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),
http://www.thedivisionigr.com/3-cs.html
https://medium.com/@URBN_SCIENCE
https://twitter.com/URBN_SCIENCE

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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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  • Mar 7 2014: In our dreams we experience true freedom, we are only shackled by what our imagination is capable of and our subconscious will allow. The next closest thing while awake to this euphoric state would be video games, that is unless you are a psychopath. In video games whatever the designers create is the only limitation. You can kill prostitutes or anyone for that matter, rob stores, swing around like Spider-man, and break laws without any repercussions. So why not develop an alter-ego to go along with playing online. This creation is not held by the same laws and possible afflictions as its real life maker. I have a friend from college that after graduating due to terrible circumstances is now bound to a wheelchair. This doesn’t prevent him from raiding tombs, deep sea diving, battling through combat zones. He once told me now that his life is impaired; at least he still has his video games. Gaming has prevented him from slipping into depression. Many people game to escape the mediocrity of their lives, or to briefly escape the crushing truths of reality. As much as I appreciate the freedoms that multiplayer gaming can have, I am also sickened by how these freedoms can lead to tormenting others. Online people that are bullied can become the bullies, trolls, or emotional siphons that can ruin online gaming for people. Not everyone that has this freedom will use it responsibly, which can lead to more negativity, and ruining the experience for other people. Instead of an escape it becomes a prison, where you are surrounded by the things you are trying to escape. The only way to break the cycle is accountability. Hiding behind the anonymity of your avatar, there is very little that keeps you in check, and ensures that you are not ruining the gaming experience for other players. We sign behavioral agreements to play online, but there is very little that enforces that agreement. Reporting systems are only affective if the people receiving the report care.
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      Mar 10 2014: "I have a friend from college that after graduating due to terrible circumstances is now bound to a wheelchair. This doesn’t prevent him from raiding tombs, deep sea diving, battling through combat zones. He once told me now that his life is impaired; at least he still has his video games. Gaming has prevented him from slipping into depression. Many people game to escape the mediocrity of their lives, or to briefly escape the crushing truths of reality."

      Thank you, Troy, for commenting on this aspect of games. It connects nicely with the posts by David Brendel about video games that clinical trials have been show to be effective in treating depression. The implication is that these effects are not limited to the time people play video games; they spread to other aspects of life. I am interested in learning more about how these effects beyond video games involve more than mood or feeling of well being. To what extent do they influence behavior and performance in settings outside of video games? To what extent to they influence one's perception of oneself and one's own capabilities (e.g., "self efficacy") outside of video games?
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      Mar 10 2014: "Not everyone that has this freedom will use it responsibly... The only way to break the cycle is accountability. Hiding behind the anonymity of your avatar, there is very little that keeps you in check, and ensures that you are not ruining the gaming experience for other players. We sign behavioral agreements to play online, but there is very little that enforces that agreement..."

      This part of your post, Troy, gets to the heart of this conversation: community. How do interactions in an online game community provide the "accountability" that is so central to personal liberty and pursuit of happiness in this kind community, perhaps just as in other kinds of communities? Is it merely a community of practice, or is it a community of (shared) responsibility in which individuals can have an enduring impact on others because of a (shared) commitment to influence and be influenced?
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        Mar 12 2014: Troy, I think the problems you described are almost entirely manageable through both game design and the community's relationship with the studio. Unfortunately, most industry leaders look at that solution as a matter of risk and not a strategic investment of internal resources.

        Great questions Gary. The answers are varying. In most cases, it is up to the individual players to determine these things for themselves. One gamer in a lobby is generally decent but has a terrible time communicating with others online, one uses the multiplayer experience to puke out all of his or her frustrations with life, one is a noob and has no idea what is going on, one is a wallflower and generally voyeurs the experience and another is a leader within an organized gaming community. If your on that team, how do you influence those gamers in-game and collaborate towards a win?

        Leadership, emotional intelligence and experience.

        When activated, these three things tend to yield, almost by default, a sense of accountability and shared purpose in most gamers. Even when the gamer has no idea its happening.
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          Mar 12 2014: I think the convergence of these three things is in "a climate of attention to micro-experiences" that may or may not be significant to different people and, if so, may be significant in different ways to different people.

          http://griccio2013c.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/the-power-of-micro-experiences-in-the-workpla/

          The attention that may or may not involve verbal communication. Silence may be quite informative. Nonverbal behavior is enormously important, especially in emotional intelligence, but what does that look like in the online world?

          http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/importance-nonverbal-elements-online-chat

          Games provide a rich source of nonverbal behavior relative to other interpersonal interactions on the internet. Nonverbal communication in online games is another pervasive aspect of contemporary culture that is poorly understood by the scientific community and by the general public.

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