Talks and presentations

Dungeons and Dragons: The First Platform

March 01, 2019

Conference proceedings talk, International Meeting of the Pop Culture Association, Washington D.C.

Software development and computational power have developed and changed so quickly that much of the research surrounding it are reactions, a result of the computer reaching out. The consequences of this constant change are that historic contexts, including the ability to understand the code and procedure of the time is often lost to newer, more efficient, yet incompatible technologies. This project will approach software preservation beyond archival purposes. We will evaluate the code these programmers in concurrence with the human activity those coders were seeking to translate: the tabletop game Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). A team of historians, computer scientists, humanists, and enthusiasts will work to develop a method that simultaneously examines the code of five early video games: dnd, pedit5, moria, Oubliette, Adventure, and Beneath Apple Manor. The result will be a procedural examination of some of the earliest video games created by some of the earliest students of programming, their difficulties, and procedural decisions, some of which are in use to this day.

Explosions: Destroying What is Because It’s Simply Too Much

November 09, 2018

Seminar, Center for Informatics Research in Science and Scholarship (CIRSS), Champaign IL, USA

We live like Robinson Crusoe in Michel Tournier’s satire Friday, the Other Island. After being washed ashore on an empty island, Robinson Crusoe rebuilt the socio-technical system he belonged to. As he strengthened that system, he came to find the pressure of maintaining it so burdensome that when it was destroyed, he felt freedom for the first time. The pressure to maintain our systems is so powerful that the physiological impact of that pressure lowers life expectancy for people different than Crusoe. Every method we use to study our systems adds pressure. Every design adds to that pressure. We wait, much like Crusoe, over-burdened and desperate; waiting to be rescued from ourselves. With rescue impossible, do we simply keep building pressure until Friday (thankfully) blows it all up? Perhaps we can learn Friday’s lesson without all that violence.

The Loss of Sociability in MMORPGs as Seen Through FFXI: Online

October 15, 2018

Conference, 2018 International Conference on Meaningful Play, East Lansing MI, USA

The rise of toxic gaming culture occurs in concurrence with the slow loss of technological affordances that promote sociality and cooperation in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Games (MMORPG). Between 2004 – 2013, World of Warcraft slowly removed the need for players to interact with one another. This resulted in other MMORPGs following suit with existing MMORPGs left to figure out how to deal with this new style of play. This case study examines the patch notes and software history of the popular MMORPG called Final Fantasy XI Online (FFXI). This MMORPG is unique as it was a game whose systems forced cooperation and reliance on other people. How FFXI changed from forced human-to-human reliance to a single-player experience is a unique case study reflecting the broader design trends in socially-oriented online play. By explicating these features, this case study provides useful context the study of the loss of cooperation and sociability in online gaming.

Paper Located Here

Making Maps Available for Play: A Design History of Game Cartography Interfaces

March 01, 2018

Conference, 2018 Meeting of the Pop Culture Association, Indianapolis IN, USA

When players are immersed in a video game world, the map serves as a way for designers to provide scale and foster player behaviors like exploration. Over time, video games have moved from 2-dimensional, flat, tightly bound worlds to 3-dimensional, open worlds. The map has undergone a concomitant transition from the literal space of play to an abstract object that must be consulted in a separate space from play, offering its own interactive affordances. We offer a history of what we term “game cartography interfaces” – the space where players view and possibly interact with a gameworld’s map. We begin with a discussion of mimesis and transmedia practice from the early history of video games (e.g., Zork, Rogue). In these games, players were tasked with drawing maps on their own, since technology was insufficient to facilitate mapping in-game. We continue with a discussion of computer roleplaying games like Ultima, Final Fantasy, and DragonQuest. Here, the map could sometimes be viewed as an object but it was primarily also the space of play. We conclude with a discussion of the impact of 3D games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Guild Wars 2, and Arma 3. These robust, large-scale game worlds provide players with a separate space to deeply manipulate a game map. The use of outside knowledge from smartphone mapping applications and the need for online play provide a useful discussion about the re-interpretation of transmedia mapping practices without technical limitations.

Academic Posters or so you thought you’d try and be clever but ended up using every word in your paper to make a very tiny maze on a very bvig piece of paper and now all you can do is stand there awkwardly while people take a look and scramble away or try to solve the maze instead of figuring out what your paper is about. Why are you still reading?

November 16, 2016

Workshop, 2016 IST Graduate Student Workshop on Academic Posters, State College PA, USA

Academic posters can be a real nightmare to read. Researchers pour their heart and soul into their work, into their research but at the last second, they have to do something they’ve not considered before, talk to someone about it. This workshop will walk you through some ideas and considerations about making academic posters. Examples, theories, and methods to creating good posters as well as examples, theories, and methods for how bad posters are created will also be covered.

Aurorasaurus: Crowdsourced Citizen Space Weather Science

June 11, 2015

Conference, First Annual Meeting of the Citizen Science Association, San Jose CA, USA

Aurorasaurus offers a unique interpretation of Citizen Science. Most citizen science projects seek participants to gather data. We attempt to use the data that already exists to pinpoint the location of the Auroras themselves.

Is it Just Me or Are the Imperials Getting Darker? Race and the Elder Scrolls: Skyrim

October 11, 2014

Conference, 2014 Meeting of the Pop Culture Association, Chicago IL, USA

Within the popular video game, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim players can discover a number of references, consciously included or not, to the search for the Arryan race performed in Europe during the late 1800s. Within the game, books, character quotes, and narrative foundations trace the original scientific discussion that formed the basis for present day Neo-Nazi, White supremacist, and White nationalist movements. With that in mind, this research presents a casestudy of a confrontation between a virtual community, the members of the Stormfront web forum, and a video game, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Members of the Stormfront community indicated that an unwanted degree of multiculturalism was present inside the game despite its being closely aligned to their belief system and omni-present political struggle. The resulting forum-based discussion presents a unique opportunity to examine how virtual or procedural rhetoric interacts with the world writ large. From using the game as an opportunity to recruit new members to a discussion of how the various races of Tamriel have changed in appearance through each iteration, the resulting discussion displays the sensitivity this group has to appearance and how the boundaries of that sensitivity are maintained. Through discourse analysis of posts in a thread on Stormfront paired with game creator discourse ininterviews, wikis, and press releases, this research examines how matters of race are expressed within and about The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim.

Slides Located Here

Is Play the Thing? Video versus Board and the Spaces in-between

October 11, 2014

Poster, 2014 International Conference on Meaningful Play, East Lansing MI, USA

The computer is an institution much like the societies and cultures that birthed it – disjointed, hegemonic, asymmetric in their understanding of what the computer is for, and trapped in the ontology of the language computation was designed through - English. This mishmash of development we call a computer has followed a singular path since the personal computer was released in the early 1980s and has grown to a near ubiquitous state (Dourish, 2004). In fact, it is now nearly impossible to escape the metaphor of the computer in everyday life (Curtis, 2004). We have become hybrid yet, for the most part, we still try and separate the world inside the computer – the virtual world – and the world outside of it – the real world. When we install the concept of games and play into this dialectic, we see a mimesis.

Crisis Response Wargame for Training and Classroom Use

May 24, 2014

Poster, 11th International Conference on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (ISCRAM), State College PA, USA

Pen and Paper-based simulations (or wargames) were a staple of the classroom until the early 1980s. From Chess to Diplomacy, the tabletop was a useful way to educate about finer points of conceptual environments. The computer simulation, while less time consuming, hides many procedures from the user. Emergency Response is replete with all manner of concepts that are difficult to teach through computer simulation. As such, educators need to look backward to simulations created before the computer age and combine them with automated social media content for a more sophisticated means through which to educate or train students. By combining electronic communication with 1970s inspired wargames, this project intends to create a hybrid simulation for educators to use in the classroom. Its intent is to simulate what can cause an emergency response to a disaster to go well both in the public eye and for those impacted by the event.

Values Levers and the Unintended Consequences of Design

February 10, 2014

Poster, 17th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing, Baltimore MD, USA

Values Levers are defined as design “practices that open new conversations about social values and encourage consensus around those values as design criteria.” One values lever that is often unnoticed is that of white nationalist appropriation. White Nationalists are often “othered” as extremists which obfuscates rhetoric around racism. In return, levers about race are only pulled during the design process if it is overt in its racial sensitivity. We often refer to this as political correctness or more appropriately “racism without racists [1].” This research represents one case study of the unintended white nationalist appropriation of content within The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. By building on a discussion originated by white nationalists, we hope to pull a values lever that approaches multi-cultural and multi-national content that doesn’t focus on racism as an extremist activity but an unintended consequence of well-intended design.

Voices of Command, Bodies in Peril: The Female in Current Video Games

August 20, 2012

Roundtable, 2012 Meeting of the American Sociological Association, Denver CO, USA

This research attempts to explore the role of women as characters in video games that are created by a majority of designers and programmers who are raised in the United States. Before I approach the idea of women in a video game, there is a distinction that must be made: computer games and video games. A video game is played through a dedicated console (Xbox, Playstation) connected to a television. A computer game is played through a computer connected to a computer monitor (Peuter 2007). It is useful to separate the two because until recently, a majority of video games came from Japan whereas computer games stayed mostly in America. However, the American computer game culture was as such that it was associated with the derogatory, socially isolated, nerd culture and was mostly ignored (Leonard 2004). It was not until video games began to be printed on the CD-ROM that American created video games began to reappear as the culture producing the hardware was the same culture producing the software – also known as ‘cultural proximity’ (Aoyama & Izushi 2003, p. 435). The release of the Microsoft Xbox 360 seems to have signaled a new era in which the rift created in the 80s between video games and computer games is mended. With it, the cultural proximity or, the closeness of culture of video games has once again begun to display relevant cultural norms to examine from the American perspective from hardware to display.