Playing Catan Online

Due to changes in my living arrangement I’m no longer able to play Settlers of Catan with my old group of friends. I’ve considered a few digital solutions to this problem.

Microsoft recently released a version of the game that runs on Windows operating systems. Unfortunately this product is almost unplayable. This software has not been developed or tested properly and allows players to win through exploitation of bugs. This is a shame as an organisation as large as Microsoft has access to tools, knowledge and budgets that should have ensured this simple online game was released in a well polished state.

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Microsoft’s version of the game is near unplayable…

An alternative is a browser-based game client that is getting better reviews. Unfortunately, this product is still in development and I was unable to gain early access. From what information I could gather, this game promotes play with other random players. I really hope that features such as being able to invite specific people to games, friends lists, pre-game lobbies and in-game chat are implemented as for me, these would be necessities for effective community building and on-going connection to established communities. I’m a little skeptical about implementation of the ability to communicate through text or speech. These features would increase the chances of players being harassed by less friendly members of the online community. It would also present safety risks for younger players and lower the demographic that the game could be marketed to.

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This browser-based version of the game is looking much more promising but remains in development

As a learner, participation in NGL was useful for me

Upon beginning this course I embarrassingly had the idea that studies of networked learning entirely revolved around the development and implementation of networked computer assisted education software. I’m glad that this course has helped me to understand that, while technology is a major part of this area of study, the concepts of networked learning extend beyond technology and can be applied in almost any scenario where learning takes place. Having this very limited understanding of networked learning led me to believe that I had only been exposed to it in highly formal settings. Some examples that come to mind include open university courses and educational software utilised at a private English school I was employed at in Indonesia.

As I progressed through the course texts and became a more active member of our EDU8117 blogging community, reading other members’ posts and responding with my own thoughts and opinions, I began to recognise the frequent and various ways that I was exposed to networked learning in day-to-day non-formal and informal learning experiences. When playing complex and ever-evolving online strategy games, I often used the website Reddit to share the findings of experiments I had conducted to uncover statistics and data that was kept deliberately hidden by the developers of the games. Other members of these Reddit communities would peer-review my conclusions and report back with their own research to verify the accuracy of my findings. When undertaking casual independent study in pursuit of my own personal interests (languages, programming and maths), I often encounter concepts that I can not fully comprehend from textbook reading alone. This usually leads me to seek answers from YouTube videos that provide the information I seek in a condensed and simplified format. I many times contemplated improving on these videos by simplifying them further and producing my own YouTube tutorials. When living as an expatriate, working overseas, information about government services and obligations was rarely available in English. I frequently turned to and lent a hand to other members of expatriate communities to ask for and share information that was difficult to source elsewhere.

For this course, I chose to use NGL to improve my knowledge and skill at the popular board game “Settlers of Catan”. This is a game that I already possessed a shallow level of knowledge about. My limited experience playing the game with friends had been highly enjoyable. I learnt some great new strategies and online communities proved themselves to be extremely supportive and generous with their time. This led me to be more involved and communicative, rather than the more passive observer (a “lurker”) I had been in the past. Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 1985) distinguishes motivation into two most basic forms, intrinsic and extrinsic. I had hoped that this activity would promote a great deal of intrinsic motivation as I wanted my drive to make frequent blog posts on my learning journey to be “self-sustaining” (“Motivating Students”, 2016). Unfortunately I was a little disappointed with the level of intrinsic motivation I was able to achieve. Ryan (2000) believes that the defining characteristic of intrinsic motivation is “doing something because it is inherently interesting or enjoyable” (Ryan & Deci, 2000). I wonder if perhaps the act of turning an activity into an academic assessment influenced me to become extrinsically motivated. I was often consciously aware that my actions were driven by a need to produce assessable blog posts. I believe this obstacle could have been overcome if my interest in the target  learning was greater.

While undertaking this course, I transitioned from residing in Japan to residing in Adelaide. In making this transition, I lost physical connection with many of my friends, who had introduced me to the board game and drove me to play it regularly. It was not only the board game but the socialisation with these people who fuelled my interest. A post by Vaught (2013), echoes similar thoughts, albeit on a much deeper evolutionary level, by analysing the phenomena of veterans of massively multiplayer online gaming communities lamenting that they had better experiences in older virtual worlds that placed players in more challenging and less fair conditions. Vaught argues that in many highly social activities, the activity itself is not the real source of motivation, but the community that has been built around it. He explains this phenomena by linking it to concepts of evolutionary self-preservation. “The purpose of a social group and the level it takes is often dictated by how well it serves to promote the survival of the members” (Taflinger, 1996) meaning that networked learning may derive motivation from its inherent social aspects at a much more primal level.

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Situated learning, the concept that learning best occurs “when embedded in a situation where the activity, belief, behaviour or culture to be learned is taking place” (Huggard, 2015), was touched on in our weekly course readings. Ascertaining whether learning is situated involves knowing the answer to the question “what kinds of social engagements provide the proper context for learning to take place” (Hanks, 1991). Situated learning can be divided into four elements; content, context, community and participation. Content refers to the learner’s application and reflection on knowledge and skills in daily life. While I was able to gain valuable information from online communities, moving overseas meant that I lost the ability to test this new knowledge against my group of friends who were able to challenge my current level of play. While knowledge acquired from online communities could be applied to a limited extent in daily life situations, being able to first see its application in board gaming contexts would have provided a much stronger frame of reference to draw comparisons. Context requires an instructional environment provide usage of the target knowledge or skills at the right time, place and situation (incidental learning). This again was something that I lost access to. With these two elements not sufficiently met, I feel my learning was not situated and may have contributed to my lack of intrinsic motivation.

Learning how to motivate myself and what motivations work best is ultimately a skill I am developing over time and this experience has been valuable in helping me better understand how to facilitate optimal learning experiences.

References

Deci, E. & Ryan, R. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.

Hanks, W. (1991). Situated learning (p. 4). Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press.

Huggard, D. (2015). Situated Learning Theory. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rCwwUT9t04

Motivating Students. (2016). Cft.vanderbilt.edu. Retrieved 5 September 2016, from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/motivating-students/#intrinsic

Ryan, R. & Deci, E. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1), 55. http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/ceps.1999.1020

Taflinger, R. (1996). Social Basis of Human Behavior. Public.wsu.edu. Retrieved 5 September 2016, from http://public.wsu.edu/~taflinge/socself.html

Using the CLEM Framework: Examples and Model

For my final self-analysis post using the CLEM framework, I will address the last two components; examples and model.

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Examples:

What examples exist?

YouTube video tutorials have been most valuable for me.

I thought this finals match was a good example of various tactics (including cheating, as pointed out in the comments section). The white player demonstrates how to appear weaker in order to avoid attention from other players.

This video does a very good job of explaining the most common strategies for beginners. It lightly touches on some social engineering techniques to divert the attention of other players. I think deeper examples of strategies will involve more complex social engineering tactics.

What can you learn from those examples? 

Even at apparently “high level” play this game is very easy to follow. Unlike a game like chess, I think the tactics that players are employing are much easier to read. Many of the beginner strategies were things that I had learnt intuitively from simply playing the game. It was good to have some of my assumptions verified as effective tactics.

What makes a good example? 

For me, a good example focuses on demonstrating a small number of concepts. Concepts should be shown clearly with explanations or examples of their outcomes. Secondly, pre-assumed knowledge of strategies and technical terms is kept to a minimum. Lastly, examples should be entertaining to maintain my attention.

What makes a bad example? Are there examples applicable to you?

A bad example would demonstrate play that displays little understanding or use of gameplay strategies. While commenters of the first YouTube video that I posted pointed out that one of the players cheated multiple times, I think this is still a valuable example because it showed me common methods that other players may employ to cheat. This will help me be more aware of cheating tactics in the future. I won’t be employing these tactics myself as I’m a player that gains no satisfaction when a victory is achieved unfairly.

Model:

What else do you need to look for?

Since moving, I’ve lost my network of friends that I often played board games with. I need to link up with a new group to “put into action” what I have learnt.

Can you find it?

There are numerous board gaming groups around, but I need to find the one that suits my personality. Many of these groups focus heavily on the role-playing elements of board games where as I prefer to focus on the strategy behind them. I have found some university clubs that might suit my needs.

Using the CLEM Framework: Literature

Continuing from my last post, I will proceed to the next component of the CLEM framework.

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Literature:

What academic (and other) literature exists around this practice? Whether produced by the community or elsewhere. What is it? Where is it?

I haven’t been able to locate a lot of academic literature on the subject online through web search-engines. Little of relevance is available from the USQ library archive. The content that I have been able to locate on the web has mostly been created by the Catan playing community on blogs and social networks.

Interestingly, much of the academic literature on Catan is related to the field of artificial intelligence rather than human player strategies. I was surprised to find that few strategy guide books are advertised. Literature really is largely community produced.

One example of relevant academic literature on this subject: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/6932884/

For non-academic community literature, I have found boardgamegeek.com, settlers-strategy.com and catan.wikia.com to be excellent sources.

Given its popularity, it was quite a surprise for me to find that little in the way of physical literature or journal articles have been published on this game. With its heavy use of dice rolling, I thought it would be of great interest to those in the field of probability. Perhaps the game features so many variables that it is too complex for accurate mathematical strategies to be designed.

More on this topic to come…

Using the CLEM Framework: Community

Similarly to Angela’s post, I’ve decided to try get a better understanding of the CLEM framework by applying it to my own learning situation. This and following posts will explain what I have found so far in terms of the four components of the CLEM framework. The first of these components is “community”.

What have you chosen to learn “as a learner”? 

I have chosen to learn deeper knowledge and strategies of the game “Settlers of Catan”.

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Community:

What, where and how active are the communities around the practice I’m interested in? Are there different communities?

From my investigations, various communities exist online, however few members are invested in the game enough to be actively involved in online discussion. The few avid fans that I have communicated with have been very friendly and helpful. Below are a few of the online communities that I’ve been able to locate:

http://catan.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page

https://www.facebook.com/settlersofcatan/

http://www.catanmaps.com/about/

https://developingcatan.wordpress.com

https://www.reddit.com/r/Catan/

How do you engage with this community? Where do you go to get help?

So far Reddit has been the most active community that I’ve been able to connect with. The Settlers of Catan subreddit boasts 8,646 subscribers. I believe this is simply due to the popularity and addictiveness of the Reddit site itself.

Other sites have been excellent resources for gaining new information however my experience has been that their communities are much less active. The exception to this may be the Catan Wikia, however I have read that in order to become an accepted member in wiki sites time and effort are required to build up a good reputation. Wikis are often the targets of vandalism and frequent contributors sometimes have very high standards for the content they see fellow community members publish.

Discussions in public forums have so far been an effective method of getting help. Due to the community’s size, I am receiving assistance from different members each time. I think I am also getting to a point where I am able to offer help to other members of the community.

More posts on this topic coming soon…

Engaging the Catan community on Reddit – part 2

In a previous post, I posted a question about the board game “Settlers of Catan” on the popular sharing site, Reddit. My fears weren’t necessary. The responses I received from the community were 100% positive and of a helpful nature. This really made me feel comfortable about getting more involved with the members of this community in the future.

Below is a screenshot of my initial question:

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I was hoping that someone could provide me with a link to someone who had performed the calculations to prove that specific resources offered higher probabilities of winning the game. I was surprised to receive the below responses:

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These two Reddit users explained to me that there was no correct answer or calculation that could answer my question because the value of resources is too tightly linked to the timing of the game. It was exciting to see “Helpful person 2” build upon the information that had been provided by “Helpful person 1”. This exchange occurred naturally and without need for “external reward” (Goodyear, 2004). I suspect that motivation was intrinsically derived from the fact that both of these Reddit users are passionate about playing and learning about this board game and enjoy sharing their knowledge with others.

Reference

Goodyear, P. (2004). Advances in research on networked learning (p. 179). Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Engaging the Catan community on Reddit

Settlers of Catan features 5 resources; brick, timber, sheep, wheat, and ore.

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These resources can be used to build constructions or draw cards that may allow players to acquire victory points.

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A question I have been wondering about is “which resource is most valuable?” While all resources have the potential to allow a player to win the game, I’d like to know if research has been conducted to calculate which resource guarantees the highest probability of producing victory points (of which 10 are required to win a game).

I can easily Google search information on this topic to locate posts such as this, however I’d like to explore the use of engagement with online communities for the purposes of learning.

It has been suggested that aside from intrinsic motivational benefits, development of online personalities on social networks can assist students by reinforcing identities that are conducive to learning (Greenhow, Robelia, & Hughes, 2009). Slater suggests that these identities can be self-created as users essentially “become what they type” (2002). With this in mind, I have made a post on Reddit. I will report back soon on my experience.

References

Greenhow, C., Robelia, B., & Hughes, J. (2009). Learning, Teaching, and Scholarship in a Digital Age: Web 2.0 and Classroom Research: What Path Should We Take Now?. Educational Researcher, 38(4), 246-259. http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/0013189×09336671

Slater, D. (2002). Handbook of new media (pp. 533-546). London: SAGE.

Me as a Learner

xsculvsczrbj3df5ewt8I’ve had an interest in games of intellect and strategy since I was child. I often played chess and checkers with my father and grandfather while camping. I recently came into ownership of a very popular board game named Settlers of Catan. This game has been described by some as the “new Monopoly”, though the two don’t really share many mechanics.

To describe Catan in brief, players construct settlements on various types of land to recieve resources from that land when certain numbers are rolled with dice. Points can be accrued through various methods such as building additional settlements and cities, drawing lucky cards or building the longest road. Once a player accrues 10 points, they are announced the winner and the game ends.

Settlers-of-Catan-700x300While I already know the basic rules of Catan, I believe there is a lot of potential for deeper strategising. I will attempt to use networked learning techniques to improve my understanding of the game and the strategies that I can employ in the future.

I believe that social sites such as Reddit, Facebook and board gaming forums will be my best opportunity to communicate with Catan playing communities. I’ll report on what I learn through this experience in future posts.

Links for those interested:

http://www.catan.com

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catan

http://www.gamesparadise.com.au/catan (I am not affiliated with this site)

My PKM Routine

Here is an overview of my PKM routine

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Firstly I acquire as much information as possible on a subject that I need to research. This usually involves doing searches for keywords. Having only recently moved back to Australia from a non-English speaking country, physical English language sources of literature and academic articles were very difficult to find. This meant I had to primarily rely on the Internet. I usually download as many PDF documents, videos and other texts as I can find in a single sitting.

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Next, I go through the documents quickly to ascertain if they are good sources of information for the area I am researching. After superficial skim reading, if this does not appear to be the case, documents are quickly disregarded.

With the identified “good sources”, I next begin deeper reading and creating a plan with the themes and ideas that come out of these sources. Using pen and paper helps me to be concise and cut down my thoughts to only the most important ideas.

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Lastly I post to a blog, a forum or type up my ideas into a word processing document. This is how I share my ideas with others.

While my PKM routine looks bare compared to others, I think there are good reasons for this. Firstly, I’m not a professional writer and many of the PKM routines you will find online are produced by individuals who are professional bloggers or researchers. Secondly, I’ve discovered that I definitely have a problem with being distracted and procrastinating. This has caused many challenges for me over my life as a student.

I’ve found the best way to combat this problem is to limit my exposure to social media and other extremely distracting feeds of information. I still use these sites regularly, however I try to only use them when I have specific tasks to accomplish. A book I read a number of years ago (Ferriss, 2009) gave similar advice that I feel has been useful for me to stay on track. Ferriss believes that information overload is taking over our lives and causing levels of anxiety that prevent many people from focusing on their most important goals. His advice is to rely on trusted sources that can function as aggregators, allowing unimportant news to be filtered out.

Reference

Ferriss, T. (2009). The 4-hour workweek. New York: Crown Publishers.