TED Conversations

Gary Riccio

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Community Organization and Impact in Online Games

We would like to have a conversation about interpersonal interactions and relationships within the communities that organize around online games. Our intent is to create a "natural laboratory" for this TED conversation by grounding the conversation in contemporaneous experiences of gamers that both reflect and influence the attendant community experiences. We are exploring this as a form of "participatory journalism" (see e.g., http://bit.ly/MgDdwA)

Use your browser (not the search utility in the panel at the upper left of this page) to find key words that will direct you to important topics in this conversation to date. Visitors can then reply to the relevant post or write an "original post" (OP).

* raw person or raw individual
* identity or persona or self
* self efficacy
* leadership

* engagement
* communication
* second-person standpoint
* communities or commitment

* respawn or one-life or lobbies
* mental health and wellness
* hard conversations
* civic hacking or civil hacking

* friends
* teach or learn
* civilized
* the long tail

Community interactions also can be interesting and consequential outside the context of the gameplay around which the community organizes. We believe this potential for games is poorly understood by the general public. Yet there is an intense and general curiosity about what occurs in the interactions among gamers and in the impact of gameplay in society.

Our claim is that there is "no neutral" in the effects of significant interpersonal interactions that occur in online games. Games have prosocial effects or antisocial effects irrespective of genre (e.g., first-person shooter games).

We are exploring this topic in a variety of forums such as:
http://griccio2103b.wordpress.com (e.g., tags: prosocial, violence),


Closing Statement from Gary Riccio

Our stated intent for this TED Conversation was "to create a natural laboratory for this TED conversation by grounding the conversation in contemporaneous experiences of gamers that both reflect and influence the attendant community experiences."

We refer to this kind of conversation as "diaβlogue." This is distinguished from a web-Based LOG of one’s own ephemeral opinions. A diaβlogue utilizes multiple communication platforms to create a distributed and decentralized collaboratory for systematic development of capabilities. It thus is a synthesis of best practices in “continuous beta” and "open innovation" (see http://tinyurl.com/Riccio-diaBlogue).

A diaβlogue removes walls between insiders and outsiders, it tends to eliminate the distance between presence and remoteness, and it blurs the distinction between first-hand and second-hand experience insofar as it provides all networked participants with inescapable accountability for their impact on each other and on their respective situations.

This TED Conversation built on what had been mostly oral communication between behavioral/social scientists and informants in and around a particular online game community over a two-year period. It has created a collaborative journal that is open to the public and, to the extent it is edifying, for the public good.

The TED Conversation did, in fact, both reflect and influence the contemporaneous experiences of gamers in the Division IGR. This collateral impact is documented at www.thedivisionigr.com as well as https://twitter.com/D_IGR and https://www.facebook.com/THEDIVISIONIGR?ref=hl. We believe we thus have made some progress in developing or at least promulgating a new form of participatory science journalism (http://bit.ly/MgDdwA).

While our intent was to build bridges between communities of practice rather than to draw a large audience, we are pleased that the open conversation has drawn outside interest ranging from "Linked Wellness" to "Blended Learning."

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    Feb 18 2014: An entire book could be written about gaming communities and the effects they have on human interpersonal interactions. Overall, I think Tom Chatfield hits the nail on the head in his comment about how we need to look at the general effect that ANY group has on the human psyche and the implications of that group/community on the individual involved.

    On a large scale, community-driven engagement in the digital realm has essentially turned normal human conversation and perception on its axis. Human conversation has been altered in obvious ways. The internet blossomed, and with that came less personal interaction, and more in the digital space. Today, it’s gotten to the point where a lot of companies are opting to install social platforms for workflow within their corporate structures (Jive, Yammer, etc.). This has obvious advantages, such as creating a searchable index of all internal conversation for quick and easy review, but the disadvantages include less personal interaction.

    I work at a company with 80 people. We use Jive for workflow and indexing, and it works quite well. At the same time, out of 80 people, I’ve probably PERSONALLY worked face-to-face with only 20 or so. That is a 100% shift from previous generations, whose only line of efficient communication came through personal interaction. Before social platforms and the digital revolution, you didn’t post a job-related article/material on a social site for the client to review, you PRESENTED the item to them. This is only one small case, but sheds a huge light on the darkness that social platforms have created in the realm of actual personal interaction today....

    This is continued at the link below, because of the character limit.....
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      Feb 18 2014: One can as a research problem pursue the question either way or both ways. Some aspects of group interaction may be the same across a variety of settings, including online gaming communities and their forums, and some may be unique to online games and their forums.

      I interpret the question as looking to do a case study of the issues of developing leadership and so forth specifically in online gaming communities, even if the same dynamics and results are typical of other sorts of online communities. From there one might ask whether there are some features unique to gaming communities and what about the fact that the focus is a multi-player game creates the difference.
      • Feb 18 2014: The unique aspect of using games in this fashion is the mask given by the separation of identity. That separation allows players to have more choice with his/her persona, since there are less punitive repercussions of his/her behavior. As a result, that sort of mask gives what I'm going to term a more "raw" individual, since the player's free-will has a stronger impact on his choices, whether he chooses to be a jerk when playing or he chooses to be a jolly fun guy.

        How that "raw individual" is managed is where you will find the specialty of community-development within gaming. If you ask me, I believe this dynamic gives the unique opportunity for players in gaming to address the more "raw person" and as a result tackle more deeply ingrained characteristics, for better or for worse.
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          Feb 18 2014: But people use pseudonyms in online forums unrelated to gaming as well. I think most people on the TED forum, for example use pseudonyms.
      • Feb 19 2014: Sure, and I'm very sure that forums provide the same mask through those pseudonyms. To a point, I think a similar effect can be made within forums also. However, gaming includes not only the collaboration but a challenge, done in real time communication. I believe that environment provides features that better facilitate the "raw person".
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          Feb 19 2014: I think that you are right that having an ongoing collaborative project/challenge binds people in a way that is not a feature on most forums. Where there is not a community undertaking that is itself compelling to participants, people often leave when too many people get too annoying rather than trying to work through whatever the obstacles are to productive discourse.

          Another scenario is that people can ignore problems when they do not need to rely on each other for anything.

          In project teams, live or virtual, one has to figure out how to collaborate to make things happen that need to happen.
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          Feb 19 2014: There is an important distinction here, I think, between talking and doing, even in a virtual environment. In this regard, I think the this notion of the "raw individual" is fascinating. It is the difference perhaps between the healthy and adaptive multiple identities we all can have concurrently in our interactions with different communities versus the pathological manifestations of multiple personality in neurotic disorders.

          So one question here is whether the "split second decision making" required in some game genres, such as first-person shooter games, is more difficult to fake or contrive than the more deliberative personas that one might craft in a slowly evolving text dialog or slowly evolving game.
      • Feb 19 2014: That's an easy question to answer, i think. The more time you are able to invest in something, the more you have the opportunity to shape it, which means you can spin the idea into more of what you want it to look it. The events that require instant, knee-jerk reactions reveal something more "raw", as I have put it. The idea is, if you can improve the raw person, you're improving something that is more real to the player, even if they aren't fully aware of what it is that is being improved.

        Here's a very basic scenario. In gaming, there is a typical issue of players that care more about their individual statistics than actually playing to win. This means that, when you're in the game, their main objective is to get a high score in the game, instead of actually working with their teammates in order to complete the objective. This can make the player's knee-jerk reaction to hide from in-game conflict to survive, and as a result leave your teammates hanging.

        If this person was within our community, our ideal response would be to work with the player to put more value in the overall success of the team, which would solve the issue. Other communities might simply condition the player to not run away from conflict, which would also solve the issue, but wouldn't address the raw characteristic.

        I may be leading the discussion in an inappropriate direction, but that aspect is very translatable to people in general. There are "root causes" to actions, and the better you are at addressing those root causes, the better you can be at dealing with people.
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          Feb 19 2014: I appreciate your explanation. I would not have known there are individual scores independent of the team's score or progress toward an objective. For me this characteristic of the task/arena is essential in understanding what is being negotiated within gaming communities.

          Thank you for explaining.
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          Feb 19 2014: This is a perfectly appropriate direction and, again, it provides enough detail for the reader to imagine being in the situation. That's what I am looking for. And...

          "Other communities might simply condition the player to not run away from conflict, which would also solve the issue, but wouldn't address the raw characteristic."

          This is a deeply insightful observation about practices of true leadership. My colleagues and I observed the ways the military came to understand more deeply and educate leaders about "something more raw" (see e.g., http://www.scribd.com/doc/40649283). Conflicts in the 21st century cannot be addressed with conditioning. It requires self awareness and collective understanding, essentially knowing one's capabilities to adapt to the unknown with critical thinking.

          Now corporations are trying to figure out these new lessons learned from the military which require that they unlearn old lessons learned from the military.

          Thanks Daniel!!!
    • Feb 18 2014: That's an inspiring viewpoint: Taking the adventure of the digital age and capitalizing on it with the video gaming industry. We can work really hard to talk about the science reinforcing gaming into the bigger-picture of community-development, but with that take on it the power behind gaming is almost obvious, at least the way you described it.

      That transitions very well into what I think Tom was interested in poking at, which is taking the power of an "online community" and referring it to a bigger-picture, being community building in general. Specifically within The Division IGR, the programs set in place may be game-specific, but require skill sets that can easily translate into any form of community building.

      For example, lets talk about The Division IGR's development of it's Constitution, a complex system of policies, rights, and systems set in place to logically push the community 'toward effective levels of continued success'. Building that style of document is very useful for a community, and figuring out how to write something like that requires different levels of problem evaluation, technical writing, idea development, segmentation and targeting (what I mean by that is defining and refining your community's audience), system development, and plenty of other things.

      Being a part of that process is a great exercise for working on those 'skill sets', and is just one of many examples, some more tangible, some less so. But regardless, these are the sort of things that apply to community development as a whole, where gaming communities are included.
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        Feb 19 2014: It would be fascinating to read some stories about the deliberations involved in the "development of it's Constitution." Even just little vignettes would help link meaningful values-based debate and conversation to gameplay in groups. It would help us understand the jusxtaposition of personal and the persona.
        • Feb 19 2014: Well here's an example, then.

          Our community was originally functioning on one game: SOCOM. With this, our Constitution has systems and processes that only applied to SOCOM, which meant, when our community started playing game like Call of Duty and Battlefield, there were parts of our Constitution that were not applicable. For instance, in our Constitution we had established Domains, modes of operations (like recruiting members, building in-game strategies, recording team statistics) that were built around specific features provided in SOCOM. When we started playing other games, the way those domains functioned were unusable, which made the Constitution less valuable. We worked with the document, and redesigned the structure of our "Domain" so it was more abstract, and more applicable to all gaming titles. We had to redesign the idea, put the idea into words, and write it in a professional format that was readable to our audience.

          That's just one example of many, but it's a long and involved thought process, and knowing that intricacies of that thought process is invaluable to anyone who wants to be able to develop ideas.
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      Feb 19 2014: "What mass social networks lack in actually creating organic personal relationships, gaming communities make up for. I understand that not everyone is into gaming, and that’s okay. I actually believe new-age gaming communities are setting the stage for a second digital revolution that reintegrates the old with the new. In doing so, we could create a digital world that inspires personal interactions that feel authentic, rather than counterfeit." (Mr. Legacy)

      Fascinating post, Mr. Legacy! Thank you. I believe you may be right about a second digital revolution. In business, for example, the conversation is changing to things like "engagement marketing" and "brand activation" in which producers and consumers have shared awareness and opportunities for influence with accountability for new developments in products and services even including their impact on an ecosystem of people and businesses who don't use them. Business are struggling to get to the details of the "experience economy" and finding that experience is inescapably social, collaborative, and proactive. This may be a bit different from where you were headed in your post but I believe it reflects the broader changes to which you referred.
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        Feb 22 2014: "A union of diversity" ...Let that ring in your mind.

        And this is why "At their technological limit, games will subsume all other media." - Jesse Schell

        Business is spending many many many millions of dollars to figure out how to engage and delight consumers through various media, especially digital social media. Well...

        Social + Engagement + Delight = Games (and it always has)
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      Feb 22 2014: Legacy wrote: "To me, social gaming communities are the savior of this story, and are excelling at integrating classic personal interaction, with new-age digital communication. What mass social networks lack in actually creating organic personal relationships, gaming communities make up for. I understand that not everyone is into gaming, and that’s okay. I actually believe new-age gaming communities are setting the stage for a second digital revolution that reintegrates the old with the new. In doing so, we could create a digital world that inspires personal interactions that feel authentic, rather than counterfeit."

      So this is amazing to think about Mike.

      Some from our community and affiliate communities, and our professional colleagues have only ever met each other through social technology such as PSN, Skype and FB and real relationships have developed. Real constructive collaboration is happening and it doesn't feel much like work at all. Actually, it feels more like blasting off on Starship Enterprise. The ability to connect with conscious personas from all over the world and from all walks of life, to organize successfully around missions, in and out of games, also sometimes with bedhead, is transformative. A union of diversity.

      "I'm just one lion, Voltron needed five." - Jay Floyd

      Also, I think you're right about the second digital revolution.

      "At their technological limit, games will subsume all other media." - Jesse Schell

      "Digital tribalism is the new order." - Andrew Melchior

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