video games

Title: Fungi Love
Story: A digital, minimalist’s retelling of a well-known Italian plumber’s love of fungi and the strange effect it has on him.


Please click if it is not animating

Production Notes
Medium: Animated GIF (3 frames, 200×200 pixels, repeats 5 times)
Intent: Attempting to use as few colors as possible to trigger a comparison to Mario and to imagine a backstory of his love of mushrooms.
Tip: Use the animation window to create in PhotoShop and turn layers on/off as necessary. In WordPress, GIF has to be full-size (see advanced settings) in order to animate.
Muse/Inspiration: Lego Minimalist representations of cartoon characters

I am a big fan of the RSAnimate series which take audio from interesting talks and add complimentary animations to visually represent the speaker’s story.

This RSAnimate video was “adapted from a talk in 2009 where Evgeny Morozov presents an alternative take on ‘cyber-utopianism’ – the seductive idea that the internet plays a largely emancipatory role in global politics.”

Evgeny Morozov was mentioned in 3 out of 3 of our (graduate) readings as a skeptic of the power of social media to elicit social change but this video really helps to highlight his criticisms of the “naive belief  in the emancipatory nature of online communication” [Pollock, J. (2011). Streetbook – How Egyptian and Tunisian youth hacked the Arab Spring. Technology Review, (September/October). Retrieved from

The traditional delivery systems of education via textbooks no longer engage children as in years past. Even with the inclusion of newer methods such as PowerPoint presentations and computer programs, children may not be motivated to learn. In the connected classroom of the future (where budgets and politics do not impact the content of the classroom), science students will no longer have to imagine or passively read a passage about genetics in a textbook.  With computer games students can actively simulate genetically altering species as they choose – competitively or cooperatively. They can now be immersed in an active game environment that replicates activities for them. Using video games in the classroom to re-engage students (especially girls) may be a good first step in turning the tides of gender equity in digital spaces. But what content should these video games include that can maximize their impact? Could the availability of avatar and NPC character customization positively affect learning? This blog post theorizes that the modeling of women’s success through video game characters can lead to increased motivation and self-efficacy – especially for girls in the classroom.

Women and Children Gamers

First, let’s quickly dispel some rumors that women are not interested in video games and buffer that with the intense interest that children have in gaming. As Taylor (2006) notes “women make up 39% of all active gamers in the United States” and this number is growing as more online browser-based gaming becomes available. This statistic includes all age levels but becomes even more astounding when we triangulate it with the statistics we have on children and video games. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project (2008), 97 percent of America’s children ages 12 to 17 play computer, portable or console video games. A full 94 percent of the girls surveyed also stated that they played games at least every few weeks with 22 percent of the girls reporting daily game play. Today’s classrooms may have more computers and programs available to educate girls who are eagerly consuming electronic media, but this increase in availability and use may not directly correlate to an increase in the successful adoption (or development) of video games by girls.

Theoretical Framework

According to social learning theory, individuals learn through social modeling and reinforcement which can but may not always lead to behavioral changes (Bandura, 1986). Social learning theory emphasizes the role of observational learning by examining intrinsic social and environmental reinforcement factors. Expanding on social learning theory, social cognitive theory maintains that peoples cognitive processes influence and are influenced by behavioral associations (Bandura & Adams, 1977). The social cognitive theory also identifies a number of social processes which contribute to the modeling and development of gender-typed behavior (Bandura & Bussey, 1984). Role models and socializing agents, as well as perceptions of gender-appropriate behavior, are an important influence on an individual’s behavior and in turn an individual’s cognitive academic choices. By extension then, the role models and socializing agents in video games can also influence an individual’s behavior and motivation.


Extending Bandura’s social cognitive theory the Expectancy-Value model (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002) posits that knowledge can be acquired through observational learning and vicarious reinforcement when the individual expects to succeed and values the task at hand. This theory also emphasizes the role of self-efficacy in gender dependent behaviors. Girls are attentive to the behaviors that females in their culture engage in and thus feel efficacious in and model those behaviors. That is, if girls observe that women in their culture do not become engineers or scientists (or play and succeed in video games), they may believe that such careers (or behaviors) are outside the realm of possibility and feel anxious about and/or avoid these subjects. Social cognitive theory explains why girls make educational and career choices that fit society’s model (Else-Quest 2010). Modeling forms lasting connections which reinforce self-beliefs. These self-beliefs enable individuals to command control over their thoughts, feelings, and actions as “what people think, believe, and feel affects how they behave” (Bandura, 1986, p. 25). Self-efficacy beliefs affect the choices individuals make at “important decisional points which set the course of life paths” (Bandura, 2002).

Best in Class – Customization as Reward 

Customizing avatars may translate to an increase in value and possibly intrinsic motivation especially if the customizations were part of the reward system (Deci, 1999). Rewards given for good performance could include avatar adornments which demonstrate players competence in particular subjects without overtly announcing dominance. This covert competition is a strategy that may be more effective for girls than boys. According to Geist (2008), girls tend to look for many different ways to solve the same problem and more often use a cooperative approach over a competitive approach. Geist also claims that girls are less concerned with being “first” or “best” and more with being sure that the needs of their close friends are met as well as their own. This anthropomorphism of the avatar could equate to social presence indicating that the student can succeed in this experiential world and by extension the real world.


These anthropomorphized avatars and NPC characters could temporarily substitute for the lack of current women role models in these fields especially within the context of a game’s non-player character’s (NPC) reinforcement and modeling. These NPCs represent fictional characters inside of a video game that cannot be controlled by the player but which provide supporting roles in the game environment to progress the video game’s storyline or add comic relief. In addition to allowing NPC gender customization the effect of customizing the protagonists within games would good areas for future research as well. As Taylor (2006) succinctly notes, “it is clear that designers and their companies need to rethink not only who their users are but what is at stake in the artifacts they provide.” This blog suggested one method to account for various user wants and needs by providing players/students with artifacts that they can fashion and construct according to the their expectation of the game world and their concept of self (Taylor 2006)  and not be conformed by  the developers interpretation. This one change could make a world of difference in women’s interpretation of self-efficacy – at least until they grow up and become the role models themselves.


  • Bandura, A. & Adams, N. (1977). Analysis of Self-Efficacy Theory of Behavioral Change.Cognitive Therapy and Research (1) 4, 287-310.
  • Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Bandura, A. (2002). Social Cognitive Theory in Cultural Context. Applied Psychology: An International Review (51) 2, 269-290.
  • Bussey, K., & Bandura, A. (1984). Influence of Gender Constancy and Social Power on Sex-Linked Modeling. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,(47) 6, 1292-1302.
  • Eccles, J. S., & Wigfield, A. (2002). Motivational beliefs, values, and goals. Annual Review of Psychology (53) 109–132.
  • Else-Quest, N., Linn, M. & Hyde, J. (2010). Cross-National Patterns of Gender Differences in Mathematics: A Meta-Analysis. American Psychological Association Psychological Bulletin, (136) 1, 103–12. DOI: 10.1037/a0018053
  • Geist, E. A., & King, M. (2008). Different, Not Better: Gender Differences in Mathematics Learning and Achievement. Journal of Instructional Psychology, (35)1, 43-52.
  • Lenhart, A., Kahne, J., Middaugh, E., Macgill, A., Evans, C., & Vitak, J. Pew Internet & American Life Project. (2008). Teen & Parents Gaming and Civics Survey. Retrieved from on March 6, 2011.
  • Taylor, TL. 2006. Play between worlds: Exploring online game culture. Chapter 4. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

It’s been a month since Charlie and I moved to Orlando. We have both been to interviews with at least 3 different temporary agencies. Charlie has received work already but I am still waiting on any assignment. Since we need money in the meantime….pesky rent and car payments…and no one was calling me with anything, I needed to find a job ASAP.

So I apply to be a game tester at EA.

For those that know me, I’m a fairly avid gamer. I roomed with guys (and game playing girls) in college and played them in many different games. I, like most of you, come from the game playing generation so it didn’t seem like a stretch to try and get paid to play games.

So I get a call back from EA for a phone interview and I bomb it. I’m asked who won the Superbowl? I said, I don’t remember. I’m asked who the major sponsor for Tony Stewart is? I say, I couldn’t even begin to tell you. I’m asked what the four BCS bowl games are? I try very hard to remember all four but can only come up with 2 so I don’t answer. Yet, the man on the other end seems to think that I would be a good fit for an EA QA Tester. Alright, I’ll go with it and I schedule a face-to-face interview for that Friday.

Friday comes and I arrive at the area where the other QA Tester wannabes are waiting. A security guard comes out to greet me. It’s a high security area and people have to swipe their badges to get in and out of the building. Hordes of people file into the building as we are waiting. I see only a few girls and lots of guys. This doesn’t surprise me as this division of EA is responsible for sports gaming and let’s face it, I’m sure that women are not lining up to get a job testing sports games….except me that is.

So, I get called back for the face-to-face interview and I bomb that as well. I’m asked on a scale of 1-10 what is my level of attention to detail. I fall into this trap nicely and I say 11 without hesitation. Then I quickly regret that move. I’m called on it. The interviewer says, ok, let’s test your attention to detail. Close your eyes and describe the room, how many windows, how many chairs, what’s on the wall, how many light fixtures, what is the name of the room, what are the guys interviewing me wearing, what are they drinking? Yup, I’ve just been schooled. At this point, I believe that I have no way of getting this position and so feel that I am running a reconnaissance mission for Charlie instead. BTW the room name I did get and it was Dagobah.

I’m asked what I would do if someone on the QA team wasn’t holding up their end of the team work. I tell them I would asked them to help but if they didn’t still contribute to the team, I would tell a supervisor. It would suck to release a game with lots of bugs to the market. The consumer would hate it and the QA lead’s ass would be on the line.

I’m presented with an ordinary pen and asked if I was with the ABC pen company how would I -QA Test this pen and what other uses for a pen can I think of? I say that I would take the pen apart, write with it and try to exploit its faults. My three uses for a pen? To hold up your hair (betcha that’s primarily female answer), to mark your place in a book and to chew on to relieve stress.

I’m asked about some more game environment testing questions. What would I do if there was no game play available and only menu screens? Compare the testing of the game environment for SSX Tricky with an up-coming NASCAR game- How would you test these differently? How would you test them the same? He asked this explaining that I was more familiar with Tricky than NASCAR. He got this information from my disclosure earlier that my weakest point was NASCAR and from the fact that I wrote that I had played Tricky frequently.

So, they think in an interview, interesting…

At this point, I’m buying into this interview. I may not get to work at EA but I am determined to learn from this interview. I start to let my hair loose. I crack a dry joke and see the reactions. One interviewer smiles to himself and the other has his poker face on.

I, on the other hand, never have my poker face on unless I’m playing poker. I’m reacting to each question with sincerity and as much quick thinking as I can muster. I’m saying things like, interesting question both because I honestly think it is interesting and because I’m trying to buy some time. I know, they can see this plainly on my face.

And then we get to the last question: Tell me a joke.

Very interesting…I smiled to myself and looked up for a brief moment. Got into character and said, “So this duck walks into a bar…” Now in true tribute, I screw up the joke but stay in character long enough that they have to laugh. I left the room feeling accomplished and was asked to sit in the lobby while they discussed.
I waited for 3 minutes and he came back out to get me. I’m just inside the door with all of the computer terminals and consoles set up. It’s dark and interesting but also smelly and not what you probably would imagine. I firmly believed that this would be the last time I saw QA testers in action and so I took it all in, with all of my senses. And then he hands me some papers and says welcome to EA and I’m sure my face is saying “What?! You’re kidding, right?”

So that’s how I got a job as a quality assurance tester at EA-Tiburon testing sports games. I’m still very much hoping that Charlie will be called in as well next week. If we both have a job in the same building that would be fantastic. Less money in gas. However, I’m also hoping to get a 3 month contract working in public relations at $15.00/hour and getting benefits to boot.

I’ll let you know how it pans out…

Yikes! Will things be looking up for EA?

Here’s one story about working as a QA Tester
and a livejournal made for EA spouses.

In case you couldn’t tell :o) I spend most of my “free time” searching the web. I fully admit I should be doing other things like working on my thesis (thank you Amanda et al I know, I know) but instead I search the web. I have also stated, in public that it is an addiction. There are times when I debate if I should blog a video I have seen or a new site that I think is helpful or funny or even just memorable. I’ve been collecting a few but when I throw the cards up on the ceiling these two stick. So I give you a Dance, Monkeys, Dance and Old Grandma Hardcore – Video 15:

Dance, Monkeys, Dance
Let’s bring it down to basics, we are all really just animals, monkeys to be exact.

Old Grandma Hardcore – Video 15
Game on!

Apple gamers at their finest. Don’t get your panties all up in a knot people…at the root it is funny…

Mac vs PC