsic needs crucial for psychological well-being and vitality. Need satisfaction is a robust predictor for selective exposure to games and game enjoyment, which situates need satisfaction as a crucial motivation to engage in game play.

John Sherry (Michigan State U, USA) is an Associate Professor of Communication at Michigan State U who is affiliated with Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) lab and the Media Interface and Network Design (MIND) lab, both at MSU. Dr. Sherry’s workshop discussion will argue that games are more than just content; they are intellectual challenges. Thus, game researchers cannot rely on motivational theories from content-dominate media and must rethink the influence of player motivational orientations. This workshop will focus on the theoretical and methodological implications of game play motivations, including how these motivations vary in childhood and adulthood.

Gerald Voorhees (Oregon State U, USA) is an Assistant Professor of Media and Cultural Studies jointly appointed in the Department of Speech Communication and the New Media Communication program. Dr. Voorhees’s workshop discussion will present thoughts on using critical studies perspectives to understand video gamers. Critical perspectives on games encourage researchers to interrogate how the experience of gameplay is imbricated in relations of power. This talk discusses cultural studies and psychoanalytic approaches as critical tools for analyzing gameplay as an increasingly important site where culture and identity are constructed, circulated and contested.

Dmitri Williams (U of Southern California, USA) is an Associate Professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, where he is a part of the Annenberg Program on Online Communities (APOC). Dr. Williams’ workshop discussion will focus on the benefits/challenges of partnering with game publishers to conduct research, e.g., acquiring access to large-scale datasets on the back end of MMOs. He will describe this process, highlight some of his own extensive work through such partnerships, and facilitate a discussion about how attendees may be able to use this method in their own research.

Sven Jockel (U of Erfurt, GERMANY) is an Assistant Professor of Communication and Digital Media at the U of Erfurt where he chairs the Master’s program on Children, Adolescents and the Media. Dr. Jockel’s workshop discussion will investigate the strengths and weaknesses of using “off-the-shelf” video games in research design. As a foundation for this discussion, he will share his experience using the Aurora Toolset in creating stimulus material for a series of experiments. Aurora provides an intuitive but powerful toolset that allows experimenters to craft both action- and story-related gaming content for use even with low-powered PCs.


This year’s program is made possible through the generous support of: Annenberg School of Communication, U of Southern California; Department of Communication, Michigan State U College of Communication Arts and Sciences; Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media, Michigan State U College of Communication Arts and Sciences; Department of Communication, West Virginia U Eberly College of Arts and Sciences

We also wish to acknowledge the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State U, and Dean Christopher Callahan for their generous support in hosting our pre-conference.

Contact Person: For more information about the preconference, please contact Nicholas David Bowman, West Virginia U, Nicholas.Bowman@mail.wvu.edu

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