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2:31pm on Wednesday, 29th July, 2009:

Do-it-yourself MMO Workshop


I'm supposed to be giving a workshop in Berlin today as part of the FaVE conference, but since I'm here answering the phone from my mother 10 times a day in an effort to stop my brother's death from entirely unhinging her, I thought I'd tell what I was going to do so you can run your own workshop instead.

OK, so the topic of the workshop was originally slated to be something like "Games and Education". Jess Mulligan, who was workshop co-ordinator until she had to pull out to have shoulder surgery (get well soon, Jess), suggested that instead of the usual tired reading of the phrase (ie. "how to use virtual worlds to educate people"), we instead went with something more in keeping with the flavour of the conference (ie. "what educators should teach people about virtual worlds"). I thought this was a great idea, so that's what I did.

The workshop was to take an afternoon, so the way I planned it was to show some slides, then have the main workshoppy bit, then have a roundtable to discuss the workshoppy bit.

So, here are the slides. They would probably make more sense if I were standing there talking, but I'm guessing that you can still follow the gist of them (because you're smart).

The workshop part involved cards. It involved lots of cards — I made 300 or so of them. This is what they look like:

I was going to split the workshop attendees into groups of 4-6 people and give each group a stash of these cards. Everyone would then have had 5-10 minutes to fill in as many as they could. Whatever annoys them as a player was fair game: patch day, some jerk in your guild, spell rotation, how long it takes to level up fishing, lag, the way all NPC faces look the same — whatever annoys them, they could have written down. They would have been instructed to think widely; the purpose of the small groups was so ideas of new seams of annoyance to be mined might be discovered once the surface nuggets had all be picked up.

During the coffee break, I would have collected the cards and collated them by theme.

After coffee break, we would have had the round table. I'd have gone through the cards by theme, and we'd have discussed what they said. In the discussion, we would have aimed to identify where the source of each (class of ) problem lies and where it could be solved. Any comedy cards would have bridged the gap between discussions of more serious (piles of) cards.

Hopefully, by the end of this we'd have had a picture of what's involved in making an MMO annoy players; we'd also have had some indication of how, if someone had done it right in the first place, to stop it annoying people. This could then be used as a basis for understanding what people need to be taught about virtual worlds. I'm pretty sure it would have worked.

I'm pretty sure, of course, because I'd have made damned certain during the collation phase to have grouped the cards so that we did get something that made sense. Don't tell anyone, though: if word ever got out that the person running the workshop had a secret agenda, you wouldn't be able to run it yourself...

Referenced by Berlin Blues.

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Copyright © 2009 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).