My Code Combat Affinity Space Experience

One of the final Games and Learning projects is a presentation of my Code Combat affinity space. Through this game designed for young students, I was able to learn the basics of javascript code. My Camtasia video details why I think the following three Gee and Haye’s affinity space features apply to the Code Combat discourse:

  1. The development of both specialist and broad, general knowledge are encourage and specialized knowledge is pooled.

  2. There are many different forms and routes to participation.

  3. A view of learning that is individually proactive, but does not exclude help, it’s encouraged.

 

References:

Gee, J. P., & Hayes, E. (2011). Nurturing Affinity Spaces and Game-Based Learning. Learning and Meaning in the Digital Age Games, Learning, and Society, 129-153. doi:10.1017/cbo9781139031127.015

 

 

22 Comments

  • Hi Susannah – Thanks for sharing your Code Combat affinity space project!

    I’ll begin by noting that I really appreciated how you began by previewing three characteristics of affinity spaces, and then used these to structure your presentation’s narrative and set of reflections. One of the strongest aspects of your project was your section on different forms of and routes to participation. Within your story about coding a sword that cleaves, you addressed key aspects of this project – you made observations about how insiders and newcomers interact, how various members contribute to knowledge sharing and mentorship, and how one strength of the affinity space is timely and specific support that encourages continued participation and success. The back-and-forth with multiple members while receiving feedback – ultimately leading you to email someone for support – was really fascinating to me; do you have a sense of how common such interaction is across various forums, and/or how frequently members turn to customer support for such assistance? I’m curious about this given your emphasis on multiple routes to participation.

    At one point you mention, "I’m in it, the discourse has sunken into my skill, I’m really thinking like a code combater" (I hope I’m correctly quoting you!). This is such a powerful moment that shows a process of enculturation – you’re learning the lingo, establishing relationships, engaging with challenges, overcoming obstacles, and sharing your experiences beyond the immediate CC space. Given this (perhaps transformative?) process, do you anticipate maintaining your participation beyond the scope of this project?

    And I agree with your final reflection about our Games and Learning course. In some respects this semester is operating more like an affinity space than previous iterations of the course (whether taught by me or by others). I think a big influence on this has to do with the fact that some of us experienced DS106 together last summer, and that shared experience with such an established and expansive affinity space certainly changed my course design – and, in turn, our subsequent interactions with/in this course. In that respect, thanks for playing along!

    • Thanks for the quick feedback Remi!

      I was conflicted about customer service as participation because I wondered if all participants paying or not would have the same option. Perhaps Maka, the customer rep, could clarify.

      I do not see myself continuing in Code Combat simply because I would rather spend my time making games over learning coding. However, it was a great step to the next step of Unity or Gamestar Mechanic. Any suggestions?

      It has been nice to have some classmates from the Digital Storytelling course as well as newbies that were embraced by the group experience. It is a great affinity space that I hope to still be a part of even after I’ve graduated. We need a tag to encompass the breadth of our CU Denver ILT community space. #ILT4LIFE? #CUDILT #Hip2BSquare

      • If you want to design games, then design games. Coding is a language – a set of skills that you can always (re)learn given the demands of a particular project. Go design some awesome games.

        And yes – #ILT4LIFE !!!!!

        • I followed up with Maka about Customer Service as a route of participation for non-paying participants. Here Maka’s response,

          "For non-paying participants, they can, of course, request assistance for any technical issues they have, such as levels not loading or problems logging in.

          Officially, we do not assist non-paying users with code issues, but unofficially, I’ll often offer some guidance, though not with the same level of detail as I do for subscribers.

          In the future, as our customer base grows, we may not have the ability to offer the extra assistance to non-paying users. They would still be welcome to use our forums (over at discourse.codecombat.com) of course."

          In this regard, I think it’s safe to say that Customer Service is not available to ALL participants and cannot be fully recognized as a route of participation.

  • Hi Susannah,
    I love this affinity space! I must say, semicolons are REALLY important in coding, that was drilled into my head when I was doing my undergrad. Also, I don’t think you’ll ever forget to make sure your sword cleaves every again!

    What are the cultural norms – the means of interaction and discussion – that are prominent in this space? And why?
    There was definitely a set of rules you had to follow. You were expected to search the forums and check the FAQs before posting. Although, it might seem easier to simply ask your question, you made a good point about repetition. This is also teaching a critical skill to those younger coders about problem solving.

    How did the nature of your peer’s contributions change over time? And why?
    Your experience with your cleave problem really demonstrated the way your participation changed over time. First you started to try and solve the problem yourself. Then when you couldn’t, you searched and didn’t find the answer in the forums. Following that, you asked directly for help, and when that wasn’t useful you emailed customer support. This demonstrates a natural pattern of problem solving and resolution. How did you feel during this process? What did you learn about Affinity Spaces from this experience?

    What does your peer perceive to be the strengths of this affinity space?
    One of the strengths of this affinity space is that the participants won’t just give you the answer. They feed you small amounts of information in the hopes that you will figure the problem out on your own. This encourages your own personal learning.

    What other examples of games and learning literature were useful points of reference, and why?
    You might not have realized, but you touched upon gamification in your presentation. The space used badges in their forums which I think will encourage some of the younger participants to participate more. Badges seems to work really well in a game setting, did you find it worked well for you? Did you find them meaningful?

    • Hey Lisa!

      When I was resolving the "cleaving" sword issue, I honestly felt really insecure and stupid. I would try to fix my code alone, brood over it, try to fix my code again. I was somewhat determined to not ask a stupid question. However, there is something about that moment asking for help that is transformative. I learned that Affinity Spaces are helpful places if you let them be and you’re willing to dig for answers. This isn’t necessarily a comfortable place, but growth usually isn’t comfortable.

      The badges actually were nice to receive. They were like little pats on the back telling me I was going in the right direction. I also found them to be meaningful, perhaps, because they were so simple. I think the simple badging system was really effective for a beginner. Later on, of course, I would expect them to become harder to earn, but their badging was the perfect amount at the perfect time. This is a perfect example of Gee’s (2004) writings of information being given "just in time."

  • Oooh, customized avatars…making avatars is the only reason I’ve been tempted into trying most of my husband’s RPGs (and, I admit, I have often skipped actual game play after making my avatar:-)). I enjoyed learning about Code Combat, and I feel inspired to give it, or something similar, a try after watching your presentation.

    Observe: What observations about game/ing communities and cultures are shared?

    I’m not sure that you ever explicitly said it, but from your descriptions, it sounds like there is a certain amount of disdain for participants who feel uncertain or are struggling to identify the "right" questions to ask. Not that anyone seemed to be out-and-out mean about it, but I got the sense that some of the condescension and/or avoidance in regards to your questions was a bit off-putting (I would have been frustrated by that!). I’m glad that the customer service option worked out better – sounds like that kinda saved some of the social aspects at the end.

    Contribute: What insight about games (and games and learning) did your peer learn through her/his contributions?

    The story of your quest for the cleave was a great progression. Although the answer was "simple," it took a lot of work to get to the right person to help uncover it. Although it isn’t perfectly clear if people on the discussion boards were intending to be difficult, it is a good example of how sometimes you have to be persistent and try different things in order to 1) make your point more clear (like when the one person corrected your code, which didn’t really help find the answer) and 2) find the person/resource who both knows the answer and is willing to share it. From what you shared, I would say that it was a lesson in having the right mindset and also in finding the accomplishment in the process (as well as in being able to cleave some minions:)).

    Reflect: How would you describe your peer’s experience learning in another setting (i.e. not Canvas, not a “classroom”) as complementary to our other course activities?

    I’d say that this was a good complement in that it illustrated a more hierarchical space wherein someone who is new/just learning is, perhaps, challenged a bit more in ways that, hopefully, make them learn and understand the space (and the game) better. This is a different approach than many spaces that are designed to be "safe" or are explicitly supportive. I think it speaks to some of our discussions of constraints, as well as to the idea of tension and how those things, which are often given negative connotations, can be/are useful in different ways. It’s hard to feel like you have to learn something if the answer is always right there in front of you. At the same time, I think it illustrates nicely how thin the line between challenging and discouraging can be – there’s a balance to be found. This is very different than an "ideal" classroom wherein there might be constraints (usually in the form of rules), but they aren’t meant to be explored and tensions are something that people want to go away rather than discuss.

    Connect: What 3 features from Gee and Hayes (2008) describe your peer’s experience, and why?

    "A view of learning that is individually proactive, but does not exclude help, is encouraged." I come back to this feature from Gee and Hayes because I think that it relates well to your experiences within the space, although I think there might have been moments where the "encouraged" part could have been a bit stronger on the community’s end. However, since you discussed feeling like the struggle of finding the answer was a part of the process, it seems like it all worked out ok. How do you feel about that part of your experience?

    • You and Susan are on the same wavelength! I just commented about the "less than encouraging tone" I received from posting my code. I shared my video with Code Combat and Maka confirmed their receipt. I think if nothing else, it’s a learning opportunity for fostering a more encouraging affinity space. I was able to persevere simply because I had a larger affinity space to return to in our Games and Learning class.

      But what if I didn’t have the Games and Learning space to ground me? I told Susan, "Imagine if I was some solo student, not under the protection of a guided class and I experienced a less than encouraging first interaction. If Code Combat’s mission is to reach all children on the planet, there will be those who are less advantaged. How does Code Combat ensure the lone wolves persevere. Perhaps it’s survival of the fittest."

  • Hi Susannah,
    You did a fantastic job presenting your experience in the Code Combat affinity space. I cycled through so many different emotions while watching it! 🙂 For example, I got really mad when the munchkins were beating up on you 🙁 The whole story of your participation and engagement was quite compelling.

    1. What are the cultural norms – the means of interaction and discussion – that are prominent in this space? And why?
      The Code Combat affinity space is very much an immersion experience and I am naturally drawn to those – in the context of foreign language teaching and learning, which is my background. I am fascinated by language immersion and your affinity space seems to fit the idea of learning through immersion. The way users on the site talk to each other like they are coders, as you mentioned, not circumventing the language but really swimming in it, until it becomes a part of you, like you experienced. This is a really powerful feeling for the learner. Another cultural norm that you mentioned was not creating a new topic until you have searched for it and looked in the FAQ to see if it has been addressed. This seems really regulated and strict, but I recognize how it’s for the benefit of the site as a whole, to avoid clutter and repetition.

    The other user’s tone when answering your question was a total turn off to me. I understand that in this online space the expectation is that you will try and fail repeatedly until you figure it out, but at the same time if learning through gaming is supposed to be shift away from formal schooling, this dude’s tone was not an example of that, nor was it an improvement on "the worst of schooling". There are so many ways he could have expressed the same thing – reminding you to check the FAQ, providing one-time help while asserting that you must take ownership for your failing – but not sound like the meanest teacher ever. This may be part of the CC culture, but it was a complete turn off to me. If I wanted to be talked down to, I’d have done high school for 20 years instead of only four. Is that how that particular user hopes his children’s teachers speak to them?

    1. How did your peer first begin contributing to the affinity space?
      I appreciated how each interaction or action earned you a badge, even if it was a simple thing like liking a post, linking to a post, quoting…you said that the constant feedback was engaging and I can imagine that to be true. Especially with something like coding where sometimes it can seem like you’re not making any progress or it is extremely slow going. Every bit of encouragement helps!

    2. How would you describe your peer’s experience learning in another setting (i.e. not Canvas, not a “classroom”) as complementary to our other course activities?
      I was delighted by your assessment of our Games and Learning class as an affinity space! I think you are so right there. You really dug in and persevered until you achieved success.

    Your third affinity space feature was really magnificently realized: "individually proactive, does not exclude help, it’s encouraged". This describes perfectly your experience with trying to cleave with your sword.

    1. What other aspects of learning theory helped your peer to understand this affinity space?
      The discourse of the space as you mentioned really started to "sink in" and you began thinking like a coder. That must have been an amazing feeling! I really appreciated your advice to find a good affinity space in order to improve your experience with something you are trying to learn on your own. You don’t have to be completely on your own…
    • Thanks for the thoughtful feedback Susan!

      I actually really struggled with my conversation with the moderator that referred me directly to the FAQs. Then I tried to downplay it as me being too sensitive. However, the more I thought about that interaction, the more I realized that I was not being too sensitive. Imagine if I was some solo student, not under the protection of a guided class and was my first interaction. If their mission is to reach all children on the planet, there will be those are less advantages and how do they make sure they persevere. Perhaps it’s survival of the fittest.

      I did not get into that aspect of my interaction too much, because I did not want to waste precious presentation time on something I had already over-processed on my own. Thank you for noticing that interaction and opening-up the conversation!

  • What an amazing affinity site and such a global mission. One that will benefit all of us in on way or another at some point. I remember taking a coding class in HS. Ug! Not my favorite (thus I am not a coder). But I can see how this playful site would really encourage people to keep trying in simple ways to learn more. So nice to see the diversity in the team. A. Sounds like there are some, maybe unspoken, rules regarding how members help each other and also the level of respect within those postings. Did you notice in any of the other discussions where it might have gotten a little more intense? B. Sounds like you had some productive discussions. You mentioned a paid account – How is that different then the free account? Do you think your participation would have been different had you remained with a free account? C. Though you did not talk about it directly looks like there is a Facebook and Twitter account along with come blogs that would be beneficial. As I was watching the game you were learning to code with – I was wondering what limitations do you think this site may have? D. As you were talking about the prompting with giving you the answer my thoughts immediately when to our readings about Vygotski and scaffolding. The team really seems to take that approach of giving small prompts with the goal of having you figure it out. Like you mentioned in your video – you felt such pride from conquering this task yourself with just a little bit of help instead of having someone do it for you. So are you going to continue with the coding exploration? Will you start helping to scaffold other new players? – Vail

    • Hey Vail,

      Thanks for commenting on my presentation – sorry it’s taken me a little while to respond.
      A. I did not notice any escalated conversations, but rather a bit of a canned response around, "Make sure to always check the FAQs."
      B. The free account option is limiting as to how far one can progress in the game. I had to start paying after I completed the first world, which in my opinion, was not enough to truly learn coding. If I had stayed the free route, I would my learning would have been stunted.
      C. I think the site may be limited by the fact that it doesn’t link to or promote social media. I did follow Code Combat on Twitter but not on Facebook. Somehow I really focused on the forum as the one and only affinity space.
      D. I do not think I’m going to continue coding, but I am really glad I gave it a shot. I would like to take this experience and move more into the realm of making games via applications that do all the coding for you.

  • Hi Susannah,

    I truly enjoyed your clear and logical presentation!

    What observations about game/ing communities and cultures are shared?
    Based on the amount a community member contributes that an avatar is created for them. This seems very game based to me as you are rewarded for your efforts, with what is basically a prize, that is prominently on display for other community members to see. A bit of healthy competition which benefits the community.

    How did your peer first begin contributing to the affinity space?
    Susannah posted, and requested help with “Harvest the Munchkins” as she was having some difficulty with her code. She did not receive much help, although what she did receive led her to make some basic corrections. Later, she was still struggling with the code and received a bit more help, but as a paying customer ended up asking customer service for support. The important point, Susannah learned and continued the learning experience!

    What does your peer perceive to be the strengths of this affinity space?
    That one can learn in this affinity space through distributed knowledge and yet the answers are not just handed to you. Instead, you must work through the learning process with guidance from others, which helps one retain the knowledge and feel more responsible for their learning.

    What 3 features from Gee and Hayes (2008) describe your peer’s experience, and why?
    The development of both specialist and broad, general knowledge are encouraged and specialized knowledge is pooled. There are many different forms and routes of participation. A view of learning that is individually proactive, but does not exclude help, it’s encouraged. Her experience with the coding issues in “Harvest the Munchkins” gave her the opportunity to test these three features of her chosen affinity space.

  • Hi Susannah. Thanks for sharing Code Combat with us.
    What are the cultural norms – the means of interaction and discussion – that are prominent in this space? And why?
    The means of interaction is much the same here as it is in other online affinity spaces (mostly fora). The cultural norms seem to be a little different though. Instead of direct coaching to the correct answer, it seems that members mostly help each other by giving hints. This allows the learner to ownership of his/her learning process. This may be due to the game primarily having a learning focus.
    How did other members of the affinity space respond?
    At the risk of being redundant, they responded with encouraging posts and hints, but not giving direct answers. An important distinction from an educational standpoint.
    How would you describe your peer’s experience learning in another setting as complementary to our other course activities?
    I think that your experience both in-game and in your affinity space were highly complementary to our course. Your in-game activities positioned you to experience being a player while studying aspects of learning as play. Likewise, your affinity space activities positioned you to experience the big “G” Game. I suspect that you had many meta-game and meta-player moments over the past few months. Would you care to share any?
    What other examples of games and learning literature were useful points of reference, and why?
    There are so many pieces of literature that are relevant to your experience. I think the most important concepts that you experienced were situated learning and social development theory. The situated learning happened while you were in-game. The social development theory comes more into play with your interactions in your affinity space.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful feedback Brian.

      What was interesting about my affinity space experience was that I stayed mostly in lurker mode until I absolutely could not pass the munchkin level without help. I was able to play the game on my own without any multi-player elements, so I trudged along learning to code on my own. This is how I liked it though. I do not think I truly maximized on my meta-game community, but I also was learning that I’m not meant to code in the process. The biggest lesson learned is that when I decide to join a game making community, I will make sure they have a nurturing affinity space. From Kirk’s presentation, Unity looked a little too intense for me, but I think Scratch could be a good affinity space fit for me.

  • Hi Susannah,

    I really enjoyed your project. I have never heard of CodeCombat and it seems like it’s a great platform for learning code. Especially if you like playing games too. It looks like you hit a few roadblocks in terms of finding solutions to why the “cleave” didn’t work but at the end you were able to successfully run the code. I am my self interested in coding and learning on my own a little JavaScript, a little C++, etc. It is extremely frustrating when the code doesn’t work, whether to a syntax error, wrongly defined function, call method. However, having a community support that offers solutions is extremely important. Just out of curiosity: How is the hardware or equipment related to the “cleave”?

    Also, ere you planning on continuing coding? What are some of the aspects of this particular affinity space that you would consider improving if you had a chance? Do you believe this is an effective way of learning JavaSCript, especially if you are a rookie? Which one prevails: playing the game or learning to code?

    Tedy

    • Thanks Tedy!

      I do not plan on learning to code more, but I like that I have a general understanding of coding structure now. There are more and more applications write the code for us now, so I would rather learn a new application like Scratch then continue to learn coding.

      Learning to play the game is what kept me going in Code Combat. Coding on it’s own is a bit too tedious for me, but I’m really grateful for the experience. I now know the power of the an affinity space paired with learning something new.

  • Susannah,

    Thanks so much for sharing this particular affinity space with our class. I can see the value add it provides many users of all levels who may begin on their coding journey. I appreciate your format during your presentation. It was informative, clearly organized, and well-executed. I like how you kept a screen shot of yourself in the corner, helped personalize the presentation, and included text right into the screen as opposed to having an additional screen for quick blurbs, that made for a better overall flow. (things I will keep in mind for future presentations!)
    I really like how the presentation seemed two-fold. On the one hand, you adequately describe Code Combat’s space including its limitations & strengths, but you also described your overall coding experience. This was beneficial to witness, because I choose a space that I was familiar with & enjoyed, so it was unique to see someone take on an active dual approach to learning both the space and the act of coding.
    What are the cultural norms – the means of interaction and discussion – that are prominent in this space? And why?
    As Brian previously mentioned, the interactions seem to be more of a catalyst to one’s own learning experience and growth, rather than just feeding you the answers, allowing for ownership of skill & exploration, which you presented as your biggest takeaway, your a-ha moment. Also, I like how you outlined the ways in which the space encourages continued participation by rewarding your with badges & avatars. It seems this space thrives on the evolution of the participation in their space & overall mission, rather than a one & done.
    How did your peer first begin contributing to the affinity space?
    It appears you did a really great job at familiarizing yourself through exploration, navigating through the different aspects & layers of the space. Then as you ran into problems while advancing your play, you still sought out ways to self-instruct (which seems like an encouraged aspect, until finally through trial & error, asked for specific help. I could see your confidence increase throughout the video in just the ways you chose to interact & respond. I like how you make particular mention of Maka’s response including his general overtones.
    How did your peer learn about games and learning?
    I like how you made connections about Code Combat to the overall theory of the courses and games & learning as a whole. I also noted how you were appreciative of the space & interactions, yet distancing yourself form the act of coding. Being objective enough to own your learning, but that you just didn’t particular enjoy it.
    What 3 features from Gee and Hayes (2008) describe your peer’s experience, and why?
    I like how you narrowed in on the three features, (you presented them clearly). I like how you tied them into a simplistic explanation but also tied them into your reflection on your learning experience. 1) Specialist vs generalists & information is pooled. 2) Many forms of participation. 3) Proactive learning is encouraged.
    You mentioned you had conversations with others about your experience and the space, I was curious if you had any conversations with people who were also familiar with Code Combat, or if you were always the one doing the educating?
    Thanks again!

  • I loved your take-away, that was definitely the number one thing I learned from this project. The old me would have searched a topic of interest, of course came across blogs, ads, and "content" and then would have continued to think I was the only person in the world that actually wanted to reflect on a topic. But now I know that with a little more effort I can find these spaces, and it refreshing to know others share your interest or passion! And of course, you learn!

  • A. Observing the affinity space:
    • What observations about game/ing communities and cultures are shared?
    What I noticed was that this game, as Susannah pointed out had a very grand mission, which was to educate the world on coding, but they charge and as she mentioned, the best items were a fee.
    • What are the cultural norms – the means of interaction and discussion – that are prominent in this space? And why? The means of interaction was
    B. Contributing to the affinity space:
    • How did your peer first begin contributing to the affinity space?
    She started by signing up for CombatCode and accomplishing the first goal of the game. She learned a lot from this experience. For instance she learned that she had to use the community in order to get help, but when this first level of networking, when this didn’t work she got to request help from an insider, although she had to pay.
    • How did other members of the affinity space respond?
    • How did the nature of your peer’s contributions change over time? And why?
    • What insight about games (and games and learning) did your peer learn through her/his contributions?
    C. Reflecting upon affinity space participation:
    • What does your peer perceive to be the strengths of this affinity space?
    She actually liked that the spirit of the affinity space was for her to figure it out herself, she called this “piecemealing,” which helped to have a more rewarding experience.
    • How would you describe your peer’s experience learning in another setting (i.e. not Canvas, not a “classroom”) as complementary to our other course activities?
    Susannah noticed the most that our class was an affinity space, in which we had our own discourse and understanding.
    D. Connecting affinity space participation to literature and theory:
    • What other aspects of learning theory helped your peer to understand this affinity space?
    I liked how Susannah ended with learning=affinity space. Find one, and learn.

  • Susannah, This presentation was a pleasure to watch! I really loved the part where you showed how you could not get your code to work and then how you contributed to the space through trying to solve the problems. How this was explained, and how others responded was a wonderful indication of how this space interacts with members, and what you were able to learn.

    A2. Observing the affinity space:
    What does it mean to be an insider? How do you know? And how would you describe this space to an outsider?

    “I love this game! How can I help?” Specialized knowledge – levels of contribution Archmages – Ambassadors. Specialist knowledge pooled this way. Being an insider would be to “know” what these levels are, how to contribute, and how to engage effectively in the Discourse of the space. Outsiders may not know what these levels are or how to engage effectively.

    B4. Contributing to the affinity space:
    What insight about games (and games and learning) did your peer learn through her/his contributions?

    Gentle nudge from ChronistGilver to read the FAQ before posting again. AND he formatted the code for Susannah. Spelling is important, following the protocols for the space is important, respecting the “details” of coding is important ;).

    Susannah realised she is part of the Discourse of Code Combat. Also mentioned not into video games or coding. Demonstration of writing live code while playing the game, in combination with discussions in the space, and illustrating contributions to the space was extremely valuable to see. This is one of the best examples of interaction and Discourse among the affinity space projects.

    C1. Reflecting upon affinity space participation:
    What does your peer perceive to be the strengths of this affinity space?
    Members of this space do not seem to share all of the information to solve Susannah’s problems immediately. They feed her pieces so that she can work through it on her own. The strength of this space is “tough” nurturing where members are helpful but mindful of ways to let another member “help themselves.”

    D1. Connecting affinity space participation to literature and theory:
    What 3 features from Gee and Hayes (2008) describe your peer’s experience, and why?

    3 Key features:
    The development of both specialist and broad general knowledge are encouraged and specialised knowledge is pooled. Shown by “levels” given to contributors.

    There are many different forms and routes to participation. Various forums shown.

    A view of learning that is individually proactive, but does not exclude help, it’s encouraged.
    This was shown by ChronistGliver reminding Susannah to dot her “i’s” and cross her “t’s.”

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