Welcome to Sackboy Planet
This case report describes one of a number of case studies from the Leveling Up project of the Connected Learning Research Network that explore the learning ecology of interest-centered youth contexts. In particular, this study and another on the online game StarCraft II are inspired by the theory of the metagame, a framework developed out of the study of role-playing and collectible card games (Salen and Zimmerman 2004). Designers of fantasy role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering first modeled an approach to game design that took into account a game’s relationship to outside elements — player attitudes, play styles, social reputations, social contexts, and so forth. Kids poring over Pokémon strategy guides or discussing the configuration of their decks are activities considered part of the metagame, a term that refers to the way a game engages with elements outside its formal space of play. StarCraft II players preparing strategies for an upcoming e-sport match are engaged in StarCraft’s metagame, as are the four DS-equipped 10-year-olds who trash-talk each other during a networked round of Mario Kart. In the case of the study at hand, players creating and sharing custom costumes for Sackboy between bouts of play represent a core piece of LBP2’s metagame.
Through analysis of the various features of the LBP2 community and its activities, including its social, technical, and cultural facets, we show how Sackboy Planet engages with the tenets of connected learning and complicates some of its assertions. In particular, we identify how player demographic differences and the prevalence of attention scarcity both enable and constrain learning opportunities.