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Monday, November 29, 2004

MMOs Part 2

This time I played Lineage, not just to have fun, but also with an eye of an instructional technologist, specifically looking at points David Merrill and Kurt Squire have made.

First, some background. Last time, I played mostly with a group of people who seemed to know what they were doing. “Seemed” is the focus of that statement. I gave them such credit and reputation because they had higher levels than me, had better artifacts, had played longer (pretty easy to assume that since I had not played at all), and generally had some goals in mind. But, I realized after a while that they had no clue what to do either. This was blatantly apparent when their main questions became, “So, it looks like to get through the dungeon, we need a red key. Does anyone have a red key?” Indeed, it was, to borrow two phrases, the blind leading the blind and pooled ignorance. But, truthfully, I had no better option, so I just followed them around, hoping to gain what I needed to out of the experience.

That was last time (an aggregate of my experiences last week), on to this time (an aggregate of my experiences this week). I made the decision to not travel with a group this time, prepared to accept whatever dire consequences that might ensue. For some reason, I found the experience much more enjoyable. Perhaps it is my personality of individuality, wanting to figure things out on my own, and leadership—who knows.

I learned something really important right off. I could not figure out why I was only at level two and everyone else I had played with was at least at level seven. I knew that fighting enemies made my levels go up, but for some reason fighting in a group gleaned me few rewards. I still have not figured out why group fighting did not level me up faster. So, this time, alone, I threw out the question to the first unoccupied co-player I found, “How do I level up faster? I am on level two.” Surprisingly, he responded, “You can get to level five on the dummies.” Since I had no clue what he was talking about a little conversation continued until I knew where to go to fight the dummies. I followed his advice and sure enough, in a matter of minutes, I found myself at level five. It was almost too easy. This taught me that sometimes what is good for the group may not be what is good for the individual…especially since I never figured this out while fighting in a group. I had to be alone.

So, once leveled up, I figured I would try what the group was trying last week: to go through the dungeon. Then I remembered that they were always asking about a red ring. So, I thought I would just explore the terrain a bit more, since I hadn’t up to this point. I talked with people and I attacked anything that I could (I killed a frog, how morbid). Inside of one of the buildings, a girl said something like, “Hi, I make things, mostly jewelry, if people bring me stuff so I can make them.” I thought that was nice, but not that interesting….and then, wait, did she say jewelry?....like maybe a red ring? My interest was piqued, so I continued talking. Sure enough, she made rings, but I didn’t have the necessary materials….so, bam, just like that, I had a purpose, I had a goal, hurray, I needed to get money and metal. This I knew how to do from playing with the group last time. And off I went.
So what does Merrill say about this? Well, it was certainly problem centered (I needed to level up but did not know how). It definitely activated my previous experience. I did want to demonstrate my new-found knowledge (fighting enemies at level two is much more embarrassing than at level five). I knew it would be easier to pursue a goal at a higher level (hence, application of my new knowledge). But, I’m not sure about integrating my knowledge into everyday life. I guess one could look at it two ways: one, if everyday life is the character in the game, then integrating would be using leveling up to do other things, which certainly happens; or two, if everyday life was my life, outside of the game, then integration might be me incorporating ways of knowing I learn from the game (like asking others, just-in-time instruction, learning by doing, etc.) into my real life. Either way, Merrill’s five first principles are covered.

And how does this relate to Squire’s Replaying History article. First, it was odd reading an article based off of his dissertation. I’ve actually read his entire dissertation (a qualitative case study) and I attended his dissertation defense. So this marks the first time I’ve read an article based off a study with which I was already very familiar. Okay, back to the point. I certainly felt confused wondering around the game not knowing what to do or what the purpose was. This felt like a very constructivist way of doing things and was certainly how the students in Squire’s study, play Civ III felt. But eventually, through playing knowledge emerged. I also exemplified learning through failures. I died and restarted so many times I can’t count. My favorite way was when I decided to quit playing so I wanted to go out in glory by taking on a huge creature, one that I had never fought before. We both ended up delivering the final blow at the exact same time and we both died together. It was a classic ending. And, I think I had some powerful learning experience that occurred outside the game, mostly as I pondered what I had learned while crafting this blog entry.

1 comment:

David said...

"And, I think I had some powerful learning experience that occurred outside the game, mostly as I pondered what I had learned while crafting this blog entry."

Ah, the blended approach. So what you're saying is that it's good to pair some open-ended AND some structure? =) Sorry. So how would you blend structured and open in the classroom? How could this assignment have been improved, for example?