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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Day 1 reflection

Day 1 finally arrived and as we pulled away in the van I kept running over in my head whether or not I had the right video tapes and the camera and tripod etc. The kids, my six year nine "goths" buzzed in the back of the van. They seemed very intrigued about what we were doing and why, but very excited.
"This," I thought to myself, "is what school should be like - a buzz".

We parked the van only seconds away and arrived at the door of the cafe. We were greeted by Justin, the owner of And Computers which is a computer shop but has a adjoining e-mail/internet cafe. He introduced us to Kathryn (his wife as we would fine out later), who showed us to the computers, four on one side and 3 on the other. I was able to set up my video camera and take in all the players. All the software was installed on the computers, including the real time video capture software - great service guys.

Day 1 was really just a get to know you day as we struggled to get each player's log in and pass word set up. To do this we had to go to the games site and register, once we got through he mine field of filling out the online forms, the site then sent an e-mail to your e-mail address. Once you opened that you could then click on a link to activate your registration - your user ID and Password.

The problem was that the kids could not access their school e-mails from outside the school, and so had to establish temporary e-mail addresses at hotmail. The registration system seems to have a problem with hotmail addresses and would not activate the registration. However after persevering and mucking around we eventually got everyone except two boys into the game, and although we messed around for another 40 minutes, one boy was still not able to get into the game by the end of the session - which meant the others raced off into the game, happily playing and experimenting, while we struggled to get all the players on board! One boy in particular, Scott made spectacular progress in the session and discovered that the first 8 levels of the game are a "training session", on an island and once you get to that level you are then teleported in to the full game itself.

So at the end of the first session we had two players and myself who had hardly started and then the other four, including the girls at varying degrees of levels 1 - 8 in the training, including Scott who had completed the training and was racing around the main game!

My expectation of us all moving through the levels simultaneously in a civilised orderly manner seemed blown out of the water, I had no video footage of game play and I had stopped the camera waiting for us to begin to play. In retrospect I should have videoed this session as it would have revealed some valuable insights into the pitfalls of research using MMORPGs!

I arrived back the first day feeling very despondent - My players were all over the show in the game, how would I get us all together so I could get some cooperation and collaborative play?

Later that night I downloaded the client onto my desktop at home, (which took 2 hours) and discussed the day with my 12 year old. He registered his user name and password from his iBook in his room and I realised that one thing anyone should do who was trying to replicate this research or improve on it, is get the players registered before hand! Then they can just come in and play immediately!

This is what I learned from Day 1. Even if things go wrong you can still get valuable data about how they handle it and what happens. Don't make judgments about what is good data and bad data - it's all data.

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