George R.R. Martin has told fan fiction writers to get their own stories.
Some authors fail to understand the concept of literary heritage. George R. R. Martin complained recently about fans writing their own works based upon his fiction:
“It’s a lazy way to go when you’re just taking my characters,” he said.
“I recognise that it’s an act of love … I would rather they make up their own characters and their own stories and not just borrow my world.”
Martin said he didn’t read fan fiction but heard bad reports of its overall quality.
“These characters are real to me, I’ve been living with them since 1991,” he said.
“I know what they would do and what they can’t do, and some fan writers take over them and make them do things to my mind that are wildly out of character.”
So, because he’s heard “bad reports” of its quality, he damns all fanfic based upon his ‘verse as being of poor quality without further question. Although he may have commented himself on where he got his own ideas—most likely not out of a complete vacuum—the reporter certainly didn’t seem to question the obvious classic origins of Martin’s stories.
Martin goes on:
He urged aspiring writers take on the challenge of creating their own world.
“Tackle the big thing and you’ll be a better writer at the end of it,” he said.
This ignores how fanfic writers can use the focused aspects of writing in an established ‘verse to hone specific skills, not to mention that more useful assistance and feedback can be available from the social network built around fanfic publishing than from writing in solitude and accumulating a pile of rejection notices.
Authors do things all the time that I find distasteful and of low quality, irrespective of the place on the commercial/fan publishing continuum their works lie. They also rarely write without literary influence, whether obviously, as with a pastiche, or less clearly, in terms of atmosphere and historical context. I wonder if Martin holds similar disregard for the works of notorious literary magpie William Shakespeare.
Colorblind Ideology is a Form of Racism
Challenging assumptions about culture, race, and mental health.
by Monnica Williams, Ph.D.
What is racial colorblindness?
Racial issues are often uncomfortable to discuss and rife with stress and controversy. Many ideas have been advanced to address this sore spot in the American psyche. Currently, the most pervasive approach is known as colorblindness. Colorblindness is the racial ideology that posits the best way to end discrimination is by treating individuals as equally as possible, without regard to race, culture, or ethnicity.
At its face value, colorblindness seems like a good thing — really taking MLK seriously on his call to judge people on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. It focuses on commonalities between people, such as their shared humanity.
However, colorblindness alone is not sufficient to heal racial wounds on a national or personal level. It is only a half-measure that in the end operates as a form of racism.
Problems with the colorblind approach
Racism? Strong words, yes, but let’s look the issue straight in its partially unseeing eye. In a colorblind society, White people, who are unlikely to experience disadvantages due to race, can effectively ignore racism in American life, justify the current social order, and feel more comfortable with their relatively privileged standing in society (Fryberg, 2010). Most minorities, however, who regularly encounter difficulties due to race, experience colorblind ideologies quite differently. Colorblindness creates a society that denies their negative racial experiences, rejects their cultural heritage, and invalidates their unique perspectives.
Let’s break it down into simple terms: Color-Blind = “People of color — we don’t see you (at least not that bad ‘colored’ part).” As a person of color, I like who I am, and I don’t want any aspect of that to be unseen or invisible. The need for colorblindness implies there is something shameful about the way God made me and the culture I was born into that we shouldn’t talk about. Thus, colorblindness has helped make race into a taboo topic that polite people cannot openly discuss. And if you can’t talk about it, you can’t understand it, much less fix the racial problems that plague our society.
Colorblindness is not the answer
Many Americans view colorblindness as helpful to people of color by asserting that race does not matter (Tarca, 2005). But in America, most underrepresented minorities will explain that race does matter, as it affects opportunities, perceptions, income, and so much more. When race-related problems arise, colorblindness tends to individualize conflicts and shortcomings, rather than examining the larger picture with cultural differences, stereotypes, and values placed into context. Instead of resulting from an enlightened (albeit well-meaning) position, colorblindness comes from a lack of awareness of racial privilege conferred by Whiteness (Tarca, 2005). White people can guiltlessly subscribe to colorblindness because they are usually unaware of how race affects people of color and American society as a whole.
Colorblindness in a psychotherapeutic relationship
How might colorblindness cause harm? Here’s an example close to home for those of you who are psychologically-minded. In the not-so-distant past, in psychotherapy a client’s racial and ethnic remarks were viewed as a defensive shift away from important issues, and the therapist tended to interpret this as resistance (Comas-Diaz & Jacobsen, 1991). However, such an approach hinders the exploration of conflicts related to race, ethnicity, and culture. The therapist doesn’t see the whole picture, and the client is left frustrated.
A colorblind approach effectively does the same thing. Blind means not being able to see things. I don’t want to be blind. I want to see things clearly, even if they make me uncomfortable. As a therapist I need to be able to hear and “see” everything my client is communicating on many different levels. I can’t afford to be blind to anything. Would you want to see a surgeon who operated blindfolded? Of course not. Likewise, a therapist should not be blinded either, especially to something as critical as a person’s culture or racial identity. By encouraging the exploration of racial and cultural concepts, the therapist can provide a more authentic opportunity to understand and resolve the client’s problems (Comas-Diaz & Jacobsen, 1991).
Nonetheless, I have encountered many fellow therapists who ascribe to a colorblind philosophy. They ignore race or pretend its personal, social, and historical effects don’t exist. This approach ignores the incredibly salient experience of being stigmatized by society and represents an empathetic failure on the part of the therapist. Colorblindness does not foster equality or respect; it merely relieves the therapist of his or her obligation to address important racial differences and difficulties.
Multiculturalism is better than blindness
Research has shown that hearing colorblind messages predict negative outcomes among Whites, such as greater racial bias and negative affect; likewise colorblind messages cause stress in ethnic minorities, resulting in decreased cognitive performance (Holoien et al., 2011). Given how much is at stake, we can no longer afford to be blind. It’s time for change and growth. It’s time to see.
The alternative to colorblindness is multiculturalism, an ideology that acknowledges, highlights, and celebrates ethnoracial differences. It recognizes that each tradition has something valuable to offer. It is not afraid to see how others have suffered as a result of racial conflict or differences.
So, how do we become multicultural? The following suggestions would make a good start (McCabe, 2011):
- Recognizing and valuing differences,
- Teaching and learning about differences, and
- Fostering personal friendships and organizational alliances
Moving from colorblindness to multiculturalism is a process of change, and change is never easy, but we can’t afford to stay the same.
Comas-Diaz, L., and Jacobsen, F. M. (1991). Clinical Ethnocultural Transference and Countertransference in the Therapeutic Dyad. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 61(3), 392-402.
Fryberg, S. M. (2010). When the World Is Colorblind, American Indians Are Invisible: A Diversity Science Approach. Psychological Inquiry, 21(2), 115-119.
Holoien, D. S., and Shelton, J. N. (October 2011). You deplete me: The cognitive costs of colorblindness on ethnic minorities. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 10.1016/j.jesp.2011.09.010.
Tarca, K. (2005). Colorblind in Control: The Risks of Resisting Difference Amid Demographic Change. Educational Studies, 38(2), 99-120.
McCabe, J. (2011). Doing Multiculturalism: An Interactionist Analysis of the Practices of a Multicultural Sorority. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 40 (5), 521-549.
Oh look. Science proving folks who claim not to see color are RACIST.
Now you can stop the bullshit.
Modern Renaissance Superhero Designs
I’ve probably thought about this too much. But this is what runs through my head when picking a costume for work. There are probably cool people at work that would get the idea I try, but I tend to focus on the middle aged person that is pretty much clueless.
THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR!!!
Fans and pros alike tend to have different interpretations of characters, motives and plots but plagiarists should get their own: http://bit.ly/1eulIoN
Words from the master:
The real power comes, though, when you tap into intrinsic motivation — that is, when people are doing things because they care about the goals or outcomes they are working to achieve, because the causes they are working to support are meaningful to them. Fan activism works much more in this way: it works by helping people to understand these issues in new ways which may deepen their personal motivation because it draws meaningful connections between these causes and things people already care about in their everyday lives.
The subject of video games as serious texts worth analysis is seldom investigated; at a cursory glance, it isn’t hard to guess why. They are often seen as playthings akin to toys for children; there are well-known negative stigmas (whether true or not) in relation to their effect on children in terms of violence, attention retention, and fitness; adult gamers are often portrayed as fringe or childlike by mainstream media. Even the term “video-game” isn’t quite clear – is the iPhone game Angry Birds on the same level as Call of Duty for major consoles? Are personal word games, such as Words with Friends or electronic Sudoku, different from the video games that major companies like Nintendo and Sony push every year? These products are all clearly under the broad umbrella of “video-games,” but with this broad term come the broad associations and assumptions that come with the title. I would like to address how video games can be confronted as serious texts worth analysis for their increasing cultural importance in a technologically-advancing society, as well as how video-games act as catalysts for “participatory culture” as part of a broader “convergent culture.” This culture is fueled by three core elements – immersion, nostalgia, and community. However, to do this, “video-game” must first be clearly defined.
Clearly, not all video games are created equally. To casual or non-gamers, it might strike as odd that big developers, companies like Epic who make $50 million budget action games for major consoles, are seriously worried about their business being stolen by iPhone versions of Tetris and Angry Birds. It’s like a cattle rancher worrying about business being eaten up by a local candy manufacturer – the only thing they have in common is that both of their products are edible. Now look at games like the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare franchise: the disc comes with essentially two completely different games on it: “one is a five-hour action long action movie (the single player campaign), [while] the other is a competitive electronic sport (multiplayer)” (Wong 2011). In both instances, the term “video game” is combining many completely differences experiences and art forms under one title.
This has been a long-standing problem. The term “video-game” will likely not last for much longer into the near future – it will break up into “several different art forms, each with their own medium” (Wong 2011). We’ll have real “games,” where the player performs simple tasks to pass a few minutes or to attain a high score (ala Angry Birds, et cetera) that will cost less than a dollar or two. There will be interactive stories that are less about “winning” or “losing” and more about completion of a narrative, character development and dramatic appeal (LA Noire, Heavy Rain); these should not be referred to as games, because in the traditional sense it makes none to call them such. These are essentially long rendered films with occasional interactivity added as a bonus where the audience will likely only sit through once. Competitive multiplayer games will be their own category – they’ll likely fall under a subscription model with cheaper initial prices but plenty of additional downloadable content.
With the understanding that when discussing video-games, the specific nature of the game must be specified, it is now important to address ““video-games” as texts worth critical analysis and academic investigation. Clara Fernandez-Vara, author of A Framework to Study Video Games As Performance, compares video game text analysis as being just the same as performance studies in that both deal with human action in context, as well as the process of making meaning between performers and an audience. She provides a framework to study videogames as a performing vehicle, applying terms from performance studies to video games both as software and as games. This framework allows us to relate videogames to other performance activities (such as plays, dance, film) as well as explain how they are structured experiences that can be designed.
Oddly enough, theatrical performance has the most in common with video games in this framework. Rather than defining games in terms of “’interactive drama,’ the parallels with theater help us understand the role of players both as performance and as audience, as well as how the game design shapes the experience” (Fernandez-Vara 2009). This model also accounts for how games can have a “spectatorship” and how audiences may have an effect on gameplay. Performance arts, such as theatre, music, dance and film all require a certain skill to be performed, but according to Fernandez-Vara, the skills aren’t necessarily the most relevant. What is most important is that those activities and skills take place before an audience; without an audience there is no performance, since they the audience is the one that makes sense of the action. She defines performance as “showing doing,” directing attention to the activity itself.
“Theatre presents a clear example of symbolic time: a play may compress the events that take place over several days into a couple of hours. All these time regulations apply to videogames too,” says Fernandez-Vara. In the context of games, event time can be determined be how long it takes a player to achieve the goal of a game. In the same context, software that defines a game can be split into three categories: code, runtime and interaction. These three components are parallel to those in theatrical performance, or dramatic text, performance, and mise-en-scéne (audience) (Fernandez-Vara 2009). Below is a diagram comparing these categorical elements of performance arts:
“Dramatic text” and “code” both operate as the “nuts and bolts” of the performance – they are the script that all else follows; “performance” and “runtime” are easily enough paired together – they are the actual play-through of the play/film/dance or the video game. The last two categories, mise-en-scéne and “interaction,” are where the audiences define the meaning and reception to the performance. These last two categories justify the previous preparations and performances.
Video games can have more than one kind of audience beyond “one players plays through one game as it was intended to be played.” According to Fernandez-Vara, “games can also earn a spectatorship when players prove to have great skills, or find exploits in a game. Speed runs (i.e. finishing a game in the least time possible), or playing a game in the highest difficulty mode are types of game play that lend themselves to having an audience. These activities usually find a spectatorship through the distribution of video recordings of gameplay, rather than watching them live.”
The performance of the player is negotiated between the scripted behaviors (code) and improvisation (gameplay) based on the system. Therefore, under this framework, games can either be simplistic, limited, and dictated where the game designer has the most control, or games can be complex and open to a variety of types play, allowing for more room for players to generate their own experiences within the text. This is how I will approach video games for the rest of this analysis.
Henry Jenkins defines “convergence culture” as an environment where “old and new media collide, where grassroots and corporate media intersect, where the power of the media producer and the power of the media consumer interact in unpredictable ways. […] By convergence, I mean the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behavior of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they want” (Jenkins 2006).
Consumers’ active participation is paramount to the circulation of media content; Jenkins argues against the notion that convergence refers to a technological process that brings together multiple media function within very few or just a handful of devices. Rather, convergence represents “a cultural shift as consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections among dispersed media content” (Jenkins 2006). In this context, spectators, and specifically for the purpose of this analysis, gamers, perform active roles in the new media system.
According to Jenkins, the term, participatory culture, “contrasts with older notions of passive media spectatorship. Rather than talking about media producers and consumers as occupying the separate roles, we might now see them as participants who interact with each other according to a new set of rules that none of us fully understands.”
Convergence is not a technological action that occurs in the midst of the wired jungle of the world – it occurs within the minds of individual consumers through their social interactions with others. Convergence culture is very much part of the performance art framework – without an audience, or consumer, the product is meaningless and soulless. “Each of us constructs our own personal mythology from bits and fragments of information extracted from the media flow and transformed into resources through which we make sense of our everyday lives,” describes Jenkins.
Convergence culture allows for an alternative “back-door” to the same power that big-name media taps into. By learning to use that power in day-to-day interactions, we exhibit convergence culture. Video-games are very much part of this “back-door” that connects consumers and non-traditional aspects of a broader media family to the more traditional, monopolistic players. For example, film moguls are still attempting to wrestle with how to best utilize video-games as extensions for their own products. Jenkins explains that “increasingly, movie moguls [see] games not simply as a means of stamping the franchise logo on some ancillary product but as a means of expanding the storytelling experience. These filmmakers had come of age as gamers and had their own ideas about the creative intersections between the media; they knew who the most creative designers were and they worked the collaboration into their contract. They wanted to use games to explore ideas that couldn’t fit within two-hour films.”
Convergence does not imply or aim for an ultimate goal of stability or unity. The aim is unification but always in a complicated, dynamic relationship with change – there are no concrete laws of growing convergence. For example, “convergence requires media companies to rethink old assumptions about what it means to consume media, assumptions that shape both programming and marketing decisions. If old consumers were assumed to be passive, the new consumers are active. If old consumers were predictable and stayed where you told them to stay, then new consumers are migratory, showing a declining loyalty to networks or media. If old consumers were isolated individuals, the new consumers are more socially connected. If the work of media consumers was once silent and invisible, the new consumers are now noisy and public” (Jenkins 2006).
It is this co-dependence on consumers, or an audience, that brings us to investigate what exactly it is about video-games that empowers gamers more than other types of audiences in terms of “participatory culture.” Video games are the only form of media that directly involve the audience in the participation of the story or the task at hand. The game, more so than other forms of performance, cannot exist without the audience, or the player. Skill or at the very least comprehensive hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills are required to allow the game to work as it was intended to be – audiences for film, dance and theatre are encouraged to be engaged emotionally and attentively, but their part is solely separate from the performers.
Video games must create a world that includes the audience as an integral part of that world – sometimes a world that leaves room for players to explore beyond the confines of the game. In fact, “transmedia storytelling is the art of world making. To fully experience any fictional world, consumers must assume the role of hunters and gatherers, chasing down bits of the story across media channels, comparing notes with each other via online discussion groups, and collaborating to ensure that everyone who invests time and effort will come away with a richer entertainment experience” (Jenkins 2006).
There are many examples of fans profoundly taking participatory culture into their own hands – there are the Star Wars fan filmmakers and writers who actively reshape George Lucas’s mythology to satisfy their own fantasies and whims; there are fan cultures around Harry Potter that write fan fiction and compose fan music (some going as far as to start bands and tour major circuits); however, gamers reign king above all other fan cultures in the amount of time and energy they devote to their shared culture: the modding of games, kickstarter projects that can range from anything from demanding remakes or sequels to home-made mods to home-made merchandise, fan fiction and fan art, fan wikis and forums, independent game programmers creating original content to compliment or fill gaps they see in the game market, and many more. There is an entire subcategory of gamers who upload videos onto Youtube for the sole purpose of bragging or showcasing their technical abilities within a particular game, such as extremely high scores or quickest speed runs. Game developers see the success of certain aspects of this participatory culture and adapt accordingly – the world of video game production is much more fluid and open to change than that of film because film is not dependent on the technological limitations at hand. The two core elements of any video game are the hardware behind it and the creativity that inspires it – whereas “borrowing” of ideas in other performance mediums is frowned upon and often met with hefty litigation, many times in video game culture, emulation is seen as the highest level of praise and a natural evolution of what makes a great product. These kind factors in video game participatory cultures are not present in other forms of performance mediums and audiences.
This is the groundwork and context in which I make the argument that three core elements, immersion, nostalgia, and community, mark video game participatory culture as a unique and significant player (no pun intended) of the broader convergent and popular culture of which it is part.
A distinction has been made between certain kinds of games – there those that are meant to be quick, time-killing distractions with a simple goal (e.g. Angry Birds, Temple Run), those that are meant to foster technical mastery or competitive high scores and online play (Halo, Call of Duty, speed run games, the fighting genre), and those that create immersive worlds that are designed to be explored and vicariously experienced. A majority of participatory culture either stems from these kinds of games, or through fan service transforms other kinds of games into an immersive-world games. Games that lack immersive worlds and histories to be explored are often created by fans for the enjoyment of others within the original fan-culture. In the same way that fans will expand, theorize and speculate about the mythology of Star Wars, gamers will do the same with video games such as Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, and many other exploration-based games. For the purpose of this argument, I will these kind of exploration-based games as “immersive games,” where a player is encouraged to engage and interact with a fantastical quality that allows part of that world to exist outside of the actual playing of the game through the participatory culture.
What exactly does a game require to be considered “immersive?” In many ways, the game world needs to behave you you’d expect it to. Consistency is paramount in maintaining a sense of the “real” in a game. The particular visual style can rage from photo-realism to abstract to impressionism, as long as the internal logic of the game and visuals remains intact to the player. In layman’s terms, the characters, objects, and other aspects of the game-world should behave like their real-world counterparts (Madigan 2010).
This isn’t to say that the audience must forget they are playing a game. Just as an audience at a theatre is aware of their surroundings and understands the mechanics of jumps and cuts in film, they take these distractions in stride as part of the experience and their brain adapts to blending them into the natural experience. It is the same in video games – subtitles, heads-up displays, and damage indicators in video games have been shown to do little damage to presence or immersion. The audience naturally tunes them out through their own subconscious desire to vicariously exist in the world they are playing in.
According to Jamie Madigan, author of The Psychology of Immersion in Video Games, “psychologists refer to ‘immersion’ as ‘presence;’ researchers have identified several types of presence in regards to how an audience perceives media. However, specifically, spatial presence is the closest equivalent to what gamers refer to as ‘immersion.’ Briefly, spatial presence is often defined as existing when “media contents are perceived as ‘real’ in the sense that media users experience a sensation of being spatially located in the mediated environment.” (Wissmath, B, Weibel, D., & Groner, R. 2009). The idea is just that a game (or any other media from books to movies) creates spatial presence when the user starts to feel like he is “there” in the world that the game creates. People who experience immersion tend to only consider choices that make sense in the context of the imaginary world. Someone immersed in Red Dead Redemption, for example, might be more likely to use travel methods that make sense within the game, like stagecoaches, instead of methods that don’t, like fast traveling from a menu screen. People immersed in media also tend to enjoy it more.”
Essentially, what occurs in “immersive gameplay” twofold – players create a representation in their heads of the environment or world with which the game is presenting them; players then begin to favor media-based spaced (the game world) as their point of reference for where they “are.” In other psychological terms, they favor a new “primary ego reference frame” (Madigan 2010). Furthermore, “characteristics of games that facilitate immersion can be grouped into two general categories: those that create a rich mental model of the game environment and those that create consistency between the things in that environment.”
Richness refers to, but is not limited to, multiple channels of sensory information, completeness of sensory information, cognitively demanding environments, and a strong and interesting narrative plot or story. Consistency, on the other hand, generally refers to but is not limited to: lack of incongruous visual cues in the game world, consistent behavior from things in the game world, and an unbroken presentation of the game world (Madigan 2010).
If this sounds complicated, consider the example of a boom mic appearing in the corner of an otherwise believable scene in a film. This, above whatever else was going on in the film, would draw oneself out of the immersive experience because the boom mic is a clear signifier that does not correlate with the rest of the film’s illusion. The same can be said for immersive games. The fewer reminders that this is a game (such as drop down menus, abrupt and unskippable slide shows on instructions how to play) pose this problem in immersive games.
Where this immersive quality becomes relevant with participatory culture is the concept of “psychological involvement,” something researchers describe as “a media user’s desire to act in the make-believe world, to draw parallels between it and his life, and to effect changes in it according to their own design” (Madigan 2010). This is to say that players actively role-play with these immersive games and when they play games lacking in this quality, they personally take steps to create that immersive quality outside of the game’s confines through participatory culture. The role-playing aspect of games allow for greater immersion and therefore greater emotional stake outside of the game. Just as gamers bring their knowledge of the real world into the problem solving in the game world, they bring their knowledge of the in-game world to the real world.
Nostalgia plays an interesting and unique part in how audiences view games separately from other forms of performance media. Generally, in film, older movies are shunned in favor of remakes or new special effects that the years have provided – with video games the experience is reversed; it is common to have gamers hold onto older games much more dearly than their film counterparts and play them more frequently in company with other gamers who feel the same. In many ways, games that have nostalgic value also have value within a community of gamers, whether close friends or complete strangers.
Thus, nostalgia and social connections go hand in hand. In another analysis titled The Psychology of Game Nostalgia, Madigan remarks, “Thinking about the loss of social connections, as nostalgia often makes us do, primes us to think about repairing those connections, maintaining current ones, or establishing replacements.” When most recall nostalgia memories, they describe specific social contexts and good relationships with others. Similar results have been found in studies on music and nostalgia. Just as old songs from childhood spark memories of social relationships, including friendships, love and familial bonds, video game music and gameplay trigger the same results.
Although one might reminisce about playing the original Pokemon Stadium on Nintendo 64, the chances are that most nostalgia stems from playing and interacting with friends in multiplayer or at least bonding with them over shared experiences or discussing how one managed to beat difficult parts of the game. “If nostalgia is tied so closely to social connections and a sense of community, games have the potential to evoke it more than any other medium, because they are so inherently social and are becoming more so every year. Early games might have been shared experiences on the couch or via playground discussions in much the same way as movies or TV, but the majority of new games coming out this year will feature mechanics or tools that encourage players to share, compete, communicate, help, and socialize. The same can’t be said of music, movies, TV, or other common vessels of nostalgia,” says Madigan.
We feel nostalgic about games because they bring us back to a time and place where we had stronger connections, sometimes connections that would not have been made without the game. This leads to the essence of community, something gamers can attest that they are all apart of. Moviegoers are splintered and generally solitary in their enjoyment. Gamers, however, thrive on the interaction and collaboration with other like-minded individuals; these can be long time gamers who fall into the “nostalgic” category, or any newcomers who are experiencing their own childhood of gaming that will one day have its own nostalgic experiences when looking back. It is this community of gamers that makes video games so fascinating in terms of convergence culture – they are arguably the most active in their field of expertise in participatory culture than any others in performing mediums.
Terry Flew argues in Games: Technology, Industry, Culture that digital games are "increasingly social, a trend that works against the mainstream media’s portrayal of players as isolated, usually adolescent boys hidden away in darkened bedrooms, failing to engage with the social world.” Rather, games are played in very social and often public settings – for example, computers and consoles are played in living rooms of domestic homes, where families and friends spend most of their time socializing. In many ways, new technologies offer this strange paradox – we use tools such as the Internet or console games to communicate and interact with others in our own personal worlds. In isolating ourselves to a single screen, we open ourselves up to millions of other people with direct interaction. This community of gamers is connected not only in how they play but how they continue playing when the game itself is turned off. They turn to forums, art, YouTube, and many other avenues to share their passion for this particular art form. This is not to say that these kinds of communication can or should take the place of real, in person interaction and socialization – they should not. However, research has shown that they can prove extremely beneficial as a social tool rather than a social crutch. The Journal of Adolescent Health recently did a study that found that children who played video games with parents behave better, felt more connected to their families, and have stronger overall mental health. In interviews with Millenials (those who grew up between the 1990’s and the 2000’s), many claimed there was no difference between the friendships they developed in “the real world” versus those friendships developed online, and many times the two bled together. How rare is it to make friends with someone in another country over shared love of theatre or film? A gamer would say it is not rare to do just that through a video-game interaction and socialization.
Here are the top-selling franchises across all video-game media: Nintendo’s Mario games (193 million units sold), Pokémon (155), The Sims (90), Final Fantasy (75), Tetris (60), and Madden NFL (60). Note the difference in narrative experience. Respectively, one explores a monster-filled world as an acrobatic plumber; collects, trains, and compares fauna as a zoologist; organizes house and home as a suburban designed; quests to liberate an occupied state as a righteous knight; maneuvers and compacts fling blocks as a geometric virtuoso; and directs a team of football players as a professional coach. Collectively, they capture the range of the video world. Yet, in its principle form, only the football franchise begs multiple real-life players. In fact, amongst the top 25-bestselling games, only three others routinely employ more than more gamer (#17 James Bond, #21 Street Fighter, and #22 Mortal Kombat—gruesome, kill-your-opponent-type games).
The biggest issue in terms of a quantitative evaluation of a single/multiplayer analysis in community-based or popular culture-revered games is the nature of cooperation and community itself. While navigating the world of Mario requires no more than one pair of hands, it need not be a one-person task. Much in the same way that crossword puzzles can fuel collaboration, these single-player games are often used with delight before a circle of friends. As one explores the marriage of videogames and the Internet, the capacity and tendency to share the experience with others increases dramatically. All five of the bestselling computer titles are easily (if not primarily) multiplayer. Throw in the recent phenomenon of massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) and you have millions of people from around the world directly communicating and interacting with one another in the immersive environment of the game-world. Cyber space becomes shared space, both in nostalgic emotion and shared experience. Huge online games such as these even spawn their own subcultures, such as World of Warcraft, The Sims and Second Life (Brun 2007).
With so many millions of copies sold, games like Mario and Pokemon, although not multiplayer in direct nature, inherently have a broad fan base of dedicated and passionate fans who contact one another online to share strategies, memories, fan services, and debate. The shared experience of immersion coupled with nostalgic social ties with others roots video games as a fundamentally communal medium that offers a plethora of outlets for said fans to access participatory culture, and thus convergence culture. As fans and gamers show their dedication to their passions, game designers listen and act accordingly – those that grew up on games end up becoming the next generation of designers and the entire art form evolves on what it knows best – create for the joy of creation, share for the joy of sharing. These shared texts become just the same as films or books amongst gamers and are treated as such. It is with this understanding that “video-games” should be taken seriously as earnest, if not critical elements of modern and future popular culture and communication.
(David Wong, The 6 Most Ominous Trends in Video Games, 2011) http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-6-most-ominous-trends-in-video-games_p2/
(Clara Fernandez-Vara, A Framework to Study Videogames as Performance 2009) http://www.academia.edu/233644/Plays_the_Thing_A_Framework_to_Study_Videogames_as_Performance
(Jenkins, Convergence Culture 2006) http://ebookbrowse.com/jenkins-convergence-culture-pdf-d236814639
(Jamie Madigan, The Psychology of Immersion in Video Games, 2010) http://www.psychologyofgames.com/2010/07/the-psychology-of-immersion-in-video-games/
(Jamie Madigan, The Psychology of Game Nostalgia, 2012) http://www.psychologyofgames.com/2012/06/the-psychology-of-game-nostalgia-in-edge-magazine-242/
(Games: Technology, Industry, Culture by Terry Flew, 2005)
(M. Brun, On the Communal Aspect of Video Games, 2007) http://www.demosnews.com/piece.php?72.3