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Austin Tate :: Blog

July 10, 2012

1. Can our choice of avatar influence a change in real world behaviour through a virtual world experience?

original title used for essay 

2. Can avatars be used to change behaviours in real life?

Snappy but I am not doing the research - i am just reflecting on others work 

3. Does choice of avatar influence offline behaviour?

Like this actually, but not sure of use of offline behaviour, but i suppose it contrasts to online behaviour - but that is also an interesting topic 

4. A reflection on the role of avatars in supporting real life behavioural changes?

Like the reflection bit as it tells people im not actualy doing the research. Not sure if the word behavioural is too encompassing and out of the small remit of the study 

Posted by anabel drought | 1 comment(s)

Task: Write on a specific topic
21.27 start:
The essay i would like to transform into an article for a journal is one i wrote for IDEL in December 2011. It is about the role of avatars and how they can effect real life behaviours.
It came form an idea that i had whilst using second life, when i began to worry about the innapropriate clothing my avatr had on for the tutorial we attended. I worried that my skirt was too short and my blouse too low cut. I didn't know how to change my clothing at the time and panicked that i wouldn't be giving off the correct image of myself as a proffesional student studying at the prestigious Edinburgh University. When i arrived at the meeting place i soon found that my panick over clothing was not an issue as people turned up as robots, dogs, vampires etc and my human woman was nothing out of the ordinary. I began to reflect on the way i had assigned a character to my avatar and felt it somehow portrayed me and the type of person i must be because of my avatar. I decided to look into research on AVatars and found that the Stanford University had doen a lot of research into using lifelike avatars to change real life behaviours. I was totally amazed by this idea and wrote on this topic for mY IDEL assignment. My essay will therfore not be a new idea but a reflection on others research, i have no idea what journal would be interested in it but perhaps i could practice with re genre ing it and writing it for trashy magazines as a guide to loose weight in the first instance. I am rambling now as i have run out if ideas and i have 1 minute to go. I love the 
21.37 finish

Identify key themes and start to cluster them and look for connections.  
The key themes are 
Choice of avatar
How an avatar represent oneself
The link between avatar and self
The role of an avatar in changes to real life

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July 02, 2012

Ahhhh feels good to be back 



I feel I should have  a new section or folder or something to divide up my different courses blog postings, Calvin will do!

 Trial at free writing

I dont usually have a problem with the blank page - i tend to be a profuse writer and then a big deleter. I also tend to keep within the word limit and have thousands of appendicies which dont neccessarily add to the body of text but i include because i have worked on it and feel it is somehow good and slightly relevenat and that it may give me some points ( you never know) However the comments i recieve on essays tend to be


  • I have gone over the word limit
  • I need to be more critical
  • The appendicies are not relevent
  • Things in the appendicies should have been in the main text
  • I should have expanded on specific points 


I say in my head - but i had no more space to include it in main text / expand on it / be critical of it 

So from this i already see that it is my focus that is the problem - if i focused more at the early stages and i could come up with a structure / essay plan as i was shown at University and write to the focus rather than writing about everything in the area and hope to pull together a direction.

Ahhhhh - reflection

I enjoyed the experience of free writing,  it gets thoughts flowing, i need to improve my typing accuracy as the interuption of words the wrong way round and i's not capitalised interrupts the flow and pauses thoughts and creativity

Keywords: Academic writing, Free writing

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March 31, 2012

What game can do for us? A game can be designed with an educational purpose to not only guide the people to learn and to explore the world but also smooth the interpersonal relationships between different social groups. Brandes and Phillips(1977 p.5) indicate that “They can help social inadequacy by developing co-operation with groups; develop sensitivity to the problems of others through games needing trust, and promote inter-dependency as well as an independence of personal identity”.


In order to allow outcomes to be attainable, the types of games can be discussed first. Ellington, Addinall and Percival (1982) try to identify the game in three categories:

1.      Pure games: The features are ’competition and rules’.

2.      Pure simulation: The features are ‘represent a real situation and are on-going’.

3.      Pure case studies: The features are ‘in depth study’ and ‘illustration of special or general characteristics’.

They also believe that these can be combined in a mutual way. For example, ‘simulation games used as case studies’, which can be seen in some educational environment or teaching events.

However, it is relatively difficult to identify ‘game’. Same as the question that I keep in mind, will it still be considered as a ‘game’ without having the component of competition? Of course it is. For example, the online role play scenario will provide the players the environment to explore, however, not necessary to complete with others or even themselves.


How can it be considered as a well-designed educational game?

Whitton (2010 p.79) indicates six components to engage the players in the game:

1.      Completion - completing the game and collecting the set of game challenges.

2.      Competition - competing against others to solve challenges first or fastest.

3.      Narrative - immersion in the ongoing story.

4.      Puzzle-solving - solving the ongoing riddles and challenges.

5.      Community - the discussion boards and live collaborative events.

6.      Creativity - creative problem-solving or the development of artefacts.

For example, the ‘narrative’ and ‘completion’ can be usually seen in the online role play scenario through the conversation between the player and the computer. It is also quite common in commercial computer games.



Brandes, D. and Phillips, H. (1977) Gamesters' handbook. 140 games for teachers and group leaders, London : Hutchinson.


Ellington, H., Addinall, E. and Percival, F. (1982) A Handbook Of Game Design, London : Kagan Page


Whitton, N. (2010) Encouraging Engagement in Game-Based Learning, International Journal of Game-Based Learning, 1(1), pp.75-84.

Posted by Ming-Wei LEE | 0 comment(s)

March 24, 2012

I came across the concept ‘engagement’ in one of my courses last semester.

It is said by Saks (2006) that employees who are engaged exhibit attentiveness and mental absorption in their work. Wagner and Harter (2006) also indicate the engagement allow employees to display a deep, emotional connection toward their workplace.


Although it is related to the organizational performance, it does not directly link to the learning or motivation. While I am considering why immersion can lead people to learn, I think one of the possible reasons is because they are engaged in the game environment, and then they learn naturally with enjoyment.

So, engagement is a key. Why not learn through ‘games’?

After reading part of Gee’s work (2007), I think one of his arguments is as following. The reason why people generally believe that ‘playing video games is a waste of time’ is because video games belong to one of the semiotic domains, and they are not expected as the academic domains by some parents. As a result, they are not considered as valuable objectives in this society.

It seems to be reasonable, however, can people really learn through ‘immersion’?

Murray (1998 p.99) mentions about the enjoyment of immersion “In a participatory medium, immersion implies learning to swim, to do the things that the new environment makes possible.” In the MMOGs environment, we do learn how to navigate our avatar in a brand new environment. By immersing ourselves into the virtual world, we do actively learn how to communicate, interact with people, and gain sense of safety and respect from others.

Look closer to the narrative component of the MMOGs or games.

Murray (1998 p.100) argues that stories arouse the deepest fears and desires from ourselves. We feel satisfied when we project ourselves into a wonderland where the dreams are safe and sound. I believe it is why we are more willing to devote our times into game environment instead of listening to a lecture or attending a seminar. We feel being protected and being cared in the environment, and then we are engaged. Afterwards, taken for granted, we learn better.

“The great advantage of participatory environments in creating immersion is their capacity to elicit behavior that endows the imaginary objects with life”. (Murray, 1998 p.112)

I think that is where the simulation games can take advantage from it.

However, the key is how the learning can be transferred into the real-life content.

Well, to be honest, I don’t know, but I think I have learnt a trick. We need to escape from the real-world to stimulate our potential (a new ‘me’) to learn, but we still need to realize it new ‘me’ is not real, and we should remind ourselves of knowing the way back by seeing Harold’s moon. (Murray, 1998 p.103)


Murray H. J, (1998) "Immersion" In Murray H. J, Hamlet on the Holodeck, pp.97-125, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press

Gee, J.P. (2007) What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy Palgrave Macmillan.

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March 19, 2012

I am here trying to explain in my own words how people exactly ‘learn’ from participating in the MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) environment after reading the research paper of Steinkuehler in 2004.


The first reflection I would like to make is from the no.1 learning principle of Gee (2004), ‘Active, Critical Learning Principle’. Players “have to play to learn,¨ (Turkle, 1995, p. 70) Once the players choose to enter the virtual world, there is no longer obligation to force the players to learn. However, I still believe that a certain degree of engagement is still required for this informal learning in order to keep immerse in the virtual world. It is relative easy to access the MMOG world, and it is much easier for the players to quit playing it.


The second reflection from me is learning social practice through others. The players have to play and learn from others if they want “to develop genuine expertise.”(Steinkuehler, 2004, p.527) Taking myself as example, I have been used to be a solo online player even in an online environment of MMOG. I can still discover the virtual world quite well. Admittedly, I can learn faster through being coached by senior players. It brings the no.16 learning principle of Gee (2004) to me, ‘Mltiple Rotes Principle Depending on the learning styles the players have, they can choose alternative styles to make progress in the game.


Apart from that, I still believe that the interpersonal relationship building is a significant issue in MMOG environment. Turkle (1995) also mentions that the excitement of the game comes from having personal relationship and being part emerging politics and activities in community. Moreover, according to the no.22 learning principle of Gee (2004), ‘Intuitive Knowledge Principle’, some intuitive or tacit knowledge is often shared in an affinity group, which means you can easily learn from experienced players. Take the apprenticeship in the ‘LINEAGE’ as an example in MMOGs, Steinkuehler (2004) indicates that by modeling successful performance, key material, social, and contextual aspects that are crucial for learning are identified, and opportunity for practice and immediate feedback are allowed.


In this case, not only the social practice is constructed and learned from the players and their tutors but also the no.27 learning principle of Gee (2004) is brought out, ‘Explicit information On-Demand and Just-in-Time Principle’, the leaning can be applied and the feedback can be received both immediately. I believe that this principal makes enormous contribution to learning when applying learning and teaching to CBL(Computer-Based Learning) or CAL(Computer-Assisted Learning) environment.



Gee, J (2004) What Video Games Have To Teach Us About Learning And Literacy, New York ; Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan


Steinkuehler, C. A. (2004) Learning in massively multiplayer online games, In Y. B. Kafai, W. A. Sandoval, N. Enyedy, A. S. Nixon, & F. Herrera (Eds.), Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference of the Learning Sciences (pp. 521-528) Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.


Turkle, S. (1995) Life on the screen: Identity in the age of the Internet, New York: Touchstone.

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March 14, 2012

1) Active, Critical Learning Principle

It is quite obvious to note that the players are required to participate in gaming actively and take actions all the time.


2) Design Principle


3) Semiotic Principle

In the game, chatting with friends by typing is different from waving your hands to them. Even the gifts (weapon or helmet) can be given as a symbol of friendship.


4) Semiotic Domains Principle

I think this one is related to the previous principle, where the players learn how their team image can be symbolized by the flag or items.


5) Meta-level thinking about Semiotic Domain Principle

Based on the previous two principles, players can not only appreciate or master in different groups of semiotic domains but also distinguish between them.


6) "Psychosocial Moratorium" Principle

Players are more willing to take risks in the game. For example, try to kill a forest bear. (But I personally prefer to do something I will never do in real life, such as, kill an innocent rabbit.)


7) Committed Learning Principle

Most of the engaged players can’t get rid of playing, and consider their virtual identities as the extension of real-world ones. (I think it is where the immersion coours)


8) Identity Principle

Real-world identities link to virtual identities by projective identities where we can see the virtual ones are manipulated individually. (Try to play the games in different gender.)


9) Self-Knowledge Principle

This one is really interesting. Players are allowed to get to know themselves more in-depth. Taking myself as an example, I don’t like to fight for a team task in order to reach the huge prize or take challenges. I prefer to enjoy the scenery by myself.


10) Amplification of Input Principle


11) Achievement Principle

As it is shown in the game, the achievement records, there are the list of skills which the players have already learnt and the list of tasks which have already been completed.


12) Practice Principle

There are so many quests in this game, can be divided into individual and team. Try and error, players learn to master everything in the virtual world.


13). Ongoing Learning Principle

It seems that learning continues even when the goal is achieved. So, there are always new things to learn and to get familiar with in the game.


14) "Regime of Competence" Principle

The quests are challenging but still attainable. I think it is because of the community of this game, where you can always find someone has already achieve this goal.


15) Probing Principle

It seems to be similar to the experiential learning cycle. The learning happens when the player implement their hypothesis and receive results.


16) Multiple Routes Principle

Being a different race, or a different occupation, players are always able to choose alternative ways to play the game.


17) Situated Meaning Principle

18) Text Principle

19) Intertextual Principle


20) Multimodal Principle

This one is obvious. In multimedia environment, it is not essential to “talk” to others, there are so many alternative ways for the players to receive message or knowledge.


21) "Material Intelligence" Principle

I am not sure; maybe, the players can learn to appreciate the items of the game. Therefore, they comprehend how to utilize the resources to achieve the goal.


22) Intuitive Knowledge Principle

Maybe, player can learn to distinguish the places where high possibility to complete the quest / find the desired items is more guaranteed.


23) Subset Principle


24) Incremental Principle

The patterns players learn in early stage can be still taken into account when they move to advance levels. (EX: the geography information of the virtual world)


25) Concentrated Sample Principle

Players learn how to swim and how to talk with a character in very first beginning from instruction.


26) Bottom-up Basic Skills Principle

Players start to discover the unknown world from the basic skills and then move to the advanced ones.


27) Explicit Information On-Demand and Just-in-Time Principle

Players can always find the assistance from the “menu” or “help” in the game environment.


28) Discovery Principle

In the game environment, the hints from the game are limited. For example, the location of the key character of the task is provided but some of them are hidden in buildings and may be difficult to locate. Players need to discover and experience the game in their own way.


29) Transfer Principle

Players can recognize the hints from the map to carry out the quest, and they learn from the process. By repeating the same process and behavior patterns, players can master in completing the quests.


30) Cultural Models about the World Principle

31) Cultural Models about Learning Principle

32) Cultural Models about Semiotic Domains Principle

Cultural differentiation? To be honest, I didn’t perceive this perspective very clearly.


33) Distributed Principle

The knowledge is distributed and shared in the environment, and it can be easily noted through the language the players use and the symbols they agree on.


34) Dispersed Principle

I am kind of disagreeing with this one, if my perception is correct. I think the meaning of this game may be gone, but the rules of this kind of online role-play game can be applied to another similar game. Therefore, new learners will get to know the new environment more easily due to the previous game experience.


35) Affinity Group Principle

I think this one is related to the team building, sharing the goals and being together as a whole.


36) Insider Principle

Due to the impacts of immersion, some players can even take part in being a bug tracker for this game. They do know the game environment.



Gee, J 2004, What Video Games Have To Teach Us About Learning And Literacy, New York ; Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan

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March 13, 2012


Studying games based learning means I tend to encounter the phrase ‘I’m no good at games’ a fair bit. The problem I have with it is I’m not sure it is possible. What people who say this actually mean is any one or more of the following:

1) I am intimidated by computers or don’t want to learn

Needs no explanation, we’ve all seen it. In this example ‘no good’ translates quite nicely as ‘don’t want to try’. It’s about motivation. I’ll cite my Grandad as case in point. He doesn’t want a mobile phone because he’s no good at ‘technology’, but he can achieve the kind of magic with the cricket on his Sky+ box that I can only dream of.

2) I consider gaming to be a somehow lower form of entertainment

This one might be a little bit specific to the shire of white middle class England I live in, but there’s a social divide in play. You can test this out for yourself. Next time the ‘what did you do at the weekend’ question comes up in a peer group try alternating your responses between:

  1. I got my hunter up to level 20 in WoW.
  2. We went to the new Titanic exhibition at the city museum and I finally got round to finishing Obama book.

3) I’ve forgotten that ‘games’ is a wider field than that shooting thing my son likes

There’s no question that electronic gaming has got popular. The problem is that people tend to generalise based on what they see in the media. Talk about gaming and our first points of reference are either first person shooters and how they are encouraging little Jonny to go all Black Hawk Down on his school or that weird kid who stays up all night doing strange things with orcs.

Gaming is a massive field. It includes those board games you used to love and still make me play at Christmas, the whole of the sports world, even those stupid games you play with yourself on the commute to work or with the receptionist in your building. I refuse to accept that anybody can be bad at Every Game.

4) I feel the need to project myself as a serious grown up

This is very similar to 2), but needs a section of it’s own. At what point in our lives do we stop playing? Early childhood play is about learning. Go to school and learning becomes work and play what we’re allowed to do afterwards. As ‘serious’ adults do we spend time playing? Would you be prepared to tell your friends in the book group you’ve been playing? Why not?

5) I want to stop this conversation as soon as possible and talk to somebody here who is less geeky

Potentially more a reflection on me rather than the wider subject…

Image source- PS3 Controller by Chi

Posted by Tim Dalton | 0 comment(s)

March 12, 2012

WBT enables learners to explore by themselves. The general approach of how people learn is through the process ‘Tell them, show them, and let them try’. Compared with traditional learning, it is easier to access for the learners to ‘try’ by themselves. Taking simulation training as an example, the learners are able to play multiple roles in simulation. They can experience consequences of alternative behaviors and even the negative behaviors can be included. (Horton, 2000)

        In terms of test and exercise, WBT enables ‘immediate feedback’ to fit learners’ expectation. (Horton, 2000) In traditional approach, it takes ages for the learners to wait for their feedback. Even if the feedback is revealed after the test is completed, they will usually receive them as a whole instead of in piecemeal. WBT allows feedback to be demonstrated piece by piece, and keeps learners from missing several related questions because of a single misunderstanding. (Horton, 2000)

        Moreover, the hints can be provided in order to assist the learners to investigate the learning in depth. Hints can take many forms, such as: background information or instructions on how to perform the next step. (Horton, 2000) The role of giving the hints is quite similar to the role of facilitator in traditional training. However, to guide the learners in more specific way individually is definitely one of the strengths of WBT.

Finally, WBT enables learners to experience something nearly impossible to occur in real life. In a role-play scenario, Lee and Hoadley (2007) indicate that by acting as a different gender, learners observe more details in sexual incidences and even discriminations. Likewise, if the costs of failure are high, it is relatively suitable to use simulation for learning (Horton, 2000). For example, nuclear plant operators, airplane navigator.


Horton, W. (2000) Designing Web-Based Training : How To Teach Anyone Anything Anywhere Anytime, New York ; Chichester : Wiley


Lee, J.J., and Hoadley, C.M. (2007) Leveraging Identity to Make Learning Fun: Possible Selves and Experiential Learning in Massively Multiplayer Online Games(MMOGS), Innovate, Vol. 3, No. 6, http://innovateonline.info/?view=article&id=348

Keywords: simulation, Web-Based Training

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March 08, 2012

To begin with, among the six reasons why the players had engaged with the game (Whitton, 2011), I personally can be easily motivated by ‘completion’, ‘narrative’ and ‘puzzle-solving’. I think these educational games are quite interesting and fun compared to the rest of learning methods and approaches, such as: lecture, group discussion…


However, in the ARGOSI project, there is huge amount of responses indicate the disengagement of the learners. As it is mentioned in the conclusion part, if it is formally assessed and arranged as part of the education content, the percentage of engagement may increase. (Whitton, 2011) What I am thinking here is, by doing so, the learners may engage not because of the game design or the attractive true natural of ARG gams but because it is one of the mandatory elements of their study. So, the form of learning may not matter at all, just like the post-graduate students are all engaging in their dissertation if they need to obtain their master degree.


I also realize that it is not easy to find out why people do not engage instead of engaging. My initial thought to this is quite straightforward. Maybe it is just because that this game is designed as education-oriented, not leisure-oriented. Therefore, students will not easily accept the new policy or new learning materials which purely come from school authority. In my own experience and opinion, they usually consider these interventions as another kind of bothering. Moreover, according to adult learning theory, the learners are likely to resist unless they can choose the learning objects as being relevant to their own needs. (Swanson, 2011) Further, I assume that the low response rate is due to the learners’ self-diagnose needs do not match with the outcomes which they assume this ARGOSI project will produce.


What if the aim of the ARG game is to assist students to practice job interview skills, will it benefit their engagement? This goal is so practical and in my opinion, it can attract students to a certain extent. To be honest, I would like to design a game with this topic, and maybe I can do some research accordingly to investigate further.


Knowles, M., Holton, E., & Swanson, R. (2011) The Adult Learner : The Definitive Classic In Adult Education And Human Resource Development, Amsterdam ; Boston : Elsevier.

Whitton, N. (2010) Encouraging Engagement in Game-Based Learning. International Journal of Game-Based Learning, 1(1), pp.75–84.

Keywords: ARG, ARGOSI project

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