Lesson 5: Discourse
C&I 675: Researching Virtual Worlds
Dr. Constance Steinkuehler
Spencer Striker

Assignment Due: Collect an in-game chatlog and analyze it for (a) linguistic features and (b) big-D Discourse.

At 1:42am on July 15, 2010, I was adventuring on the Loch Modan map of World of Warcraft, collecting Tunnel Rat Ears from their cruel and unwilling owners, when Papanov shot me a piece of dialogue that I neither paid attention to at the time nor fully understand now. He said, “need help.” I had noticed that another player had entered the Tunnel Rat village where I was slaying the pesky devils, but I had only though to myself, “Good, perhaps this person will thin them out so I can kill them more easily.” Shortly thereafter Papanov asked me to ‘Join a Group,’ something I’d never done before—at least not with a perfect stranger while out in the wild. After a brief hesitation, I accepted. Now, I will analyze the hour and a half that I spent campaigning with Papanov—a conversation that oscillated between being something like the crisp communication of two soldiers on a mission together and the awkward, uneven exchange of two foreign travelers separated by age, language, and worlds of experience.

Analyzing my conversation with Papanov as a little d discourse, ie. the functional, commonplace aspects of language that people use to get things done.

“Need help.” This short, curt phrase—which I missed at the time—could either mean: he needed help or he was wondering if I needed help, and was willing to offer it. In general, Papanov utilized an ambiguous, interpretable lack of punctuation in all of his communications. This mode of writing reminds me of the poor email etiquette I experience often from my colleagues at work—emails that are short, curt, and lacking in the formalities of civility that people use when speaking in person. Stripped of these elements—niceties, punctuation, opening and closing salutations—these brief digital messages can appear cold, even hostile. Of course, this is rarely the intention of the sender. The person sending the message is simply busy mass processing so many of these micro-communications that to add such embellishments seems like an unnecessary extra effort. This becomes the norm, and everyone follows suit. But the problem is that without the affectations of politeness, reading email can become a cold, stark, utilitarian endeavor. The personality goes out of it. Of course, Papanov’s bare writing style contains elements of this so-called ‘poor email etiquette,’ but also many elements of Millennial Generation speak.

Upon completion of the tedious, grinding task of collecting twelve Tunnel Rat ears, in an attempt to seem friendly and enthusiastic, I added an exclamation point, “Just got my 12th ear!”

“And,” he responded.

Again, the dryness was interpretable. Did he mean, genuinely, “what’s the significance, my friend? Please explain.” Or did he mean, “so what, n00b, do you have a point to your amateurish, overly enthusiastic blustering?” Rather than enquire, I decided to test whether Papanov was truly committed to our newly formed friendship by declaring, “off to filthy paws if you want to come.” I decided to stop using punctuation as well—being an experienced texter, I was able to make this ‘code shift’ swiftly. As I ran off, he followed close behind. Then he said, “nice bear.” Once again, I couldn’t tell if he was being facetious, making fun of my Level 12 Elder Black Bear pet—of which I have grown irrationally fond, coming to see him as an old trusted (digital) friend—or whether he legitimately was admiring my big, furry, ferocious sidekick, something he could never have due to his race and class.

“Click number lock.” I had no idea what he meant and it seemed irrelevant to my obsessive leveling. “Click number lock? Wha?” I responded. At once I intended to a. tactfully not ignore his advice and b. via the use of the slang, Wha, demonstrate that I was ‘hip, with it, down with the lingo.’ “its makes u run non stop just click.” “I see, but where’s the miners gear?” I asked. Again, I tried to demonstrate that I was listening to his advice appreciatively, despite my preoccupation with leveling. Though I said, “I see,” I still had no idea what he was talking about, and didn’t really care either. Later, of course, when I finally processed what he meant, I realized he was observing how I was struggling to move fast and he was offering valuable advice on how to move faster with more consistency. Throughout our exchange, Papanov was eager to impart advice to me—more so, I believe, because I both communicated that I could use it and was open to receiving it.

Analyzing my conversation with Papanov as a Big D discourse, ie. the ways of thinking and being in the world.

Almost from the first moment I began interacting with Papanov, I got the sense that he was very young—a boy between the ages of ten to thirteen. “Want 1 gold,” he said, all of a sudden. This was a question, though there was no question mark. By now, I knew what he meant. And I accepted the money without question too, instinctively recognizing this to be a rare expression of generosity, a unique opportunity—perhaps my reward for being a faithful friend. “Thanks.” “No prob,” he responded. Then a little later, “my bros gana b pist.” Aha, I thought: he’s a kid who’s hijacked his older brother’s WoW account. Throughout our Discourse, I learned many meta-level things about him and he learned much about me—though probably not that I was secretly recording our conversation for analysis for a university course on Virtual Worlds.

I acted like a newbie multiple times during our time campaigning together, but perhaps none more grievously obvious then when I tried to lead the two of us to collect the head of Chok’Sul, an elite level monster on the outskirts of the map. “Let’s get out of here and go get the head.” I led us across the long bridge. “No hes levl 2o,” Papanov warned. “hes lvl 20.” He repeated, as I ignored him and pushed into Chok’Sul territory. “Don’t swim,” he said cryptically. Then, “stop.” I led us straight into a gang of overpowering, aggressive Dark Iron Insurgents who quickly killed us both, and our little pets too. I tried a few more times to doggedly push ahead in the face of overwhelming bloody setbacks before leading us to retreat to the bridge.

I learned the hard way—through experience—what Papanov had tried to impart to me through warnings: that we weren’t ready for that quest yet. Of course, despite the fact that I made a ‘faux pas,’—a newbish social blunder—Papanov did not seem to really care or hold it against me. My interpretation is that he preferred playing socially and found my amateurish mistakes more charming and interesting than it would have been to simply go adventuring on his own. The fact that he had so much gold—and that he was probably playing his brother’s avatar—causes me to think that his brother has long since taken other avatars to elite levels in the game, and that this younger brother, who’s not terribly committed to the leveling up of his brother’s level thirteen character, is in fact far more interested in the social interactions possible in a late night round of gaming. Who will he meet? What kind of interesting experiences might he have? Realizing I had little to teach him, he took on the role of mentor—albeit sometimes cranky instructor—teaching me how to run, trade, take free gold, back off when not ready, duel, and even dance. I became his apprentice, as he sought to move me “from the periphery to the center.”

The Following Transcript Occurred on 7/15 between 1:42am-3:19am; a d/Discourse Between my avatar, Zzblackstone, and Papanov in World of Warcraft.

(Certain non-communication text has been edited out to make it easier to follow our conversation).

7/15 01:42:57.486 Papanov says: need help

7/15 01:55:01.062 Papanov has invited you to join a group.

7/15 01:55:57.628 Zzblackstone says: Just got my 12th ear!

7/15 01:56:14.614 Papanov says: and

7/15 01:56:40.492 Zzblackstone says: off to filthy paws if you want to come

7/15 01:59:17.001 Papanov says: nice bear

7/15 02:01:17.206 Papanov says: click number lock

7/15 02:01:22.353 Your share of the loot is 8 Copper.

7/15 02:01:26.781 Papanov receives loot: Worn Leather Vest.

7/15 02:01:45.890 Zzblackstone says: click number lock? wha?

7/15 02:04:34.412 Papanov says: its makes u run non stop just click

7/15 02:05:10.852 Zzblackstone says: i see, but where's the miners gear?

7/15 02:05:27.485 Papanov says: ?

7/15 02:05:34.851 Zzblackstone says: guessing its in here

7/15 02:09:02.936 Zzblackstone says: Let's get out of here and go get the head

7/15 02:09:35.826 Elder Black Bear dies, you gain 54 experience.

7/15 02:09:41.001 Papanov says: no hes levl 2o

7/15 02:09:41.438 You receive loot: Chipped Bear Tooth.

7/15 02:09:41.838 You receive loot: Bear Meat.

7/15 02:10:04.721 Papanov says: hes lvl 20

7/15 02:14:40.532 Papanov says: dont swim

7/15 02:16:04.785 Zzblackstone says: do you need to swim for this

7/15 02:16:23.195 Papanov says: i hav 9 gold 81 silv 68 copper

7/15 02:16:40.119 Papanov says: im ritch!

7/15 02:16:48.686 Zzblackstone says: awesome

7/15 02:17:17.085 Papanov says: stop

7/15 02:24:24.516 Papanov says: trade

7/15 02:24:50.395 Zzblackstone says: what do you want that I have, never traded before

7/15 02:24:56.783 Papanov says: dude trade

7/15 02:25:40.628 Papanov says: right click on my picture

7/15 02:25:47.858 You receive item: Battered Mallet.

7/15 02:25:47.860 You receive item: Light Leatherx5.

7/15 02:26:20.564 Zzblackstone says: k

7/15 02:26:54.532 Papanov says: how is it

7/15 02:27:16.329 Zzblackstone says: can we swim over ther

7/15 02:27:22.911 Zzblackstone says: e

7/15 02:27:36.544 With arms flapping, Papanov struts around. Cluck, Cluck, Chicken!

7/15 02:27:52.600 Papanov falls asleep. Zzzzzzz.

7/15 02:28:09.103 Papanov bursts into dance.

7/15 02:28:18.541 Zzblackstone says: Can we take a boat?

7/15 02:28:29.543 Papanov says: idk

7/15 02:29:16.699 Papanov creates: Soul Shard.

7/15 02:29:22.673 Papanov creates: Soul Shard.

7/15 02:29:24.042 Stonesplinter Seer attempts to run away in fear!

7/15 02:29:26.057 Stonesplinter Seer dies, you gain 57 experience.

7/15 02:29:31.313 Your share of the loot is 8 Copper.

7/15 02:30:20.994 Papanov says: thanks

7/15 02:33:05.432 Papanov says: want 1 gold

7/15 02:33:38.523 Zzblackstone says: thanks

7/15 02:33:58.075 Papanov says: no prob

7/15 02:37:10.505 Papanov says: my bros gana b pist

7/15 02:42:10.567 Papanov says: watch me

7/15 02:42:16.932 Papanov sets

7/15 02:42:21.843 Papanov sets

7/15 02:42:26.472 Papanov sets

7/15 02:42:26.657 You have selected Need for: Simple Branch of Shadow Wrath

7/15 02:42:30.952 Papanov sets

7/15 02:42:44.638 Papanov has selected Need for: Simple Branch of Shadow Wrath

7/15 02:42:44.639 Need Roll - 91 for Simple Branch of Shadow Wrath by Papanov

7/15 02:42:44.640 Need Roll - 90 for Simple Branch of Shadow Wrath by Zzblackstone

7/15 02:42:44.641 Papanov won: Simple Branch of Shadow Wrath

7/15 02:42:45.001 Papanov receives loot: Simple Branch of Shadow Wrath.

7/15 02:43:17.218 Papanov says: wat u want wat mark

7/15 02:43:19.147 Stonesplinter Seer dies, you gain 57 experience.

7/15 02:43:29.625 Papanov sets

7/15 02:43:31.642 Your share of the loot is 2 Copper.

7/15 02:43:35.859 Papanov sets

7/15 02:43:43.443 Papanov sets

7/15 02:43:52.909 Stonesplinter Skullthumper attempts to run away in fear!

7/15 02:43:54.963 Stonesplinter Skullthumper dies, you gain 60 experience.

7/15 02:44:36.695 You receive item: Simple Branch of Shadow Wrath.

7/15 02:44:36.753 You receive item: Worn Leather Vest.

7/15 02:44:45.224 Your share of the loot is 10 Copper.

7/15 02:44:45.613 You receive loot: Linen Clothx3.

7/15 02:44:56.547 Papanov says: cant use it

7/15 02:45:00.069 You receive loot: Calico Tunic.

7/15 02:46:02.596 Papanov says: wat shape u want

7/15 02:49:20.606 Zzblackstone says: let's trade later when I can sell some stuff

7/15 02:49:25.970 Zzblackstone says: too full

7/15 02:49:34.940 Papanov says: k

7/15 02:49:50.559 Zzblackstone says: need to kill two more stonesplinter seers

7/15 02:50:21.964 Papanov creates: Soul Shard.

7/15 02:50:24.757 Papanov creates: Soul Shard.

7/15 02:51:02.223 Papanov says: all i can use is wrist bands pants and boots cloth onley

7/15 02:52:15.686 Zzblackstone says: one more seer

7/15 02:52:52.625 Stonesplinter Seer says: Destroy!

7/15 02:52:59.540 Papanov says: wat shape u want above ur head

7/15 02:53:53.071 Papanov says: ready

7/15 02:53:58.514 Zzblackstone says: awesome, let's get out of here

7/15 02:54:59.977 Papanov sets

7/15 02:56:20.517 Papanov says: that better no mark aboveur head

7/15 02:57:38.930 Papanov says: wait

7/15 02:59:22.630 You gain 1050 experience.

7/15 02:59:22.631 In Defense of the King's Lands completed.

7/15 02:59:22.631 Experience gained: 1050.

7/15 02:59:22.631 Received 7 Silver.

7/15 02:59:22.633 Received 3 of item: Lesser Healing Potion.

7/15 02:59:22.634 Reputation with Ironforge increased by 250.

7/15 02:59:22.942 You receive item: Lesser Healing Potionx3.

7/15 03:00:16.187 Quest accepted: In Defense of the King's Lands

7/15 03:01:05.144 Papanov says: in need 2 finish quests 2

7/15 03:01:10.665 Changed Channel: |Hchannel:-1073752334|h[(null)]|h

7/15 03:01:10.665 Changed Channel: |Hchannel:-1073752334|h[(null)]|h

7/15 03:01:14.574 Changed Channel: |Hchannel:-1073752334|h[(null)]|h

7/15 03:01:14.575 Changed Channel: |Hchannel:-1073752334|h[(null)]|h

7/15 03:01:50.003 Zzblackstone says: cool, I think I'm gonna crash buddy, but it's been great playing with ya

7/15 03:01:54.046 Elder Black Bear dies, you gain 54 experience.

7/15 03:02:06.270 Papanov says: k

7/15 03:02:27.719 Duel starting: 3

7/15 03:02:28.738 Duel starting: 2

7/15 03:02:29.762 Duel starting: 1

7/15 03:03:12.363 Papanov has defeated Zzblackstone in a duel

7/15 03:03:12.365 %s has earned the achievement Duel-icious!

7/15 03:03:24.729 Papanov says: nice job

7/15 03:03:36.398 Papanov says: now u win

7/15 03:03:42.517 Duel starting: 3

7/15 03:03:43.537 Duel starting: 2

7/15 03:03:44.553 Duel starting: 1

7/15 03:03:58.418 %s has earned the achievement Duel-icious!

7/15 03:03:58.418 Zzblackstone has defeated Papanov in a duel

7/15 03:04:11.940 Zzblackstone says: Fun, thanks

7/15 03:04:14.215 Papanov says: achevment

7/15 03:04:19.925 Zzblackstone says: yeah

7/15 03:04:25.958 Zzblackstone says: good stuff

7/15 03:04:49.400 Papanov says: ya stayin

7/15 03:04:56.910 Elder Black Bear dies, you gain 54 experience.

7/15 03:05:20.974 Zzblackstone says: trying to hit 13, v close

7/15 03:05:42.207 Papanov says: num lock

7/15 03:05:43.649 Zzblackstone says: gonna buy stuff and grind to 13 in town

7/15 03:06:21.723 Zzblackstone says: good tip

7/15 03:07:37.685 Papanov says: right click on my pic and claick fallow then no hands

7/15 03:07:46.128 Elder Black Bear dies, you gain 54 experience.

7/15 03:08:13.860 Papanov says: u do it

7/15 03:08:33.270 Zzblackstone says: cool

7/15 03:08:53.766 Papanov says: look ma no hands

7/15 03:09:02.141 Mangy Mountain Boar dies, you gain 60 experience.

7/15 03:09:26.569 Elder Black Bear dies, you gain 54 experience.

7/15 03:09:50.608 Papanov says: cood i tipe this wile following u manuley

7/15 03:09:57.536 Grizzled Black Bear dies, you gain 57 experience.

7/15 03:10:05.658 Discovered Grizzlepaw Ridge: 90 experience gained

7/15 03:10:21.678 Mangy Mountain Boar dies, you gain 60 experience.

7/15 03:10:27.125 Papanov says: wat the

7/15 03:10:52.203 Grizzled Black Bear dies, you gain 57 experience.

7/15 03:11:18.746 Grizzled Black Bear dies, you gain 60 experience.

7/15 03:11:20.506 Papanov says: how close r u now

7/15 03:11:42.072 Papanov receives loot: Chipped Bear Tooth.

7/15 03:11:42.464 Papanov receives loot: Bear Meat.

7/15 03:12:11.390 Elder Black Bear dies, you gain 48 experience.

7/15 03:12:41.124 Forest Lurker dies, you gain 41 experience.

7/15 03:13:26.843 Papanov whispers: jkrykfkjytkuyttttytuutyiui

7/15 03:13:41.428 Papanov sets

7/15 03:13:48.834 Papanov sets

7/15 03:13:57.588 Papanov sets

7/15 03:14:10.334 Mountain Boar dies, you gain 41 experience.

7/15 03:14:29.643 Mountain Boar dies, you gain 48 experience.

7/15 03:14:43.696 Mountain Boar dies, you gain 48 experience.

7/15 03:14:52.797 Papanov whispers: nice

7/15 03:14:55.701 Zzblackstone says: I got 13

7/15 03:15:10.652 Zzblackstone says: Nice playing w ya, let's do it again sometime

7/15 03:15:23.835 Papanov says: this

7/15 03:15:35.606 Papanov says: wait

7/15 03:15:50.805 Papanov says: meat u in the town later

7/15 03:16:09.667 Zzblackstone says: sho nuff, good night bud!

7/15 03:16:11.221 Papanov says: pres dance

7/15 03:16:31.810 Zzblackstone says: where

7/15 03:16:33.847 Papanov bursts into dance.

7/15 03:17:08.213 Papanov says: the main town behind me

7/15 03:17:20.264 Zzblackstone says: where's dance button

7/15 03:17:57.698 Zzblackstone says: later!

7/15 03:18:04.973 Papanov says: no tipe dnace but befor that hit the slash buttin

7/15 03:18:14.210 Papanov says: dance

7/15 03:18:35.565 You burst into dance.

7/15 03:18:36.833 Papanov dances with Bear.

7/15 03:18:51.893 Papanov says: nice moves

7/15 03:19:00.389 FRIEND_OFFLINE

7/15 03:19:06.584 Papanov says: wait

7/15 03:19:10.903 Zzblackstone says: thanks

7/15 03:19:13.013 FRIEND_ONLINE

7/15 03:19:34.660 With arms flapping, Papanov struts around Bear. Cluck, Cluck, Chicken!

7/15 03:19:46.020 Papanov dances with Bear.

Framing Games & Learning

Lesson 2: Framing Games & Learning
C&I 675: Researching Virtual Worlds
Dr. Constance Steinkuehler
Spencer Striker
Assignment Due: Analyze the first ten levels of World of Warcraft based on Gee’s 36 principles. How is the game built for learning?

Analyzing World of Warcraft’s Notion of Framing Games & Learning via a Close Reading of James Paul Gee’s “What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy.”

So, I’m finally starting to ‘flow’ with my Dwarf Hunter, ZZ Blackstone—I mean flow in the sense of Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, or better yet, Jenova Chen. I’ve overcome the initial inertia of learning a new game system, a new control layout, a new gestalt—a new mise en scene. And yes, as Gee suggests, I’m becoming increasingly addicted to the gameplay, continuously seeking one more quest—one more level up—before I can find a good place to pause. This kind of perfect balance in the unfolding gameplay action reveals expert game design on the part of Blizzard. Their design team has executed a masterfully incremental learning by leveling up/leveling up by learning system, that’s always just hard enough to be challenging, but fulfilling and rewarding at the same time.

Since I only have a few pages to work with here, I’m going to select some of James Paul Gee’s key Video Game Learning Principles and apply them analytically to my specific experience playing World of Warcraft’s first ten levels.

2. The Design Principle. As Raph Koster once said in a GZ interview, “all games are systemic,” meaning they play out according to hard and fast rules. These gameplay dynamics and conventions can become well understood, predictable, and eventually mastered by students of the game, as happens when Halo players exploit glitches either to gain an advantage or to amuse themselves. In the process of unmasking the game’s design architecture, players begin to appreciate the artifice of game design and its principles. The corollary here might be an appreciation for the illusory craft of filmmaking. As a viewer, once one has begun to analyze and think critically about special effects and the trompe d'oeils that one is experiencing, a person may begin to enjoy films even more, since one is now able to appreciate this multimedia art form from a more rewarding, multi-faceted vantage point.

6. “Psychosocial Moratorium” Principle: My experience with WoW’s first ten levels has been similar to nearly every video game experience I’ve ever known in that failure is engineered into the game’s core design—it is expected to occur early and often. In WoW, I find it both original and uniquely morbid that you reawaken from death in a graveyard as a ghost and that you have to go reclaim your corpse. This strikes me as an idiosyncratic design convention that seems to have stuck. As experienced gamers might both hope for and expect: there’s no punishment for dying, other than the annoyance factor and the lost time. Other games, such as GTA, punish the player for dying by taking away money and weapons—a kind of tax for foolhardiness. As Ben Mattes points out in a GZ interview, modern games such as the new Prince of Persia utilize gaming conventions, exemplified by the reconsidered role of Elika, to prevent the act of death altogether. The goal is to prevent the game’s ‘flow’ from breaking.

Historically, games can wind up falling into a pattern like this: wind up, try it, fail, resurrect; wind up try it, fail, resurrect; wind up, try it, succeed, etc., on and on. Therefore, developers such as Ben Mattes have sought design methods to maintain continuous ‘flow’ and immersion. Therefore, Elika always saves the Prince of Persia when he falls, returning him to the moment just before he put himself in danger. This way the gameplay remains continuous. The trouble is that without any consequence for failure whatsoever players don’t feel properly challenged—the stakes aren’t high enough—and so they lose interest in the game.

The tone has to be just right.

The 12. Practice Principle is at work here, whereby the learner/gamer gets lots of more or less non-boring practice. This type of grinding performs a balancing act between being necessary in the early levels as a design tool intended to teach players the basics while providing players with a fun, rewarding experience.

Getting this right is invariably a challenge for both the designer and the gamer. The player can’t enjoy the game’s later levels without a firm grounding in the game’s systemic principles, but if the training is excessively tedious, the gamer will burnout, resent the game’s dull limitations, and rage against the designer’s lack of empathy, nuance, and controlled mastery. Harmonious design is essential for the 13. Ongoing Learning Principle and 14. “Regime of Competence” Principle to work, whereby the gamer is always testing the edge of his or her skill level, always having to build upon the skills learned earlier, unravel a previous understanding, and add a layer of complexity to it. This is where I think Gee really nails it. He’s absolutely right that game designers are excellent teachers—they utilize not only their own endless personal testing to find this sweet spot, but they also employ testers to play the levels endlessly until the level designs are functioning perfectly.

Learning a foreign language reminds me of playing video games in the sense that when you first look at a new language lesson, it could not appear more obtuse, random, and incomprehensible. It simply hurts your head to look at symbols and grammatical exercises for which you have no context, no clear means of deciphering their significance. But upon approaching the problem in increments, you decode this word, now that. And soon thereafter, the entire lesson makes perfect sense, and you can’t remember what it was like not to know what to do. You can no longer look at the lesson with that same lack of understanding—the memory of incomprehension becomes difficult to recall. Well-designed games achieve this via teaching/learning principles, to a point where after you’ve achieved Level 10 on WoW you can no longer remember what it was like to awkwardly move your character around the initial spawning area, trying to figure out how/why to click on a Quest Giver.

25. The Concentrated Sample Principle sustains as an ingrained training method in the early stages of video games, including WoW. Players must perform many types of fundamental tasks that are secretly training them, similar to the way Mr. Miyagi trains Daniel-son in the Karate Kid by making him paint fences and clean pools, only instead of Miyagi’s emphasis on monotonous work tasks, game designers attempt to integrate elements of enjoyable quests into core skill building. Importantly, modern designers avoid instruction manuals, attempting to integrate the instructions into the early stages of the game—something you experience both in WoW and in nearly every console game these days. Requiring a player to stop and learn the gameplay mechanics kills immersion and ‘flow’ and is therefore unacceptable. As defined by the 28. Discovery Principle, the game should unfold like an appealing, pleasure inducing narrative, totally immersing the player, creating invisible walls, and presenting the illusion that the player is experiencing an organic story world that emerges as they discover it.

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ButtonMashers Season 2 Premiere!
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Student-produced GameZombie.tv is a Webby Honoree for second straight year

Indiana University
IU News Room

News Release

Last modified: Thursday, May 14, 2009

Student-produced GameZombie.tv is a Webby Honoree for second straight year

May 14, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- GameZombie.tv, a popular Indiana University student-run, original game video series that distributes its offerings online through its Web site and other popular sites, has been selected as a Webby Awards Honoree for the second straight year.

Webby Awards

Hailed as the "Oscars of the Internet" by the New York Times, the Webby Awards honor excellence on the Internet, including Web sites, interactive advertising, online film and video and mobile Web sites. The awards are judged by the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences.

Fewer than 15 percent received this honor and were deemed Official Honorees. Some of the students have been invited to attend the 13th annual Webby Awards Gala in New York on June 8.

IU graduate student Spencer Stuart -- known as Spencer Striker to many visitors to GameZombie.tv and elsewhere online -- created the student-run multimedia project less than three years ago. It has provided hands-on experience in production and Web development to more than 125 other IU students.

Game Zombie
The GameZombie.tv crew
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While most students are in IU's Department of Telecommunications, the Web 2.0 project also involves others from the Kelley School of Business and the IU schools of Fine Arts and Informatics. Production facilities are located within the Telecommunications Department, which is part of IU's College of Arts and Sciences.

"What's very exciting is that in the business of Web video, we're extremely competitive," said Striker, who previously is from Austin, Texas. "We're seeing professional organizations that obviously have no affiliation with the university and they're going out of business. Meanwhile, we just keep getting stronger."

"The department is delighted with the continued national recognition GameZombie has earned," added Walter Gantz, chair of the IU Department of Telecommunications. "But, beyond that, we've been really pleased with the instructional activity associated with GameZombie. Students from across the campus have had an opportunity to develop and refine very valuable production and marketing skills that should serve them well as they enter the job market."

GameZombie has produced 240 original videos for global webcast and garnered more than 100 front page editor's picks on major videosharing sites, front page articles in 10 online news outlets and competitive visibility on the world's top search engines.

The students also produce a cable access program that is presented throughout central Indiana and an IU Student Television show. Their promotion and distribution agreements with various web sites, including Dailymotion, GameTrailers, National Lampoon, Kewego, Joost, Buzzwire, and Bebo -- as well as official YouTube Partner status -- have pushed GameZombie's global view count to more than 6 million. The students also regularly produce a podcast that is available through iTunes.

"I had the pleasure of meeting Spencer and the team at GameZombie.tv early on and can honestly say that they are one of the most motivated content creators I work with at GameTrailers.com," said Barndi Kim, manager, brand and partner marketing at MTV subsidiary GameTrailers.com. "Their breadth of videos, their dedication to event-coverage and their creativity surpasses most others, including groups who have been doing this work for much longer."

GameZombie has covered events such as the Game Developer's Conferences in San Francisco and Austin, E3 in Los Angeles, the World Series of Video Games in Louisville, Ky., and GenCon in Indianapolis. It has produced more than 125 interviews with some of the biggest names in the video game industry, including Peter Molyneux of Fable 2, Todd Howard of Fallout 3, Ben Mattes of Prince of Persia and Cliff Bleszinski of Gears of War 2.

"We've moved into the elite of game media," Striker said. "At GDC09, we were invited by the head of the game media press corps to go backstage for the Game Developers Choice Award. It was extremely flattering. After these star game developers won the biggest award of their life, they go into the green room and that's where we were, asking them questions.

"That was an indication that we've been getting a lot of respect," he added.

Some students working on the project have been able to get internship credit. Other students participated through an advanced production workshop centered around the original Web series.

The project has given students valuable experience. One student landed an internship with Cartoon Network's Adult Swim division and will test games that are part of its Web site. Another student now is working for Major League Soccer and another is a lead multiplayer designer at High Voltage. Several students have found internships and employment at video production companies around the country.

"A lot of our editors have been getting editing jobs in cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles," said Andrew Benninghoff, a senior from Ft. Wayne, Ind., who will enter IU's master's program in telecommunications this fall. "Not everyone with GameZombie is interested in video games; they're interested in design and production."

Striker, who holds two undergraduate degrees from the University of Texas, in additon to his Master of Science degree from IU, also is moving on, to a teaching position at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. But he will remain involved with GameZombie by developing and expanding a game media program there, similar to the one he established at IU.

Benninghoff will take over as IU's lead on the project. The project also has welcomed student interns from the University of Southern California's Department of Interactive Media.

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George Vlahakis
University Communications

Spencer Stuart/Spencer Striker

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About GameZombie.tv
In less than two years time, GZ has produced 230 original game videos for global webcast, garnering over 100 front page editor's picks on major video sharing sites, front page articles in 10 online newspapers, and competitive visibility on the world's top search engines. Official YouTube Partner status, various distribution contracts, and a rapidly expanding fan base have pushed GameZombie's global view count over 6,000,000. After winning a 2008 Webby Honoree Award for Online Video, GZ is one of the few companies to repeat the feat in 2009. GZ's world exclusive video interview series--more than 100 to date--features some of the biggest names in the business, including Peter Molyneux of Fable 2, Ed Boon of MK vs DC, Todd Howard of Fallout 3, Ben Mattes of Prince of Persia, and Cliff Bleszinski of Gears of War 2. And in the fall of 2008, GameZombie launched ButtonMashers, an original gaming news show shot in a $1 million HDTV studio—the first season garnered view counts in the millions.

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If you would like to cease receiving these really awesome and infrequent announcements from GameZombie.tv please reply directly to this message with "unsubscribe" in the Subject of the message. We will be quick to remove you from our mailing list. Have a wonderful, video game filled day from the GameZombie.tv team!

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GameZombie Entertainment LLC
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(812) 322-0138

If you would like to cease receiving these really awesome and infrequent announcements from GameZombie.tv please reply directly to this message with "unsubscribe" in the Subject of the message. We will be quick to remove you from our mailing list. Have a wonderful, video game filled day from the GameZombie.tv team!