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CSCW 2010

Following up on my post about the workshop, there was this whole rest of the conference there too. Most of it didn't have a very game-oriented agenda. Fair enough, it's supposed to be a conference about work. That's really broad. I would not expect the specific topics of the work of making games nor the work of completing games to take up a large portion of the conference.

By the by, if you ever want to eavesdrop on some lecture I'm attending, give me a follow at I tend to tweetcast, though I warn you, I don't tend to check twitter other than when I'm tweetcasting. And speaking of, anyone know of a tool to archive one's twitter feed?

These days, CSCW (which stands for computer supported collaborative work) seems to mostly be about large-scale social media. Twitter has risen to join Wikipedia as the cliche thing to study, though there was surprising representation from online dating sites as well.

Anyway, there were three gaming talks that I knew of.

Neunundneunzig Zehn Luftballons

The first one was a panel about the DARPA Red Balloon Challenge, where 10 balloons were anchored throughout the US and $40,000 went to the team that found the most, the implication being that teams would use crowdsourcing and social media to win. I actually hadn't heard about this at the time. Pity, because it sounded fascinating. The panel was from MIT (winners, hooray my alma matter!), Georgia Tech (second place, hooray my other alma matter!), and Penn State. MIT used a pyramid scheme for incentive. Anyone who found a balloon got $2000, the person who recruited them got $1000, and the next two people up the ladder got $500. It encouraged you to have as big a network as possible. They also learned it's really hard to give away money, what with taxes and all.

Another interesting finding reported by the MIT team was figuring out malicious false reports. Some were easy to spot (report of a balloon in California coming from an IP address in Montana), but language was another clue. Since reports were in the form of free text, people who actually were in the location tended to refer to nearby landmarks (e.g. "by the libaray," "near the statue.") Fakers had no such references. The Georgia Tech team also had problems with false reports, but much less than MIT did. The Georgia Tech team was giving the prize money to charity, so they figure people felt bad about scamming them.

Amy Voida, yo mama plays Wii
The second gaming talk... I was lame and didn't go to. I'm sorry, there were all those overblown snowstorm reports about Boston, and I was trying to figure out if I was getting stranded. Anyway, it was by Amy Voida, who does ongoing research about console gaming as a social group activity. Luckily her paper "The Individual and the Group in Console Gaming" is online, though has the usual problem of academic papers, which is that it's pretty opaque to people not used to reading academic papers. Pity I missed the talk, the twitter feed reports "amy voida on trash talking during gameplay. she claims it reinforces power relationships and is, basically, bad. like yo mama #cscw" Does that not sound like an awesome talk?

Norman Makoto Su: "HADOKEN!"

The last gaming lecture, I did get to see. Norman Makoto Su is a rather adorable PhD student over at UC Irvine who spends all his free time playing violent video games, Street Fighter IV in particular. See kids? Playing video games makes you graduate!

What? It makes as much sense as most of the other arguments about what video games make you do. Ahem.

Anyway, the talk was called "Street Fighter IV: Braggadocio Off and On-Line", and was delivered with an insider's knowledge and a researcher's eye. Basically it looked at the social, competitive culture that had grown up around Street Fighter II and how it changed with the introduction of Street Fighter IV, which is basically an online console game you play from home. It was especially interesting to hear as a designer, since I could immediately see things to try if one wanted to transfer some of that culture over. Introduce guilds to create rivalries. Allow games to be automatically recorded and downloadable, so people can mash them up to add soundtracks, obscene gestures, whatever. In game taunts that take dexterity to execute ala Mortal Kombat, so players can humiliate rather than just defeat... Really, when one stops to think about it, there are many ways to make this rather off-putting game even more appalling.

Yeah, this culture is clearly not for me. But I did enjoy his discussion of it.

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