Two University of Wisconsin-Madison assistant professors, Erica and Rich Halverson, are studying fantasy sports leagues to understand how expert and novice players approach the game, and what it can teach us about how we learn. Fantasy baseball is the model for a game that Erica calls "competitive fandom," a growing area of interactive participation for people who are passionate about a given subject.
The fantasy game, in which players have access to huge amounts of data and the ability to manipulate those numbers with relative ease, shows some parallels with other fields, such as the stock market. The project idea sprung from an obsession for baseball and time they spent analyzing statistics for fantasy teams. The researchers are interested in what people learn from gaming and what gaming has to offer education.
The study will look at how three different fantasy baseball leagues organize themselves, their rules for play, how they compete, and how players feel about their play. Participants will complete surveys that seek to get at where they rank on fandom and competitiveness. The goal is to include both novices and experts, find out their strategies for play, and what they get out of the game. The research will feed into the larger work of the Games, Learning, and Society research group to help investigate how kids can learn through participation in new media environments, like the Internet and computer games.