[00:00:12.760] – Liz Fraley
All right, good morning everyone. Welcome to Room 42. I'm Liz Fraley, from Single Sourcing Solutions, I'm your moderator. This is Janice Summers, our interviewer and welcome to Samantha Blackmon, today's guest in Room 42 Samantha (she/her) is a gamer, a researcher, and a games researcher who loves playing games with her daughter and talking about games with anyone who will listen and watch. She's passionate about games and making games, communities, more inclusive spaces.
[00:00:44.260] – Liz Fraley
And she wants to bring together the voices of gamers, academics and game industry folks to bring a fuller picture to the games community and of all the people in it. Her academic goal is to create a scholarship that is informed by and accessible to those outside of the academy, which makes for some pretty non-traditional work. Her recent work has included how to use games in the classroom and a black feminist mix tape analysis of how black women have affected the video game industry.
[00:01:18.400] – Liz Fraley
She's currently working on a project that has an upcoming 10 year anniversary for her blog and podcast. Not Your Mama’s Gamer, a project that looks at representation and visibility of marginalized people on live streaming platforms. Today, she is here to help us start answering the question: what can the games industry teach us about content creation? Welcome, Samantha.
[00:01:42.280] – Samantha Blackmon
Thank you. Hello.
[00:01:44.020] – Janice Summers
Hello, Samantha. We're very excited to have you here. I feel very humbled talking to you because I'm not really cool. So-
[00:01:53.470] – Samantha Blackmon
[00:01:55.370] – Janice Summers
Yeah, you are. So now how long have you been in this niche area, like, really looking at trying to expand inclusivity into the gaming industry? What inspired you? How did you get going? I've had the opportunity to talk to you a couple of times, and you're just absolutely fascinating. So if you could share with everybody what inspired you, how did you get going?
[00:02:21.470] – Samantha Blackmon
Okay, so what inspired me, what got me going was guilt.
[00:02:27.920] – Janice Summers
Okay, that's a good motivator, right?
[00:02:31.240] – Samantha Blackmon
Yeah. So I've been doing this for about 20 years now and I'll try to tell the story as quickly as possible, but the way that I got started was that well he's actually my cousin, but I call them my nephews because we're so–their mother and I are so close in age, she's my aunt–that they they always called me their aunt. But we gamed a lot together. When I still lived in Michigan and when I was moving away, they were like, well, what are we going to do?
[00:03:06.520] – Samantha Blackmon
How we're going to play games together?
[00:03:08.230] – Samantha Blackmon
So before I left, I bought them a Dreamcast so that we could, that was like the first console. Where we could like get online together and play video games. So I bought them a Dreamcast. There were four of them and two games and I was like, don't break it, share it, we'll be good. And then after I moved to Indiana, one of one of my nephews called me and he's, like, so aunty I got a question.
[00:03:32.380] – Samantha Blackmon
And I'm like, oh God, what is it? And he says, Why is it that black men in games always look like cartoon characters? And I was like, what do you mean? And what he was talking about was basically caricatures, right. So these being stereotypical caricatures. And one of the games that I had bought him was a boxing game and it was Ready to Rumble. Can't remember, if it was Ready to Rumble or Ready to Rumble II.
[00:04:00.010] – Samantha Blackmon
But I remember specifically it was Ready to Rumble. So we talked about it, right, and then I thought about the fact that at this point, game studies was just burgeoning. Nobody was talking about race. Nobody was talking about representation. And in fact, the few texts that were out there were like, well, the depiction of women in the depiction of minorities, that stuff will straighten itself out later because that always happens, right?
[00:04:31.540] – Liz Fraley
Always does, right?
[00:04:31.370] – Janice Summers
Yeah, right? Well, yeah. Let's not work on it, it'll, just naturally happen, right?
[00:04:34.830] – Samantha Blackmon
It's fine. It's fine. Yeah. So, yeah, I was like, somebody needs to be talking about this. And I'm a long time gamer. I've been gaming since I was seven. And I had I've been using games in the classroom when I was in grad school, mostly MOOs and MUDs. And even if I think back to it before I started grad school, I was an elementary school teacher and I was using games in the classroom then.
[00:05:09.250] – Samantha Blackmon
So I was like, I – I play games,
[00:05:15.290] – Janice Summers
Did you say MOOs and MUDs?
[00:05:15.290] – Liz Fraley
She doesn't know what those are.
[00:05:16.420] – Janice Summers
I don't know what that is.
[00:05:17.830] – Samantha Blackmon
Oh, okay. So MOOs are– let's start with MUDs there. It's easier to start from there. Multi-user dungeons, right. So text based games, Right. And then MOOs are multi-user dungeons object oriented. So they're basically the same kind of thing. If you think back to any of the text based games you may have played in the early days, right. Like Zork, right. “You've been eaten by a grue”, those kinds of games.
[00:05:47.530] – Samantha Blackmon
So definitely those kinds of games. Atari 2600. Zork, yes. 2600 or later. Earlier actually than Atari 2600. My first video game was in fact I actually have it tattooed on my arm was a ColecoVision Football Game. So it was the little handheld games, my cousins–there were three of us who had them, one had football, one had baseball, one had hockey, and we would meet at my grandmother's house on the weekend and we'd exchange so that we, we would exchange for the week.
[00:06:22.870] – Samantha Blackmon
Right. So we had access to all three. Yeah. LamdaMOO, exactly. Yeah. I was in LamdaMOO back in the day. Exactly. So it was guilt, right. It was the fact that I had given them this console with this media to consume without thinking critically about what I was giving them and being there to talk to them about it when they actually started to notice these things. So yeah, I mean, I guess I owe the last 20 years of my research to them.
[00:06:57.250] – Janice Summers
It sets you on a very important and worthwhile course, affect those changes. Now, how has the evolution been? How is– how is it now as opposed to then. You can you tell I don't play games.
[00:07:14.800] – Liz Fraley
I can see the smile on her face.
[00:07:15.800] – Janice Summers
Truth be told, after our first conversation, just so everyone knows, that I was so inspired by Sam that I actually started playing some games. But they're just like simple little games so far. I'm baby stepping into gaming. Liz is trying to pull me in fast.
[00:07:35.800] – Samantha Blackmon
Take your time, it's fine. So how's it now? I would love to say it's a whole lot different. There are– but it's not. There are some games that are more careful, right, when they're thinking about representation of women and folks of color. But I mean, there are still a lot of folks who are and I use this term because I think that this is where it comes from, that are fairly lazy when they're starting to think about representation. Because it's easy to fall back on stereotypes to say, well, if all of these things are in place, that must be this person's identity.
[00:08:24.610] – Samantha Blackmon
And usually what we get there is– is– is a set of core stereotypes. So if we put all of these things in place, we have a person with a black identity, or if we put all of these things in place, we have a person with a Latinx identity or a queer identity, right. So we have these things. The ways that these things are kind of shaped are still very problematic. But that is not the case in all cases. And I think that is because we've got a much more diverse pool of developers at this point than we did even 20 years ago.
[00:09:00.790] – Liz Fraley
[00:09:02.260] – Janice Summers
So it's improving, it's just. Not fast enough and not enough yet, we still have work to go.
[00:09:08.940] – Samantha Blackmon
Oh, yeah, yeah, exactly.
[00:09:12.750] – Janice Summers
Yeah, I was just going to say that's reflective of the rest of the world, too, right?
[00:09:17.740] – Liz Fraley
Well, I was going to say it's reflective of, even computer science programs are not having as diverse a student population growing in them either, right. And so if they're not in there doing the programing, then they fall back on their lazy sides know.
[00:09:37.580] – Samantha Blackmon
Yeah, I mean, even outside of that, right, I mean, it's–it's multilayered, right? So who's in our computer science programs? But it's also who gets hired into the industry at what point, right. And there's this this notion of cultural fit, right. So who fits that look on your face when I said that? Right. That notion of cultural fit. I mean, that's just a nice way of saying we don't want you because you don't look like us.
[00:10:03.776] – Liz Fraley
[00:10:04.640] – Samantha Blackmon
Right. And so that's an important thing. And something that I've been working with a lot lately is not just the notion of diversity, but the notion of diversity and inclusion, right. And I was actually listening to a stream by Joanna Brewer yesterday, as she put it perfectly. She said quite specifically that diversity is. Yes, having all of those people in the room, right. A variety of people in the room, a diverse body of folks in a room.
[00:10:35.360] – Samantha Blackmon
Inclusion is having those people feel like they belong and they have something to contribute in that they're being listened to. So it's not just the diversity in the room, but it's also the inclusion, right. So actually, listening to those folks and having them feel comfortable, having them feel like they are a part of that community, a part of that culture, right. Without thinking specifically about cultural fit as being another white dude, right?
[00:11:05.450] – Janice Summers
Yeah. Or one of my buddies from college.
[00:11:09.270] – Liz Fraley
[00:11:09.320] – Janice Summers
My little circle of friends, whatever that is, is my little circle of friends. If you don't step outside of that circle, then you're not including people. You're not adding a richness to your culture.
[00:11:20.720] – Liz Fraley
You miss out.
You need to include other people that you don't know. That don't look like you.
[00:11:30.060] – Liz Fraley
You miss out, right, when you don't have that richness in your circles, in your personal life, everywhere in your work, everywhere around you, you don't have it, you miss out. Yeah, right, and we don't let people be themselves.
[00:11:48.060] – Samantha Blackmon
Exactly, and it often gets swept under the rug as we want the person coming in to feel comfortable, right. We want them to feel like they're a part of this, right. But they want to put that onus on the person coming in and not on themselves where it should be. So, yeah.
[00:12:12.870] – Janice Summers
The onus of inclusion, you mean, and they're putting it on the person who's coming in rather than on themselves to say, hey, I need to be an active person to include others?
[00:12:23.700] – Samantha Blackmon
[00:12:24.840] – Janice Summers
I think that applies to everybody. If we all have that stewardship of saying it's up to me to include others, it's up to me to actively seek out people that I don't know, that don't look like me, don't act like me, to get their thoughts and perspective. It's up to me to actively ask those questions and seek that information and listen with both ears. Right.
[00:12:53.340] – Samantha Blackmon
[00:12:54.240] – Janice Summers
What I'm hearing
[00:12:55.620] – Liz Fraley
It's our job to fix
[00:12:56.050] – Samantha Blackmon
[00:12:57.630] – Janice Summers
Yeah. And if everybody took on that stewardship, could you imagine what the world would be a lot different?
[00:13:05.100] – Samantha Blackmon
It definitely would be.
[00:13:10.200] – Janice Summers
So now. Well, I just kind of got lost.
[00:13:17.080] – Liz Fraley
So we got a good comment in the crowd, actually, where the people bringing in people. It's our job to fix and it's that discomfort in us, we have to get over, right. We want to feel comfortable with the friends that we have, the people we know. It's okay to invite other people. It's okay to step out and say, okay, I don't need to be comfortable. I can– Jane–somebody says, I want not to be Wendy in a room full of lost boys.
[00:13:53.840] – Janice Summers
Do you think? I mean, this is just from the general perspective of games, period. And just thinking back, like when we were kids and we play games, we didn't know somebody. It was okay for us to stumble and fumble a little bit and to feel a little awkward. And whoever we were awkward with would kind of help correct us or kind of help guide us right there. You have to trust that there's compassion on the other side and they know if you're not comfortable, but as long as you're receptive, you know. Because I think people can feel that, I think they can understand that.
[00:14:25.130] – Janice Summers
So even if you're you're feeling that, just be open to the other person helping to guide you. And how do I talk and relate with you without offending? You know what I'm saying?
[00:14:39.710] – Samantha Blackmon
And that's one of the exact ways, right. Is to be open to that and and to listen, right. And that's one of the things that we deal with a lot when we're talking about folks using their voice, right, and saying, I don't feel comfortable in this situation or this happened and this is why I need to talk about this. It is often the response of, well, I've never seen that happen before, or I don't feel that way.
[00:15:15.790] – Samantha Blackmon
It is that lack of compassion, that lack of understanding, right. That only makes the situation worse and is rooted in racism, not necessarily the racism of the individual, but systemic and cultural racism, right. Because if you–I haven't experienced it, it must not exist.
[00:15:42.020] – Janice Summers
I think that's a really good point. And it's all on the inflection of that, right. It's like, well, I haven't experienced it versus oh, I've never experienced that, I didn't know. There's complete–like the same statement, but it comes from a very different place. And I think that's the thing that people need to kind of get over is, of course, you didn't experience it. How could you? It's not your life. I'm trying to explain to you what it's like, right?
[00:16:12.050] – Janice Summers
I think that I think if we change the way we say that, even though it's like a default, kind of like an automatic line, I never experience that. You need to understand. That's obvious, right? When someone's trying to explain to you from their perspective, it's obvious that you didn't experience that. They experienced it.
[00:16:30.050] – Samantha Blackmon
[00:16:30.050] – Janice Summers
And they're trying to tell you about it.
[00:16:33.560] – Liz Fraley
We only ever see things from our own perspective. We never get the privilege of feeling–being in someone else's shoes. I mean, the closest I get is I read tons and tons of books and I read books from other perspectives so that I get the chance to feel that because otherwise I don't get to.
[00:16:53.180] – Samantha Blackmon
Yeah, I mean. We have multiple opportunities. Usually when we're not in the middle of, as my daughter calls it, the zombie apocalypse. Yeah, we have multiple opportunities to, like, sit down and talk with a diverse body of people, right. To reach outside of our own kind of comfort zones. So that we get to know people on a different level, right? We get to know people not only in terms of how we work together, but how we live together.
[00:17:26.480] – Samantha Blackmon
And I think that's what's super important because that how we live together component also affects that how we work together component and. Because of because of certain levels of discomfort wherever it comes from, some folks are unwilling to do that.
[00:17:47.970] – Liz Fraley
[00:17:59.400] – Liz Fraley
There's no older characters in games either. Let's go that direction now. All right, but is gaming starting–like, you're kind of–you and I–me, too, actually, we're kind of the first generation that grew up with games. And we're, so like, we're the first ones really still playing in our 40s and 50s. Is that, like how does–how is that changing game theory and does it target them? Is it different? Is it easier or is it harder? Does it help them? What do you see?
[00:18:36.660] – Samantha Blackmon
So there is a perception that the audience for video games is white males, 18 to 24, which is not the case because the price of hardware has pretty much pushed the age of gamers upward. And the fact that most of us or, not most, a lot of us, as we've gotten older, have continued to play video games, right. Because we did grow up with video games and now we're playing games with our children.
[00:19:19.110] – Samantha Blackmon
And even though I don't have any because I'm far too young for this –grandchildren. So now we're playing games with new generations of folks and we're not seeing a lot. We don't see a lot. We see more, right–and I'll talk about this in just a second–older folks represented in games, right, but I think that an important part of that is also the representation of older folks playing games, right. Because we do.
[00:19:55.350] – Samantha Blackmon
And I think that for me, my work is, as I would say, my work is very non-traditional, because not only in the way that I kind of create my scholarship, but also the things that I consider a part of my activism, is a way to put it. Because activism and scholarship are not–I can't separate those two, they're inseparable. So it is important for me to be visible when I start thinking about getting people to understand that older folks play games and that comes with a lot of different things, not just the simple representation, but it also comes with thinking about issues of accessibility.
[00:20:50.490] – Samantha Blackmon
And how our bodies change over time, right. I mean, we've thought we've thought about– or we're starting to think about because we've never done a good job of this–accessibility in terms of folks who are born with disabilities or younger folks with disabilities. But we haven't thought a lot about folks who develop these disabilities as they grow older, right. That the disabilities that just come with your body hitting a certain age.
[00:21:22.560] – Janice Summers
Wear and tear and time.
[00:21:25.710] – Samantha Blackmon
Exactly. Type gets smaller and smaller. Yeah. I mean, and I think about that for myself because like I said, I've been playing games for…
[00:21:39.280] – Janice Summers
A long time.
[00:21:41.080] – Samantha Blackmon
44 years. And my hands show it right, I have repetitive stress injuries in both hands and all kinds of other things start to creak and ache after a while, but I need to find a way to make games–continue to make games accessible to myself, one, because I do it for enjoyment, and two, because it's a part of my scholarship, right. So then we start thinking about things like how accessible controllers are necessary and what we need to do to make it easy to just input the data that the–that the console needs in order to play the game.
[00:22:24.030] – Samantha Blackmon
We also have to start thinking about things like chairs. We have to think about things like all kinds of things, like type on a screen, all of these different things that are necessary to fully enjoy and experience games, right. So that's super important. Another thing that's super important is making sure that folks understand that, yeah, gamers are not 18 to 24 year old white dudes and that there are women who game, there are non-binary folks who game, there are trans folks who game.
[00:23:03.870] – Samantha Blackmon
There are folks of all races, creeds, colors who game, folks of all ages who game. And I think that for a lot of younger folks, the easiest way to do that is to make these people visible, right. And that comes at a number of different levels. Visibility comes at a number of different levels in our live streaming platforms. That's my current focus, right? When we start thinking about hardware, software companies and who they use to represent their brands.
[00:23:34.800] – Samantha Blackmon
Right. Because a lot of times what do we see when we see like when we see consoles? What do we see when we see controllers? What do we see when we see video games? We see people playing. We see these 18 to 24 year old dudes, right. Who are experiencing these things and not a lot of women and not a lot of older folks. We see some minorities. Not a whole lot.
[00:24:01.560] – Janice Summers
Not a whole lot.
[00:24:02.670] – Samantha Blackmon
Not a whole lot.
[00:24:04.590] – Janice Summers
No. So it's like every aspect of it from the advertising of it, from the games creation aspect of that. It's every single facet.
[00:24:13.770] – Samantha Blackmon
[00:24:14.430] – Janice Summers
You need to have the diversity and the accessibility at every aspect in order to change that, that bias that's there and it's persistent right. And you have to be persistent with that. You can't, like, relax and just sit back, because when you just get lazy, you don't get change from being lazy.
[00:24:39.300] – Samantha Blackmon
[00:24:41.820] – Liz Fraley
No, you don't
[00:24:42.550] – Samantha Blackmon
Once you're complicit, you not only stagnate, but you start to slide backwards.
[00:24:47.010] – Janice Summers
Yeah. And then unfortunately, then if you're– just like it feeds into the into the subconscious and then you're trapped into that falsehood, right. Where it doesn't fairly represent. So let's talk about gaming and the translation over into technical communications, let's talk about some of the key translation pieces, I think– I think people can kind of get, but let's not assume that they can get. And let's talk about gaming and that translation over into technical communications.
[00:25:26.230] – Janice Summers
I think personally, it's not a literal translation. I don't think it's like game your content, necessarily, right. Where there were I guess there was a time where a game of buying your content was a big thing, but I think that there's lessons that go deeper and everything that you've been talking about. And I just want to make it really clear for people so that they can get those translations.
[00:25:56.730] – Liz Fraley
And I've been hearing a lot of audience and what she said so far. But let's keep going.
[00:26:02.950] – Samantha Blackmon
Yeah, I mean, there's there's a lot, right, there's a lot in terms of– in the same way that Liz earlier you said it's it's not just about what happens in games, but it's also what happens in computer science and computer science programs. It's not just what happens in games, but it's what happens in techcomm programs and not it's not just what happens in games, but it's what happens in techcomm as a field, right.
[00:26:31.150] – Samantha Blackmon
We have a very kind of clear idea in our minds, some of us do, of what techcomm is, right, and who does techcomm and what is techcom and what's not techcomm right. There can be a very gatekeepery kind of mentality when it comes to these things. And it's important for us to think beyond that cultural fit, right. It's important for us to think beyond here's what teechcomm's always been, this is what techcomm's always going to be, and then relegating everything else to special issues or saying it just doesn't fit.
[00:27:24.480] – Samantha Blackmon
And I think that's a huge thing, right? And thinking about other people's experiences and what other people's experiences and what other people's identities have to bring to techcomm outside of the norm, right. I almost said outside of the pale, but that would have been just too, too literal in many ways. But yeah, I mean, that's I think there is a direct connection between a lot of different things where we're asking people to think outside of the box, right.
[00:28:07.320] – Samantha Blackmon
Outside of the box, going outside of what this has always been.
[00:28:11.820] – Samantha Blackmon
You know, I think we need to strike that phrase from our vocabularies and from our minds. Well, it's always been this way. No, it has not always been that way. It's always been that way for you, right.
[00:28:26.790] – Janice Summers
When you hear yourself say it's always been this way that's when you should stop and check yourself.
[00:28:30.558] – Samantha Blackmon
[00:28:32.680] – Liz Fraley
Right. We don't do it that way.
[00:28:35.180] – Samantha Blackmon
That's that's not the way we do it. I mean, it's a cultural fit again, right. Because it makes me uncomfortable to think in any other way because it's always been that way. So of course it makes me uncomfortable to think about this in any other way. But again, when we do that we stagnate. Right, and if we want to move forward, if we want to continue to be important and if we want to be inclusive, which is more important than anything else, that's why we have that's when we need to move past that, “it's always been this way”.
[00:29:18.720] – Liz Fraley
Yeah, we do. So I kind of want to go back to to this too, right. When we talked, I guess, last week or, yeah, it was last week, you were talking about how games are particularly good at training people. And you used “scaffolding your tutorials” as the key phrase for describing how that works, techcomm does a lot of training of users, does a lot of tutorials, a lot of learning content. So but let's, can you talk a little bit more, this is learning from– lessons from the games industry.
[00:30:02.460] – Liz Fraley
Right. It's not just game of fire and give points for people who do things.
[00:30:08.270] – Janice Summers
Yeah, when we were talking about me trying to play games.
[00:30:19.170] – Samantha Blackmon
That's fine. So let's think about it this way, so it doesn't it doesn't matter if you started playing games like Mario, right, like Super Mario Brothers or if you started playing games like Candy Crush, right. When you start out playing a game. Like, you start out playing Mario, they say, okay, here's the first level we're going to ask you to run, right? And here's how you jump. It's like, okay, so I can run, I can jump and, you know, and Mario, you can also, like, bash enemies.
[00:30:49.520] – Samantha Blackmon
That's how you make it–you can successfully make it through that first level. If you learned how to do those things, you're like, great, I can finish this game now because I know how to do these things. And then in the second level, they give you something else. They're like, now you have to run, jump and do this, right. But you've mastered that first level of basic movements.
[00:31:08.300] – Samantha Blackmon
Right? So after you've mastered that level of basic movements, they move you on to something that's a little bit more advanced, right. So they scaffold it so that they're not like here the 47 things you need to do to finish this game, all at once, right. Because then of course, even I'm going to throw the controller down and be like, nope, I'm done. I can't do all 47 of those things right now.
[00:31:32.240] – Samantha Blackmon
It is only when I have built my confidence, that I can run, jump and perhaps bash an enemy to make it through to the end that I can say, oh, okay. Also now I can start to think about how I'm going to get, how I'm going to get different mushrooms that are going to make me do different things, give me different powers that give me different abilities. Same thing happens with Candy Crush. So if you've ever played Candy Crush or any other any of the match three games, they're like match three.
[00:31:58.370] – Samantha Blackmon
And you're like, okay, match three. I got this. I could play this all day and then you master that and they're like, okay, but if you match four you get this other thing that gives you a different ability, right? So with every level or every couple of levels, right after you've mastered the previous thing, they give you something different, right. So it is, again, a scaffolding, the things that you need to do in order to complete the experience.
[00:32:27.920] – Samantha Blackmon
And Candy Crush, by the time you get into those higher levels, it's like monstrously difficult for me, for me, right. And I'm always I'm always in people are like, oh, Candy Crush. And then I meet someone and they're like, I'm on level 497 of Candy crush. And I'm like, wow.
[00:32:46.470] – Janice Summers
I didn't know it went that high.
[00:32:55.670] – Samantha Blackmon
I mean, I'm always terribly impressed. Yeah.
[00:33:00.890] – Janice Summers
Well and I like that analogy. When you're learning the games you learn, they give the information you need to complete the task. They don't over inundate you with information. So they take a minimalist approach. And I think in techcomm we could take away from that when we're trying to teach someone something or they're trying to learn how to advance in their career, they're trying to advance in the tool knowledge. You give them what they need to get the task done so that they can get on with their life.
[00:33:31.340] – Janice Summers
Because like Candy Crush, they're also trying to get you to stay in the game forever. But in life, when we're providing information on software tools, we're trying to help people get on with their daily life using our tools and devices, right. So we– I think that scaffolding and I love that when you said that, it was just beautiful. So I'm going to use that phrase a lot.
[00:33:56.630] – Liz Fraley
And that comes from education research, right?
[00:34:01.070] – Samantha Blackmon
Yeah. I mean, it's in everything right. In terms of thinking about scaffolding, right. We do it in games. We do it when we teach children things, right. We don't just throw kids in kindergarten and be like, okay, here's a five paragraph theme. Let's go. But we start small, right. As an elementary school teacher, I remember quite specifically, I mean, you start with teaching kids how to write a sentence.
[00:34:31.520] – Samantha Blackmon
Right. And then you go to here's how we write a paragraph, right. And then once you figure out how to write a paragraph, here's how we write an essay, right. I mean, and all of those components have some has some similarities. But once you've mastered one or have a good understanding of one, then you can move forward to the next one instead of saying, here's what we do at the end, right.
[00:34:56.030] – Samantha Blackmon
You've got to start at the beginning
[00:34:57.950] – Liz Fraley
And we forget about that. All of us, when we're writing instructions or we're trying to explain something, we're going to throw it all in there like, well, you know
[00:35:06.460] – Janice Summers
If you want– because we want to be helpful. So we want a solve for everything. And in solving for everything we miss out on the simplicity.
[00:35:18.150] – Liz Fraley
And it's not as successful, I think. So I don't know if you've ever seen anything about Salesforce in their trailhead documents. No, probably not, they they have this whole point system for doing things, and they're trying to step people through competency in the product by reaching different levels. And I just I– it's the only real techcomm related program I've seen that that is attempting this in any way. Do you know– have you run into other, anyone doing it outside of your game theory and interest?
[00:36:06.350] – Liz Fraley
I mean, I'm just curious.
[00:36:11.400] – Samantha Blackmon
So let me say this, I– gamification was huge, right, everybody wanted to gamify things. There were there were point systems, there were leveling systems, you got color coded things. You get badges for things. I've never been a huge fan of gamification.
[00:36:27.180] – Liz Fraley
Me either. It doesn't it doesn't motivate me, those things.
[00:36:34.140] – Samantha Blackmon
Well, I think it falls flat, especially with the group of folks that it's made to reach, right. They're like, if we gamify all of these things for these gamers, then they'll be interested, they'll be engaged. They'll want to do these things. But if you gamify all of these things for gamers, you're not giving them a game experience, you're giving them a watered down game-ic experience and they're going to see it as such and they're going to get bored with it really quickly and really easily.
[00:37:12.240] – Liz Fraley
Well, because you're just doing you're just sort of half half assing it, really? Yeah, great. You're going this far, but you're not developing it like a whole thing. Like, that's not it's not its purpose is not a game. So doing part of it sort of does a disservice to both things really.
[00:37:29.860] – Samantha Blackmon
Yes. Yeah. I mean, that's that's definitely one way to think about it. Right? I mean, and we've done it with all of these different kinds of things that we try to gamify in our lives, right. And I think specifically about–I'm cheating, I'm looking at chat–but someone said “Habitica” or “Zombies, Run”. Yeah, those are gamified experiences. Or even if we think about which we're trying to gamify everything.
[00:37:56.850] – Samantha Blackmon
Now, for example, if you, I'm not wearing my watch. I was looking. But if you use an Apple Watch. There's a little game that tells you when you've reached 20 seconds of washing your hands, right? So, yes, there is a hand washing-
[00:38:14.290] – Janice Summers
[00:38:15.400] – Samantha Blackmon
Well, it's a little thing that tells you, right? Like, you're washing your hands and it'll tell you when you've reached that thing. Right, because you're building up to it.
[00:38:24.160] – Samantha Blackmon
So it shows that, this little graphic and then it buzzes when you, it vibrates, when you've reached that 20 seconds of hand washing and-
[00:38:32.140] – Janice Summers
Fitbit and the 10,000 steps. I must admit I'm a child about that. I love getting my 10,000 steps.
[00:38:38.050] – Samantha Blackmon
But that's another thing, right, that gamified experience. To use leaderboards, to use competitions, to use those weekly challenges. And for people who are used to having those experiences be more well fleshed out, they feel watered down. At least that's my experience, right? Yeah, I think I think that's that's definitely the case. And I worry about that because I think that folks use that as a kind of an end all and be all, well, we did this, so yay,
[00:39:14.230] – Liz Fraley
We're done, way to go.
[00:39:16.390] – Samantha Blackmon
There's nothing else to do. There's nothing else to do. Yeah, I'm sorry. I'm trying not to rechat. I'm a streamer
That's alright, go ahead.
[00:39:26.660] – Janice Summers
Yes, you are. And that's great.
[00:39:28.660] – Liz Fraley
[00:39:29.050] – Janice Summers
you can reach out, we're having a conversation
[00:39:33.020] – Liz Fraley
She's a pro
[00:39:33.020] – Janice Summers
There's no planned direction here at all. Sometimes you're like-
[00:39:39.280] – Samantha Blackmon
Oh yeah, I'm sorry. I was like, I'm used to it.
[00:39:42.310] – Janice Summers
Yeah, right, exactly. So one of one of the things is there's goal-oriented versus gamification, right. I mean, don't you think because like for me I, I think of my Fitbit more as a goal oriented because I have a goal and it helps keep me in track with my goal. I don't need anything beyond that. I don't need any like silly little journey to learn how to use it. And I don't need to be on any leader boards or anything like that because I don't care, that's fine by me.
[00:40:15.340] – Janice Summers
But, like I'll go play solo games now. So maybe I'm different that way. But I think there's– I like goals. Goals are very good. And somebody was talking about recovery and health, mental health. I think there's some goal things that are important. And I don't want that kind of confused with gamification necessarily. Are they two separate things? I'm asking you now.
[00:40:42.940] – Samantha Blackmon
I think that they definitely can be. Yeah, right. I think that they can be. Gamification is like adding game-ic elements to a thing that already exists, right. Something that's goals based is like, I want to do X, right. I want to be able to do X. I want to reach this point without necessarily adding those game-ic elements, right. And I think that that's the big difference between the two. And I don't think that everything that's goals oriented has to have game-ic elements.
[00:41:14.330] – Samantha Blackmon
Caitlyn says that someone she used to work for did– they gamified their training modules, and we all hated it. Yeah, because you recognize that it's not fun, right? It's like we're going to do this thing. It's going to be fun and everybody will love it and everybody is going to do it.
[00:41:31.040] – Janice Summers
[00:41:32.140] – Samantha Blackmon
[00:41:33.510] – Janice Summers
I am waiting for some corporate training to come out. It's like you're going to hate this. Let's make it. You know, let's be honest. You're going to hate this. Let's get through it.
[00:41:43.150] – Samantha Blackmon
Exactly. So this is you know, I'm sorry. We need to do this. You're going to hate it.
[00:41:50.340] – Janice Summers
I have some brutal facts and we're just going to chew through it.
[00:41:54.150] – Liz Fraley
Right. So we had a question about how the mainstream is grappling with a lot of these issues now that we're all working from home and covid and how another one about virtual reality, how's that changing how we play games. And I'm reminded of you having the Dreamcast all those times ago as a way to hang together. You're an educator. You spent a lot of time on zoom meetings. You're a streamer. So you spend a lot of time online hanging out too. Do you feel a different sense of presence from those two things and versus being in the classroom, like, what do you see? What's your experience across all the dimensions and how they feel the same or different?
[00:42:39.760] – Samantha Blackmon
It's a good question. So I think that one of the things is when all of this started, the first thing I thought to myself was, thank God I'm a streamer because I can do these things kind of more easily, right. I can, as I always say, walk and chew bubble gum at the same time, because I'm used to doing multiple things like playing games, talking analytically about games, reading chat, engaging with that.
[00:43:15.360] – Samantha Blackmon
And also on top of that, I have two cats that like to run around my house and have, as I call them, drunken frat parties and I have a kid. So I'm engaging with what's in front of me in terms of the game, what's in front of me in terms of the community, my cats running in and out, fighting, my kid's like, mom, can I have a snack? Can I do this? Can I have another hour of screen time?
[00:43:39.150] – Samantha Blackmon
So it's like I'm used to doing 57 things all at the same time. So when we do talk about like working from home right at a time of covid, folks want to think it's easy, right? They want to think that, and again, we're not thinking about individuals and identities. And I think that's important because we're not thinking about folks who have kids. We're not thinking about folks who have all these other things that go on at home.
[00:44:12.150] – Samantha Blackmon
And we're not thinking about what it means to work from home, because oftentimes when we're working from home, we all know we're not working the same number of hours that we're working from when we're working from the office, we're working a whole lot more because people are one of the things that statistics are showing that people are more productive in the time of covid. And I'm like, that's because people are stuck in their houses. They have nothing else to do.
[00:44:38.860] – Samantha Blackmon
So people are working 25, 50, 75% more a day than they were when they were working for the– from the office. All of these are things that we need to think about. Because it starts it starts to wear on us, right, after a while, one of the things that happened since covid, since lockdown happened, is, like, this is– I'm in my office. This room has always been my office since I moved into this house.
[00:45:11.440] – Samantha Blackmon
My stream setup was in the game room. I moved my stream set up into the office. And because I need to be able to separate work from home, right, because otherwise I'm working all the time if I'm always in that workspace, so. When I'm done, I can walk out of this room and shut the door. And then I'm away from this, right. And then I sit in the game room. I don't stream from the game room anyway anymore.
[00:45:51.730] – Samantha Blackmon
I sit in the game room and curl up on the couch with my kid and we play Animal Crossing or, her new favorite Cake bash, because she gets to hit me in the game over and over again, but so I mean, that happens outside there, right? And that's something that's totally different. And I think that that's important. I think that that's important because it gives me the ability to separate. And these are all things that we need to consider, right.
[00:46:20.740] – Samantha Blackmon
When we're talking about things like working from home. And I know that that wasn't exactly the question that you asked me, but it just kind of–where goes right? Was kind of where it goes.
[00:46:31.500] – Liz Fraley
Yeah, I do that, too. I've been working home for 15 years and I have a room. I leave close the door and you're done. Yes, but I also remember Accidental Tourist is that Ann Tyler maybe, she did that as a writer. She had a room, she went in, she worked and she left and closed the door. And people knew– her family knew that that was at work and then that was at home.
[00:46:55.380] – Liz Fraley
So, yeah, it's one of those things that when I set up, I did that. We're getting close on time. But, like, I can't stop talking to you. I do want to ask you about because you grew up hanging out on the video games. So like the kids today, they didn't grow up at the mall and they didn't grow up, you know, at the arcade. Their sense of presence is online. And do you feel that now that everybody's at home, do you feel that sense of presence online or are you missing, I don't know how to phrase the question even. I sort of wonder if you having been a streamer and at home and at work and having been an educator in the classroom and now you're educating at home. Whether you're feeling a dynamic difference between presence and connection?
[00:47:53.370] – Samantha Blackmon
Yeah, so I understand, I understand the question. So, yeah, and it's funny because I know there's some folks from my class this afternoon in chat, but there's a new– I'm going to tie this to other kind of weird pop culture-y things.
[00:48:11.040] – Samantha Blackmon
The new American Girl doll, historical doll that came out this year is Courtney. And her third year is, Sam, no! Yes, you're going to sing that song, Courtney, 1986 in your head all over again. Yes. Courtney 1986. 1986, right. So I think that I have officially become old when the historical doll is in my time period. But so Courtney 1986. And so it's all about video games and it's about arcades and it's about Courtney wanting to see more women in video games so she wants to become a game developer so she could put girls in games.
[00:48:59.530] – Samantha Blackmon
So yeah. I mean that was, that was my experience. We have a very interesting class-
[00:49:09.040] – Liz Fraley
That I have no doubt about.
[00:49:12.160] – Janice Summers
A fun class.
[00:49:14.230] – Samantha Blackmon
But, and that's the thing, right? In the 80s, right. We had arcades and we spent a lot of our time gaming, like in close quarters in small groups. But it's also pretty easy to forget that a lot of times girls were either excluded from these spaces or excluded themselves from these spaces.
[00:49:44.090] – Samantha Blackmon
Because they were seen as being kind of very male spaces. And luckily, I had a mother that I– I want to say she didn't pay attention to that, but but she didn't pay attention to that. And so there was an arcade like literally at the ice cream parlor that was a less than a block away from my house. So I would go up there every afternoon and play video games. And a lot of times, yes, I was the only girl in there.
[00:50:19.940] – Samantha Blackmon
And so it was a weird experience. So gaming has always been for me– and like I said before, I mean, I've been playing games since 1976, so exchanging physically exchanging handhelds with cousins sitting on the sofa together with people, right. So it's always been gaming early on for me was always about being in the same physical space with people, when I moved away, so for 20 years now, gaming for me has been a largely virtual experience.
[00:50:53.150] – Samantha Blackmon
Right. So me playing with other people has– has been online because I moved to central Indiana where I had no friends, I had no family, and there were no, quote unquote adults around who play video games. So all of my friends that I have played games with, people that I worked in the restaurant industry with, my cousins, my friends, even from high school, that we played video games together within the same space, I didn't have.
[00:51:21.380] – Samantha Blackmon
So the only option I had was to take that experience online, right. That experience to play with my nephews, that experience to play with, God help me, randos. And then that brought up a whole nother set of issues, right when we start talking about playing games online and being a woman in that space, right. Because then you start to– and then being a woman of color in that space, right. Then you start to experience all this other toxicity.
[00:51:48.920] – Samantha Blackmon
But then also in that same time, you start to see folks or women specifically who work in the games industry trying to build more inclusive spaces for other women, right. So it's like, okay, so we have this secret little thing over here which just women and we can game together and not expose ourselves to that toxicity if we don't want to, right. So, I mean, it's– it's been– it was an interesting transition like 20 years ago.
[00:52:22.010] – Samantha Blackmon
Right? It was an interesting transition 20 years ago. But a lot of times when we look at folks now, they don't know any other experience, right. And I think that– but that experience has always been very separate from an educational experience and that that is the problem with– that I see or I think I see specifically with folks going from face to face to remote learning, is that they know how to do this thing online.
[00:52:52.600] – Samantha Blackmon
But they see it as being completely separate from an educational experience, right. So that's always the biggest problem that I have with working with folks– when I say folks, I'm talking about students– and thinking about gaming as, gaming from an intellectual, from an educational standpoint and not just gaming to game. One of the things that I've tried to do since the pandemic, especially in my gaming class, is to make students game together because that's what we do during lab time.
[00:53:31.630] – Samantha Blackmon
Right. Is that we have our theoretical readings. We have our discussions. But we also have dedicated time for just sitting together and playing games and talking through games while we're playing games. We don't have that opportunity anymore, right. We don't have that opportunity. We don't have that opportunity to sit together in the lab and, like, pass the controller back and forth, I don't know if we'll ever have that opportunity again.
[00:54:01.450] – Samantha Blackmon
Right. Because that was something that called for close quarters, close contact. Who knows what that's going to be like in the future, right? Yeah.
[00:54:14.340] – Liz Fraley
Fascinating, yeah, the one I miss the most is the whiteboard, and I have tried every different way to get that back and I've got a couple of decent ways, but it's not quite the same. So there are places where being in person actually really matters. I like that your student says that she likes the Zoom class because she can put things in chat when you can't get a word in and like that, that's an interesting way to look at it. I haven't really considered it that way. That was cool. She needs to write a paper.
[00:54:46.350] – Samantha Blackmon
[00:54:49.500] – Janice Summers
I think so. And honestly, I think that there are plus sides to the new way we're doing things. I'm gaining exposure and actual face time with people that I would have never had face time with ever. And even though I've worked remote for over a decade now, I work from a home office for well over 10 years. I never went on screen. I was just audio, right. So now I'm forced to being on screen with people. But that's okay because I can feel a connection just with voices.
[00:55:28.170] – Janice Summers
Part of that is because of my training, you know, from years ago. I can connect with people just with a voice, but it's nice getting that face time. So I don't think that this new way is necessarily a bad thing. I think that it's perspective. I think there's pluses. Nothing can replace, you know, a hug and being physically present with people. But we can't do that right now for safety's sake. And I think that this is an okay, I'm not stressed out about this.
[00:56:01.140] – Janice Summers
I think it's okay. And I think it's great because I get to see people like Sam, I would have never gotten to see you.
[00:56:09.000] – Liz Fraley
I know, right?
[00:56:08.790] – Samantha Blackmon
Well, you know what? You bring up a good point, Janice. And I want to talk about this for just a second. Is that that notion of, you know, you being able to connect with someone's voice? And I think that I want to come kind of full circle and come back to: but that's the way we always did it. That's why we've always done it right. We've always done it this way.
[00:56:28.080] – Samantha Blackmon
And Caitlyn said something interesting about the secondary conversation that's like going on in our class, right. Like we'll have our Zoom meeting up and people will have their cameras on or not, right. Because I don't require cameras, because you know what? We're in a time of pandemic, you have to do what you are comfortable doing because these are not normal times. And I don't need to see you to know that you're there, right.
[00:56:56.310] – Liz Fraley
[00:56:57.150] – Samantha Blackmon
I don't I don't need verification of your presence in that way, but we have to break outside of this notion of of the meritocratic classroom, right? It's sitting in rows, facing forward listening to the teacher, boom, right. That's not what we're doing, right. That's– that's not what I've ever done. So maybe that's why it's easier for me, because that's not what I've ever done. But we need to break past that and say, okay, one, I am not owed–
[00:57:27.470] – Samantha Blackmon
I am not owed, your image, right. I don't need to– You don't owe that to me. I don't need to see it it's whatever you're comfortable with. I am also not owed your single solitary attention to what is going on and just those images and that vocal conversation, right. Because there is so much interesting stuff that is going on as we used to call it, back channel.
[00:57:52.760] – Samantha Blackmon
But Caitlyn called it a secondary conversation, for example, in chat. That may not be a direct part of that conversation that's going on with the folks on screen, but is tangental and often offers something great to the conversation itself, even if it is just that Courtney 1986 reference, right. But it is still something to think about because it means something in the grand scheme of things. So we have to move past that. I'm going to take my traditionally meritocratic classroom and I'm going to bring it into this remote space and it's going to do these things and by damn those students are going to turn their cameras on and they're just going to sit there and stare at me for 50 friggin minutes.
[00:58:36.620] – Liz Fraley
[00:58:37.460] – Samantha Blackmon
No, you've got to move past it.
[00:58:39.380] – Janice Summers
You brought up another good point is that I think that this new way of doing things–new for other people–it really does bring a richness, because while we're engaged in the conversation, I'm not good at reading chat, I will obviously get distracted because I'm one of those, I read every single word that somebody says, but that adds a richness and it adds a richness to others who maybe passively listening to us have a conversation, it's a dimensionality that you don't get in just, like, a one way conversation with just us talking. Like this is a whole nother level and and adds, I think, such a richness and it gives them a chance to participate in the conversation.
[00:59:30.260] – Samantha Blackmon
[00:59:31.130] – Janice Summers
I'm not tired of Zoom meetings. I'm not tired of it at all.
[00:59:36.680] – Liz Fraley
I think we've hit on a whole new subtopic that, like, could go all kinds of different directions. But we are we are way past our time . I hate to stop and we haven't lost anyone out of the audience.
[00:59:51.380] – Janice Summers
Sam, I really, I really want to I tell you, I am so glad that you came into 42 and it's been absolutely delightful to talk to you. And I hope you'll come back again.
[01:00:06.620] – Samantha Blackmon
Absolutely! I'm glad you asked me. I'm glad you asked me.
[01:00:10.160] – Liz Fraley
[01:00:11.020] – Janice Summers
Wonderful. I'll keep going with my candy crush.
[01:00:16.100] – Liz Fraley
There you go
[01:00:18.950] – Samantha Blackmon
I'm in awe, when you start hitting those high levels, I'm going to be totally in awe of your–
[01:00:25.470] – Janice Summers
400. I think I'm at, it's level 60 or something because I found a word game too that I'm playing, so.
[01:00:32.360] – Samantha Blackmon
A bird, like Angry Birds?
[01:00:33.980] – Janice Summers
Word. Word game.
[01:00:37.580] – Samantha Blackmon
Word game. Okay, I'm going to fix one thing. My Twitch channel changed
[01:00:42.620] – Liz Fraley
Did I get that wrong?
[01:00:42.740] – Samantha Blackmon
Well it used to be that because when I first moved over to Twitch my name was taken so I had to do it. It was fun. I had to do this whole trademark claim. Well, I've had this name for thirty years, right. So I was and I use it everywhere. So I was able to do a claim and get my own name.
[01:01:00.890] – Samantha Blackmon
But it is just twitch.tv. I put the wrong thing. Twitch.tv/saffista. Yeah.
[01:01:11.180] – Janice Summers
The real twitch
[01:01:12.530] – Samantha Blackmon
So, y'all, I'm going to say this, I'm going to pitch myself okay. For 30 seconds. If you've never done live streams before, seen live streams before. I highly suggest checking out Twitch and my Twitch channel is a little different because well yeah I stream games and I stream stuff with my kid but I also do– we call them theory questing where I bring once a month I bring a game scholar on who has a new publication or just has some interesting ideas to play a game with me and to talk about their research.
[01:01:46.190] – Samantha Blackmon
And we do this on Twitch with my non-academic twitch community, which is a lot of fun and people love it. So definitely come by and check it out.
[01:01:57.980] – Janice Summers
Okay, I'm going to go, I'm definitely going to go check that out. That would be a lot of fun. I'm kind of getting, from talking to you, I also now understand my nephew and his interest in watching people play games.
[01:02:14.580] – Samantha Blackmon
Yeah, It's been that way for at least five years now. In terms of hours. There are more hours, excuse me, spent watching people play games on YouTube and live streaming platforms, then people watching television.
[01:02:29.490] – Janice Summers
[01:02:32.760] – Liz Fraley
[01:02:32.760] – Janice Summers
Yeah, it is fascinating. He'll spend all kinds of time just totally wrapped in this whole. And now I'm getting it, but I think I'll like your channel. It will be intellectual.
[01:02:53.790] – Samantha Blackmon
[01:02:58.740] – Janice Summers
Well he listens to somebody who does a lot of cussing and just it's —
[01:03:03.780] – Samantha Blackmon
I don't do that. I mean not on my twitch channel.
[01:03:08.790] – Janice Summers
Janice doesn't do that at all. You know, you're in trouble when she starts cussing.
[01:03:13.150] – Janice Summers
Or I'm really passionate about what I'm talking about if I start cussing because.
[01:03:16.740] – Samantha Blackmon
Yeah. So no, that's one thing I decided about my livestream channel early on is that it was going to be PG because there's not enough content, and I think I did that because I'm a parent, right. And there's not enough content for kids to consume that doesn't involve profanity, so I made that decision early on that regardless of what I do in my real life, outside of that, there's no cursing. I'm want to show you something funny.
[01:03:46.700] – Samantha Blackmon
There's no cursing on my stream except for when. And it's not on purpose. But I have the Call of Duty Cuss Can when I play Call of Duty, when I'm shooting things, I sometimes cuss. So we have a Call of Duty Cuss Can for charity. So every time I cuss, I have to put one poker chip in there and one poker chip is a quarter, at every… Well, it depends on how much I'm playing Call of Duty.
[01:04:11.270] – Samantha Blackmon
Not very often. But every time there's a substantial amount in here what is in this can and goes to a charitable organization. So we have, and my daughter drew the picture on it, but it is the Call of Duty Cuss Can for Charity.
[01:04:24.590] – Janice Summers
So, yeah, my personal philosophy on cussing has always been that it shows a lack of creativity.
[01:04:32.370] – Samantha Blackmon
Oh yeah, I can come up with some good, cuss substitutions-
[01:04:36.400] – Janice Summers
There's a lot more ways to be. I was always a fan of William Shakespeare and just the prose, right? The way that you express something. So I always think that there's a much more creative way of expressing yourself rather than using profanity. So, yeah, anyway, on that note,
[01:04:55.140] – Liz Fraley
Awesome. Thank you so much for coming and sharing so much with us. I am blown away and I appreciate it. You're amazing.
[01:05:03.240] – Samantha Blackmon
[01:05:04.200] – Liz Fraley
[01:05:04.990] – Janice Summers
It's been so much fun.
[01:05:07.950] – Samantha Blackmon
It's been a blast.