TheVerge: I Used Google Glass

A great video on Google Glass: uses, concept, design, future developments, and when they plan to make it available for the general public.

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Fog of War: References for Weeks 1 and 2

Before We Get Started…

Let me say, before I list these, that I’m attempting to bring in both perspectives in ways that are not offensive. These aren’t research articles that are necessarily representing my point of view, but rather provide insight into all views (without calling the opposing view stupid or wrong).


Week 1: Sexualization, Marginalization, and Causation- OH MY!

For week one, we talked about the sexualization of characters, marginalization in gaming communities, and possible causation of sexism in gaming. Per our discussion, I haven’t been subjected to sexism in gaming, and Micah sees it happening and thinks that the players are at fault; not the game devs. John brought up the advertising aspect, noting that advertisers lead the trends, and gamers follow. I reminded him that while we have correlation, we don’t really have causation.

References:

Bice, M. (2011). On men’s sexualization in video games. Gamasutra. Retrieved from: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/MattieBrice/20111129/9003/On_Mens_Sexualization_in_Video_Games.php

Bycer, J. (2012). . The difficulties and controversies of designing female characters: Or how not to add a woman’s touch. Gamasutra. 

Cassell, J., & Jenkins, H. (2000). From Barbie® to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games. MIT Press.

Dickey, M. D. (2006). Girl gamers: the controversy of girl games and the relevance of female-oriented game design for instructional design. British journal of educational technology37(5), 785–793.

DuVoix, H. (2012). Venus in Mars: Gender equality in fighting games. Ontological Geek. Retrieved from: http://ontologicalgeek.com/venus-in-mars-gender-equality-in-fighting-games/

Ivory, J. D. (2006). Still a Man’s Game: Gender Representation in Online Reviews of Video Games. Mass Communication and Society9(1), 103–114. doi:10.1207/s15327825mcs0901_6

Nerdlove. (2011). Nerds and male privilege. Paging Dr. Nerdlove. Retrieved from: http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2011/11/nerds-and-male-privilege/

Sharkey, S. (n.d.). Top 5 most attractive, non-sexualized women in games. 1Up.com. Retrieved from: http://www.1up.com/features/top-5-attractive-nonsexualized-women

Week 2: An Ode to Those Media Literate Kiddos!

In week two, we talked about children (of all ages) and the benefits of media literacy. We discussed educational uses for media, motivations in gaming, and things that can be learned from each genre of game. Micah, John, and I all discussed our favorite game genres, and what we feel we’ve learned from them.

References:

Annetta, L. A. (2010). The “I’s” have it: A framework for serious educational game design. Review of General Psychology14(2), 105–112. doi:10.1037/a0018985

Barnett, J., & Coulson, M. (2010). Virtually real: A psychological perspective on massively multiplayer online games. Review of General Psychology14(2), 167–179. doi:10.1037/a0019442

Cole, H., & Griffiths, M. D. (2007). Social Interactions in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Gamers. CyberPsychology & Behavior10(4), 575–583. doi:10.1089/cpb.2007.9988

Dieterle, E., & Clarke, J. (in press). Multi-user virtual environments for teaching and learning. In M. Pagani (Ed.), Encyclopedia of multimedia technology and networking (2nd ed). Hershey, PA: Idea Group, Inc.

Floyd, D. (2008). Video games and learning[Web Video]. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rN0qRKjfX3s

Gackenbach, J. (Ed.). (2007). Psychology and the internet : intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal implications. Amsterdam; Boston: Elsevier/Academic Press.

Giles, D. (2010). Psychology of the media. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Ohler, J. (2008). Digital storytelling in the classroom new media pathways to literacy, learning, and creativity. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press. Retrieved from http://catalog.hathitrust.org/api/volumes/oclc/86038208.html

Rosas, R., Nussbaum, M., Cumsille, P., Marianov, V., Correa, M., Flores, P., Grau, V., et al. (2002). Beyond Nintendo. design and assessment of educational video games for first and second grade students.pdf. Computers & Education, 40(2003), 71–94.

Zhou, Z., Jin, X.-L., Vogel, D. R., Fang, Y., & Chen, X. (2011). Individual motivations and demographic differences in social virtual world uses: An exploratory investigation in Second Life. International Journal of Information Management, 31(3), 261–271. doi:10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2010.07.007

Just the Tip of the “Gamification” Iceberg

Earlier this year, I was exposed to Seth Priebatsch via assigned reading/viewing for my Immersive Media & Mobile Advocacy class at Fielding. His TED Talk got me thinking; how is my life like a game? How could it be? As a gamer, are there ways to take what I know of my gaming motivations and use them as motivations for success in the real world? Can that work for motivating others around me? The contemplation is really endless; considering types of games and how they can be implemented into real life, what type of gamer you are and why, and how realistic would it be to implement gaming elements into you real life routine? I could go on and on.

So it shouldn’t have surprised me to see an article about a prison using gaming elements as reinforcement for desired behaviors. Scoop.it, how you know what I’m craving to read. I was also, surprised (again… shouldn’t have been) to see that it was written by Seth. He describes a prison (Louisiana State Pen) using various rewards (e.g., an annual rodeo, pet ownership, the opportunity to hold a job, etc.) as reinforcement for desired behavior. Some of the rewards require years of work and appropriate behavior to earn. Seth describes the reasons the game works: pride and meaning. He notes that the rewards (particularly the rodeo) means freedom, accomplishment, and notoriety. He also explains that these accomplishments are similar to levels in a game. Sometimes, we play games just to say we got to that unreachable level, or to see what came after reaching the top. The same elements can be applied to real life situations if we consider “gamification” fully and take its potential and power seriously.

References:

Priebatsch, S. (2012, August). Gaming reality. Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2012/08/tech/gaming.series/prison.html

Game Review: Smite

First, let me start by saying that I’m a League of Legends (LoL) fangirl. I tell you this because when I say Smite might motivate me to leave LoL, it should have impact. Smite has all the things I like about LoL, but takes care of a few of the things I don’t; including the excessive number of trolls and flamers that Riot bans people for reporting. More on that another time. For now, let’s talk Smite!

I’ve always been interested in mythology; no secret there. I have written before about Joseph Campbell and his words of wisdom, not the least of which include the hero’s journey and the universality of myths as truths. Smite uses gods from a variety of mythologies (e.g., Greek, Hindu, Chinese, Egyptian, etc.) and turns them into mages and melee fighters. In teams of 5v5, you set off down the three lanes, all full of towers and minions (and yes, there are jungles too) all leading to your goal; the Minotaur. Take down the fierce golden Minotaur, and you claim victory for your team. Simple as that… in theory.

The view is third person, so it feels more like World of Warcraft than LoL in that respect. Movement is very familiar if you play WoW as well: WASD for running, number keys for abilities, and the mouse guiding your direction of travel. Like with LoL, you use favor (aka IP) or gems (the in-game currency that has to be purchased with actual money) to unlock gods and a variety of skins. There are some gods who excel at defense, some at magic use, and some at melee fighting; as in most any MOBA. And, of course, you can purchase a wide variety of items to passively buff any number of stats on each character. One of the great things about Smite (at least as compared to LoL) is the ability to have your items and abilities auto leveled for you. This means those who are consumed with trying NOT to nerf their team can focus on other things. As you’re entering the game, you simply unmark the boxes for either or both when you’re ready to customize your toon.

Since I’m sure you’re well versed in MOBAs by now, I’ll talk about particulars only briefly. The graphics for this game are phenomenal. The detail to the characters both in character select, in the animations for the skins, and in game play is breathtaking. The sounds for the game aren’t spectacular, but they’re not overwhelming either. The characters have their taunts and musings, and the voices are well done, but they are by no means meant to make or break the game. Something auditory, however, that I did find amusing/helpful was a verbal cue for team notifications. In other words, when someone is trying to warn you that the right lane that you’re trying to push is about to be ganked, a voice says, “Right lane under attack!” and whether you look at the map or read the chat log, you know what’s coming. To be honest, I prefer that to a “PING” any day. Especially when people are spamming the ping… but I digress.

In my opinion, the significant advantage this game has over LoL is the immersion. Because this game is done in third person point of view, the game is far more transportational than LoL is. There is no overhead view; you are IN the battlefield. This, of course, makes map awareness vital, but allies and opponents are labeled well from the third person view as well, so as long as they’re visible, you can easily weave your way through the jungles and lanes. Team fights are also facilitated well by the ease of map awareness and the point of view change. Another bonus (or frustration depending on how you play) is the immersion in fights. As a ranged character, every ability is a skill shot; you HAVE to aim your shots and be in range. However, you’re given an arrow to line your shots up with (making my life SO much easier). As a melee character, you can also see where your ability is going to hit (you can walk around with your ability range lit before you take the shot… VERY handy), but when you’re auto attacking, you have to stay oriented; much harder to do when you aren’t look on from above. 

From a psychological perspective, the social aspect of the game is definitely present; there are chat tabs that you’re constantly exposed to in the lobby (much like you are with WoW), and this is where you friend chats pop up as well. Anyone who has managed tabs on a web browser, can manage these. Though the game is in closed beta, current players have been given invitations to send to friends, and you can always request a game key directly from Hi-Rez (mine took only a few hours to arrive). Either way, the ability to play with friends is definitely a motivator for some to play this game. If your friends aren’t on the game (or you want to get REALLY good before you invite them… ahem…), there is still the team play socialization that facilitates cooperation, planning, leadership, and social adeptness. This game has levels, favor, and types of game play which become available only after reaching certain levels as a player; all of these become reinforcers and promote achievement based game play motivation. The increased immersion, thanks to the third person view, makes escapism and transportation easier and more fulfilling.

Whatever your reason for playing MOBAs, this game covers it well. If you’re a player who likes a laid back, stress free game there are solo training matches where you go one on one, and all characters are available for play. You don’t get favor here, but you get to try before you buy and you can get a feel for the game before you wade into the waters as a noob in the pvp realm. Once you get really good, there are ranked games with more game play styles being released soon. Now is a great time to start playing. If you like MOBAs, my guess is you’ll love this one; it’s not out with the old, in with the new. It’s, “Now here’s something we hope you’ll REALLY like!”

Research Review: Attachment Style Differences in Online Relationship Involvement

This week, I figured we would change it up a bit; go more vague media, less specifically gaming.

Dr. Jiali Ye (2007) decided to look into whether or not relationship development and satisfaction differs in ways similar to offline relationships. A questionnaire was sent via Google Newsgroups, fetching just over 100 respondents. On average, the respondents were 35 years old.

Dr. Ye was asked about how long respondents’ relationships had been going on, to what extent they interacted online, and how satisfied they were with those relationships. Repondents were asked whether the relationships were casual, close, or romantic. Finally, items were included that measured attachment types: secure, dismissal, fearful, and preoccupied. Let’s clarify what these mean before I continue.

I knew I was a Lucy fan! Wait…

In this case, a secure attachment style is one which the individual is comfortable being intimate, but also okay doing things on their own. A dismissal attachment style means the individuals tend to want to be alone and don’t really do the relationship thing. Fearful individuals want an intimate and close relationship, but they’re afraid of failure, so they avoid them. And preoccupied individuals are dependent on their partners, but still afraid of rejection.

What Dr. Ye found was not surprising; those who are have closer relationships tend to be more comfortable having deep online relationships and are more satisfied with them, as well. And this seems to be true for all four attachment styles. Dr. Ye theorizes that this may be due to the lack of cues that we tend to make judgments based on, created a more level playing field for the relationships. The only time any of the attachment styles differed was in casual relationships; secure and fearful individuals were okay sharing more online than the others were. The only real difference in satisfaction was that casual relationships didn’t appear to be as satisfying as close or romantic relationships- duh.

So there you have it! Though this is, in no way, the end all authority on relationships and the internet, it is one of the early measures of online attachment styles and how they interact with online relationships. Ooh! Maybe next week, I’ll talk about all the reasons that long-distance, online relationships are likely to create more intimate connections than face-to-face ones!

/digs out research while laughing maniacally

References:

Ye, J. (2007). Attachment style differences in online relationship involvement: An examination of interaction characteristics and relationship satisfaction. CyberPsychology & Behavior10(4), 605-607. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2007.9982

Research Review: First-Person Shooter Games as a Way of Connecting to People: “Brothers in Blood”

I love this article. There are a few reasons for this. First, in the disclosure statement there is a note about how no competing funding was provided for this research. That is important because there have been other researchers (who I won’t name, but I REALLY want to) who have accepted monies for their research which may have been influential in the results of their research. This makes their research controversial and more pseudo science than psychology. So, I appreciate that this research was done without “competing financial interests”. Second, the findings of this back up a lot of my favorite gaming research and it was done in a much different way than the others. Allow me to illuminate.

Frostling-Henningsson studied players in Stockholm in two online-gaming centers (yes, I know we don’t use them much anymore here, but this is a great place for qualitative research). She spent time from September 2006 to February 2007 observing gaming sessions, and interviewing gamers. Her participants were 19 males and 4 females between the age of 12 and 26 years old. These ages are slightly younger than typical gamers, but seem to be more accurate of typical FPS players.

She found themes of motivation for play in the responses of the participants. The first one she found was communication. Players like to socialize. This is nothing new to us. Other research I’ve reviewed here has shown the same theme in EQ and WoW players as well. The second theme she found was connection in ways that were unanticipated. In other words, players enjoyed the fact that real world identifiers (i.e., age, gender, sexuality, or appearance) don’t affect whether we are willing to connect with others. Rather, things like personality, kindness, support, maturity, and game skill/cooperation inform our connections. This is a very positive theme in gaming. It means that gaming transcends borders and boundaries that tend to stop us in real life. It makes us less biased and allows us to judge based on more solid grounds; things that matter. This is consistent with what Chayko (2008) says of virtual connections as well; our sociomental connections (i.e., connections we make in mental spaces and not physical, face to face spaces) are a more real kind of real and tend to be more intimate because we invest more time and energy into them.

The third theme Frostling-Henningsson found was that there is a feeling associated with gaming that participants experience. One unlike that of reading (though described to be similar to that type of immersion) or movies, tv or real life. Gaming allows us access to experiences that we wouldn’t otherwise have access to; running through the Sphinx, or shooting up a hospital whose only inhabitants happen to be brain munching zombies. These things don’t happen, they’re not experiences we’re ever likely to have. Yet gaming allows us to experience them. One of my favorite thoughts in the article come from this section as well. The comment is made by one of the participants that he feels relaxed when he is playing CS but his girlfriend says it’s really just a way for him to take out his aggression. Do you think expressing or expelling pent up emotions is or can be a form of relaxation? I certainly do, but I just might have to research this and let you all know what I find out.

The fourth motivational theme found was that of teamwork and cooperation. Gamers preferred to work together, even when they were on opposing teams. Think of all the meta rules implemented when you and your friends game, “Let’s kill everyone else first, then square off one on one,” or “NO CAMPING, YOU NEWB!” The fifth theme was gaming allowed for an escape from the anxieties and stressors of the real world. However, some of the participants mention that they play CS rather than WoW because they feel some sense of control over just exactly how immersed (or ‘sucked in’) they end up being. I’ve heard that plenty of times, but I’m not so sure my CS playing compatriots are any less ‘sucked in’ than I am by League of Legends, or my brother is by World of Warcraft. Could there be personality, perception, or motivational differences in who gets consumed by which games? Another item on my research “to do” list, I assure you.

Finally, Frostling-Henningsson found that gamers like to play because they feel like the virtual world is a real world, just a different real world. This is consistent with research that says virtual worlds are just as real, if not seemingly more real, as the offline real world. People can become different selves, try on personalities, let their hair down, as it were, and become disinhibited all without worrying about real world consequences. Don’t believe me? Check out last week’s article about permeability between virtual and real worlds. The bottom line is that we’re social beings who love, live for, and grow from all kinds of exciting experiences; real, virtual, or otherwise.

References:

Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.

Frostling-Henningsson, M. (2009). First-person shooter games as a way of connecting to people: “Brothers in blood”. CyberPsychology & Behavior12(5), 557-562. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2008.0345

Research Article: Virtual World and Real World Permeability

Finally, some positive research about the virtual world we all love so much. Games can make us happy? Who would have thought… OH wait. WE would have. 😉

Cabiria’s SL Avatar

In his breakthrough research, Dr. Jon Cabiria (2008) studies the potential positive effects of virtual communities on marginalized groups (in this case LGBT). He hypothesizes that positive identity verification is transferable from the virtual game Second Life to real life. In other words, people who feel comfortable being themselves in Second Life are able to feel more comfortable in real life.

Using questionnaires and interviews, Cabiria first established a baseline for each individual’s offline identity (i.e., how they typically acted and felt offline). His goal for this portion of the study was to see if there was a significant difference in behavior from previous research done in LGBT studies. The participants relayed the same themes as in previous research: “loneliness, isolation, depression, low self-esteem, withdrawal, lack of authenticity, and lack of useful information (p.7).” He goes on to say:

Specifically, these expected results dealt with developmental obstruction,
negative psychological affect of being in the closet, the power of hetero-normative forces, and
compartmentalization, to name a few (p.7).

He then asked the same questions of the Second Life self. This time the purpose was to see if there were any differences between the online and offline selves. What he found was:

… seven main themes emerged from the data, namely belongingness, connectedness, improved well-being, higher self-esteem, optimism, sense of authenticity, and evidence of transferable positive benefits (p. 8).

Permeability FTW

So what does this mean?

Well, it means that people who are afraid to be themselves because they’re marginalized, because social norms tell them they’re not ‘right’ or ‘good enough’… they have an outlet for true self-expression; a place to be themselves, and be accepted for who they are. People can try on identities in a safe, anonymous way and when they are ready to ‘come out’ (whether LGBT, gamer, math geek, dyslexic, eccentric or otherwise) as who they really are, they are bolstered up by the knowledge that there are those out there who are like them and who accept them unconditionally. It means there is a way for fears, challenges, self-esteem, withdrawal, anxiety, and any other number of scary feelings and emotions, to be overcome.

Permeability between virtual and real life… isn’t it exciting?

Reference

Cabiria, J. (2008). Virtual world and real world permeability: Transference of positive benefits for marginalized gay and lesbian populations. Journal of Virtual Worlds Research1(1), 1-13. Retrieved from: https://journals.tdl.org/jvwr/article/viewFile/284/238

Gender Bender Project

It doesn’t get any sexier than the amazing Yara Sophia.

Tyanne Olson (Olson, 2012) does a great job of creating a comprehensive transmedia portfolio which seeks to challenge the social construction of ‘gender’. She uses Twitter (@gendertweet) to target in-group individuals by sharing insights, photos, and creating a community for the safe identity verification of those affected by marginalization. Facebook is used as another way of connecting with the in-group and providing socialization, support, and links to related articles, blogs, and alternate social media outlets. Tyanne also uses Pinterest as a creative element; its purpose is to resonate with in-group and general populations via visual stimuli. To round out the transmedia goodness, she uses Time Magazine to reach the general populous, branching out to begin a reformation of marginalizing social norms.

Tyanne’s project works because she has a targeted audience and uses specific media to reach them (i.e., those affected by marginalization and the general population). She is conscious of the needs of the in-group and provides support for them, allowing for a safe community which facilitates the trying-on and verification of an identity which may be easier to come to grips with in a virtual community first. She also provides a clearly defined identity for the project, which immediately allows the viewer/participant/community member to understand where they are (e.g., what sociomental space they’ve stumbled into) and what is being addressed.

For more information click the links below:

Facebook Page

Twitter Feed

Pinterest

References:

Olson, T. (2012).  The gender identity project [PowerPoint presentation]. Retrieved from:

Skullgirls: This Ain’t Your Momma’s Fighting Game

Let me start by saying this game is a field day for the senses. It appeals to nearly every one of my identities: girl, gamer, musician, media psychology student, analyst, and voyeur. Okay, while I’m not a voyeur in the psychological sense of the word, I do like to look at pretty art/graphics. But still, you catch my drift. This game has it all. It also has, however, a difficulty that any hard core, mortal kombat raving, fighting gamer would drool over like someone was ringing Pavlov’s bell. But, as frustrated as I tend to get when I actually have to put EFFORT into advancing in a game (RPG gamer much?), the art, sound, immersion storytelling, and all over style of this game mean I’ll never put it down; even if I never beat it.

Very reminiscent of Sucker Punch, this game is a 2D fighting game featuring a (VERY RANDOM) variety of somewhat jacked up girls all seeking to defeat the Skullgirl in the hopes of obtaining the Skull Heart. This elusive Skull Heart grants the girl who finds it, any wish she can come up with. The catch, as always, is that the girl be pure of heart (hey, this IS a girl gamers’ paradise, afterall). If the girl is in any way NOT pure of heart, the Skull Heart contorts their wish into something vile and repugnant (the loved one who is returned comes back as an undead monster? Blech!). As for the impure girl, the Skull Heart changes her into the Skullgirl, and she is the one who makes the horrors of her twisted dream come to pass. As you can probably imagine, the girls all have different wishes in mind, or some of them are simply doing their duty (whatever that might be) and protecting the innocent people of Canopy Kingdom from the monstrosity.

When I say that this game is a ‘girl gamers’ paradise’, I am in no way insinuating that males will find this boring. Quite the contrary. The adjustments on reality that are introduced via the characters’ special powers, are very creative, powerful, and crass (to some extent). From a symbiotic hair monster and an undead cat, to a militant princess and gadgets that would make Maxwell Smart proud, this game allows every character to have nearly endless combination possibilities, as well as the ability to combine 1, 2, or 3 characters per player to create a powerhouse team for you to control. Multiplayer is available online, as well as locally, so if you can’t beat the arcade storyline (/me hangs head in shame), there are still options for honing your skills against your less than worthy friends. If, however, you’re socially inept and have no friends (or maybe just don’t have the nerve to challenge them), you can play in the EXTENSIVE (3 chapters and over 20 lessons) tutorials. There is also an option for a training room, in which you can toggle options such as death, number of characters for you and the AI, and whether the AI even bothers to make any moves. This is helpful for working out combos, which, btw, are only listed online (for those of you who are constantly pausing MK to check out the moves list… you know who you are).

Which brings me to my next point: the website for this game is incredibly immersive, the developers of which should be sought out and applauded. Transmedia storytelling is storytelling which uses the strengths of various media, each of which tell stories that combine to create one large, all encompassing story. The Skullgirls site includes social networking via blogs, twitter, and facebook feeds, makes the soundtrack available on Amazon and iTunes, provides videos introducing each character and showcasing her skills, maintains a community for updates to the various platforms and news about developments to come. The game, then, becomes part of a much bigger picture; it becomes another way to enter the somewhat noir world of Canopy Kingdom.

Inside that noir world, whether you’re experiencing it via game or website, you find music and art which have the ability to steal the breath from your lungs. The music is very vibrant, while simultaneously being somewhat eerie, while the voice acting and audio clips sound like something from Bioshock. The art is hand drawn with vibrant colors during the fights, and chalk board type drawings on load screens. The site and game are consistently drawn, however, the site also encourages fan art (for ‘Fan Art Friday’) and features ‘White Board Wednesdays’. The raw art in some places, clashing with the incredibly detailed art in others, makes for an experience not unlike steampunk. The music fits the art theme brilliantly, and the entire experience, including the storyline and the difficulty, is intuitive; right down to the verbage on the tutorial instructions.

As far as the game, itself goes, the controls are adjustable but they’re preset with light, medium, and hard punches and kicks, as well as combos on LB and LT. In arcade mode, each girl has her own storyline which the fighting advances. Who the girls fight on their way to Skullgirl doesn’t seem to be ordered in any particular way, other than the unlockable characters come later in the lineup (obviously).  While you do get an idea of a day in the life of your girls in their initial movie sequences, the site provides information about each of them, down to their body measurements and personal likes and dislikes. The thumbstick and D pad seemed less responsive than I would have liked, but that could have just been the excessive speed with which the AI combo’d the bejeebus out of me. Difficulty modes range from ‘Sleepwalking’ to ‘Ridiculous’, but the bar set by even the easiest mode, tends to be more difficult than any other fighting game I’ve ever played. There is room for the most experienced player to struggle, while allowing every casual gamer to find some enjoyment as well.

This game is stylistically stunning, very creative, features immersive transmedia storytelling, and allows players at all levels a challenge. While the controls are somewhat frustrating, and players enjoying this game should NEVER volunteer for studies correlating aggression and gaming, only the very young or very naive should hesitate to grab this game. If you aren’t sure whether this bold style is for you, a quick stop at the website will tell you all you need to know. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must be on my way to New Merdian as I AM pure of heart and I have a wish to make.

A Social Marketing Proposal to TBA Theatre

Proposal Companion Prezi (A summary of the prezi, with photos, videos, and links)

TBA Marketing Proposal (The PDF version of this proposal, in case you like the double spaced goodness of APA formatting)

  TBA Harnessing the Transformational Power of Theatre

            Augusto Boal introduced the concept of Forum Theatre in his book Theatre of the Oppressed. Forum Theatre is a type of play which encourages audiences to participate in the resolution of some social issue. The core of the story is scripted and presents a protagonist with a conflict. However, the protagonist is unable to overcome the conflict, and the audience is brought in to suggest possible solutions to the conflict, turning the audience into what Boal referred to as spect-actors.  Those solutions are then played out by the actors. (Forum Theatre, n.d.)

This type of theatre was originally created to deal with sources of external oppression (in Boal’s case the Brazilian government), however, it has since evolved for use in things such as employment training and problem solving. Boal extended his theories in his book The Rainbow of Desire, which focused on the individual and dealing with internal oppressions. The techniques and theories in this book are the basis for drama therapy.

An example of how Forum Theatre has effected positive change in global communities may be seen in the Youth Theatre for Peace (YTP) (2011) project. This IREX supported project was created to train educators, implement student participation in Drama for Conflict Transformation (DCT), and facilitate the presentation of these forum theatre performances throughout communities in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The stated goal of the YTP is to successfully affect a sustainable community change in the prevention of conflicts via forum theatre. Additional examples of how forum theatre has affected change include conflict resolution in Philadelphia, Kosovo, and Amani. These examples, along with innumerable others, only begin to scratch the surface of our understanding as to how, and why, theatre has the ability to affect global, community, and personal change.

 Transformational Powers of Theatre

Theatre affects the lives of those who experience it not only via patronage, but also as a result of the creation of the art. Though this may be easily illustrated by performing an internet search, hearing stories directly from the individuals who have experienced them, allows for the emotion which accompanied the experience to become palpable.

Becky Sheridan (personal communication, 2012), a local actress specializing in comedy, recalled a play she performed in while attending college. When Scott Comes Home, based on a true story, is a show about a kid who goes to college in the 80’s for a few years. Upon returning home, he comes out as a homosexual to his parents; this doesn’t go well for him. Eventually, he dies of AIDS. This play was written by Becky’s college professor; the adaptation of a book Scott’s mother wrote. Becky recalls performing the play and being protested by other Christian groups. She remembers feeling very profoundly influenced by the message of the show, as well as the reaction of the others around her. She says it was this show that exemplified the acceptance of others as a part of the Christian life that she strives daily to live. (B. Sheridan, personal communication, 2012)

Justin Oller (personal communication, 2012), another actor in Anchorage, has been involved in theatre since elementary school. Justin fondly remembers an experience in which he travelled to Scotland with an unusually varied group of actors: different theatre backgrounds, incomes, experiences levels, etc. Justin notes how the coming together of artists who varied this intensely, simply for the love of the art, solidified theatre as his career objective. Justin also mentions that every show he is in opens his eyes to some aspect of life or himself. For example, having grown up with a single mother, his work with TBA and, specifically the artistic director, Shane Mitchell, helped guide him towards becoming a gentleman. Shane also affected his perception of what theatre was for: art as a means to communicate, problem solve, and better a community rather than just to entertain from on stage.

Rhiannon Johnson (personal communication, 2012) agrees with Justin. She reflected on her perception of theatre before starting classes with TBA and how they compare to her perception now. She describes Shane’s philosophy on theatre as she has come to understand it: one shouldn’t do theatre to show off, but instead should do it to affect positive change. She says she has learned that the more you learn and embrace art, the more good you do for your community and for others; you facilitate less conflict. Being in theatre has made Rhiannon think more about the effect theatre has on people, and it’s long term effects as well.

Anthony Cruz (personal communication, 2012), who specializes in dance, remembers a yearly HIV/AIDS play that was performed in order to help the students understand the severity of the disease, and what it might be like to live with it. His recollection of this show, exemplifies how theatre that takes on a social cause may affect those who are exposed to it. Anthony also recalls the first time he saw To Kill A Mockingbird. He says he was very taken aback by the transportive feeling that came with the set and the attention to detail. He notes that reading the book didn’t convey the feel or perspective of the time like experiencing the play did. He said it was like history right in front of him.

A Community Based Approach

TBA Theatre’s mission statement is, ” To enrich our community by providing innovative and comprehensive theatre arts experiences through which artists of all ages can develop their creativity and self-expression; and in so doing stimulate human potential.” (TBA Theatre, 2012) It is clear, through numerous interviews with individuals involved in TBA that artists of all ages are, in fact, developing creativity and self-expression. Additionally, they are clearly stimulating human potential. Justin, Becky, Anthony, and Rhiannon are only a few examples of individuals associated with TBA who have uncovered what may have otherwise been a very abstract truth about life, who they are, who they want to be, and how to become that self.

In performing shows during the daytime, and charging minimal rates, TBA also allows for students of all ages to attend shows, as well as providing educational resources for teachers, parents, and students alike. TBA also provides course through the Theatre Store during the winter months, as well as a Summer Academy, and Spring Break Academy, which not only allow students to enrich their understanding of theatre, art, and creativity, but provide a safe place to do so. Parents can rest assured that there is a safe place for their child to play, think, and grow during the long Summer days in Anchorage. These are certainly ways in which TBA enriches the Anchorage community.

Imagine, however, combining the enriching and educating power of TBA with the community based and conflict resolving power of forum theatre. Using TBA’s existing educational structure as the foundation for a week-long intensive, forum theatre could be used to exemplify the mission of one or more of Anchorage’s local community based organizations (CBOs) (see Appendix A). Not only does this afford TBA cross-promotional opportunities in which they gain additional exposure in the community, but they are furthering the enrichment of their community by supporting family based causes similar to their own.

Furthering Theatre’s Reach in Anchorage

Strategy

This plan suggests that TBA include a one week intensive in their existing curriculum structure. This intensive would teach students to write short scripts, based on the mission of a local CBO, in which the protagonist becomes unable to resolve the driving conflict. The students would then sell tickets to the show at the end of the week, in which they act out the scripted parts of the shows and encourage audience members to suggest resolutions for the protagonist. Those resolutions would then be acted out. CBOs would be encouraged to supply TBA with information to be disseminated to audience members who are interested in more information, or volunteering.

Perceived Barriers

As is often the case with CBOs, monetary cost of any marketing strategy is a concern. Costs for this plan may include space rental for the performance and for the class itself, script printing, and light design.

Time may also be a concern, as volunteers are needed to run light and sound, stage management, direction, and, of course, teachers. Though students would be selling tickets, volunteers would be needed to organize tickets, man the box office, and process any monies involved. Additionally, a volunteer to be the liaison between TBA and involved CBOs would be necessary in order to ensure the promotion of TBAs production by the CBO(s) being represented.

Resources Maximized

Several of these barriers may be overcome easily by taking advantage of the existing structure. If students are charged tuition for admittance into the intensive, several costs may already be covered. Also, as this would be presented as a performance, admittance fees may help cover the costs of things such as space rental. Scripts would be minimal, as they are meant to be unresolved in script. This will save on the costs of reproduction, but also environmental costs associated with extensive copying.

By grouping the intensive in with an already volunteer rich educational structure, volunteers may be asked to include paperwork, money transactions, and data entry in with efforts for pre-existing classes at a minimal time/effort increase. Because social marketing is a function of both media studies and psychological studies, volunteers from those fields may be sought after to act as liaisons between TBA and any involved CBOs.

Benefitting Us All

Possible benefits to incorporating the missions of local CBOs into the TBA curriculum may be the desirability that TBA be involved in future social marketing campaigns. Not only does working with local charities and social betterment efforts make TBA an example to the community, but it also makes TBA a commodity which parents, adults, teachers, professionals, and corporations alike, would be desirous to be aligned with. Ensuring that funders may feel secure in their donations bettering not only the arts community in Anchorage, but by association other family based charities and organizations, sponsors and donors are given more incentive to support TBA.

Financial benefits may be reaped as well. By reaching out to a CBO, you are also reaching out to their existing supporters, funders, volunteers, and the families involved or affected by the charity. In the vein of “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours,” assisting CBOs in achieving their goals, creates a bond through which they are likely to help TBA achieve theirs. The financial benefit may come in the form of additional donations, corporate sponsors, or patronage in the form of students or attendees.

Measuring Success

Because the measure of success, regardless of the level of integrity the group, is necessary for the evaluation of any plan, a measure for the success of this plan must be put into effect. Where the goal is to cross-promote with another CBO for the furthering of both groups’ agendas, the attendance for all classes, and shows performed using the forum theatre format should be recorded and compared. If the desirability of the courses and performances climb, or remain at a level which produces a profit, rather than a deficit, it should be considered a success. The initial goal, however, should be to implement the plan, and begin immediately measuring attendance and profit above the costs induced. A record should then be kept comparing subsequent years’ attendance and profit.

In Conclusion

It is true that maintaining an already established habit is easier than affecting change. However, transitioning ways of thinking, learning, and creating, allow for the introduction of forward thinking and problem solving techniques. In a post-modern world, where education means self-directed research, stories are told by thousands of people who have never met, and the advancement of technology creates new venues for storytelling, theatre remains an emotionally charged medium for the stories, myths, and journeys which define us as individuals, families, communities, and nations. Continuing to use the transformational power of theatre to focus on positively affecting those who are exposed to it, ensures its survival and secures its foothold in the future of storytelling.

TBA Theatre, already the gold standard in entertainment in Anchorage, also maintains the unique ability to spread its influence to those in need by using the emotional connection inherent in theatre, to connect supporters with causes worthy of their support.

Appendix A

Community Based Organizations in Anchorage, AK

Friends of Alaska CASA

Target: Children, Youth, & Adults

Mission: More than 2,000 of Alaska’s children are victims of abuse and neglect and are living in foster care. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) speak out to help abused and neglected children. Our Goal: Help CASA programs achieve the goal of providing a CASA volunteer for every child who needs one by 2016.

Anchorage CASA

Target Audience: Youth, Children, & Adults

Mission: The mission of CASA is to speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the courts. We promote and support quality volunteer representation for children to provide each child a safe, permanent, nurturing home.

Challenge Alaska

Target Audience: Youth, Adults, & Disabled

Mission: Improving the lives of people with disabilities and the whole community through recreation, sports and education. Through the programs offered by Challenge Alaska, participants can develop skills, expand their social horizons, become physically healthier, and increase their self-esteem.

Alaska Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Target Audience: Youth, Adult, & Blind

Mission: Equipping Alaskans who are Blind and Visually Impaired for Success in Life and Work. The Center helps youth grow in independence and capability through a summer training, career development, and enrichment program. The Center also supports blind and visually impaired students in Alaska school districts thanks to a grant program providing up-to-date technology and staff training to ensure accessible learning materials.

RurAL Cap

Target Audience: Low income, & Families

Mission: RurAL CAP encourages the efforts of low-income people attempting to break the cycle of dependency and gain control of the changes affecting their lives. Its mission is to protect and improve the quality of life for low-income Alaskans through education, training, direct services, decent and affordable housing, advocacy, and strengthen the ability of low-income people to advocate for themselves.

Standing together Against Rape

Target Audience: Youth & Women

Mission: The Mission of STAR is: To provide the best quality of crisis intervention and advocacy services to victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse, and to provide education on these issues to the community.

Access Alaska

Target Audience: Youth, Families, & Disabled

Mission: Access Alaska is a private, non-profit, consumer-controlled organization that provides independent living services to people who experience a disability. As an Independent Living Center, our mission is to encourage and promote the total integration of people who experience a disability to live independently in the community of their choice. Through our assistance and support individuals with disabilities can identify and obtain needed services in an effort to maintain their independence as opposed to living in an institution.

Stone Soup Group

Target Audience: Youth, Families, & Disabled

Mission: Stone Soup Group exists to sustain the health and well-being of Alaskan children with special needs and their families. Through listening to the stories of families, we identify areas of need and work with communities to find solutions.

Friends of Pets

Target Audience: Families

Mission: Friends of Pets provides vital animal welfare and protective services for abandoned animals, with respect, compassion and integrity.  We intervene to reduce the euthanasia rates at the Anchorage Animal Care & Control Center, to promote responsible pet ownership and to improve the quality of life for companion animals. FOP is a non-profit organization staffed entirely by volunteers and supported by donations.

Intervention Helpline

Target Audience: Families

Mission: Intervention Helpline is a non-profit organization based in Anchorage, whose sole focus is to bring hope, help and solutions to those battling addiction and provide support to those in recovery. We actively work to find a solution for every person who calls us asking for help—whether they are looking for a place to detox and receive treatment, a safe place to stay, some words of encouragement, or calling about a family member they are desperate to save and want to know what they should do.

Alaska Cares

Target Audience: Children, Youth, & Families

Mission: Alaska CARES is an outpatient clinic located near Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. The clinic provides sexual and physical abuse evaluations for children, newborn to age 18 years, and 24-hour on-call services for cases that are considered emergent. These cases usually come to the attention of law enforcement or the emergency departments of local hospitals.

The Alaska Zoo

Target Audience: Families

Mission: The Alaska Zoo is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to providing homes for orphaned and injured wildlife. We pride ourselves on providing educational opportunities for visitors, both Alaskans and tourists.

References

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Boal, A. (1995). The rainbow of desire. London, England: Routledge.

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Forum Theatre. (n.d.). Retrieved
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Houston, S., Magill, T., McCollum, M., & Spratt, T. (2001). Developing creative
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Ingraham, D. M., & Nelson, J. (2012). Finding the fun in conflict resolution.
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Solomon, A. (2001). Theatre of the recruits: Boal techniques in the New York police
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TBA Theatre. (2012). Retrieved from: http://www.tbatheatre.org

Youth Drama Clubs Shed Light on North-South Tensions. (n.d.). USAID. Retrieved
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Youth Theatre for Peace. (2011). IREX. Retrieved from:
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