A Two-Pronged Approach to Gamer Society

When we first discussed the Big Project for the course, my mind went in a couple directions.  I’ll be honest, most of the writing I’ve done for previous classes has focused on “sad” things.  And to me, that’s fine – I’ve actually (I think anyways) become quite good at pathos.  So my first instinct was to focus on death in some form or another – (I have my own personal reasons for this, but that would be a post in and of itself).

But when RayRay started talking about personal interests, and working around something we maybe haven’t been able to focus on as much as we’d have liked during undergrad, I started to shift focus a bit.  I’ll get it out right now: I’m a big, nerdy World of Warcraft gamer.  It’s not something the always comes up in conversation, but it’s a big part of my life.  To an “outsider” (if you want to call it that), saying a game is a big part of my life might sound incredibly weird.  And, admittedly, that’s an understandable reaction.  But that’s also part of where my mind began to head during our discussion of this project.  I wanted a way to somehow get across just how influential something as seemingly silly as an online game has been on my life.

There’s quite a bit more to it than I can easily get into here, but to give you an idea, I’ve been playing this game with the same group of people for years now.  People from all over the country, sometimes world, have been part of my online social experience.  I’ve been able to talk with people from Singapore, Bermuda, Australia, England, that weird country above us… the list goes on.  These people aren’t just “gamer friends,” they’re people I’ve been able to talk with over familial, social, school, and really any time of personal problem in my life.  They’re people I spend six or more hours a week with playing, shooting the shit, and getting drunk with.  I have friends in New York, Chicago, Florida, California, and elsewhere all willing to let me stay at their place if I ever decide to visit the area.

What I’m getting at is this: these are real people and real social experiences.  They happen from the comfort of my computer monitor, but – despite the insistence to the contrary by my parents during my teenage years – this is a real, personal group of friends and this experience, to me, holds just as much weight as any other social experience.

…So all that is one aspect of what I’m considering trying to tackle in this project.  I know for a fact it’s not singular to me – people have met through World of Warcraft and happily married! – but it will also be difficult to keep it unbiased.

Alllllllll that being said, there was a second approach I wanted to take, and since I’ve talked a lot already, I’ll try to keep it short.  This second approach came to my mind when Pikachu mentioned practicality.

It’s probably not known to many, but among the gaming community – (not necessarily World of Warcraft, but other games like League of Legends, DOTA 2, and Starcraft 2) – are all becoming part of a growing movement toward “eSports.”  eSports are exactly what you think they are.  Matches, events, etc. all rivaling athletic sports in fervor, dedication, and audience appeal, but instead played out online.  They’ve grown tremendously over the years and to give you an idea of the magnitude, I want to direct you to two figures:

1.) This picture of the League of Legends world championship over the past 4 years : http://i.imgur.com/KxjQWWi.jpg

and 2.) The fact that the most recent tournament drew 27 million viewers and surpassed Game 7 of the World Series in viewership.

Couple this growth with the fact that colleges are now offering scholarships to eSports teams AND the fact that the first ever Sports Visa was issued to a South Korean Starcraft 2 player in order that he might participate in a tournament in the States and you’ve got real monetary value behind these games.

Okay, so that’s where I’m at.  I talked a lot more than I thought, but I can’t decide if I want to do one or both of these as my primary focus.  I’m fascinated with the growth of eSports, but it also lacks the humanistic side to a story I’m more familiar with.  Hope you all learned at least a few fun facts from this post!

-Mitch

9 thoughts to “A Two-Pronged Approach to Gamer Society”

  1. Mitch,
    I’m really digging this idea right now. It would certainly be really cool to use your own perspective for this project as well. Your own experiences with gaming and the influence it has had on your life, along with a sort of analysis as to how it works and why the people who are involved in it do what they do. A social commentary that educates? Maybe a behind the scenes type thing? Along those same lines, why are you maybe not participating at the level that many others are? Is there something stopping you? Why is or isn’t it a truly viable career path?
    I think the most important thing to remember about tackling a subject that you are so connected with is to share the pros and cons. Rather than defend it, give an accurate representation and let the audience figure out for themselves the costs and benefits of such an experience. Either way, seems like a cool and unique topic! Keep on keeping on.

    -Sam

  2. I think your personal experiences and the experiences of your friends online could give a nice look to what it is like in this world and show people the normalcy and importance that is in these friendships. When talking about esports and the monetary value, I would be careful of allowing the project to become a piece that is mostly defensive of gaming. Maybe comparing this digital world to a real world could be something interesting? Showing how it changes your perspective of the real world and vs versa.

  3. Hi Mitch,

    I love this, I think it’s personal, unique, and incredibly interesting. I’m more drawn to the personal side that you first explain, but I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. Like Sam was saying, how do you fit into these mega tournaments?

    What I’m really interested about in the story though is the psychology behind it – and the fact that this is a true social experience is debated (at least between you and your parents). If you wanted to support your personal ethnography with psychological data (is there data on this kind of social psych?) I’d be incredible interested in knowing that. If you do more of a personal essay I’d love to hear more about each of the specific interactions – what were they able to help you out with and vise versa – were they able to help you better than the people in your immediate surroundings? If so, why? How do your in person interactions compare to your online interactions? Have you ever met one of your online friends face to face? If so how was that experience? If not, why not?

    There is so much here and I think you’re the perfect person to write this because you know what it’s like first hand. Like Ray said embrace the competing forces in this the objectivity and the deeply personal opinions. I cannot wait to see where this goes!

  4. Hi Mitch,

    I absolutely love this idea. I was really interested when you first described this idea in class, and it raises some really interesting questions about online communities in general. I think you make a critical distinction when you say that these people are not just “gamer friends”– these friendships are as real as any. I think this introduces a unique conversation about the authenticity of friendships, especially in online communities. I am not personally involved in any, but I am interested to know how these relationships take form and the current stereotypes regarding them. For example, to the public are these relationships seen as any less “real” then those we have in real life? Is it possible that a common interest in online communities allow for a deeper connection? Good luck Mitch!

    -Emily

  5. Hi Mitch,
    Also really interested in this! As someone who never played video games, I was always confused about this different world I felt like I was so separate from. As many have said, this personal side of gaming is something that will make your project really interesting. Your topic brings up an issue of internet relationships that I think a lot of people have been trying to explore. You could expand your understanding of this community and look at the idea of relationships formed on the internet. While still focusing on the lens of esports, you could develop some conjectures about the changing dynamic of our generation and how our parents understanding of both friendships and intimate relationships is no longer applicable. Excited to see where you go with this!

    -Caroline

  6. Mitch,
    This idea seems great and I’m glad you’re getting to explore something you’re passionate about for the project. I think both your own personal experience angle and the eSports angle would make for great projects. I know you said that the eSports angle would lack a humanistic element, but I think there would be a way for you to combine your personal experiences into a piece about the growth in eSports. For a lot of your life, your parents (and all “outsiders” to the gaming world) did not see your gaming experience as a legitimate social experience. How is that dynamic changing now that eSports are becoming much more legitimized by society? I think that is one of many guiding questions for your project that would make combining your two ideas a lot easier. I’m excited to see what you do with it.

  7. Hey Mitch!

    Thanks for sharing. As someone who does not play video games or know anything about the gaming world, I find your first idea incredibly compelling! It’s amazing to me that a whole world exists online and you’ve been able to form such a close-knit community. I think it would be cool if you found other people like this, interviewed them, and then tried to create a web to connect everyone. Kind of like six degrees of separation. You could look for really random people, tell their stories, and try to see how big, yet intimate, the community really is.

    Good luck!

  8. Hey Mitch,

    After reading how dearly you described your relationships with people you have met through online settings, I’m pretty biased towards centering your project around this. But, like others have said, you could definitely tie in the rise of E-Sports as evidence that your story is one (positive) byproduct of a growing online community of gamers. It also shows a humanistic aspect to what can seem like just another materialistic venture by corporations. You could talk about your view on this trend too, and where you think it is headed. Both really interesting ideas!

  9. Hey Mitch,

    Like everyone else, I really like your ideas here. And as someone who grew up with a gamer brother (maybe you’ve crossed virtual paths with him somewhere?), I have a solid appreciation for what video games can provide for an otherwise introverted, socially awkward kid. This is not to say that I assume you were an introverted, socially awkward kid, – but my brother was/is, and I think that video games allowed him to come out of his shell a little more, and that’s translated into him feeling more at ease in his face-to-face social life as well. I wonder if you could look at stories like your own, my brother’s, and other gamers’ in tandem with this new trend with eSports to discuss the “value” of video games as it were. We see countless stories about how video games poison the minds of our youths, but what positive effects do they have on kids lives? Is there a disconnect between what’s “actually” valuable to kids like my brother and what universities or larger corporations deem valuable in a monetary sense? Where do we draw the line between damaging and helpful when it comes to video games? Could you maybe even think of what sorts of games help foster these “real” (which is an interesting, very loaded term in this context) human connections and which ones don’t? If you were to design a game with that intention in mind, what would it look like?

    I hope these questions help you out!

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