Purpose – Online community sites devoted to RPG Maker, an inexpensive software for creating role-playing video games, have emerged as spaces where young people are developing valuable competencies with digital media. This study seeks to examine the largest of these communities. Design/methodology/approach – The study uses a mix of qualitative methods including a survey, interviews and analysis of the structure of the site. The study uses discourse analysis and is grounded in work on situated learning. Findings – The study suggests that the site and community are scaffolding young people into deeper understanding of digital production and the development of practical skills, like programming, as individuals take on identities associated with different roles in game design. Research limitations/implications – This study reinforces the value of research focused on young people’s social media creation and also suggests that there is still much to be learned about technologically simple but socially rich platforms like web forums. As qualitative research it does not generate statistical generalizations. Practical implications – This research suggests three implications for the design of online learning environments focused on media production. Designers should: start with learners’ interests and basic skills will evolve; support a diverse range of production roles and identities; and offer simple technical systems that can support sophisticated digital learning communities. Originality/value – While there is much work on learning in online communities, little of that work has focused on the importance of the role-taking of young people in those communities and on implications of these spaces for designing online learning environments.
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