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Leet Noobs

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Leet Noobs documents, for over 10 months, a group of players in the online game World of Warcraft engaged in a 40-person joint activity known as raiding. Initially, the group was informal, a "family" that wanted to "hang out and have fun." Before joining, each player had been recognized as expert in the game; within the group they had to adapt their expertise for the new joint task and align themselves to new group goals. Through their shared activity, members successfully established communication and material practices that changed as they had to renegotiate roles and responsibilities with new situations and as the larger gaming community evolved. Players learned to reconfigure their play spaces, enrolling third-party game mods and other resources into their activity. Once-expert players became novices or "noobs" to relearn expert or "leet" gameplay. They became "leet noobs" who needed to reconfigure their expertise for new norms of material practice. Ultimately, these norms also changed what it meant to play World of Warcraft; some group members no longer wanted to just hang out and have fun, and eventually the group died in an online fiery meltdown.
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About the Author

Mark Chen received a PhD in educational technology and learning sciences from the University of Washington. He is currently working with the LIFE Center and the Center for Game Science. He has published in Games and Culture, E-Learning, and Transformative Works and Cultures.


"'Leet Noobs' addresses key issues in new literacy studies from a unique position. As both a gamer and a sophisticated thinker about technology, games, and learning, Mark Chen is able to trace the ongoing successes and failures of a high-end raiding guild in 'World of Warcraft' from multiple perspectives, and draws the reader in to the fraught and uncertain process of raiding. Chen shows us the critical importance of the possibility of failure in players' ongoing process of gaining social and cultural capital, along with how access to that expertise is always embedded in the social and the technological. 'Leet Noobs' will be an important resource for thinking about learning and games for years to come." (Thomas M. Malaby, Associate Professor and Chair of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) "Through fantastic attention to detail, Mark Chen shows the complexity of gaming practice and provides critical insight into the formation of expertise. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the rich forms of action, and interaction, in multiplayer spaces." (T. L. Taylor, Associate Professor in the Center for Computer Games Research, IT University of Copenhagen)

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