We are now wrapping up the Patterns of Play Project. One of our final deliveries to our client, Jon of Artful Dodger Software, is a series of data visualizations annotated with the players own words and descriptions.
Each visual was handcrafted out of Plant Wars player data by Rachel Shadoan, my project partner. The data visualizations for each player were then discussed with that player during the course of an in-depth interview. Then we pulled quotes and notations from the interview transcripts and correlated what the players said with various features of the visualizations. We can’t show you the actual visualizations but below is a quick overview of how they work.
One of the tools ethnographers use to understand the users or participants of a particular situation is called participatory ethnography. This means that we go and do what they do. In a traditional ethnographic project, for example ethnographers are brought into the factory to see how working conditions could be improved, the ethnographers would go into the factory and maybe work a few days in the different kinds of jobs. Basically you are putting yourself in your participants shoes.
In the case of this project that means we go and play Plant Wars, which is a stellar thing to be doing and calling it work! Today I felt my first real rush of victory. I clobbered another plant!
This is an important part of our research because it helps us feel how it really is to play the game. We are doing much more than just thinking about how the interface is laid out or how the games community work. We are trying to really get to know why people play. Today I learned that with one little victory. Once you sink your teeth into a game and start feeling the accomplishment it hooks you. I want to be better at it. I want to become the best at it (though I know I will always be a low-level flunky compared to the Plant Wars superstars at the top of the battle ladder). Playing games like Plant Wars is definitely a serious and necessary research activity. I love this project and Plant Wars.