Games and Learning

Affinity Space Final Project

Below you will find my screen-cast for my semester long affinity space project. It’s a little longer than anticipated, 15 minutes, but stick around to the end, it’s worth it!

 For Hypothesis Commenting


  • What is BoardGameGeek?
  • Overview of Space

My Questions

  1. How are the different spaces used (forums, game trading, game ratings, personal libraries etc.)?
  2. How customizable is the site?
  3. How does the site interact with other affinity spaces?
  4. Are there any biases on the forums regarding classic board games vs. modern board games?
  5. What are participants general attitudes towards games and other people?

Links to Course Readings

  • GamerGate
  • Design and Learning

Affinity Space Features

  • Newbies, masters and everyone else share a common space
  • The development of both specialist and broad, general knowledge are encouraged and specialist knowledge is pooled
  • There are many different forms and routes to participation

Other Comments


About Lisa


  1. You mentioned multilingual support via videos, one of the best features of the site is people create and upload translations for board games into dozens of languages. These get posted under the game page and are free for downloading!

    I couldn’t have played one of my favorite games without this feature, as it was only ever released in German.

  2. Thanks for this, Lisa. I am considering letting some of my students explore it next semester! Also interesting that you found a link with GamrrGate even though it wasn’t something you were initially looking for. Did you find a lot of incidental/tangential learning from hanging out there?

    1. Thanks Maha! Please encourage your students to watch my video and go and explore BGG, it’s a great site and resource (once you get past all the clutter).

      I did go down a few rabbit holes when reading through some of the threads. I learned that there really isn’t any “dumb” questions when posting. I asked a seemingly simple question, and got some great helpful responses (as well as some that were not so helpful, just as you would expect anywhere else on the internet).

      I’m looking forward to having some time this week to look at your students’ projects. They sound really interesting!

  3. Thank you for giving such a great overview of you affinity space experience on Boardgame Geek. Here are the main things that I really love about your presentation:

    You took into consideration here on your blog with a specific spot for commenting. What an excellent idea, Lisa! In my presentation, I mentioned that our Games and Learning group has an affinity space feel in our interactions on Twitter and

    Talking about the article, Tabletop Gaming has a White Male Terrorism Problem connected back to the very real issues of misogyny, entitlement, and dare I say obliteration. This was a great connection back to our Cycle 4, Contemporary Issues according to Anita Sarkeesian and Arthur Chu’s experiences. Seeing this issue in your affinity space reminded me that unacceptable behavior towards women is prevalent in gaming. Seems like we are a long way from equality in this realm.

    I appreciate that you pointed out learning to be a game designer helps one become a better game player. This message and discourse has been seeping into my consciousness since the beginning of this class. So much so that I really want to create a game now. It may be the cheesiest and shortest game even, but I feel primed to make something. I would venture to say this class has made me a better player as well, but more so as a better game selector. I now see that a well-chosen game not only offer entertainment, it can enrich a person’s life.

  4. Hey Lisa,

    I’ll begin by noting that I appreciated how you structured your project’s presentation – both in the set of five questions that guided your analysis of BoardGameGeek and in the use of a text-based outline accompanying your video. Whether or not people chose to use the outline as a means of adding Hypothesis annotations (and I may later!), it was useful for me when following along while watching your presentation.

    Something else I really like about your presentation – the five questions reflect your interest in – and your interaction with – this affinity space. The questions cover a range of inquiry topics – design, interaction with other game spaces, bias, and relationships. This effectively demonstrates your broad interests, while simultaneously providing key entry points for our subsequent engagement.

    As concerns becoming an “insider” of BoardGameGeek, two points stood out to me. First, you noted, “Because of my participation in the site people gave me some geek gold” (I hope I quoted you accurately). In turn, you used this geek gold to customize your profile and become even more of an established member. What aspects of participation initially caused others to engage with you? Simply your presence… or your ratings of games… or your posts to forums… or something else? Second, you had an interesting comment about the personal identity aspect of membership. As you said, “It’s very welcoming but a little unsettling at first until you get used to it.” Do you think that this real name dynamic prevents people either from joining or participating? As you noted, some people do create anonymous handles, but this seems uncommon.

    Finally, and as has been noted in other comments, the connection to GamerGate is important and timely. I’m glad you began to unpack the nuance of this reality check. All board game play is not a carefree activity without consequence. While the dynamics of sexism and misogyny are not new to gaming, it appears that this is a relatively recent conversation with BoardGameGeek. How would you characterize the discussion? Were people dismissive, or open to other people’s perspectives, or…?

    Oh yes – the Scott Nicholson connection, that’s great!

  5. Lisa, I love your video wrapping up your affinity space project. I’m really interested in “Board Game Geek” as well. Although initially I was turned off due to outdated interface! 😉 But you mentioned that will be updated soon. I hope you enjoyed your time analyzing this space. And now for the specific feedback:

    Lisa- Board Game Geek

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

    The “insider”
    Dislike for classic big name brand games like Monopoly and Scrabble. “Classic” games have a poor rating, although perhaps not too much negative postings or communication about these games except the rating. Rating of games in your library – rating goes into overall ranking. Knowing game genres and how they should be rated in that category plays a part. Being able to communicate game mechanics, etc. is probably a common discussion.

    The “outsider”
    Does not know game genres. Does not know how rankings work. Does not know what the community considers “good” games. Has limited knowledge of games other than classic games. Does not buy, trade, or play games often.

    B1. How did your peer first begin contributing to the affinity space?

    Game ratings and game library is created. The avatar was developed. Commitment to the idea of “Lisa,” her real name, being displayed with avatar.
    “Games in the Classroom” postings?

    “Women and Gaming” postings? Mentioned with the #Gamergate content but did not feature exactly how Lisa contributed to the discussion. Did she? (could not read text due to resolution).

    “Power Grid” games discussion board?

    C4. How was learning social, collaborative, and/or contested?

    Possible the most basic way to contribute to social learning with “Board Game Geek” is to add games to your games library and rate them. These ratings are pooled and then interpreted into rankings which are displayed when viewing the page associated with a given game.

    Postings about game play can be shared within the “Board Game Geek” interface which members can link up their Twitter accounts or Reddit.

    Postings are typically kind according to Lisa. Lisa also suggests that users may be more kind because their “real name” is displayed above their avatar and username. It is a little unsettleing to Lisa when people in the space refer to her with her “real name” rather than her username “Peachey.” This make it very personal to her, which perhaps, is a little unwelcoming in an open forum?

    There are so many different forums, which also link to articles and websites outside of the space. Conversations about these networks outside of the space happen in forums on “Board Game Geek.” The conversation returns to the source.

    D4. What other examples of games and learning literature were useful points of reference, and why?

    #Gamergate + Anita Sarkeesian
    Board Game Geek newsletter including a link to a discussion involving an article “Tabletop Gaming has a White Male Terrorism Problem.” (Author??? I can’t read any text because the video resolution is too poor). Lisa says the article mentions anecdotes about going into board game stores or game conventions and being harassed. The conversation continued on “Board Game Geek” forums and some “victim shaming.” Both men and women contributed to forum as can be seen by the “real” names associated with avatars.

    Gee & Hayes
    “Experts and newbies all share the same space.”
    Specialist knowledge pooled – Scott Nicholson video with the designer of powergrid.
    Passive participation simply by using your own games library and rating the games that will contribute to rankings.

  6. Hi Lisa,
    Thank you for presenting about Board Game Geek! I referenced the site frequently in blog posts this semester to link to games that I played. I’m glad they will be updating their site design. You’re right about it being worth it at the end in order to see the new interface, it’s a lot better! Your project offers a thorough and pleasing walk-through for newcomers. Very nice job.

    1. What observations about game/ing communities and cultures are shared?
    I really appreciated your observation of men “sticking up for women” in the forum about gamergate. That is heartening! If only more of us had the courage to do so IRL.

    2. What insight about games (and games and learning) did your peer learn through her/his contributions?
    One thing you investigated related to games and learning was a question about how designers may become better players by virtue of being game designers. Designing any experience necessarily entails trial and error, and who better positioned to understand the interplay between rules and possibilities than designers?

    3. What does your peer perceive to be the strengths of this affinity space?
    The biggest strength of this community is its openness. The sheer size of its loosely affiliated membership is such that there is not only something to interest everyone, but there is always help just around the corner.

    4. What 3 features from Gee and Hayes (2008) describe your peer’s experience, and why?
    You outlined how your affinity space displayed the following features:
    Newbies and masters share the space – I am wondering if you found that newbies and experts tend to self-disclose as such? Or can anyone tell just by looking at their profile avatars, stickers, etc?
    Specialist knowledge is pooled – I loved the “run-through” specialist role! I think that is so awesome, and I could totally see myself watching something like this in order to familiarize myself with a game or rules. I’m a big fan of video tutorials!
    There are various routes to participation – I thought it was very cool that there are so many ways to participate, and even something small like rating a game has an effect on the site and the community.

  7. Hi Lisa,
    Nicely done! Until I began reading your blog during this course I had no ideas that such a space existed, let a alone a space with so many members from so many countries.

    What observations about game/ing communities and cultures are shared?
    She was curious to learn if the BoardGameGeek affinity space had any Gamergate type sexism and encountered another member’s posts where they describe this abhorrent behavior. Lisa was pleased that some in the community were aware of this type of negative behavior and discussing it in the open.

    How did other members of the affinity space respond?
    They acknowledged the value of her participation by rewarding her with “geek gold” that she was able to use to personalize her avatar. Very game like!

    What does your peer perceive to be the strengths of this affinity space?
    The fact that she can access other member’s ratings of board games, and that she can offer her opinions and review games she has played. Members are also able to buy, sell, and trade their games, which she found useful. Lisa also described how on certain threads game rules were discussed, and it turned out that she and her husband, as well as many others, had difficulty interpreting certain rules. This discussion thread was apparently helpful in clarifying the rules.

    What 3 features from Gee and Hayes (2008) describe your peer’s experience, and why?
    Lisa was so generous as to clearly list these features, as well as discuss them in depth in the presentation. So here are the affinity space features found in the BoardGameGeek affinity space, newbies, masters and everyone else share a common space, the development of both specialist and broad, general knowledge are encouraged and specialist knowledge is pooled, and there are many different forms and routes of participation.

  8. I went to the website and the first thing I see is the Rattlebones prototyping Dice (I even made a comment). I have talked about needing dice that you can change the values for years. That is very cool. Though I have to admit all of the text on the first page is a little overwhelming to choose from. A. You talked about your husband using the site often (insider) did you look to him for advice since you were the (outsider). What comments did he give you or that you have heard that made navigating the system easier? B. That was sad to hear that board games are having some of the cross over from ‘gamer gate’. Though it sounds like the community does not support that idea. Is there a policing of the site where they remove comments that are extreme? C. That is cool that you received some gold for your participating. So the idea is that participants can reward each other for interactions. That would encourage more interactions. Besides the lack of connections to other Affinity spaces what other limitations did you find? D. You talked about the sharing/pooling of specialized knowledge. But as you commented regarding anyone could up upload a video to help players understand a game – do you think that is a strength or weakness?

  9. **Observe: What observations about game/ing communities and cultures are shared?**
    One observation that you shared and seemed surprised by was related to classic versus modern board games within the community discussion. I found it interesting that you anticipated strong feeling about classic games (that people would have negative things to say), but didn’t really see anyone explicitly voicing a strong dislike – although there was some implied dislike based on the overall scores and rankings some of these games ended up with. It seems like your anticipation of this was based on some other experience. Did you generally find that people in the space were more diplomatic in their opinions than in other board game communities or groups with which you’re familiar?
    **Contribute: How did the nature of your peer’s contributions change over time? And why?**
    It sounds like you added types of contributions as you found more areas to try out in the space. As one of your Followers on Twitter, I enjoyed your discovery of the Tweet feature in the “game play” area of the space – it was fun and interesting to see updates of what you’ve been playing.
    You entered the affinity space as someone who is clearly passionate about board games, which, I imagine, made contributing relatively straightforward. Do you think someone who is newer to the board game world or maybe not as strong in their interest would encounter any friction points in becoming a contributor?
    **Reflect: How was learning social, collaborative, and/or contested?**
    BGG has many different spaces for sharing experiences, recommendations, feedback and tutorials. It seems like there is a bit more focus on “post and go,” but there are spaces for on-going discussions. It sounds like you encountered at least one more challenging conversation in regards to the gamergate-like article. You noted several different kinds of participants in that discussion, but it didn’t sound like it got majorly out of hand. Overall, it seems like there is a lot of information being pulled together by a wide variety of people in a number of different ways. Certainly very collaborative in that regard!
    **Connect: What 3 features from Gee and Hayes (2008) describe your peer’s experience, and why?**
    From my perspective, the “many different routes to participation” is particularly standout in your space because I think it’s organized in such a way that it allows a lot of customization in terms of how it is used. Unlike many other sites that require a lot of poking around to find the “right” information or the “right” part of the site, I gather from your tour of the space, that there are plenty of straightforward paths available.
    For example, each game has its own page, thus giving people an easy opportunity to participate/share/learn/teach on fairly specific topics (aka, the specific game). At the same time, there are other areas that introduce broader topics and allow for different kinds of interactions. It seems very easy to “create your own adventure” in this site by either being very focused or by exploring and discovering a wider range of information.

  10. • What are the cultural norms – the means of interaction and discussion – that are prominent in this space? And why?
    As you point out, there are many different ways to interact on Boardgame Geek. The primary social interactions happen through the fora, but there are other social media platforms involved here too (YouTube, twitter, reddit). Boardgame Geek’s site has positioned itself to best take advantage of the affordances that these other social media platforms can offer.
    • How did your peer first begin contributing to the affinity space? How did other members of the affinity space respond?
    In your video you showed us that you posted in a few fora (Games in the Classroom, Women and Gaming, and Powergrid). Before that, you mentioned that someone gave you Geek Gold, presumably from some kind of contribution that you made. Please tell us more about this. Was the gold for contributing to a dialogue? How can the gold be spent? How do you get Geek Gold for giving to others? I’m very curious about the social dynamics that this gamification creates.
    • What does your peer perceive to be the strengths of this affinity space? What does your peer perceive to be the limitations of this space?
    It is very clear that the many ways that a member can participate is a strength of this affinity space. As you point out and I can attest from personal use of the site, this is also one of its weaknesses. To a new member or guest, the plethora of options presented on the classic front page are overwhelming, and general navigation was less than intuitive. Lucky for us, the new UI should improve this.
    • What other examples of games and learning literature were useful points of reference, and why?
    Your connections to the Gamergate readings were very strong. Indeed, the board game enthusiast crowd is largely dominated by the white, young to middle-aged, male demographic; just the same as the video game community used to be. What are the roots of this? The history of more complex board games has strong ties to the classic strategy war games of the mid 20th C. (which has been historically seen as a male endeavor in our patriarchal society). Do you think this has taken a strong hand in shaping the modern state of the board game community? How can we change this imbalance? Do we need to change how we design games or is modern design different enough from the past that it does not matter? Do we need to better promote females as gamers to shift the cultural perspective of what a member of this community is and is not? Do all of these implications also apply to other cultural discriminators (race, age, sexual identity, etc.)?

  11. What observations about game/ing communities and cultures are shared?
    I appreciated the objectivity throughout the presentation. Remaining almost constant in her account of the interface, interactions and content. From her own biases entering the space, to her seemingly flawless navigation and presentation of the site’s structure. I found it very helpful that she set up the presentation at the beginning. I appreciated the 20K foot overview, then how you delved deeper into the space, presenting nuances around specifics such as gender.
    How did other members of the affinity space respond?
    Other members in the BoardGeek space rewarded Lisa with “gold” just for participating. The space seems welcoming and fosters participation across the board, whether you are a newbie or a veteran.
    What does your peer perceive to be the limitations of this space?
    The limitation of this space seems to be the outdated infrastructure. And the sheer volume may be difficult to navigate, if you want particular game information. I could see where you could go down rabbit holes very easily.
    Gee & Hayes-
    Very clear and precise demonstration of the 3 components of Gee & Hayes theory.
    1) Participate can come in many forms.
    2) Newbies & masters can coexist in the same space, authentically participating.
    3) Specialists & generalists are defined and encouraged.
    A great presentation and very well organized. Great navigation and zooming in features. I didn’t feel like it was 15 minutes in length, because it held my attention throughout.

  12. Hi Lisa,

    Very interesting project and affinity space. It looks like such a robust platform with millions of users and things to do. I liked your analytical and structured observations of the space, it’s functions, benefits and drawbacks. Did you get involved in any shared game during your membership? What is the biggest takeaway from this project for you personally, how did it contribute to your understanding of game and learning in the context of Gee’s affinity spaces? Would you elaborate a little more on “how being a game designer makes you a better game player” statements. I find it interesting, I think it would be the other way around.

  13. LISA– A. Observing the affinity space:
    • What observations about game/ing communities and cultures are shared?
    I was surprised to see how much links and information was on the homepage. In now a growing mimialiist design, this forum seemed quite the opposite, as Lisa stated, the opening screen was the default screen.
    • What does it mean to be an insider? How do you know? And how would you describe this space to an outsider?
    I noticed that you needed to an insider to really get the most out of the experience. This was evident when, after mentioning her class project and motivation for participation, the first thing members did was give her “coins” in order to increase her standing in the community.

    B. Contributing to the affinity space:
    • How did the nature of your peer’s contributions change over time? And why?
    She was more aware of the tone and her participation expectations.

    C. Reflecting upon affinity space participation:
    • How was learning social, collaborative, and/or contested?
    Learning was collaborative, and more kinder in their response. Lisa believes this was because the user has their real name showing, not just their username. Therefore users were more supportive and nurturing, perhaps because of this realism effect of using an actual name.
    D. Connecting affinity space participation to literature and theory:
    • What other aspects of learning theory helped your peer to understand this affinity space?
    She the first to mention the misogynist in gaming. She stated she came across a thread that mentioned one woman’s experience that stated she was being sexual targeted while playing in a board game group. She noted that in response to this post she did see comments that blamed the victim, but she also saw comments that supported the woman and was against such type of behavior.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>