Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Virtual Worlds Workshop at Magleås, Denmark

I'm at a beautiful conference centre north of Copenhagen at the moment. The workshop began yesterday and the day was really full with talks by, among others, Jeremy Hunsinger and Ted Castronova. Really interesting, but I'm rather sad that I did not have time to blog then.

Today begins with a keynote speech by Mia Consalvo: "When casual became hardcore, and social went asynchronous: Exploring the changing landscape of virtual worlds and online games." We need to study more types of virtual world than we do right now. Rethink what we doing. Rethink the players. Rethink the play. What are the stories we are telling about our research? From the communities in traditional virtual worlds to the communities and fan fiction that have emerged around casual games such as Return to Ravenhearst. Consalvo shows examples from forum discussions. She shows that "casual" gaming is not so casual, and moves on to show the findings from one of her recent studies. The players are generally female, often in their 50s, often play up to two hours/day, and they mainly focus on completing the goals of the games whereas socializing is not particularily high on the list. She moves on to discuss the growth and then recent drop in the number of users of Farmville.

In the "fish bowl" discussion immediately afterwards the following random questions were raised: Why is there a need to define categories such as "virtual worlds"? Why is there a notion of stigma around being referred to as a "gamer"? As researchers, to what extent are we steered by what is available and popular online?

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