for science

Exploring ‘The Video Game Debate’: Cognitive performance and your brain on games

So far in our exploration of the topics in Rachel Kowert and Thorsten Quandt’s book The Video Game Debate: Unravelling the Physical, Social, and Psychological Effects of Video Games, we’ve tackled the state of modern game research, online games and internet addiction, moral panic and online griefing, and the role of games in education (and vice versa). Today, we’ll focus on video games and cognitive performance — your brain on games!

I was recently reminded that for a long time gaming was identified as something that could, at minimum, be used to master reaction times. In 1982, Chevy Chase of all people actually highlighted both the potential and fear of the power of games in terms of their impact on cognitive performance.

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Massively Overthinking: Let’s play with the Gamer Motivation Model

Over the winter holidays, we wrote about game analytics consulting firm Quantic Foundry, which has published what it calls its “Gamer Motivation Model” — essentially, it’s an updated Bartle test for modern gamers that groups gamer types into three “clusters of motivations.” More recently, co-founder Dr. Nick Yee — yes, that Nick Yee — has discussed how gamer motivations align with personality traits.

In light of the fun we had taking the Bartle test a few months ago and the news that Bartle himself is publishing new books offering insight into our genre, we thought we’d take the Gamer Motivation test ourselves, share our results and our thoughts on the test, and provoke you to do the same.

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‘Father of MMORPGs’ Richard Bartle is publishing new books on the genre

“Father of MMORPGs” Dr. Richard Bartle, author of the pioneering research that spawned the Bartle test, is publishing two new books about our imperiled genre.

MMOs from the Inside Out: The History, Design, Fun, and Art of Massively-multiplayer Online Role-playing Games, the longer of the pair, will focus on MMORPG design.

“[It] speaks to the designers and players of MMOs, taking it as axiomatic that such games are inspirational and boundless forces for good. The aim of this book is to enthuse an up-coming generation of designers, to inspire and educate players and designers-to-be, and to reinvigorate those already working in the field who might be wondering if it’s still all worthwhile.”

MMOs from the Outside In: The Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games of Psychology, Law, Government, and Real Life will examine MMO research and educate readers on “how the world can change MMOs,” both for good and bad.

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The Daily Grind: Will you Kickstart any video games in the new year?

A recent piece on Gamesindustry.biz posits that while there the crowdfunding “bubble” hasn’t burst, the crowdfunding scene, at least insofar as video games, is experiencing decline. Author Thomas Bidaux explains,

“2015 has been an excellent year for Kickstarter and video games, with more than $41 million collected by successful projects. This is a significantly better performance than in 2014 where we saw a decline in the total amount accumulated by games on the platform. […But w]hile 2015 was an excellent year for massive projects (the ones that are raising more than $500,000), what we see on all the other ranges is a decline. While we will end the year with more projects funded than in 2012, this year will be the lowest of the past three years. And the decline is seen in all the ranges of projects, except the small projects below $10,000 in funding. This is not a bubble bursting, as there are still more than 350 projects that are already funded this year. There are actually a good number of studios and creators being allowed to take their project further thanks to crowdfunding, but we are definitely entering a decline phase.”

Check out his data and consider whether you agree. Are we watching a “rich get richer” situation in Kickstarter history? And does it affect you — will you be Kickstarting any video games or MMOs in the new year?

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New research illuminates our gaming motivations

If you’ve ever thought that the Bartle test was a bit outdated, game analytics consulting firm Quantic Foundry has a new gamer psych chart for you. This past week, it released its Gamer Motivation Model, which groups gamer types into three “clusters of motivations” joined by “discovery” and “power” bridges.

In the bottom-right orange cluster, there’s an Action-Social cluster that combines the interest in fast-paced gameplay with player interaction.
In the left yellow cluster, there’s an Immersion-Creativity cluster that combines the interest in narrative, expression, and world exploration.
In the top blue clusters, there’s a Mastery-Achievement cluster that combines the appeal of strategic gameplay, taking on challenges, and becoming powerful.

The company is planning to release more data in the coming months, so stay tuned if the science of why we game the way we do interests you, and go take the test yourself if you’re so inclined.

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City of Titans is using government science to build its maps

The upcoming superhero MMO City of Titans has ambitious plans to build up to 40 districts for the game. But how will it create these sculpted maps with an indie crew? By harnessing government science, that’s how.

The team explained that it’s legally appropriating data from the government to build the game world: “There’s a lot of science funded by the government. And a lot of it is in the public domain. We the People paid for it, We the People get to use it. There’s a number of cities that have been scanned by lasers by the US Geological Survey. And a number of harbors that have been scanned by sonar, by the same people.”

This data are just the starting points for map creation, however, as the team has to fill in holes and add structures and roadways on top of it. City of Titans also revealed the names of the 13 launch districts, which you can see in a map after the break. And once you’re done with that? Kick back with a tall glass of in-game storytelling.

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Exploring ‘The Video Game Debate’: Games and education

We’ve got some really smart commenters here at MassivelyOP, and I think they help keep the fiercer trolls away. But when Joystiq itself went under, I found myself homeless for general gaming news. Sure, there are other gaming websites, but their comment sections aren’t nearly as enlightening. It’s not a big problem, but I feel it’s one that highlights one of my concerns as a gamer who has a non-gaming day job: How do we show “normal people” that games have more value than wasting time on your phone as you wait to buy groceries?

That’s why I was interested in Rachel Kowert and Thorsten Quandt’s book The Video Game Debate in the first place, and it’s why we’ll continue the exploration of its chapters and related texts today. As a teacher, I figure education is the easiest way to get this point across. Read more

Industry experts weigh in on Activision Blizzard’s King acquisition

If you’re still trying to wrap your head around Activision Blizzard’s stunning purchase of Candy Crush developer King for $5.9 billion, trust us, you’re far from alone.

Over the past day, several industry analysts have weighed in on the business move, with many (but not all) of them saying that it was a bold but smart move for the company. SuperData analyst Joost van Dreunen noted that King was a “key acquisition target” for Asian publishers looking to expand in the west and that Activision’s purchase would gain a mobile division for the company while denying King to its competitors.

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Exploring ‘The Video Game Debate’: Moral panic and online griefing

Welcome back to our ongoing exploration of Rachel Kowert and Thorsten Quandt’s book The Video Game Debate. As you can guess, the book itself focuses on games in general, not just MMOs and online games, so I was able to apply today’s chapter on moral panic to recent trending indie RPG Undertale. I’ve argued to educators that not only is there evidence that games can positively affect morals, but that part of Undertale’s charm is that we know we can do bad things yet are emotionally rewarded for acting in a peaceful manner. In fact, the game actively discourages you from committing violence by constantly trying to include you with its cast of characters.

Then someone on Reddit stepped into a conversation and asked, “What about all the griefing in sandbox games”? It’s a great question, and one addressed in this chapter.

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Massively Overthinking: Let’s take the classic Bartle test

Here’s something you probably didn’t know: Online worlds researcher Dr. Richard Bartle didn’t actually write the Bartle test.

His original research explored, analyzed, and defined the four player archetypes — killer, socializer, achiever, and explorer — but the test based on that paper was created a few years later by Erwin Andreasen and Brandon Downey and named in his honor.

We’ve been talking a lot about Bartle’s ideas’ relevance to modern MMOs in the last month or two, so I thought it would be fun to ask the Massively OP staff and readers to take the test, share their results, and talk about what it all means in this week’s Massively Overthinking.

There are, of course, some caveats.

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EVE Vegas 2015: Project Discovery gamifies scientific research

One of the problems facing some fields of scientific research is that there are often huge numbers of images to classify and analyse, and researchers just can’t keep up with the workload. Several labs have launched projects over the years that aim to get the general public’s help with this problem, such as the Galaxy Zoo project that asked the general public to visually classify galaxies. While machine learning has come a long way in recent years, the human brain is a powerful pattern-matching computer and real humans will always be useful for pre-classifying training images for the computer system.

Project Discovery aims to bring this powerful tool into EVE Online universe by turning the classification process into a game mechanic that makes sense within the EVE universe and lore. When the project goes live, the Sisters of EVE faction will begin offering people loyalty points for each image they correctly classify. Developers selected the Human Protein project as it fits with the EVE design and is altruistic in nature, supporting research into protein expression in cells that could have important consequences for research on a variety of diseases and genetic conditions.

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The Soapbox: MMOs and the power of habit

I’ve been reading this book by Charles Duhigg called The Power of Habit. Actually, the full title is The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and in Business, but that was a mouthful for an opening sentence. It’s a book that draws heavily on academia as well as interviews with private sector executives to identify something called the habit loop, which is the author’s way of quantifying how the human brain sorts habits from conscious choices.

“At one point, we all consciously decided how much to eat and what to focus on when we got to the office,” Duhigg writes. “Then we stopped making a choice, and the behavior became automatic.” What does that have to do with video games or MMORPGs? Let’s find out.

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