Well, it’s been a hot minute since I posted here. I just received notice a week or so ago that my server was being moved to a new one at my webhost (where I’ve hosted my sites for OVER TWENTY YEARS – how the hell is that possible?). So, I thought I’d come check out the site and well there are some bugs here and there. I’ve tried to clean up as much as I could, but it’s 3am on a Monday morning (hey, it’s a holiday if that matters), and I’m over it at this point. So if you find some weird characters where punctuation should be, just know it’s due to the fact that it wasn’t encoded in the database correctly when it was originally posted and well there are nearly 15 years of posts here at this point, which means going back to fix them all will take some time.
I do have to say though it was a bit of a trip going back to April of 2007 for this blog’s first entry (though the first official one was September of 2007, it went back to April because I’d brought over some LJ posts I’d made to a corresponding community I’d started there prior to starting this blog). So yeah, I’ve tried to catch as much as I could, but I’m sure I’ve missed some and others I’m too tired to deal with at this point (I know for a fact my undergrad work under the academic nav point needs to be fixed, but that’s more than I’m willing to take on right now).
So, where have I been?
Alas, I’ve been absent here since about July of 2020 due to starting a new job (as an Associate Director of Design at Blizzard – holy crap, I actually work there) a couple of months after my last post. Then, over the next year, we had 3 deaths in our family and moved across the state for said job. Combine all of that with the fact that I’m also homeschooling my 3 kids and now taking care of my soon to be 98 year old grandfather with Alzheimer’s (my grandmother passed in August of last year due to catching COVID at the hospital, which makes me his caretaker now), and well – time has been a bit scarce.
Don’t worry, I’m still raiding (mythic 7/10 this tier [SoD – ends tomorrow] horde side though I still kept my beloved NELF and just leveled up my Troll so I could mythic raid with friends) on top of all of that. I’ve stuck with playing WoW as it’s my pixel therapy that I hold in high priority as it’s the one thing my husband and I really enjoy doing together and it allows us to socialize with people out there in the real world without having to be actually out there in the real world. I also play FFXIV now as a Red Mage (have since May of 2020 – I have a few other jobs as well, like you do) and I’ve picked up Lost Ark as a Bard (came out in the U.S. last week), because why not.
Not sure anyone reads this much anymore, but if you do – feel free to leave a comment and say hi or use the Contact page to shoot me a message. I may try to post more often if there are still readers out there. 🙂
This presentation was originally given at DFW Beyond 2018 (October). I was the last of the speakers on the main stage for the morning (meaning: there were a lot of people in the crowd!). I’m going to add my script here as I originally wrote it along with the screen shots from the Prezi presentation. If you want to see the original presentation as it was presented, you can find it here.
Intro Hello everyone! We’ve heard a lot of great talks this morning and now all that’s standing between you and lunch is me! It’s like an epic boss fight. If you survive this then you’ll be on your way to victory. So, with that, let’s take a left turn here and have a little fun.
Gaming Team Anyone here play video games? Anyone here play video games with other people? How about large groups of people?
Work Team Now let’s think about the people you work with.
How many of you work with 4 other people? 9 other people? 19 other people? How many of you work with 19 other people for an intense non-stop three to four hours at a time multiple times a week? Could you do that? Would do you do you that?
What kind of skills do you think would be required to be able to do that calmly, collectively, and collaboratively even in the face of failure after failure after failure until you finally succeed?
Do you think we can learn from groups who are able to do this and do it successfully and do so repeatedly on purpose? I am here because yes, I think we can.
Who am I My name is Dr. Diana Hubbard. I am currently a design consultant for SAP specializing in Blockchain (I’m now a Director of Research for Hilton). In my previous role, I was the head of strategic research and insights for IBM Public Cloud. You can also tell I’m also an academic by the length of my title and my strategically placed colon.
For the past 11 years, I have had the opportunity to pull together successful research, design, and development teams in multiple organizations ranging from Software as a Service to Infrastructure and Cloud Services to now with Edge Technologies.
I contribute the success of these teams to lessons learned from World of Warcraft.
Academically I am an anthropologist and information scientist who has studied gamers, gaming, developers, and open source development communities for the last 12 years.
Druid I am also a max level Resto Druid (I main a horde druid these days) in a newly built high-end raiding guild (I’ve changed guilds since then) in World of Warcraft.
Though I’ve played for the last 14 years and been a part of many raid teams, this one was put together specifically for the expansion that just came out in August.
I raid with up to 19 other people 3 to 4 nights a week for 3 to 4 hours at a time. This is on top of my job and taking care of my family of 5 including 3 children, as well as our 3 dogs, and our home.
Learning Today I am going to highlight a few things I think people like us, who build and manage teams, can take away from these organically grown communities of practice who come together both inside and outside the game to voluntarily put in a lot of time and effort to successfully collaborate in highly intense situations toward a common goal.
And they do this in the face of failure and defeat and the possibility of getting nothing but a virtual repair bill for their hard earned broken digital armor.
Since my time is so short (I only had 20 minutes) I will only be able to go into these at a high level but I will provide a link at the end of to my blog where I will talk about it in detail and link to this presentation. (<– this is just now happening)
Culture Let’s start with Culture.
What is culture anyway. Is it where we live? What we do? The clothes we wear?
As an anthropologist, especially one who studies geographically dispersed online communities, I obviously have an opinion on this. I define it as shared ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors with a common language and shared vocabulary.
This is an important distinction because raid teams do not normally all hail from the same countries or even speak the same first language, but they all know, understand, and have a passion for Warcraft. The same can be said for many of our product teams in relation to our businesses.
Being a cultural anthropologist, it is no surprise I have found culture to be an essential element of successful teams. There are many ways it is important, but for the purposes of this talk I’ve distilled it down to 3. Culture of Research, of Knowledge Sharing, and of Failure.
Research Considering research, the most essential part is that everyone does it. And this isn’t necessarily user research activities, though as a UXR I do highly recommend all members of product teams participate in at least some user research activities.
In this case, research is a bit more high level including topics such as the problem space. Everyone conducting some sort of research at this level not only helps individual knowledge, but it also improves the overall interaction of the team as it helps level the playing field and gets everyone on the same page.
The purpose is not necessarily to get all of the answers, but to know what questions to ask. Lastly, it should be noted that research never stops. The game is always changing, as projects do, so research is always ongoing and evolving which is why knowledge sharing is important.
Knowledge Sharing Knowledge sharing is fundamental to the progress of the team because not everyone can know everything at all times. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a mythic raid boss fight, so imagine your favorite sports game and add earth quakes, volcanos, lava, tornados, hurricanes, and tidal waves all happening while your team is trying to score a goal and that might give you some idea of how much is going on any one time that everyone needs to have some knowledge of.
Though knowledge sharing may seem like a small thing, it creates an environment where team members come to rely upon each other and learn how to be relied upon, which is important when it comes to progress through failure – something that is a given for a mythic raid team.
Failure It is nearly impossible for a team to walk into an encounter or a problem space for the first time and be successful.
We should all know this going in as it’s what we signed up for. Those with egos do not make it very far in mythic raiding because you have to be ok with giving up your invulnerability. You have to be willing to fail with the team if you’re going to ever succeed with them.
There have been nights where we have died an upwards of 30 times, half of them trying to get past a single boss.
However, every time we died we got a little further and learned a little more and all those little failures are what helped us succeed in the end. The important part was we kept going and kept each other’s spirits up as we did, which is a very important skill to have.
Skills Skills can mean many things, but for this talk I’m going to keep it simple. I love the straightforwardness of this definition – expertise gained from experience. It plays very well into the three skills I consider essential for raid and product teams, which are getting things done, playing multiple roles, and leading at all levels.
GTD We’ve all heard of GTD or getting things done, but how many of us practice it? How many of us have meetings about meetings or walk out of a meeting having accomplished absolutely nothing?
For a raid team, time is precious. Not only does our chance to progress reset every week, but we all also have lives and jobs and even children fighting for our time and attention. So, when we meet in game it is always with a purpose and a goal and a timeline.
We all want to see our guild name move up the rankings and we all know we have the power to make that happen but it takes commitment and dedication. We will progress only if we show up together and get things done. And to get things done we sometimes have to step into someone else’s role.
MultiRoles Having people play multiple roles is not the same thing has having a team of unicorns. Rather, it is about having a team of people who can pick up the slack when someone is sick or on vacation or the deadline has just been moved up.
It’s about team members who have empathy for each other and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Building a team of people who have both breadth and depth creates an environment that is both adaptable and versatile making it an exceptional place for leaders to grow.
Leaders Leaders who strive for adaptability and versatility need other people who are willing to take on leadership positions within their teams in order to lead successfully. This is more than delegation. It is about creating a supporting atmosphere for team members to own their contributions and to mentor others.
It’s about creating a space where they feel empowered enough to do new things and take risks to improve the team’s chances for success. Encouraging leadership at all levels provides ample opportunities for motivational and inspirational interactions.
Interactions Interactions are simply reciprocal actions or influences. It’s the reciprocity that makes a difference for collaboration, communication, and critique.
Collaboration Organic collaboration may seem a bit strange, but we’ve all had those scheduled collaborative sessions that weren’t really collaborative at all.
The idea here is that people get better at what they do and they produce better work when they are able to spontaneously collaborate as needed, work together in smaller groups on smaller problems, and work with people outside of their team for additional or missing expertise.
In WoW we call this pugging or creating a Pick up Group. Doing these things increases team relationships both internally and externally, which improves the success of the team overall especially in communication.
Communication Free and open communication is essential to the success of every team because it helps build relationships through trust which is needed when the situation gets intense.
The key here is to establish a method of communication everyone can participate in and to make sure it is kept active and relevant. That said, though we may want to try to keep everything on topic, I always recommend a time and place for off-topic chatter because people matter and this is where you really learn what matters to them.
And knowing people is really important when it comes to critiques.
Critique Critiquing can be difficult to do well and even more difficult to take, but when it is simply a part of the team’s regular interactions it becomes normalized and accepted and even sought after. Giving and accepting critiques is only the first step.
The step that really counts is immediately testing or applying the feedback. This should be done even if the feedback seems silly or counter intuitive because if nothing else it gives you a different way of looking at your problem, which may be what you need to make a difference and that may be all it takes to get a ding.
Dings What’s a ding? Traditionally a ding is what players in WoW would refer to when they completed a character level. I’ve taken it a step further to use it as a way to celebrate progress. Many of us have likely been on teams working on a project that seems like it never ends, much like an MMO. Dings are useful break up the monotony and to keep people motivated as they mark movement forward. So, I recommend building in dings to give something to look forward to and to look back on.
Note:All images are owned by their owners including Blizzard Activision and are used here in Fair Use for scholarly purposes. This talk was given pro-bono and this information is being shared for free.You can find a portfolio of all of the slides here.
October was a month of wonderful opportunities. My first was the ability to go to Barcelona, Spain for a Design Thinking Facilitation course. This course was different than previous ones I have attended where design thinking methodologies are introduced. It was specifically about how to lead different exercises and what makes a good facilitator with actual practice doing it. The final day was for advanced people where we focused on different skills that make a good facilitator like talking, walking, standing, and even improv. I’m not necessarily a huge fan of DT. As an anthropologist, I see a lot of things “borrowed” from my discipline and repurposed for it. That said, I think there is a time and a place to use it and it should be considered a set of tools to use rather than the end all be all of getting companies and design on the same page.
Beyond the course itself, I was able to meet a lot of people from my company in person, which was really nice as I work from home. I was able to work in a little sightseeing as well. It was a beautiful city and I am very glad I had a chance to visit it.
After I returned from Barcelona, I was a guest lecturer at UNT on Design Anthropology. There I talked about what I do, what I don’t, my career path that got me here, and how I use anthropological skills in business and design every day.
The following week I presented on Team Building at DFW Beyond. I will write a post about this individually with a transcript of my talk for those who are interested!
Though these three things may seem completely separate there is in fact a link between them. All three provided me with opportunities to learn how to help people through facilitation, share how I help people through anthropology, and share how people can be helped through intentional team building. Though I have many passions, my main passion is helping others and I find myself truly lucky that I’ve found a way to do so through design, research, and even gaming. More on the last in my next post!
The issue is that though most parents give a cursory glance to the ESRB rating, many fail to recognize when descriptors are used or what they mean. This is a finding straight out of my dissertation. That’s not to say the ESRB shouldn’t note that these games utilize this type of microtransaction, simply that they should do more to inform people as to what exactly it is and how it works.
My prediction is that if any of those bills in Hawaii pass, they’ll be repealed at the appellate court as all previous gaming legislation has been. If you want to know more about gaming legislation, I have a nearly 300-page dissertation I’d be happy to share with you. 😉
When artificial interactions work better, faster, and easier than organic ones at providing a dopamine high, they might induce a person to engage in an addictive relationship with the artificial interaction at the expense of an organic one. In layman’s terms, this may cause a person to have problems in their daily life due to their detrimental relationship with technology. For example, a person may forgo an in-person interaction to engage in an artificial one because they find the artificial one more compelling. These may start out as situations like skipping out on going to dinner with friends to instead engage in synthetic interactions but may escalate to neglecting essential responsibilities such as going to work or school.
The real question is, is the subject matter that induces the dopamine response to blame for the addictive relationship that is developed or is the environment where the person cannot find organic interactions that would produce such natural and beneficial reactions responsible for the resulting addiction of looking for them elsewhere? Careful consideration should be made here as people who are diagnosed with an addiction to a particular trigger are thus restricted from engaging with that trigger in the future. What would this mean in situations where grade-school students are diagnosed with gaming disorder and are thus unable to do their school work because their school utilizes game theory and electronics in much of their teaching? What happens when someone recklessly engages in social media and thus is forced to give it up, but must interact in a similar environment for their careers such as utilizing tools like Slack or office Intranets?
Questions for consideration:
Should the underlying cause of addiction not be of more concern than those places to which people look to supplement their natural human needs? What can be done as designers and researchers in these areas to bring possible addictive behaviors to the attention of the user before they go too far? Are businesses at risk of losing revenue by putting the customer’s behavior and mental, physical, emotional health first? Should they be responsible when a user becomes addicted? If so, to what end?
The following are a list of key findings from my research on parental assessment of video game content appropriateness for their children. You can read the first round of published results here.
There were no parents in the study who were able to definitively name all of the parts of the ESRB Ratings System or all six ratings and over two-thirds did not know what process games went through to get rated. This resulted in the majority of interviewed parents knowing little to nothing about the ratings system even if they claimed they used it.
Interviewed parents had very specific criteria they used to judge video game appropriateness against and once any of those lines were crossed, the game was considered unsuitable. Though violence was a concern for interviewed parents, perceptions of violence were far more nuanced than the ESRB Rating System descriptors were able to convey, thus many had to do further research to properly assess the game and make sense of the content. Sexual content, however, was of a far higher concern than violence even for those interviewed parents who considered themselves very liberal in the types of games they allowed their children to play.
Interviewed parents with special needs children considered the needs of their child and the ability for a game to help him or her as more important than staying within content that was age appropriate.
Based on the interviews, every familyâ€™s and childâ€™s needs are different, including children within the same family. Therefore, a single information system, such as the ESRB Ratings System, may never be able to completely fulfill all of a parentâ€™s information needs as they attempt to bridge their knowledge gap. As long as it provides a place to start, that may be all it needs to do.
Relevant to the previous finding, interviewed parents attempted to bridge their knowledge gaps in multiple ways in order to assess game content and make sense of it. These included using the ESRB Ratings System, Internet searches (including specific sites as well as more general results) to find game reviews (both community and professional), game marketing (including websites, packaging, and commercials), and Letâ€™s Plays (video game play-throughs).
Credibility of the gaming information source was very important to interviewed parents. They cited both the source of the documentation as well as the reputation of the reporting source to be important factors in establishing credibility.
Though a few interviewed parents were in favor of a law, most were not. Those in favor cited it as an extra level of protection or as something they thought was already in place. Those not in favor cited issues with enforcement, the inability for laws to really assist them, as well as a general dislike of having the government interfere with their role as parents.
Specific answers to research questions will be published in a separate post.
“Rather than simply forbidding young people to listen to certain forms of music, read certain books, or see certain movies, many families have abdicated this responsibility to civic action groups and the government. Such a relinquishment of authority over individual lives has led to denunciations of various media forms, calls for self-regulation of individual mediums, and attempts to ban completely some sexually explicit speech.” (791)
”Perhaps even more important than the right of Americans to decide what they wish to read, see, and hear for themselves is the fact that this generation’s purity crusade is diverting national attention away from more important areas. Indeed, many individuals who believe in a government based on popular participation have not yet realized that by devoting so much energy to what is essentially the private business of American citizens, their attention has been successfully diverted from participation in the political and economic planning processes of the nation.” (850)
Interesting that if you consider gaming, specifically violent video games, to be the topic at hand, these conclusions are as relevant today as they were over 20 years ago.
Blanchard, M. A. (1991). American Urge to Censor: Freedom of Expression Versus the Desire to Sanitize Society—From Anthony Comstock to 2 Live Crew, The Wm. & Mary L. Rev., 33, 741.
I think gamers would make great politicians. In game we have to be able to communicate, manage our time and resources, understand technology and how to use it, and work well with others. We also do all of this on top of our daily lives as parents, employees, students, and more. And, last but not least – we do it all for FUN!
So congratulations on your new state senate seat, Colleen Lachicz – Orc Rogue. From me, Diana Harrelson – Anthropologist, PhD Student, User Experience Designer, and proud to be a level 86 (working my way up to 90!) Night Elf Druid.
Do you play Farmville or any of the other what seem like thousands of passive games on Facebook? Do you enjoy it? Get something out of it? If so, you probably don’t want to read any further. Head back to your Facebook page and continue to spew your digital litter all over the place and I’ll continue to toss your pixels wasted on your mind numbing updates into the digital recycle bin.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hold the fact you play the games against you – but please don’t be offended if I do not share in the excitement or even interest of your overzealous updates on your latest point-click-refresh time sink.
Now, I’m just as guilty as the next 4sq’r on your list. Yes, I’ll admit to that. But, you also have to admit you rarely see a 4sq update from me, and when you do it’s someplace really cool and usually with friends. Most of the check ins I never publish to my feeds and if it takes any longer than 30 seconds to check in, I get over it and move on.
That’s just it, the crux of this post, gaming used to be synonymous with having skills. Working for 3DFX, we even used games to compete with one another for special privileges like hosting the booth at Quakecon. I remember the days of Atari (yes I was young, but I played it!); when pizza joints had arcade tables where you could eat and at the same time play Pacman with a friend; the awesomeness of playing against someone in Street Fighter and Mortal Combat at the arcade; beating Super Mario and Paper Boy for the first time on the NES; and even playing games on the now defunct Dreamcast and Sega Saturn.
My first exposure to PC games was Doom, then on to Quake and Unreal Tournament, and I definitely remember enjoying Myst, 7th Guest, and Myth. From there I moved on to Diablo / Diablo II, & Warcraft I/II/III. (Gotta give Blizzard props for having games that came out on PC and Mac at the same time – this is what won me over to them early on.) Can’t forget the original Sims (though it’s been hard for me to get into the latest version and I’ll admit only played Spore a few hours). Hell, I remember playing the first Halo game when it came out and finding it funny that it took Microsoft buying Bungie, who was originally a Macintosh game developer (anyone remember Oni?), to put out a great game.
These days I’m all about Borderlands (via Steam and my ever expanding library of games there), WoW (/played since Nov 23, 2004), as well as games like Little Big Planet, any of the Lego games (Batman, Star Wars, and Harry Potter are my favs so far), and many many others on multiple computers, consoles, and hand held devices.
I don’t mean to spark a debate here over what should and should not be called a game, or even the quality of the games themselves – this is more about the gaming experience and what it means to self identify or earn the title of Gamer. This is by no means the type of academic post most are used to seeing here, it’s more of an opinion piece. My opinion is simple – games should take mental skills, actual effort, quick thinking, consequences of making critical choices, and even some practice.
If you’re playing a game that doesn’t require these things, especially the making you think part, well perhaps you should try them sometime. Then, maybe we can talk gamer to gamer. Until that time, I’ll continue to block your point-click-refresh posts off my Facebook feed and decline every single invitation you send my way. Look me up when you want to waste time with me playing a real game. I promise not to beat you too bad, – the first time.
Same story different verse, next verse same as the first.
I was laid off.
Yep, it happens and has been happening all over the US for some time now. As a matter of fact it’s the third time I’ve been laid off during my career. My first layoff was during the dotcom collapse of 2001 where the company I worked for (3DFX – manufacturers of Voodoo gaming video cards) went out of business and sold their IP to NVidia (and I loved that job!). It took me 6 months to get a job after that and I am still paying off credit card debt accrued during that time.
My second was October of 2007 when I found out that the man who ran the company I worked for failed to pay taxes. He had previously worked for Enron – no joke. Luckily I found a job right away as I had already been scouting for one sensing the end was near.
Then this one was a simple business decision and I can respect that. Still, it hurts both in the pocketbook and to one’s sense of pride. I worked very hard at that job and felt I was doing a lot of good. Sadly, my type of position is usually one of the first to go when a restructuring happens so it’s to be expected. Being previously laid off doesn’t make this time better or worse – it just means I understand that it happens and past experience has told me it is something from which I can recover.
For those World of Warcraft gamers who have never been laid off, it’s much like having your raiding guild up and decide it’s no longer going to raid anymore so you are no longer needed. This actually happened to me over the summer, so yes I can tell you it feels pretty darn similar. These were people I had raided with for almost the entire time the game was out (over four years!), and poof it was gone. What seemed like it happened over night had actually been months in the making, but it still wasn’t any less shocking or hard to take.
What’s cool now is I have a few freelance gigs I’ve picked up on the side – much like PUGing a raid. In game, I did the same and about 3 months after my guild collapsed I found a new home. I’m hoping it doesn’t take me three months to find a new job! I’ll admit I am a little more dedicated to finding a job than I was to finding a new guild, but I’ve heard stories of people being out of work for close to a year. Those who know me know I can’t sit still for long, and the fact it’s been almost two weeks has me already climbing the walls (hence the freelance gigs).
By the way, if you are looking for a UI designer, usability engineer, information architect, web designer, graphic artist, design or cyber anthropologist, or ethnographic researcher I am your girl! You can find my user experience resume here, my research resume here, and my career portfolio here. If this were my armory, I’d say I’m a dual specced hybrid class so I can fit almost any roll. That and I have lots of raiding experience, a high hit rating, a great list of achievements, and a gear score to drool over!
I apologize at the lateness of this post as I was abroad and without Internet access when I first learned of it.
Barack Obama has made history again, this time as the first presidential candidate ever to advertise in video games. If you are in one of the following swing states, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Montana, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin, and you play games such as Madden NFL 09 or Burnout Paradise then you will have the opportunity to see this for yourself.
I’d be interested to see what the opinions of gamers who witnessed these in their games before all the media hoopla thought of them. Personally I think it’s rather ingenious, I only wonder if they are truly hitting the demographic they are after with them and if there is any way to see if they made an impact or not.
In class this week are we talking about Globalization and Arjun Appadurai which sparked some thoughts in me on how I’d like to study globalization through interactions online. What I am interested in is seeing the mashup of ethnoscapes, mediascapes, financescapes, and ideoscapes within and because of the technoscape. It’s amazing the adaptation of people and culture and as Appadurai put it, the indigenization or really the melding of cultures to create new ones that are not based off of any specific existing culture.
Take World of Warcraft for instance – it is an online game that over 9 million people play. These people come from all over the world to mingle online as they cooperate together to complete tasks and forge ahead to new and unexplored frontiers. Within this technoscape there is the ethnoscape of the different races of characters that each have their own history and part they play within the storyline. This is on top of considering the different ethnicities of players who play the game, each contributing their own point of view through play style and idea of what is important to them within and what brings them to this online world.
Due to this game being so extensive it is forced beyond its own pixel borders and into the expanse of the outside world of the Internet (as opposed to the enclosed game world). It does so in the form of external communities, blogs, and even internet movies that have their own storylines completely separate from the game. All of which form the game’s mediascape as well as ideoscape even in it’s political terms.
Add to that the economics that exist within the game in dealing with money, services, and goods and you can easily see it has its own financescape as well. This is especially evident when war efforts effect supply and demand, or rare world drops bring in a very pretty penny at the in-game auction house similar to ebay.
This is just one example. There are all sorts of places like this online, I’ve chosen to illustrate these points Warcraft because it is so expansive both through its player base (being the #1 MMO in the world) and its in-game dealings. It is likely the one online fully interactive game that can be considered ‘global’ at this time. This is, in my opinion, a great example of Appaduraiâ€™s imagined worlds.