Awareness and Accountability in MMORPG

A very good read yesterday in the train: Moore, Robert J., Nicolas Ducheneaut, and Eric Nickell. (2006): "Doing Virtually Nothing: Awareness and Accountability in Massively Multiplayer Online Worlds." Computer Supported Cooperative Work, pp. 1573-7551

The paper acknowledge the fact that "despite their ever-increasing visual realism, today’s virtual game worlds are much less advanced in terms of their interactional sophistication". Through diverse investigations of MMORPG using video-based conversation analysis (grounded in virtual ethnography), they look at the social interaction systems in massively multiplayer virtual worlds and then propose guidelines for increasing their effectiveness.

Starting from the face-2-face metaphor (the richest situation in terms of social interaction, as opposed to geographically dispersed settings), they state that participants are able to access to certain observational information about what others are doing in order to interpret others’ actions and design appropriate responses. This lead to coordination (I personally used different framework to talk about that, for instance Herbert Clark's theory of coordination). In a face to face context, three important types of cues are available: "(1) the real-time unfolding of turns-at-talk; (2) the observability of embodied activities; and (3) the direction of eye gaze for the purpose of gesturing".

They then build their investigations around those three kind of cues that are less available in virtual worlds. This can be connected to the work of Toni Manninen like The Hunt for Collaborative War Gaming - CASE: Battlefield 1942). It also makes me thing about one of the seminal paper by Clark and Brennan about how different media modifies the grounding process (the establishment of a share understanding of the situation).

Clark, H. H., and Brennan, S. A. (1991). Grounding in communication. In L.B. Resnick, J.M. Levine, & S.D. Teasley (Eds.). Perspectives on socially shared cognition . Washington: APA Books.

Why do I blog this? I still have to go further in the details of each of these investigations but I was very interested in their work because: - the methodology is complementary with what I am doing in CatchBob to investigate mutual awareness and players' anticipation of their partners' actions. The interactionist approach here could be very valuable to apply in my context. I am thinking about deepening the analysis of the messages exchanged by players (the map annotations) to see how accountability is conveyed through the players drawings. - they do translate results from empirical studies intro concrete and relevant design recommendations (for instance: other game companies should probably follow There’s lead and implement word-by-word (or even character-by-character) posting of chat messages. Such systems produce a turn-taking system that is more like that in face-to-face, and they better facilitate the coordination of turns-at-chat with each other and with other joint game activities.)