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Read the excerpt Chang_Games.pdf and write a short (~300 word) response.Read the excerpt from p1872-jafarinaimi.pdf and write a short (~300 word) response. Response should address the following:1. Who is the author? Who are they writing for and/or against?2. Identify and quote a main claim from the reading that you agree or disagree with. Explain your position. (Include the page number, so that you can refer back to this quote later.)3. Offer an example of the kind of evidence the author uses to support this claim. Is it convincing?


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Games and Virtual Worlds
CSCW 2015, March 14-18, 2015, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Collective Intelligence or Group Think? Engaging
Participation Patterns in World without Oil
Nassim JafariNaimi
School of Literature, Media, and
Georgia Institute of Technology
85 5th ST NW, Atlanta, GA
[email protected]
Eric M. Meyers
The [email protected]
University of British Columbia
1961 East Mall, Vancouver, BC
[email protected]
This article presents an analysis of participation patterns in
an Alternate Reality Game, World Without Oil. This game
aims to bring people together in an online environment to
reflect on how an oil crisis might affect their lives and
communities as a way to both counter such a crisis and to
build collective intelligence about responding to it. We
present a series of participation profiles based on a
quantitative analysis of 1554 contributions to the game
narrative made by 322 players. We further qualitatively
analyze a sample of these contributions. We outline the
dominant themes, the majority of which engage the global
oil crisis for its effects on commute options and present
micro-sustainability solutions in response. We further draw
on the quantitative and qualitative analysis of this space to
discuss how the design of the game, specifically its framing
of the problem, feedback mechanism, and absence of
subject-matter expertise, counter its aim of generating
collective intelligence, making it conducive to groupthink.
Author Keywords
Alternate Reality Games; Participation; Collective
Intelligence; Groupthink
ACM Classification Keywords
H.5.m. Information interfaces and presentation (e.g., HCI):
Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) are a specific set of games
that are based on collaborative problem solving and
storytelling. These games have been part of the gaming
landscape since around 2001 as transmedia entertainment or
promotional pieces for product launches [10, 13, 14].
Recently, a second wave of ARGs seeks to address societal
issues (e.g., poverty and hunger) through widespread
collaboration. It’s been argued that such environments are a
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CSCW ’15, March 14 – 18, 2015, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Copyright 2015 ACM 978-1-4503-2922-4/15/03…$15.00.
powerful means of engaging participants in awarenessbuilding, collective intelligence, and participatory forms of
learning [11, 16, 17].
However, much the current literature on the success of
ARGs relies heavily on the observations of ARG designers
and developers [e.g., 6, 17] as opposed to empirical
evidence of player participation (with few exceptions such
as [20, 23, 24]). If we are to take the claims of ARG
proponents seriously, we need to address key questions,
among them: what are the kinds of engagement fostered in
these environments?; and are these engagements generative
of collective intelligence and innovative problem solving?
This paper presents a study of one ARG, World Without Oil
(WWO), seeking to address the above questions. Based on
quantitative analysis of player responses, we put forward a
set of participation profiles that characterize different levels
of engagement. We further analyze a sample of these
contributions by thematically coding their content. We
outline the dominant themes, the majority of which engage
the global oil crisis for its effects on commute options and
present micro-sustainability solutions in response.
This paper’s contribution is multifaceted. Through the case
study of WWO, we critically engage one of the key
arguments in support of ARGs: that they are environments
generative of collective intelligence. Based on this study,
we illustrate that the narrative is dominated by a limited set
of themes and a small group of highly active participants
including the designers of the game who refer to themselves
as puppet masters. We further discuss the characteristics
that run counter to the objective of collective intelligence,
making the environment susceptible to groupthink. Based
on this study, we highlight a set of design considerations
that are key in success of ARGs if they are to avoid the
problems related to groupthink, among them: balancing the
number of players with different participation profiles;
including the voice of subject matter experts; encouraging
critical thinking alongside cooperative and collaborative
practices; and provision of markers for players to
distinguish reality from fiction and facts from
misinformation. In doing so, we contribute to existing
research on the social aspects of gaming as well as the
larger scholarship on (mediated) group interactions and
online communities.
Games and Virtual Worlds
CSCW 2015, March 14-18, 2015, Vancouver, BC, Canada
ARGs are multi-player narratives that involve online and
offline participation, using a variety of tasks, challenges,
puzzles, and prompts to engage players in co-constructing a
fictional scenario. One or more “puppet masters” guide the
narrative and serve as architects of user participation, often
drawing on player engagement to alter the narrative flow,
encourage specific forms of participation, or redirect player
efforts. As a kind of emergent, interactive problem-based
story, the ARG genre combines elements of live action roleplay, transmedia storytelling, and cooperative games.
Gurzick and colleagues [9, 10] suggest that ARGs are a
type of self-organizing collective, similar in some ways to
Wikipedia and other open content development spaces.
Analyzing the characteristics of ARGs may lend insights to
the development of new gaming experiences as well as
organizational groupware systems.
One of the key characteristics of ARGs is that they require
players to perform tasks or act in the world and then
document and report these actions in response to the
fictional “situations” that are presented to them. The online
and offline components constitute different kinds of
engagement that may be considered a kind of “move”.
Some moves are public, as when a player documents or
responds to the game through social media, a blog post, or a
public action at the prompt of other players or the puppet
masters. Some of these moves may be private, as when a
player changes his awareness, behavior, or attitude
concerning the topic of game play. The moves, in
aggregate, constitute the narrative of the game. One can
argue that multiple narratives are created in this process: the
personal or private narrative, comprised of the individual’s
self-constructed “story” of the game and their part in it, and
the social or public narrative, which is the combined effort
of all the players including the puppet masters.
The interplay between these public and private narratives is
where ARGs have the potential to be rich spaces for
innovation and knowledge building. As players engage in
reflection on their own moves and the moves of others, they
are experiencing a form of learning through individual and
collective storytelling and listening [5]. The quality of this
learning depends on the level and quality of the
participatory opportunities offered by the game narrative,
and the extent to which players engage with the narrative
and each other [12]. Thus, analyzing participation patterns
in these collaborative narratives is an important aspect of
understanding whether or not ARGs live up to dominant
discourse, which presents them as sources of collective
More specifically, the discourse around ARGs echoes one
of the most dominant themes of social tools and web 2.0
celebrating the power and wisdom of the ‘crowds’ [e.g., 3,
27, 29]. ARGs present a specific interpretation of collective
intelligence: collaborative and creative environments that
bring people together to solve real-world problems [e.g., 4,
5]. Drawing on the work of Pierre Levy, Jane McGonigal,
one of the prominent advocates of ARGs, argues that
members of a collective intelligence would work with the
collected facts and viewpoints to actively author, discover
and invent new, computer-fueled ways of thinking,
strategizing, and coordinating [18, 15, 17]. However, while
the diversity and talents of group members can be a great
resource for collaborative problem solving, such groups are
susceptible to group think, a mode of thinking that people
engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive ingroup, and members’ strivings for unanimity override their
motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of
action [12]. In this study, we examine this challenge in
WWO and discuss some of the design strategies that can
potentially counter groupthink.
World Without Oil is a massively collaborative imagining
of the first 32 weeks of a global oil crisis. Designed by Ken
Eklund (Creative Director) and Jane McGonigal
(Participation Architect), the game aims to bring people
together around a shared concern, namely getting them to
reflect and share insights about oil dependence with the aim
of devising plausible and effective courses of action in
response to an “oil shock” scenario. Two aims are central to
the design of WWO: one, that individuals can initiate
change if they are motivated; two, that difficult problems
can be solved by a diverse group of people coming together
to share their individual perspectives and come up with
innovative solutions to encounter the situation, the sum of
which leads to a kind of collective intelligence. In what
follows we describe the design of the game in detail.
The game’s main site of interaction is the website As noted earlier, the game is built
around the premise that an oil shock arrived on April 30,
2007. Starting with the initial news that “gas prices have
risen to $71,” the puppet masters shared the day-to-day
news of a global oil shock on the website. Each day of the
game represented a week of the imagined crisis with the
unfolding events simulating eight months of an imagined
crisis. For the period of 32 days, the puppet masters, who
also acted as game characters, shared fake but realistic
news, stories, commentary, resources, and activities related
to the unfolding of the oil shock. Players were challenged to
respond in creative ways. They were asked to share stories
about how their lives were affected and strategies they
employed to confront the crisis. Their stories were
incorporated into the narrative in concert with the ones
created by the puppet masters, to which others players
could react and respond.
$7/gallon is roughly three times the average price of gasoline in
the U.S. in 2007.
Games and Virtual Worlds
CSCW 2015, March 14-18, 2015, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Areas: The area rankings are based on a combination of how
much and how cool is the stuff people in the area are doing, and
how many people from the area are doing anything. […]
To facilitate various forms of contribution, the game
environment did not set limitations on participation.
Anyone could register to play and contribute to the collective
narrative. There were also no limitations about entering or
exiting the game or any requirements as to the intensity of
participation such as a minimum or maximum number of
entries. One could participate with one post, or a series of
posts. Similarly, people could choose to participate through
the communication method of their choice. As a result,
some wrote on their weblogs or made videos or images.
Others played by email or called a number to share their
stories. Lastly, there were no rules about what people
should say or do in relationship to the game.
One of the main features of the game is a series of missions
designed to help players make actual changes and act in
response to the simulated crisis. On the game’s website,
missions are described as creative, real-world actions that
respond to our new world without oil. The game designers
(i.e., its puppet masters), who also took part in the game as
characters, assigned most of the missions. Players could
also set up new missions to which other players and puppet
masters could respond.
On the homepage, the game is explained in detail, including
pages outlining its history and how-to play guides. The
main areas that draw attention on the homepage are the
dashboard, a white banner at the top of the site which
details the oil prices of the day (representing a week of the
crisis), followed by the first few sentences of the main
scenario of the week, together with links for joining the
game and reading the blog. On the left, there is a banner
with the list of all the weeks’ contributions, putting the
highest-ranking posts on the top.
One webpage is dedicated to each day of the game. On this
webpage we see an “update” of the news of that week
posted by the designers. These stories set the theme for each
day of the game. Following the updates, all the posts by the
players are included in (seemingly) chronological order.
The dashboard included responses from players in different
regions based on the level of activity and whether responses
are positive (e.g., positive forecasts, cooperative strategies,
actively reducing daily oil consumption) or negative (e.g.
reporting a darker turn of events, focusing on competition,
or difficulties to adapt to low energy consumption) [16, p.
307]. Players are also ranked based on the frequency of
their contributions and what appears to be a subjective
rating of the quality of their contribution by the designers.
The website explains:
Scores: The way people get a higher score depends on what
they contribute, and how often.[…]
There is a certain amount of furry logic though, not to mention I
suspect some of my colleagues will succumb to arm twisting and
go in and fiddle with the scores 🙁
Aim 1. Positive Behavior Change
The first concept central to the design of WWO is that
individuals are creative and capable of initiating change.
However, in real life they lack the motivation to take action.
As a result, the game aims to provide motivation and
remove the negative pressures associated with making
changes in real life. According to McGonigal, real life can
be “fixed” by creating scenarios and reward systems that
motivate people to act in more positive ways. These
scenarios can be applied to a range of tasks and activities
ranging from household chores to “saving the world” [16].
Aim 2. Collective Intelligence
The second concept that is central to the design of WWO is
the ability of a diverse group of people with different life
experiences to devise innovative solutions to complex
problems. Being experts in their own needs, it is individuals
who can best imagine how their everyday practices might
change in a hypothetical situation such as an oil crisis. By
engaging in realistic scenarios and stories, players are
contributing to a collective intelligence on the issue of oil
dependence. Through their participation, players raise their
awareness of environmental issues and devise innovative
strategies to lessen their dependence on oil. At the same
time, the entire community can learn from the players’
responses because they present a diversity of ways that one
might prepare for and/or survive in a world without oil.
Summarized in the words of Jane McGonigal, “World
without Oil would give players firsthand insight into a
plausible future, help them prepare for, or even prevent, its
worst outcomes. The game would create a collective record
of how a real peak-oil scenario might play out — a kind of
survival guide for the future, a record of tremendous value
for educators, policy makers and organizations of all
According to the WWO website, over 1,900 people signed
up as players of WWO, and submitted over 1,500 stories
with over 60,000 active observers [16]. However, these
numbers tell us very little about the character of
participation, and how individual contributors shaped the
game narrative. To better understand participation patterns
at a granular level, we constructed a database of participant
contributions–an aggregate record of the game narrative–
that we could explore quantitatively and qualitatively.
Basic metadata about participation in the game is hosted in
two places: on the archived WWO site itself and an offsite
archive set up by the game designers in partnership with the
Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. While the WWO site
still exists, many of the links to the original posts are no
Games and Virtual Worlds
CSCW 2015, March 14-18, 2015, Vancouver, BC, Canada
more posts (at least every third day of the simulation on
average), accounting for 827 posts.
Figure 1: Total number of entries per day versus days passed
longer valid. The game archive captured 94% of the content
from the posts made during the game’s active period of 32
days (with some gaps most likely related to participants
deleting their own posts prior to the construction of the
archive). Our database includes 86 audio files, 1165 blog
entries, 117 images, 114 emails, and 75 videos.
We used linked relational databases, MS Excel, and SPSS
22 to identify a set of participation profiles based on several
criteria: post types, frequency of contribution, and
distribution of contributions, both in relation to the game
sequence and each other. We used contextual factors,
including URLs, location IDs, and other trace data to
identify, where possible, when the same person(s) made
contributions with slightly different UserIDs. This
quantitative analysis was complemented by a qualitative
study of a random set of 232 entries from this set (15%). In
what follows we describe these analyses in detail.
It has been noted that WWO attracted 60,000 unique views,
and over 1500 contributions from players across several
continents [16]. At face value, these are impressive
numbers. However, exploring the participation patterns in
detail, we see that engaged participation was not as broad as
these numbers might suggest. Furthermore, our analysis
reveals high attrition rates among participants early in the
simulation, and a small number of contributors authoring
the majority of the narrative.
The overall trend in contributions shows a sharp decline at
the beginning, with the first day being the highest
participation rate, strong declines over the first five days,
then steady decline in posting with a brief uptick at the end
(Figure 1).
If we use contributions to the game narrative as one
measure of engagement, we can identify three groups:
limited, moderate and high engagement. We considered
limited engagement 4 or fewer posts (an average of once
per week of the simulation or less); 227 of the 308
participants (excluding WWO puppetmasters) fall into this
category, accounting for 367 posts. Moderate engagement
was set at 5–9 contributions to the game; 38 participants
engaged at this level, accounting for 244 posts. There were
43 high-engagement players, those who submitted 10 or
With an open game narrative like WWO, one would expect
there to be more persons interested in observing the
simulation than active players constructing the narrative.
However, we see the ratio of contributing participants to
lurkers even smaller than expected. The 30 most frequent
participants (top 10% by number of posts) accounted for
roughly 50% o …
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