TwinHits' Article Archives

I write an AskaJedi.com column that's dedicated to MMOG's, guild leadership, and the potential of online worlds and online communities to change the world.

http://www.askajedi.com/author/twinhits/

This tumblr is an archives file so readers can easily subscribe to my posts, since they are somewhat spread out over the internet.

Dear Mrs. Lyons,

This week I rode 16.79 miles. We had to take a detour.

I got tired and I wanted to stop. Santiago, our amazing team captain, then reminded me that I have to remember that it is all in the mind, the mind drives and encourages the muscle.

In elementary school, I’m told I used to get in trouble a lot. So much so, that each of my teachers would tell the next teacher to make sure that I sat in the front row. You put me right next to the overhead. I don’t remember most of what I did to get in trouble, but I do remember reading The Lord of the Rings in class. I would get bored listening to math, language arts, social studies, or whatever the topic was and I would pull out my book. I would get to read for a few minutes before you told me to stop and I would get in trouble again.

Do you remember the part where Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas were running across the fields of Rohan chasing down the Uruk-hai who had captured their hobbit friends, Merry and Pippin? I remember it better from the movies where they ran for days without stopping, hoping to gain a little bit of ground all the while burdened down with weapons, armor, and doubts.

I can’t do that, maybe no can do that. But, when I get tired, I remind myself that they’re taking the Hobbits to Isengard. Maybe we can catch them in time.

You always said I’d make you pull your hair out, I don’t think either of us expected the chemo to get there first.

I hope this letter finds you at peace,

John Goben

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16.49 Miles

Dear Mrs. Lyons,

This week, I rode 16.49 miles.

Last week I also rode 16.49 miles. I did the same the week before, and again the week before that.

That is when my training began, and also when I began composing this letter.

It has been twelve years since the 5th grade when I last saw you, and I am afraid to report that my handwriting is still sloppy, my spelling mediocre, and I cannot sit still to save my life.

Twelve years later, I am now a “real person”, an odd term denoting that we’ve never really become complete until we’ve found something to devote our time and love to. For me it’s at a place called GetWellNetwork, a place where I’ve found myself working to help people help others. A skill that I, in part, learned from you.

Four week ago, I attended an event hosted by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I am ashamed to admit my first thought was “Sweet! Free lunch!” rather than excitement at the chance to see how I could futher help people help others in need. But there I was, eating my greasy free pizza, and watching a video of people far older and less healthy than I complete their first triathlons. 

If they can do it, then surely can I. But I stopped myself short, for while the cause was good, I had no one for whom to fight.

That’s when I remembered you, and I was embarrassed that I had forgotten my lessons so soon.

I pray this letter finds you at peace,

John Goben

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Welcome!

Hello!

If you’re here it’s likely because you clicked the link in my email signature, on my Facebook, on my LinkedIn, on my forum profile, on JKHub, or were given it from my parents (Hi Mom!). Either way, welcome!

There’s a lot of posts here from a bunch of different places.

First, I was the guilds and social columnist for AskaJedi.com before it shut down. Here are some of my best articles from that experience.

Show Them a Love they Can Never Destroy: The importance of not being ashamed or hiding your love of online gaming.

You’re Just Going To Talk About Video Games Anyway: Why it’s both important and cool to meet internet friends offline.

The Four Rules of TOR: Four rules to keep in mind when playing Star Wars: The Old Republic, or really any online game ever. Actually, just four rules for life in general.

Cops and Robbers: What does it mean to play as the bad guys? This post considers what gaming story morality choices mean.

I occasionally (very, very occasionally) write for my former professor’s blog, Intelligently Artificial.

Encounters of a Nerd Kind: The story of the founding of the George Washington University Colligate Starcraft II team.

Finally, I also teach classes semi-regularly for the Star Wars: Jedi Academy clan The Order {TO}. All of the classes that I have taught have unfortunately been lost, save one, but all future classes will be recorded here.

The Role of Art and Design in Clans: This class examines and attempts to explain both why clans and guilds are centers for art and design and what this means.

P.S. I also wrote a thesis, Too Young to Take-Over, Too Old to Ignore, about collective action, political socialization, education, and emergence in online video games.

Thanks for reading!

TwinHits

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The Order: The First and Second Eras

This lecture was delivered orally to the Star Wars: Jedi Academy clans The Order {TO} and D!ox!de on Saturday, October 27th by Jedi Master TwinHits.

Good evening Jedi,

   First and most importantly of all, I want to thank you all for coming. Attendance like this is just so encouraging. I understand that sitting on the floor and reading somebody’s chat messages isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but I’ll do my best to make it fun and interesting as well as type as fast as I possibly can =). Also, there will be some map changing and moving around the map  involved, so go ahead and afk a bit while you listen, that’s fine, but be ready for the map changes. I don’t want to leave anyone behind =).

   I want to share with you the History of The Order, because we’ve been hearing people throw around words like ‘third era’, ‘temple of the force’, and ‘J’ without really any attention to what those mean. I want to help with that, but more importantly, I want to focus on the lessons that we have learned over the years in an effort to make sure such things are not lost. In this class, we’re going to discuss two of those lessons.

   Before I start, however, I think it’s very important that I declare that this is all written from my own personal point of view. I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of what is important that involved me and what isn’t. Therefore in the course of this history, besides stray mentions of myself, there are only three or four events that specifically revolve around me. Even then, only two of those were truly Order changing and would not have happened without me.

   In addition, we’re not going to go over every moment that happened in The Order’s history, that would take a long time and my memory is already failing me too much to remember. I will name and account for as many members as I can, but again, this point of view is my own.

   With that, I want to start with the first event that revolves around myself, the one that is by far and away the most important to me, for it truly changed my life. That is, of course, the founding. While our actual beginnings come from the {CT} Chronic Tokers server, which is the server on which Master Phoenix and I met and first put on our tags, our beginnings as an idea come from the {NJO} server in JK2. In my first few days of online gaming ever witnessed two {NJO} PMing each other on the FFA_bespin. I still remember my twelve year old self seeing those two players, wondering what they could be talking about, and wanting to be a part of it all I still remember that feeling, of wanting to be a part of something bigger. I applied to {NJO} then and there, did not get in, moved to another server, and joined a clan called {AoR}.

   It was there I had my first real clan experience. {AoR} would soon after collapse and lead to my life-long, and most likely healthy, fear of admin abuse. What was important about that though was it instilled in me a respect of clans and their leaders, and gave me knowledge of what it was like to be a follower, even if it was brief.

   At this point, JKA came out, and I was clan less. This is the most important moment in the founding of The Order, as well as the most important in each one of your own introductions to The Order because we all had the exact same moment. That is the moment when you are staring at the server list, and you click a random server. No one has any idea what that click will lead to, who else might have also randomly clicked that server, or if this is going to be a one time visit or merely just your first.

   For me, it was merely my first, as it was for another person on that server who would come to be known as Jedi Master Phoenix. I got on and, in my best twelve year old chat, asked if anyone wanted to be my padawan. Phoenix answered, and I began to teach. I specifically remember teaching him how to do a wall run. But, what was important, was when I described to him a clan that I envisioned. One based on the movies where there were ranks of knights, masters, and padawans, where a padawan and a master would get a one on one experience of teaching and learning. At this point in time, I felt it was the master only teaching the padawan, and nothing else.

   What began that day, in fact what began on the very place where we are sitting right now, would be something that I thought about every day from then until now.

   Now, come with me, we have somewhere else to visit.

Map change: t2_trip
  
  This the era that we refer to as the First Order. It was the months of September 2003 to January 2004, my 8th grade year in school. We used a little known map called Kejin Dueling Center, as well as a few of Master Phoenix and I’s own creation. We also spent a lot of time on this map, t2_trip, flying around in spaceships. We had an 8 person server, and about 10 total members, most important of which was a Jedi named Shinobi and his sister, Kikio, whom later renamed themselves to Rade Fault and Ayame.

   As the months progressed, we learned a lot and grew a lot, fleshing out much of what is now written in the Articles of The Order, which would not be put down on paper until nearly five years later. We borrowed a lot from clans that we respected, particularly The {O}rder of the Jedi. One innovation that we were proud of, courtesy of a member named Kami, is the caste system. When KOTOR came out about this time, everyone was putting Sentinel, Guardian, and Consular ranks in their systems. Our innovation was to make it more than a rank, but something you chose from the very beginning, and trained under the master of that caste. That is something that has not held through to today, but you can see the marks it has held in the use of the words caste and Templar.

   During this time, and the Second Order, which was a brief revival the summer of 2004, we learned two very important greater lessons. The first was from the fall of the First Order. That was that a clan cannot rely on one man alone. The Order was very centralized around me both administratively and through personality. I took the center seat of the council chamber, you could say. When I started playing Star Wars: Galaxies, the drop in activity led very rapidly to a drop within The Order, and rapidly to its burn out. Disbanding The Order was a very hard choice to make, and it was made right here. A moment between myself and Master Phoenix that would later lead rise to the Master’s Council.

   The second lesson is a far more interesting one. It’s this: If you want to start something, all you have to do is put on the tags. That is literally all that we did, just the two of us. One moment, it was TwinHits and Phoenix, the next it was ={TO}=TwinHits{G} and ={TO}=Phoenix{S}, and that was it. For that faith and that loyalty that Phoenix had to follow me like that is why I am so loyal to him, even so far as to refer to him as my true master, even though it was actually the other way around, for I believe I have learned far more from him than from any other.  Years later, thinking of this in retrospect, was when I realized teaching in The Order went both ways.

   Now, there is another place we must visit, as we continue to the Second Era.

Map change: mp/ffa3


   The Second Order era came and went. It only lasted a summer. We were young, and summer had ended and school had begun again. Only one important thing happened in the Second Order, and it was a truly an important thing. During Master Phoenix and I’s brief time as members of {O} between eras, I met on {O}’s server a player named Deadeye. I actually have the screenshot of when we first met, having no idea how important he would turn out to be. Deadeye would join {O}, rename himself to Sakoon Kitsomaro, and later leave to join The Order at the end of the second era.

   I met him during this time under this name once. It was on the The Order’s server during its last days. As I stood where we are now [Taspir tallest terrace], looking out over the empty server, Sakoon asked me if he had permission to restart The Order again, a third time. I very offhandly said yes, and named him unceremoniously The Order’s 4th Jedi Master.

   The Third Era of The Order, and the next 5 years, began that day with that offhand comment. Jedi Master Sakoon would take The Order and build it into something far greater and far better than anything it had been before and lead to so much more than it ever could have been without him. That story, however, is one that will be told over the next three classes.

   Next time, we are going to begin with my own rejoining of The Order, for I have no idea what happened in between, and will continue through the {SJO} war, the Speaker for the Dead, and end with the fracturing of The Order and the formation of the {T}emple of the Force.

Thank you.

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The Order: The Role of Art and Design in Clans

This is a class lecture that was delivered orally (meaning hand typed through chat) to the Star Wars: Jedi Academy clans The Order {TO} and D!ox!de on Saturday, September 15th.

Good evening everyone. First, please allow me take a moment to introduce myself. My name is TwinHits, and you have absolutely no reason to listen to me. But, I hope, you’ll find what I have to say both interesting and important.

Before we begin, I want to remind you that if you would like to ask a question, please *raises hand* and please only do so for clarification. If you have something to add, wait until the discussion afterwards, otherwise we’ll be here forever =). In addition, any disruptions will cause the admins to escort you swiftly from the server.

I want to talk about a curiosity. It’s a strange thing, but clans in JKA, as well as clans and guilds around all of gaming, are centers for art and design. What do I mean? I mean that lots of clan members are spending time creating mods, maps, skins, signatures, avatars, and stories. All these are creative expression through a medium, otherwise known as art.

More important than there just being art, the people that are creating art are people that otherwise would not. If not for being part of a community of people, they couldn’t be bothered to even lift the brush.

Take this map as a good example. This map, and its predecessor JedicouncilGC, were built by a Jedi Master named Griffinclaw of the {O}rder of the Jedi. Griffinclaw, because of his love of his clan, built two maps which would become the two most popular maps in Jedi Knight history and inspire a generation of mappers. Now, he has an art and design degree and it’s all because of the artistic experiences he had in his clan, {O}.

Now we have identified a curiosity, let’s see if we can figure out why it’s there, and see if there’s anything that we can learn from it to help us build stronger clans. I think the answer to that first question, why is there so much art, has three main reasons. Gameplay reasons, everyone wants to art, and the internet is for sharing.

The first is the most important, because everything is always about gameplay. Creating a signature, a mod, or a map, or even writing a story about your character, are ways to increase the  replay value of the game. When we make the game our own, we are more likely to keep playing it. This is particularly important for JKA, because it’s a very old game. All things, including clans themselves, link back to this idea of creating more replay value.

Second, I think everyone wants to art. Everyone wants to create something cool. We all have these images in our mind that we wish we could put down on paper, in a map, or in a skin. JKA gives us a audience that will give us feedback on art that we would have a difficult time sharing elsewhere. Clans also encourage us to keep creating art because we have a place to share it and an audience that appreciates it.

Finally, I used this word ‘share’. The internet as a whole encourages art because it gives people  better and more intuitive tools for sharing their creations. Sites like Flickr, DeviantArt, Reddit, even Facebook are all avenues of distribution where all we have to do to is copy paste a link and hit ‘share’ and the whole world can see what we’ve done. That, my friends, is amazing. Clans are yet another avenue of sharing,  just one that caters to a niche audience of people that appreciate a nice Star Wars temple map.

So, that’s why art creation happens in clans, but what does art creation do? It makes clans stronger. It makes clans stronger because when a person creates something like a map for their clan, they are contributing to their clan using their own special skillsets. Every contribution a member makes, the clan becomes stronger.

In addition, art requests, like signatures and skins, are avenues for kindness. It gives members an opportunity to do things for each other, building community and friendship among members. Thus, every skin and every signature posted on the forums is an investment in the future of the clan.

Which brings us to a fundamental concept in all of online community formation, people participate in things that they care about. Creating art is a way that people show that they care about a clan, and perhaps one of the most important ways of all.

And that is because of this fundamental point: Show them a love they can never destroy. Show care, show investment, show love, for these are the foundational pillars that keep a clan strong. Sometimes, however, it seems they manifest themselves in the youngest member posting a forum signature they made in MSpaint, their post dripping with pride from their accomplishment. Othertimes, it’s an another member asking you to read their fan fiction that they spent hours writing, trying to find a way to express what they feel about this amazing community.

Regardless, the fact that we have made clans in JKA into centers for art and design is amazing. For, the opposite of war isn’t peace.

It’s creation.

Thank you.

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Ask A Jedi Shuts Down, Thesis Finished!

Unfortunately, the editors of AskAJedi.com have decided to shut down the website, and so I am now a blogger without a home.

Once I graduate, I will seek further employment, and so these archives will probably remain somewhat barren until I can get something else.

In other news, I completed my senior thesis ‘Too Young to Takeover, Too Old to Ignore” on how guilds teach leadership, organization, and communication skills and can then, in turn, cause increased civic engagement offline.

If you are interested, please check it out here.

Tweet @TwinHits with any thoughts and ideas, or if you have a job for me in DC. #shamelessplug

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Ask A Jedi: The Machiavellian Guild Leader

A while back, I read “The Prince” by political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli. The idea was that it would have cool stuff that guild officers could apply to leadership and that I could write about. This turned out to be kind of true. In the actual act and organization of leadership, what Machiavelli has to say isn’t particularly applicable. We’re not hiring mercenaries, doling out land and fortresses to loyal princes, or deciding whether or not to raze, puppet, or annex cities (Oh, hey there, Civilization 5!). Although, it makes me wonder if in an older MMO like Ultima Online if this kind of advice would be more applicable.

I put the project aside, until I picked up a copy of “World of Warcraft and Philosophy: Rise of the Philosopher King.” You may have seen this book or maybe its companions like “The Legend of Zelda and Philosophy: I Link Therefore I Am” or ‘Halo and Philosophy: Intellect Evolved“. At first, these seem pretty dumb, but it was actually really awesome. It is a collection of papers and articles about philosophy that all use World of Warcraft as an example. For example, there is one about how the World of Warcraft economy represents the capitalism that Adam Smith described in “The Wealth of Nations“. Another describes the philosophical idea of determinism through the example of a player controlling a character and that character not understanding what it is that causes him to move. In particular, there was an article called “The Machiavellian Guild Leader” by Moses Wolfenstein that discussed how guild leaders in World of Warcraft use some of the political leadership principles that Machiavelli talks about.

Wolfenstein points to the infamous Onyxia Wipe Animation as an example, in which the Boulderfist guild Wipe Club is trying to down Onyxia and after a particularly close loss the raid leader Dives began to yell and scream promising to punish them all with “50 DKP minus!”. Wolfenstein claims that Dives is employing the Machiavellian principle that it is better to be feared than loved or hated. Machiavelli says that if you want to rule a country and remain the ruler, it is much better to be feared because when you are kind and generous people will appreciate it. If you are loved, the people will not appreciate your generosity because it is what they expect of you and when you need to be harsh they will hate you for it. When you are hated, you cannot rule because you will be too worried about being overthrown. “It is better to be miserly than generous for when you fail to be generous where expected you will be hated, but if you are miserly than you will be unexpected.”

“The answer is that it would be desirable to be both but, since that is impossible, it is safer to be feared than loved.” In an interview he gave to James Wagner Au of Kotaku, Dives talks about the animation, his background, and his guild leadership style. He was asked if he is worried about people leaving his guild because of his leadership style, to which he responded “They don’t leave because they know I’m right.” According to Wolfenstein, Dives understands the dynamic of leadership that Machiavelli describes, which explains his actions on Teamspeak during that fateful and famous Onyxia raid (They got him on the fifth try when they should have got him on the first, according to Dives the “performance was a disgrace”).

He was willing to be hard and yell and to make his raiders fear his outbursts and his willingness to punish, something that most raid leaders would have a hard time doing and would rather try harder to work to be loved then complain about the performance later in officer chat. He is so well known for the animation that he gets requests to come to other guilds raids and be feared in place of the raid leader. “I get too many people asking me that people want me to come to their servers and yell something at them. I did go once and give some people some attitude, which was fun. But I get huge amounts of requests.”

What’s important is that Dives is not hated, he is feared, which is exactly his job and he is very good at it. While the animation was created in jest, it shows exactly what this dynamic is supposed to look like. Dives has decided that the cost of progression is going to be his raider’s love for him, and if that’s what he and his guild wants to do than that is fine. Nowhere does it say that your guild members have to love you for your leadership, all that matters is that the guild does what it promises to do and gets its members to the loot.

Machiavelli is probably most famous for his statements that “the ends justify the means” and that is what Dives is getting at. Sometimes as a guild leader, you have to do hard things for the continued fulfillment of the purpose of the guild. A guild, no matter how big or small, is successful if it is providing to its members whatever it is that is outlined in the purpose of the guild. As long as raiders are raiding, or warzones are being won, or crafters are crafting, or whatever the purpose of your guild is than it is successful. Dives found that the best way to continue to fulfill his promise to his guild, one of raiding, was to be this harsh to the point of being feared.

And that is okay if you are willing to sacrifice yourself that way. In fact, it’s probably a more effective way to lead a guild than to try to love and coddle your way through all the problems that you will face. But, it will cost a part of yourself, and you will probably have less fun doing it, particularly if that is not the kind of person that you are. You will face burnout sooner, be more likely to disappear or give up, and the guild will seem more like a job than not. Choose carefully, but remember that you cannot be both feared or loved, and above all do not be hated.

TwinHits is an officer for the guild Unity on the server Dreshdae Cantina. Leave comments or tweet @TwinHits with your thoughts, ideas, and stories about guilds, communities, and leadership in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

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Ask A Jedi: Drop Everything and Start It All Over, Remember More Than You’d Like to Forget

Don’t quit. That’s the thesis of this post. If you are a guild officer, don’t do it, don’t give up. Don’t quit your guild, don’t ask to step down, and absolutely do not just disappear. Burnout has always been a danger for leaders everywhere, not just in gaming guilds but in every volunteer leadership position. I know that you might feel tired of the responsibilities, but honestly: just keep playing, just keep logging on. You’ll thank me later.

I am an optimist, I believe in the best in everything. Every problem has a bright side, and no matter how bad things might get one should always remember all the good things that one takes for granted. I will always remember the smiling faces around me as we downed our first boss, cleared our first operation, or got our first piece of Rakata. I remember the energy that I felt at every new member and every small achievement. I remind myself of all the time and energy that we put into building a great guild and no matter how tired I might get, I’ll always rather have this than nothing at all. I just keep playing, and I just keep logging in.

I play Star Wars: The Old Republic not because I get to jump around with a lightsaber and pretend to be a Jedi (admittedly, that is a big part of it), but because of all the people that this game has brought me to meet. Guilds start out with just four people and grow into ten times that. That’s not including a friends list, or simply names that one recognizes in the warzone. Keep logging in because of the people that you have built relationships with.

This is because this is not a game. Sure, the actual gameplay is a game, but the very moment that you start talking to another player is the moment that it is no longer a game. Instead, it’s an interaction between two people doing something they enjoy. Because your characters are the medium of this communication, they become real and everything associated with that character becomes real. This is even more acute as a guild officer, for that is the most real of all. Having a position of authority and responsibility becomes so real that it invades your everyday life because it requires time and energy outside of the game and simply logging out of the game does not make the responsibilities stop. That’s why people burnout, because there is too much to do and it has become far more than they signed up for.

If you drop everything and start it all over, you’ll remember more than you’d like to forget. I’ve abandoned officership before, and there is nothing at all like the feeling of emptiness once you have done it and realize that there is no way that you can get back. To realize that you abandoned friends and comrades simply because you were tired strikes one so low it’s hard to get back up and try to do something like it again, in any game. You’ll wish to go back, see to their smiling faces again, to be able to help them and yourself enjoy the game more at the cost of a little bit more of your time and energy.

Just keep playing, you got friends to make.

TwinHits is an officer for the guild Unity on the server Dreshdae Cantina. Leave comments or tweet@TwinHitswith your thoughts, ideas, and stories about guilds, communities, and leadership inStar Wars: The Old Republic.

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Ask a Jedi: What’s in a Name?

My name is technically not TwinHits. For unless one has very strange parents, one would expect a more normal name for a person. However this is the internet, and here on the internet we name ourselves.

Not so much in the tribal sense of the word, there is no ceremony where the elders gather around the youth about to venture onto the web for the first time, lay their hands on his shoulders and declare him ‘Starman2000′. Instead, naming is a very personal act. It’s what comes to mind when you stare at the required and empty name field when you are rolling a new character, sign up on a new website, or even name your computer so it’s recognizable to you on your home network.

These names define the cyber-citizen because it is the name that divides the online person and the offline person. With a name comes a personality, completely separate from your real offline identity. These personalities can take on a life of their own making actions of that name entirely different from the actions of your real name, completely unconnected to each other. Separate identities lets one become separate people, different personas for different situations.

This is important because wherever one goes, one builds up a persona, like a reputation, that precedes them into the room. Everyone views them through the lenses of that persona. Moving away, changing schools, or changing jobs allow you to start all over and build up a new persona. However, in the infinite wisdom of my mother, you’ll always end up back where you started. The internet offers a release from this cycle, each name is a new start. With each name you can build up a new persona.

This is anonymity, the very basis of all internet communication. We have the option to reveal who we really are, or continue under a name and persona that we have created. As the internet generation grows up, some will find that their screennames will be just as important than their real names. At which point, it may be wise to draw a line connecting the two names. Someday, I may want everything I have done to not just be TwinHits’, but John’s as well.

However, this is a delicate dynamic. As important as anonymity is, it is constantly under assault. Almost two years ago, Blizzard tried to get rid of it completely with their “ReadlID” and we watched as the entirety of their official forums rose up against it. What they didn’t realize is that our anonymity is our first and last protection, we are aware that the internet has the capacity to be dangerous and the best thing that we can do to protect ourselves to is the create an entirely new identity.

So, I offer a warning to websites around the web. Don’t take away from your users  the rights to their name, let them be who they want to be and present the side of themselves that they want to present.

My name is technically not TwinHits, but why’s that matter? It’s still me anyway.

TwinHits is an officer for the guild Unity on the server Dreshdae Cantina. Leave comments or tweet@TwinHitswith your thoughts, ideas, and stories about guilds, communities, and leadership inStar Wars: The Old Republic.

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Ask A Jedi: Stand Back, We’re Learning

Dear Parents, don’t worry. Your kids are going to be alright even if they are spending a ton of time playing Star Wars: The Old Republic. It’s not antisocial, it’s not useless, and it’s not a waste of time. It’s learning, and according to James Paul Gee’s book What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, they are doing a better job than our schools are. “They operate withthat is, they build into their designs and encouragegood principles of learning, principles that are better than those in many of our skill-and-drill, back-to-basics, test-them-until-they-drop schools.” (Gee, 205)

Check out that handsome book cover.

And he is absolutely right. In this book, he highlights thirty-six learning principles identified by learning and literacy studies and talks about how they are used in modern game design. An excellent example that he uses is the pattern teaching strategy that first person shooters use. They teach you have to move, how to shoot, and how to not die then they throw enemies at you. When fighting, you develop strategies and learn tactics that are effective against your enemies. Then, as the game progresses to more difficult enemies, the game forces you to use everything you have learned in new and different ways. Then, as the final boss nears, the game tears these strategies’ away from you and makes you look for solutions outside of the box, drawing on all the experiences you have had throughout the game.

This is the Probe, Hypothesize, Reprobe, Rethink Cycle. You must first probe  the game, or figure out what’s going on and what you can do. From there, you form a hypothesis about what something might do or how you might be able to take advantage of it. You then reprobe the world using that hypothesis and see what kind of results you get. Using feedback from this experiment, you rethink what you know using what you learned from this cycle.

Consider the Soa the Infernal One fight in the Eternity Vault. First, you probe the boss with the strategy that you have researched (discovered using this same method), then form a hypothesis about how to do it better and best apply it to your group. What is more important to kill, balls, mind traps, or Soa while he is stunned? Should we be spread out or stacked? Revive the healer, or revive a crucial DPS? Then try the fight again and reprobe the boss with your new hypothesis. If it doesn’t work, rethink and go back to your hypothesis. That’s how raiding works, drawing on the very principles of learning that Gee describes.

What this means is a lot. Most importantly of all though, is that it means that good video games likeStar Wars: The Old Republic have the potential to teach us valuable processes and patterns that can be applied to anything that we happen to experience. This is exactly the goal of traditional schooling. They aren’t teaching you the quadratic equation because you’re going to need to use it every day, but because of the patterns and strategies of logic and reasoning that you learn while learning how to use the quadratic equation. Games can do the same thing, and even better because it’s something we actually care about. It means that those who have spent a lot of time playing good video games, particularly at a young age, can learn better while doing something that they love.

The moral of the story is this: Worry less about how much time one is spending playing video games, and worry more about how they are playing their games. In a game like this one, be worried if they are never trying new things, never forming new hypothesizes, and never rethinking old ones. This is a social game: be worried if they are always playing alone and never in groups, never striving for better gear and better play, never willing to help out others, and never kind to those that have helped them in turn. If you never doing these things, then you are wasting your time because you aren’t learning and you aren’t building a better self. That’s against the rules.

TwinHits is an officer for the guild Unity on the server Dreshdae Cantina. Leave comments or tweet@TwinHitswith your thoughts, ideas, and stories about guilds, communities, and leadership inStar Wars: The Old Republic.

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