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10:23am on Friday, 2nd November, 2012:

Different Opinions


For reasons of being able to ask examination questions about games I can legitimately assume my students have played, every year I give them six to play as homework: Pong, Frogger, Zork, Rogue, Asteroids and Tetris. They don't have to finish them (which is just as well, as you can't "finish" several anyway), but they do have to play them. Most of the students haven't played more than one or two of these games before, and some haven't played any of them.

Last year, I asked the students which ones they liked and which ones they didn't. I counted up how many liked them and subtracted how many didn't like them; in order of liking them most, the result was:

  1. Asteroids
  2. Tetris
  3. Frogger
  4. Rogue
  5. Pong
  6. Zork

I asked this year's lot, and the result was:

  1. Tetris
  2. Frogger
  3. Asteroids
  4. Pong
  5. Rogue
  6. Zork

Tetris and Frogger were almost tied — Tetris won by one vote. Asteroids also got a good showing; it would be fair to say that the students "liked" these three. They didn't like the other three, although they mainly expressed this by abstaining. So for Zork, two people liked it and one didn't, with the other twenty or so at the class not willing to commit (perhaps because then I might ask them why they thought what they did). As was the case last year, Pong was the most divisive, with students either loving it or hating it in almost equal measure.

Last year, Asteroids was the runaway winner, with Tetris and Frogger a bit so-so in the middle and Zork in negative territory at the bottom. So, unless there was some major game released at a critical time that influenced this year's students but not last year's (or vice versa), the best this can tell us is that games students are an idiosyncratic bunch.

This is why I get cross when I read academic papers — even PhD dissertations — that are using "convenience sampling" as evidence to support (or even to construct) their assertions. "Public convenience sampling" would be a more accurate assessment of their worth...

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Copyright © 2012 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).