Online Gaming Communities

How do online gaming communities affect individual gamers? (Group essay)

Everyday millions of people play on online games and everyday more and more people join that world-wide number of gamers. Something all people who have joined the online gaming world have experienced in some form or other, is that of gaming communities. Whether in the form of a group of friends or “Clans”, or simply the sense of community felt between people who play the same game. These groups form their own slang, have their own private battles and share secrets and glitches. The question we hope to answer is how these groups and how the hostile nature of online gaming effects each individual gamer and find out there thoughts on gaming communities.

Online gaming communities are what we blame gaming addiction on, without a group of friends (you have met within or outside of gaming) the want to game constantly would be seriously reduced. Like in most activities, the want to play and join in is increased when friends are playing along. Our experiences of the communities apart from playing in them was when watching siblings or friends play in them. Being part of an in-game community made the games more competitive and added extra responsibilities which in the end, succeeded only in making whomever was playing angrier. This anger and frustration not only succeeds in making the person playing angry or miserable but can affect the atmosphere of the entire household. When someone is swearing furiously at a screen or stomping around after having lost a game it is hard for family or friends to ignore.

Initially we thought that a lot of gamers got into online gaming via the Xbox. With games like Halo, the Xbox (Released in the UK in 2002) brought online gaming to every console owner, expanding the use of online play, where as previously, online play was predominantly possible only on computers.

After ten years and another generation of console: The Xbox 360, Call of Duty is now one of the most popular series for online gaming. We suppose that the most popular aspect of online gaming would be the ability to play competitively and attain a feeling of achievement. It is clear that people are enjoying this online play and we presume that this is down to the engagement with real people opposed to allies/enemies programmed into the game.

We think that the results of our research will show that online gaming allows people to act differently due to the fact that they can say whatever they want to with little or no consequences. This is down to the fact that we as a team have all personally experienced online gaming in the past.

Another experience-based hypothesis is that gamers within the ages of 14 – 17 play online games more than other age groups. This is the approximate age in which we think people have more free time, but less responsibilities/freedom in comparison to other age groups, for example, adults who have jobs. Therefore online gaming grants these teens some recreation.

Half-Real: Video games between real rules and fictional worlds By Jesper Jul discusses how, though video games are an escape, and stresses they are not real, they are an increasingly important escape for people. The sense of accomplishment one gets from them is genuine, and allows people to do things they normally could not. It is when these “rules” are broken that a problem occurs.

This book reinforces the argument that video games are an escape to “another world.” With that said, it supports the argument that people will act differently in this other world, both because it has different “rules” and because it allows them to escape from their real life.

Game On: the history and culture of video games By Lucien King is a brief history of how far video games have come and the impact they have had on culture as a whole. The book is composed of eight essays focusing on different themes, each stressing a different area of impact. The main sections of interest discuss how some video game characters have become cultural icons and how movies and toys are made around video games.

Once again, this book aids in proving how seriously people can take their video games and how it is a very real part of many people’s lives.  It shows just how many people are affected by games and how, though they were once considered “Nerdy,” games are now very deeply integrated in modern popular culture.

Video Kids: making sense of Nintendo By Eugene F. Provenzo is a brief history of the evolution of video games and the impact they have had on the people that play them. It has an early section which discusses the jump games made in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s that has allowed for its enormous size today. The book also tries, rather successfully, to paint video games as mentally stimulating, worthy of being ranked alongside sports and games like chess in its ability to develop a person’s mind, albeit in a different way.

Though somewhat dated, the book is yet another useful aid in proving that video games are very much an important subculture in modern society. However, it argues that games are mentally stimulating and mentions their evolution and development at length but does not heavily discuss the people that play them. However, the concept that video games may in fact be mentally stimulating is not heavily discussed in our project, and may have aided in the questions asked.

Design to Thrive: Creating Social Networks and Online Communities that Last By Tharon Howard analyses social networks and their role in modern society with the intention of showing how they can become so integrated into society. It briefly discusses the different aspects of social networks that causes them to last or to be quickly forgotten. The explanation and examples of aspects of social networks that last and become popular is of most use in this essay. By seeing what works and co-relating them to online gaming communities, it becomes easy to see why there are long lasting and very specifically tailored communities in these games.

Part of our online research was done on gaming addiction forums. From such websites we found that it was definitely RPG (Role playing games) gaming communities which had the biggest effect on individual gamers. The need to grow your character and keep up with friends sometimes lead to addiction, loosing friends and bad health. Most of these forums were dedicated to a specific game, Grand Theft Auto and The Sims had a few but a lot of these forums were for people addicted to the PC game, World of Warcraft. World of Warcraft (WOW), is a game that has not turned off since it launched in 2004, in fact it encourages players to keep playing and playing with constant updates. WoW also encourages people to play in groups as it makes the games “quests” easier to complete. On a website called WoW detox an unnamed ex-addict said “It was my escape, that place where I could be a hero, be strong and fit. The place where I had superhuman powers. The place where I didn’t have to be the person that I really was.”

Because we had access to online gaming we were able to interview people while in game. This lead to a mix of interviews, some people were very hostile, while others were only happy to help. We were able to fully interview around twenty people. The problem we faced was that a lot of people were reluctant to answer the questions, thus at times we had to resort to bribery which left us with few answers. What we learnt is that many people said that they had been influenced by groups they played with and most of these thought that this helped them; some even saying that they were helped through problems in the real world with the help of their online friends, with one person saying that with the help of his online friends he was helped through a ‘girlfriend problem’.  Some people were very hostile but even they showed that in their gaming community, crude and harsh language was a way that people were willing to communicate in that group.

We also did interviews with gamers on what they thought of online communities and online gaming in general. The best answers came from two friends as the interview was not rushed and they spoke more personally then when we` asked strangers. Dan Pritchard, 23 said “I don’t necessarily talk to people because they just give you abuse. The majority of them are little American kids or teenagers who sound like little girls and they just give you shit, basically. They don’t listen to what you say, they have a joke or take the piss.”

We asked Simi Zeko, 19 if he thought that gaming was a social activity and he said “It’s definitely a social thing for me because a lot of games I play only with my friends like I don’t think I could play Call of duty by myself unless someone was playing it with me.”

The interview mostly only encouraged what we originally thought however there were a few things which surprised us. Both gamers said they had sometimes played games from morning till night but both said they were never addicted just bored or into a game. Dan said ““When I wasn’t working I’ll wake up in the morning, well I say morning, mid-afternoon and I’d play until I was tired to go to bed and then do it again because I had nothing else to do.”

One method of research we conducted was through Facebook. This was chosen as a method of research as such a large number of people use the social networking site (approximately 750 Million users).

The research questions given varied, although particular questions were clearly favoured over others. One question that received heavy feedback was about the allure of online gaming. When asked what the most appealing aspect of online gaming was, the majority of participants stated that it was the ability to play with friends that was the best part of online gaming. Assessing this data further by analysing each answer individually, we found that it was either because gamers were “able to play with people, not machines” or gamers valued the availability to “Share the experience with friends”.

The other research question that also had a large general consensus was why people think gamers act differently when playing online. With almost no variable answers, the result seemed to be that gamers acted differently online due to the lack of repercussions. One participant stated that this is due to the computer/console being a “safety screen” in which they can “shout abuse without the threat of violence”.

To become or be a part of a community, one must share aspects of the community or integrate their own individual opinions into the community. This research project clearly indicates a lot of strong feelings from the participants. Gamers who enjoy a game will look for a community in it. Once they find it, as long as they continue to be part of the community, they will continue to be shaped by it. They will both actively and subconsciously take on aspects of the culture whilst adding their own views to it, helping to preserves the community and make it last longer. The books and scholars we researched and analysed told us about the audience and the advance in games and the fact they succeed in creating a virtual reality for people to sink into our research thought these people gaming communities have created a new way of socialising this shows that our research is very unique and this field is yet to be fully explored.  It seemed that many people were affected by gaming communities for better or worse.

J. Arthur Garrett, Harley Gilbert-Rolfe, Jason Daskalakis, Jack Eaton

Bibliography

 Design to Thrive: Creating Social Networks and Online Communities that Last. Howard, Tharon. 2010.

Game On: the history and culture of video games. King, Lucien. 2002.

Half-Real: Video games between real rules and fictional worlds .Jull, Jesper. 2011.

Video Kids: making sense of Nintendo .Provenzo, Eugene. 1991.

www.wowdetox.com. Gaming addiction quotes.

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