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Caro Williams-Pierce
Works at University of Wisconsin-Madison
Attends University of Wisconsin-Madison
Lives in Madison, WI
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Caro Williams-Pierce

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I'm reading about vaping in Singapore, since it turns out it is very, very illegal. One idiot "certified substance abuse counsellor" said that e-cigarettes don't help people quit smoking at all, because they don't help people modify their behavior from smoking cigarettes. So:

1) Quitting smoking and quitting nicotine are two separate things. Vaping helped me with the former, but not the latter. So what?

2) There are many many ways in which smoking behaviors and vaping behaviors are different - and someone who advises others on addiction should have no problem identifying at least one of them. I mean, come on!

3) I think I'm extra cranky because Singapore outlawed vaping alongside a dozen other nicotine-related objects - like nicotine patches! - and there are news outlets who apparently try to find ways to make those decisions sound rational. Why? Dunno. 
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Caro Williams-Pierce

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I'm okay with the idea of supporting students in being "future-ready" - but somehow, "future-proof" feels urpy... #icls2016
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Have fun!
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+Eric Bauman's awesome kickstarter - do your part in fighting childhood obesity by funding fun =D

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2141406092/houston-we-have-spinach
Using gaming to fight childhood obesity one Nerd Grapple at a time. Build rockets fueled with food. Better nutrition = better launch.
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Oooooh I love this kind of stuff! http://thegamedesignforum.com/features/rd_hl_1.html

via +Abraham Williams =D
Reverse Design: Half-Life. Did you know that you can get an eBook version (PDF format) of this text? The eBook contains bonus content, including an entire extra section on the impact of Half-Life on multiplayer FPS design. You can also get eBooks for the entire Reverse Design series to this ...
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This seems like how also a musical instrument is learned. I also like it to brain injury recovery.
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Caro Williams-Pierce

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Crap - I'm 100% an inventor! #icls2016
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I went to a talk about how learning scientists need to be able to both invent and detect to do quality research - turns out, I'm only good at the first one! The detecting part requires a level of confidence of truth - and I'm too much a scientist to ever believe in big-T Truth :/
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Caro Williams-Pierce

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Video: Theater group takes Machinima concept live, performing classic plays in video games.
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Some time last year, I had my tech.math.play lab play Heroes of the Storm. One of my lab members is interested in math education, not videogames, and so she asked via email:

"I wonder what the meaning of games like Heroes of Storms is to you. It seems that we enjoy doing things mostly because we assign values and meanings to things, no matter how boring/meaningless an activity is in others’ eyes... I haven’t personally found the point of playing a game like Heroes of Storms yet. But I would love to hear your experience and thoughts about playing such games..."

I wrote a really long - and dare I say, thoughtful - email in response, that I want to share here:

That's a difficult but fun question! I'm going to start by saying that that question is an odd one, because "meaning" of an experience is tricky - so asking "what is the meaning of HotS" is like asking "what is the meaning of reading Harry Potter?" or "what is the meaning of looking at that piece of artwork?" or "what is the meaning of that human experience?" Games are often associated with some type of pure fun experience, but many good games are full of not-fun experiences. And that's okay, because games are not trivial objects - games are on the same level of important human experience as museums, and plays, and musicals, and books - and thus, they are not easily explained or experienced or understood, even when we try to simplify them down to principles...

To start answering your question:

First, HotS is not the sort of game I voluntarily play very often, unless I have a large group of friends and it's the mutual activity we're engaging in together, as a social thing. Like, some folks go dancing, or drinking, or hiking - my friends and I tend to "go gaming" - and the structure of HotS supports us gaming together. But like I said earlier, I had beta access to this game, before it went public, and I played for like 10 minutes before I was bored with it. I'm just not much of a cooperative gameplayer, and usually prefer gaming on my own. In other words, if we weren't playing this together as a lab, I wouldn't be playing it at all!

So, why did I choose this game for us three to play together? A few different reasons. First, it's part of the huge e-sports movement - and part of being a games researcher/designer is keeping up with trends. I spent a few weeks playing Candy Crush and Farmville when those came out, before "casual games" became so ubiquitous, because the huge success of those games identified new principles for designing games that hadn't been so well explored before. Candy Crush, for example, made short pattern-based mobile games a million-billion-kajillion dollar business; Farmville implemented a crazy new time-based system that changed the way that millions of players experienced their non-game-playing time - so players thought of Farmville all the time even when they weren't playing it. So I learned about these new game design strategies by playing types of games that I wouldn't usually play.

Second, I wanted the three of us to experience learning a game together, and this one was free and is incredibly well designed. And it's important to remember: games that you dislike can still be well designed :)

Third, HotS is complicated enough that we can't just simply "learn" the game and be done with it - it is a difficult game to learn, and an even harder game to become good at. And with all the stuff we read about well designed games, it's really really really important to experience how a well designed game can be really really really hard to play, and full of frustration that isn't always pleasant, and so on. In fact, it's unfair to expect pure fun from a game when you're learning to play it - that's like expecting pure fun from learning to read, just because you're learning the symbol systems you need to access the fun of books.

Now, there are a few things about HotS that are, well, different from the way that Gee and Schell talk about videogames. In particular, both of those scholars talk about games as being designed as a sort of perfect experience - these systems that support certain types of behavior and discourage others, and follow this pattern of hard-easy-hard and so on. In other words, they're both talking about incredibly simple game systems where you can pick up the controller and play. HotS is not so simple, and "community" is actually designed to be part of the game - a part of the game, I might add, that we are missing, since all three of us are novices, and I don't think any of us have gone online to get info about activating temples or different maps or whatever. This game was designed with the expectation of thriving online communities and being apprenticed during gameplay by other players who know more.

So, we had talked about MDA before. Well, think of HotS as being designed specifically to exclude certain mechanics, so that the community of players could provide the dynamics that those mechanics would usually provide. And the designers of HotS knew that this would happen, because of the historical context of this game. Here's that summary:

DotA has been around for ages, and is kinda like HotS, but even less helpful - you only learn by playing or reading online, there's no tutorial. LoL is more recent, but based on the same principle, just with better graphics and some innovations. However, LoL has a terrible community, so learning-while-playing can suck. HotS added more tutorials and choices than DotA or LoL, and incorporated tons of references to other Blizzard games (all insider references that you likely don't get, for the most part :/), and implemented a system that helped make the community more friendly and fun to learn from. So this history - like the history of any game - is contextualized within a culture - and every culture has their own expectations. If HotS was more informative and linear, DotA and LoL players would be cranky, because it would be a completely different type of game...

Just remember: it's not unusual to dislike a game like this at the beginning - you're stuck with it a few more weeks, and then we'll revisit our gaming nights :) But games are not just "fun," just like school isn't just fun but is still often enjoyable, or life isn't always fun - so playing games and not having fun is often still worthwhile, odd though it sounds.

I hope that this huge email helped contextualize the game, as well as why we're playing it =D
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+Caro Williams-Pierce > One of my lab members is interested in math education, not videogames, and so she asked via email:
>
> "I wonder what the meaning of games like Heroes of Storms is to you....

Your described conversation reminds me of a question that one programmer in a course in systems programming asked to me in college.  He happened to be coincidentally sitting to my left one day in a computer laboratory on the same floor as the "Zoo" computer science laboratory at my college when I was taking a break from programming, by playing a D&D-style game entitled "Forgotten Realms:  Advanced Dungeons and Dragons:  Curse of the Azure Bonds."

He asked me some question substantially equivalent to the following:  "Why don't you try writing a computer game instead of just playing it?"

I gave a response substantially equivalent to the following:

"Writing a computer game and playing one are two completely different experiences.  When I play a computer game, as opposed to writing one, I tend to be interested in the emotional satisfaction achieved from the experience of a virtual adventure in an imaginary party of adventurers journeying through a fantasy realm.  Writing a computer game, unlike playing one, tends to provide intellectual satisfaction only, not emotional satisfaction.

"Look at my computer screen.  This character is me, and the other characters standing next to that character are the other members of my party.  We are adventuring through the Forgotten Realms, and...."

He interjected, "Who's 'we?'"

I responded, "The members of my party.  This is a role-playing game, and the point is to pretend to be someone else.  Therefore, in this game, this character here on the screen represents me, and these other characters represent the other members of my party.  We are adventuring together...."

He interjected again, "But who's 'we?'"

I responded, "I just told you:  'We' refers to the members of my party.  The point is to role-play; that is, to pretend to be someone else.  In this game, I am pretending to be this character on the screen, and these are the other characters in my party.  We are adventuring together...."

Again, he interjected, "But who's 'we'?'"

At this point, I gave up in trying to educate his understanding.  Apparently, he lacked the imagination to understand the concept of "role-play."

Personally, I think that a difficulty that many students in computer science and mathematics have in understanding the concept of "fun" in a game is that at least some seem to have a very different appreciation of the concept.

Essentially, this difference seems to boil down to a discrepancy in their Myers-Briggs personality types.  Specifically, one of the four axes in the Myers-Briggs personality-type classification system is related to whether a person ultimately makes decisions based on rational thought or on emotion.  Those who ultimately decide upon matters based on the former are classified as "Thinkers" (T), whereas those who ultimately decide upon them based on the latter are classified as "Feelers" (F).

Whereas most people combine both rational thought and emotion in making a final decision, according to the Myers-Briggs personality-type classification system, in most cases, a given individual's final decision generally tends to be based on one or the other.

I was an oddball among students in my computer science department because I was much gifted at haiku composition than either mathematics or programming, and, generally speaking, tended to think much more like a poet than either a programmer or a mathematician.

For example, I would get bored if I debugged a buggy program on the computer screen for more than 15 minutes, and would occasionally write haiku poetry just for fun whenever inspiration (my "Muse") struck upon encountering a beautiful scene in nature or a piece of artwork.

Whereas I did find both programming and mathematics to be intellectually interesting, both topics, at least to me, lacked any story element, which I considered essential for emotional appeal.  Exceptions to this rule usually had a story element:  Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Flatland, Flatterland, and the like.

To me, prolonged abstinence from at least some emotionally fulfilling story generally caused a gradually increasing level of emotional dissatisfaction, resulting in a correspondingly increasing level of stress.  While simply reading a story could provide partial alleviation of this stress, such a passive activity tended to cause boredom without some form of active participation.

Therefore, I sought active participation in a detailed story.  This experience was best satisfied by role-play; specifically, by playing a role-playing game (provided that the specific setting and plot were sufficiently interesting).

Unfortunately, this need for emotional fulfillment seems to be absent from most students in mathematics and computer science.  The few exceptions seem to be those students who simultaneously have a significant appreciation of some form of art.
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Me, with bed head: "I look like Elvis!"
+Jordan Thevenow-Harrison: "Yeah, if he was just in an explosion."
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One of our cupboards appears to be snoring. Luckily, instead of our house coming alive, it was just a sneaky fat cat who decided that pots and pans were comfortable sleeping matter.
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My doc student uses the word "utilize" in the second sentence of her proposal document. I've never asked her to change it, because it makes me giggle and think of +Amy Ellis =D
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They should utilize the vocabulary at their disposal.
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  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
    Graduate Student, present
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Madison, WI
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Cherryfield, ME - Bennington, VT - Portland, OR - Portland, ME - Fort Kent, ME - Limestone, ME - Bar Harbor, ME - Seattle, WA - Fort Jackson, SC - Madison, WI - Bloomington, IN
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prof at UAlbany; student of the world
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I study mathematics education and video games.  #awesomesauce5000
Education
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
    present
  • Maine School of Science and Mathematics
  • Bennington College
  • University of Maine at Fort Kent
  • Indiana University-Bloomington
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Caroline