Experts at Play

Mira Dontcheva   Barry Brown, Department of Communications, University of California San Diego


Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University March 13, 2009

As computer games have increased in popularity, gameplay has gained renewed attention across many research fields. Yet one of the most popular game mechanics - perhaps the most popular - has received little attention.  Developing from existing accounts of expert skill, this talk examines running and shooting in Counter-Strike, one of the most popular of collaborative online games. While Counter-Strike at first appearance may seem an unsophisticated pursuit, players display complex skills developed through many hours of concerted play. Participating in and analysing videos of gameplay, we examine Counter-Strike as an example of expert technology use. Players move beyond physical dexterity to chain their movements with the online environment. They develop a sense of the terrain of play as contingent to the state of play, rather than as static spatial knowledge. The game's design also makes available to players an analysis of their successes and failures as an integral part of play. From these observations I draw concepts for better conceiving of expert skill, alongside some general suggestions for supporting expert use.


Barry Brown is an associate professor of communications at UCSD San Diego. His recent work has focused on the sociology and design of leisure technologies - computer systems for leisure and pleasure. Recent publications include studies of activities as diverse as games, tourism, museum visiting, the use of maps, television watching and sport spectating. Before coming to California he was a research fellow on the Equator project at the University of Glasgow and a research scientist at Hewlett-Packard's research labs in Bristol.

View this talk on line at CS547 on Stanford OnLine or using this video link.

Titles and abstracts for previous years are available by year and by speaker.