A window to digital games interactions in informal settings (Gazit, 2006)

Gazit, E. (2006). A window to digital games interactions in informal settings. Current Developments in Technology-Assisted Education, 1609–1614.

This paper reports on preliminary findings from the DiGames Research Project, which seeks to investigate children’s (8-12 years old) interactions during digital game play in informal home settings.

Preliminary results suggest that:

  1. In order to develop skills in a game, players transition between active and passive observations during different levels of the game.
  2. Interactions observed during small group game play include: collaboration, competition, negotiation and mentoring states, accompanied by ad-hoc conflicts.
  3. Players spontaneously and readily switch roles in the game.
  4. Players exhibited a high level of conceptual understanding of the game’s spaces (Zoo Tycoon).

Theories that inform the research framework:

  • Skill theory- the ways people develop their skills and the ways they learn in various domains [17].
  • Microdevelopment-process of change in abilities, knowledge, and understanding occurring in short time spans [18]. Focus is on how learning occurs in real time. Involves videotaping children as they complete a specific task, coding the responses or words and gestures as they work, and then systematically analyzing all of the information.
  • Active theory-examines the relations of participant and object as mediated by the primary components (tools, community, rules, and division of labor) which constitute an activity system [19, 20].

Notes on the data collection/analysis:

  • Seven kids (4 boys, 3 girls, age 8-12 years old)
  • Low-cost capturing devices (Averkey300 TM PC-to-TV convector, VCR) were installs for capturing
    and recording the digital games play as seen on the screen together with what the kids said.
  • The recorded video clips were used for instant recall technique.
  • An additional video camera was placed on a table behind the players to capture their body and hand gestures.
  • Sequential analysis and social networks analysis (SNA) used for data analysis

Individual interactions around skill building:

  • Preference for low difficulty levels — represents a safe experimental space
  • Blend of active interactions and passive observations
    • Instant replay function in the game
  • Peer interactions (watching a player successfully navigate a level; getting direct instruction from a more experienced peer)

Group interactions:

  • There are 2 extreme stages: teaching (collaborative game play, players desire to minimize the knowledge gap between each other) and cheating (players desire to maximize the knowledge gap)
  • Constant movement between four main states: Collaboration, Competition, Negotiation and Mentoring
  • ad-hoc conflicts not uncommon
  • Players may spontaneously take different roles (leaders, managers, bankers, engineers, and warriors, etc.)
  • In the case of “god-like” games  (e.g., ZooTycoon and Sims2), players developed a high level of conceptual understanding of the game space
  • Players often spontaneously created their own goals within the game
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