Monday, October 31, 2005

WoW and the Burning Crusade Expansion

The folks at Blizzard have an expansion pack coming out for World of Warcraft, called Burning Crusade. You can watch the trailer, which combines their concept art and final rendered images to form a really cool narrative. They've brought back the blood elves, and the timelines are a bit confusing now but it still looks awesome.
There are 2 new races, flying mounts, and a new profession of jewelcrafting. A big one is that they've raised the level cap from 60 to 70. BUT... before I can even THINK about grinding in Azeroth, I need to return to my own grind to "DING" academically.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Globalizing media... you knew it had to happen

In the tradition of the numa numa dance -type viral videos... here's another one of two guys doing a very artistic interpretation of a Backstreet Boys song. From the eye rolling, to the arm cast, to the headband flying off... to the guy playing CounterStrike in the background. What can you say
They want it their way :)

That, and other people have noted that there have to be copyright laws that allow for this kind of thing to exist on the Internet. While they're technically violations, they don't -really- do any harm. Except maybe to give the Backstreet Boys some competition.

Friday, October 21, 2005


As I'm wrapped up in my own world wrapping up the thesis and dealing with life's surprises I had almost forgotten--if I were in Korea right now (and I mean exactly -right now-) I'd be having Miyoguk (Korean seaweed soup) cause it's the traditional thing ta do. You figure out the rest :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

eSports in Korea

Here's an interesting editorial post on eSports (namely, the state of StarCraft) in Korea. The popularity of the game is still quite high, considering it came out in 1997. However, that can be explained by looking at the high-level of convergence and media integration in the country. I talk about this in my own research from participant observation during my time there. Not only is the game readily available in PC bangs (PC rooms), but the live studio professional tournaments are televised, and the pro-gamers are sponsored =lavishly= by big media conglomerates.

The blog entry has a link to the PDF article on eSports from Korean Economic Trends too.

Check out the article by clicking on this link.

Monday, October 17, 2005

ROFLMAO lol kek /giggle

Ok, if you understand the title of this post, you're past step one to understanding this link to a Lord of the Rings/World of WarCraft mashup gif. It should have you in stitches...particularly if you are familiar with the terminology and have encountered such sentiments in-game.

If you're not familiar... well, maybe you'll be inspired:)

One of those brief diversions in the dreardom of thesis land... oh the burden.... oh the burden.
Ah well, I'm going to ding soon.

SSHRC grants for teh win!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Alternative space for teens

In my research I talk about youth getting their own online or offline space in which to have more self determination. This is an offline, low tech solution for a teenager's need for his or her own space. It's an inflatable room. Check it out here on BoingBoing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Event: Exploring Edutainment games

Here's an event coming up in Vancouver on October 20th on educational games.

Exploring 'Edutainment' - linking great gaming and learning-rich experiences

Join senior SFU learning designer, Dr. Mark Frein for an exploration of the potential of 'edutainment.'

Date: October 20, 2005
Time: 8:30-10:30am: Presentation starts at 9:00 am
Venue: YWCA, 535 Hornby Street, Vancouver
Cost: $20 for NMBC Members; $30 for Non-Members
A light breakfast will be provided

No one labels commercial game software "educational": It's the kiss of death for sales. And the few educational titles available are often subpar games, at best. On the other hand, elearning and computer-based-training products are very content rich but rarely -if ever- fun to sit down and work through.

Targeting both elearning and game development professionals, this session will examine the missing links between great gaming experiences and learning-rich experiences.


Dr. Mark Frein is the senior learning designer with the Learning Strategies Group at Simon Fraser University and a faculty member in SFU's School of Business. His design creations include customized executive education experiences for corporations across Canada and beyond. He has used almost every conceivable learning technology to deliver high-impact experiences to students -- including traditional simulations, custom edutainment products, and elearning.

Mark holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of British Columbia. He is also an avid gamer who long-long-ago worked in the gaming industry.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Terranova blog on AOIR 6.0

Here is some coverage of the games research at the AOIR conference on Terranova. Check it out here. It's great to see all the different types of games research being presented at this conference.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

ebook publication

I have an ebook chapter out, Interactive Convergence: Critical Issues in Multimedia is now available - go to
for all details and a download.

The eBook is Volume 10 of the Critical issues series 'Cybercultures', edited by Scott Schaffer and Melissa Price, ISBN: 1-904710-09-3. Our many thanks go to Scott and Melissa for her work in getting this manuscript complete and formatted.

For those of you who might have used this document, please note that it was the short 10 page reader's digest version.

The hardcover version of this should be out shortly.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Presenting at AoIR conference, Chicago, USA

Richard Smith is in Chicago presenting our paper, "Online gamers and the ambiguity of community: Korean definitions of togetherness for a new generation" at the conference this Saturday. To read the online abstract, go here.

While I'm in Vancouver putting foot to a$$, we're communicating by Skype. It's how we managed to have our supervisory meetings while I was marooned in Korea. It's de bess.

Internet Generations, the 6th International and Interdisciplinary Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers, bringing together scholars from many disciplines and nations.

The conference will begin with workshops on Wednesday, October 5, 2005, and panels, presentations and keynotes will begin on Thursday, October 6, 2005. The conference will end on Sunday, October 9, 2005.

The conference site is the Chicago Marriott Downtown, in the heart of Chicago's "Magnificent Mile," adjacent to shopping, museums, and within walking distance of Lake Michigan, numerous attractions and dining, and mass transit.

Happy Birthday mom!

Happy birthday to fellow Libra, my mom :)

Monday, October 03, 2005

Article on my Korean gaming research

Originally uploaded by FlorenceChee.
Video gaming holds Korea in its grip
CYBER-CULTURE: Researcher discovers national 'addiction' a quest for personal space

Jim Jamieson
The Province Sunday, May 22, 2005

CREDIT: Les Bazso, The Province
Florence Chee spent four months in Korea studying online gaming, including such games as Starcraft.

Florence Chee boarded a plane for Seoul last August to discover why Koreans are world renowned for their love of the Internet in general and online video games in particular.

The Simon Fraser University graduate student spent four months in the South Korean capital studying what Koreans themselves call a national addiction. She returned to Vancouver with keen insights into a society transformed by technology over the last decade.

"I wanted to see if the controversy over addiction to online games in Korea was warranted," said Chee, 25, who undertook the trip as research for her master's thesis in communication.

"I wanted to look at holistic factors and what other reasons there might be as to why the game stats were so elevated in Korea."

Korea is a veritable petri dish for applications and services tied to the Internet or mobile phones. Thanks to a visionary government, a corporate sector that boasts the likes of Samsung and LG Electronics, and a tech-hungry population, Korea is a hotbed of high-tech consumption.

Korea has the world's highest penetration of high-speed Internet usage -- 25 per cent of the overall population and 75 per cent of households -- while 54 per cent play online games. The world's video game industry -- a $13-billion-a-year business and growing fast -- pays close attention.

Chee, whose parents emigrated to Canada from Malaysia before she was born, spent a year learning the Korean language before her trip. In Korea, she interviewed 20 young, hard-core gamers and hosted several focus groups.

Her first discovery was that Internet cafes -- which are much more common in Korea than here -- have functions far beyond playing games. Korean youth may spend long hours at these hangouts, which are often open 24 hours a day.

Chee said much of the popularity of the game rooms comes down to economics --the cost is about $1 US an hour to play -- and privacy.

The typically multi-generational makeup of the Korean family in a densely populated city such as Seoul (10.3 million) leaves young people with little personal space.

"In Korean culture and because of population density, entertaining isn't really done in the home, especially if you are a youth," Chee said. "Some people date at game rooms. They have couple chairs, like a love seat, in front of two computers. The girl will be playing with the guy sometimes or she will be [online] chatting while he plays Starcraft with his friends."

That's why mobile-phone text messaging is so popular in Korea, she said. A young person can be sitting on the couch next to his or her grandma while having a private conversation.

But don't think gaming for its own sake doesn't have a high profile in Korea. "They actually have live TV broadcasts of professional gamer matches," she said.

"They have play-by-play and colour commentators and the players wear sponsor logos on their jerseys.

"A good pro gamer makes about $500,000 US a year."

Young Korean men find themselves under huge peer pressure to excel at the games and to play for long hours at a stretch. Chee knew of a group of young men who played for 36 hours straight, with the losers paying the tab.

An underground economy has grown up around online gaming, with credits and other virtual goods earned in the games sold for real-world cash. This has led to incidents of extortion and fraud.

"There are some in Korea who consider this culture a problem, the dark underbelly of the tech revolution," Chee said. "They see it as useless behaviour."

Canadians are also keen online-game players -- Canada ranks fifth in the world in terms of high-speed Internet penetration, at 17.6 per cent. But Chee doesn't think we'll emulate Korea's game culture any time soon.

"In Canada we are more independent, much bigger and we don't talk to each other so the same extent," she said. "Korea is so much smaller [about three times the size of Vancouver Island], so much easier to manage. Here, you go outside of a city and there's no cell coverage. There, it's everywhere."

As for the online "addiction," Chee now realizes you can't separate technology and culture. "It's very complex so people dismiss it and say its addictive," she said.

"The addiction amounts to wanting to hang out with friends. When you live in a cement jungle like Seoul, it's really hard to find a place to do more physically engaging things. Here, we can go jogging in Stanley Park."
© The Vancouver Province 2005

(From my old blog that went boom)

Saturday, October 01, 2005

We Orc Group photo

We Orc Group photo
Originally uploaded by Joi.
Joi Ito sent out an invite for an orc guild on WoW, so I joined... n00b raids are always entertaining.

Gaming Cultures reader

I have a book chapter coming out which explains my position
on the online/offline dichotomy
(or lack thereof). It's co-authored with Marcelo Vieta
and Richard Smith called, "Online Gaming and the
Interactional Self: Identity Interplay in Situated Practice."
The website advertising the reader
Gaming As Culture: Social Reality, Identity and
Experience in Fantasy Games

is now up at
You can also sign up there to be notified when the
publication is available.

Gaming as Culture: Social Reality, Identity and
Experience in Fantasy Games is due to be published
by McFarland Press in late 2005.

If you would like further information about the book,
please email Patrick Williams at

Researching 'virtual' worlds to learn more about the 'real'

In this article there is still the assumption of an inherent distinction between 'real' and 'virtual'. I would look upon virtual worlds as microcosmic creations that are still very much involved with our 'real' world.
It is still great that people are curious about the representations of social dynamics online.

The Chronicle of Higher Education
Information Technology
From the issue dated September 30, 2005

The Avatars of Research

Students and professors join popular virtual worlds like Second Life to study the real-world interactions they represent

At a recent instructional workshop at Elon University, a group of eight professors and staff members take their first steps in a virtual world called Second Life. Seated around computers, they tap their keyboards and move their mice so that their online characters walk around a virtual swimming pool.

The digital scene looks like a pool party attended by the world's clumsiest guests, as one after another stumbles into the water.

"I'm drowning!" cries Gerald Gibson, an assistant professor of communications, as he watches his online character go down in several feet of water.

"Hit page up and then control-c," advises Karen Marsh-Lovvorn, an instructional technologist at Elon, who led the summer workshop for professors, hoping to entice them to use Second Life in their classes. Mr. Gibson complies, and his character shoots up out of the water and lands poolside.

Though all this online frolicking may seem frivolous, the professors' interest in virtual worlds is strictly professional. These cartoonlike environments -- called massively multiplayer online games -- which can be played from anywhere in the world, have become popular laboratories for scholars to study individual and group behavior or test their entrepreneurial skills. Other virtual worlds studied by researchers include World of Warcraft and Everquest.

Second Life, in particular, has become a magnet for researchers because the world places few constraints on them. And Linden Lab, the San Francisco-based company that created the game two years ago, allows college students and scholars free entry to its make-believe world of 50,000 players worldwide. Other people paid a one-time fee of $10 to explore the world until this month, when Linden Lab announced free entry for everyone. Nonacademics who want to own "land" on which to build such things as virtual homes and entertainment areas must pay $10 a month for the rights. Participants mask their identities, taking on the roles of animated characters, known as avatars. They socialize, build neighborhoods, form groups of friends, and, in some cases, even marry. The connections and tensions that develop among avatars speak volumes about the behavior of people and organizations in real life, which is intriguing to sociologists, psychologists, and anthropologists, among other social scientists.

Business professors are interested in Second Life because subscribers create, buy, and sell the colorful characters, costumes, virtual belongings, buildings, and neighborhoods that populate the cyberuniverse. The digital inventions are purchased with a virtual currency called "Linden dollars," which can be exchanged for real money. Indeed, a few people make a living by selling real estate in Second Life for real money. Virtual goods worth an actual $18-million are sold among Second Life participants each year, according to Linden Lab.

"Going up and setting up a business in Second Life is fundamentally not that different from setting up a business in the real world," says Kevin Werbach, an assistant professor of legal studies and business ethics at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. "You have to have a core set of skills in defining an idea, implementing it, selling it, and managing the processes, which is really the essence of being an entrepreneur."

Rich Environments

Students, too, are drawn to this new world of research. Jon Maggio, a senior here at Elon, is fascinated by sociology and virtual worlds. So when a sociology professor suggested that he combine his two passions into a research project, he jumped at the opportunity.

Over the summer, Mr. Maggio followed a blog about goings-on in Second Life and was intrigued by what he read: Participants in the community strive for social acceptance, hire private investigators to spy on virtual spouses, hurl harassment charges at each other, and debate whether a virtual marriage ceremony performed by a minister's avatar is -- well, real. In one scandalous case, two virtual characters reportedly developed such a strong connection that their human operators ditched their respective spouses and moved in together.

"There's so much here," says Mr. Maggio. "I could spend the rest of my life studying this thing."

He originally planned to center his sociology research project on Second Life. But he has recently expanded it to include two more popular virtual environments -- World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy 11, which are more action-oriented than Second Life and offer the chance to slay dragons and monsters.

Mr. Maggio's research focuses on the intersection between virtual and real worlds, more specifically on the potential for abuse in the buying and selling of digital objects. Some allege that entrepreneurs have set up small offices crammed with computers where workers in developing countries, such as China, spend all day in virtual worlds in order to create and acquire the digital goods therein, which their bosses then trade for real money on sites like eBay. The bosses take most of the money and pay the workers less than a dollar an hour, according to reports, including a February column by Tom Loftus on

Eventually Mr. Maggio plans to do graduate work in the budding field of cyberculture studies, studying the sociological aspects of virtual worlds.

He was introduced to Second Life by some students of Megan S. Conklin, an assistant professor of computer science at Elon, who is a self-described campus "evangelist" for Second Life.

She has asked her students to use the virtual community as a laboratory to explore issues concerning marriage, gender identity, social status, religion, and monetary policy, among other topics.

"I can get my students to understand in five minutes what I would normally have to lecture about for five hours," Ms. Conklin tells her colleagues at the Second Life workshop, which she leads along with Ms. Marsh-Lovvorn.

Ms. Conklin shows the Elon professors her avatar, named Professor Radiks. Dressed in a Victorian-era bustle and wide-brimmed hat, she moves around online amid the professors' avatars. These include Tatsui, a woman in a skintight red outfit; Liniope, a large, muscular man with a creepy gaze; and Ms. Marsh-Lovvorn's own avatar, Echinacea. (A gardener, the technologist named her characters after herbs.) The character looks like its creator, dressed in a purple shirt and black sweater-and-pants set, the same outfit worn by Ms. Marsh-Lovvorn during the workshop.

Growing Attraction

Computer scientists are not the only scholars making use of Second Life.

Architecture students at the University of Texas at Austin and at the University of California at Berkeley have used Second Life to create virtual buildings and public spaces to see what they might be like to inhabit. At the Wharton School, students are interested in testing their entrepreneurial and marketing techniques by setting up businesses in Second Life to bring in virtual cash.

Aaron Delwiche, an assistant professor of communication at Trinity University in San Antonio, had his students use Second Life in the spring of 2004 to study game design. They took advantage of object-creating tools in the virtual world to develop games that could familiarize new players with the software. Mr. Delwiche also had an expert on virtual worlds who lives in Copenhagen deliver a guest lecture to his class remotely, using the Second Life environment.

This month Linden Lab announced to Second Life participants that students from eight colleges would roam the virtual world during the fall semester. The students are enrolled in architecture, computer science, international business, sociology, and urban-planning courses, among others. In each class, the last name of the students' avatars is the same, so other avatars can easily spot which players are doing research.

Participants in Second Life don't always take kindly to being the subject of researchers' fascination, however. Some have complained that students are coy about their research or ask repetitive and inane questions.

Students in Ms. Conklin's class, all of whom are known in Second Life by the surname Radiks, were taken aback by some of the angry messages they received.

"I'm afraid I've had just about enough of these questions from Radiks," one avatar wrote in an online forum. "I'm not some kind of strange subject, here to be analyzed and questioned and interviewed and watched and photographed for a scientific or anthropological study at whatever rubbish uni they're from. I'm a person and I'm sick of this."

Ms. Conklin defended her students in the same online forum, saying they were abiding by Second Life's research-ethics policy, which requires researchers to identify themselves and to get the permission of a participant before publishing his or her comments.

Welcoming Students

Linden Lab never anticipated that its environment would be widely used by college students, says Robin D. Harper, vice president for community development. But once professors began encouraging students to explore the online community, company executives put policies in place to entice college classes to the site.

Before the company began offering free access to Second Life this month, only students and professors in a class could explore the virtual world at no charge. Each class gets a parcel of virtual land on which to build housing, public parks, or casinos, for example, to test students' design skills and to attract other participants. For classroom use, the company waives its monthly "maintenance fee" of $25 for one acre. After the course ends, students can keep their avatars and continue using Second Life free.

Linden Lab has found that students and professors give the company useful advice on how to improve the virtual world, says Ms. Harper. Three years ago students in a class in architecture and urban planning at the University of Texas at Austin recommended that the company allow Second Life participants to join multiple groups in order to create closer social networks. The advice was taken.

"The challenge is for new teachers, who aren't that familiar with Second Life," to find the tools to create things, says Ms. Harper. "So our focus is more on helping them locate the resources they need."

Ms. Marsh-Lovvorn assumes that role at Elon. During the workshop, she shows the professors that by clicking on the "edit" and "appearance" menus in Second Life, they can modify their avatars' bodies, facial features, or race. They can make themselves as ordinary or freakish as they want, giving themselves oversize heads, long torsos, or fluorescent eyes. One character, Araiya Bomazi, appears to be part-human, part-squirrel.

Mr. Gibson, the communications professor, decided to change the gender of his avatar. "I'm tired of being in touch with my feminine side," he declared.

Ms. Conklin also presents the professors with a list of possible assignments for their students. Among them: Interview Second Life participants to determine why the avatars have a certain appearance or dress; investigate how the community's economy works; and discuss whether class hierarchies have emerged, and if so, how they work.

Ms. Conklin's students were able to experience firsthand the effects of tinkering with Second Life's internal economy.

In a popular activity within the community, participants spend Linden dollars to rate other avatars on their appearance and behavior, an activity that determines avatars' social status. (All Second Life participants are given a small sum of Linden dollars upon entering the world.)

In the middle of Ms. Conklin's three-week course in the winter term, Linden Lab raised the cost of rating an avatar from one to 25 Linden dollars, in order to tighten the money supply. "Some economics students immediately were able to start doing graphs and thinking about supply and demand and talking about monetary-policy issues," said Ms. Conklin. "It was really great."

Along with their online explorations, Ms. Conklin's students viewed the movie The Matrix and read Snow Crash, a 1992 science-fiction novel by Neal Stephenson that explores an alternative social world in cyberspace. (The avatars' surname, Radiks, is a reference to Radikal Kourier Systems, a company in the book.)

Second Life mimics much of what goes on in real life, but not everything. A player can change night to day at any time, an upheaval that registers only on his or her own computer screen. And Ms. Marsh-Lovvorn shows the professors that by clicking on the "fly" tab, at the bottom of the screen, they can take off like birds.

The professors do so and soar to Forcythia's Fantasy, a maze of walls, caverns, and greenery that includes animals in a stable, tents in recreation area, and a castle.

Not every professor who has been introduced to Second Life is sold on it as a teaching tool.

Barth Strempek, an associate professor of business administration at Elon, says he is skeptical about using the software to teach business skills. "If I want to teach my students how to sell, I'm not sure this is the right place," he says. "I want them meeting people face to face." He also worries that the virtual environments could cut into young people's outdoor activities, like playing sports.

Ms. Conklin responds that because students are going to play around in virtual worlds anyway, they should be able to think critically about what is happening in the emerging social spaces. When students visit virtual worlds for class, she says, "at least they're doing homework in them."
Section: Information Technology
Volume 52, Issue 6, Page A35