AnyKey’s Good Luck Have Fun Pledge

 

This past week AnyKey, an advocacy group that promotes diversity and inclusion in gaming, relaunched their Good Luck Have Fun Pledge. I had the pleasure of representing the organization at TwitchCon 2019 in San Diego this past weekend.

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I met a lot of engaged gamers and streamers and was really moved by all of the positive responses we received regarding the pledge and the work AnyKey does. For those who have not heard or taken the pledge, it is pretty simple. The GLHF pledge  asks individuals to:

  1. Be a good sport whether I win or lose

  2. Know that people online are real people and my words have real impact

  3. Set a positive example with my behavior

  4. Speak up against discrimination, hate speech, harassment, and abuse

  5. Show integrity by honoring the rules, my opponents, and my teammates

  6. Stop, listen, and reassess if I’m told that my words or actions are harmful

  7. Respect others, even if their sincere opinions are different from my own

The GLHF pledge is a part of a larger initiative to curb toxicity in gaming spaces, with a big emphasis being placed on esports and streaming.  If you’re a twitch member you can also earn yourself a twitch global community badge icon, which your followers can then click and take the pledge for themselves.

AnyKey is hoping to have 1 million gamers take the pledge by 2020 and so far they’re nearing 300,000 at the time of this post. It’s a simple way of showing you’re not willing to stand for toxic behavior online. You can also support the cause by using the tag #glhfpledge on twitter and following AnyKey.

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Summer Travels 2: HEVGA summer school, Sweden.

Continuing with an update about my games research related activities this summer, I wanted to share a little bit about my experience at the Higher Education Video Game Alliance  (HEVGA) summer school in Skövde, Sweden.

This was a three day workshop where games researchers from multiple countries came together to discuss current topics in the field, share on-going research, and collaborate over shared interests. I presented on a research proposal about bootleg consoles I’m starting to dive into and received some great feedback from participants and faculty. It was a terrific opportunity to meet scholars from around the world and create connections outside of my narrow academic lens.

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A brainstorming exercise to find collaborative ideas

It’s a rare opportunity to engage in a event like this, so I was incredibly honored to have the chance to participate in the summer workshop. Even just traveling abroad for video game related research is something I never would have thought i’d be doing some years ago. Hopefully HEVGA decides to hold the summer school next year and the event becomes an annual gathering of academics.

After the summer school I had the chance to spend a few days in Stockholm, and I took the opportunity to check out some game related activities

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One of my first stops was to NERDS video game bar, located in the area of Södermalm. Besides offering video game themed drinks, the bar offered the ability to rent out consoles and tvs for local play of classic titles like GoldenEye and Mario Kart 64. Having done research prior on physical gaming spaces, seeing how social engagement was key to the design of the bar was really fascinating. It was incredibly packed so I didn’t get a chance to play anything, but I did get to try one of the bar’s in-house beers.

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Also decided to check out one of Stockholm’s used game store, GameShop.Se. It was a really neat store that had consoles and games from multiple regions (US, PAL, Japan) and even some old cloning/bootleg devices. The shop owners were incredibly hospitable and overall the store seemed like a great stop for anyone in area looking for some retro titles.

What’s next? I’m hoping to update the blog more often and actually share some written work. Unfortunately academic publishing moves slower than blogging and it’s taken me awhile to actually pull together some research worth sharing, but things are in the pipeline. Overall this summer has been incredibly productive for creating new connections around game studies and for solidifying some ideas I’ve been working on.

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Summer Travels Part 1: Strong National Museum of Play, Rochester, New York

I’ve been active doing video game related things this summer and thought it was finally time to sit down and share. I’ll be breaking this up into multiple post, so stay tuned for most posts in the near future.

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A Outside look at the Strong

This July I had the opportunity to conduct archival research at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, as  part of the Strong Research Fellowship. For those unaware of the this impressive museum,  The Strong is the largest museum dedicated to the act of play in the world and boasts multiple exhibits dedicated to video games and gaming. I was thoroughly impressed by the range of exhibits the museum offered, both those pertaining to video games and those more centered more broadly around the history of play. In particular, the Strong had an excellent exhibit on the history of Women in Games that was expansive and nuanced. With the Strong having broken ground in 2018 on a major expansion aimed to open in 2021 that will include a World Video Game Hall of Fame gallery and other immersive video game related exhibits, the future for the museum as a global archive and educator of play is bright.

As a part of the fellowship, I had access to the International Center for the History of Electronic Games’s impressive collection of documents, artifacts, and digital records pertaining to play. I came in interested in studying software and hardware cloning in the early history of video games (1972-1995), a subject that I have developed a fascination for this past year. Through the ICHEG’s archives, I was able to to play and see some devices that have become increasingly rare to find in working order, as well as diving into documents of gaming past that inform our current community. I’ll have more to share via the Strong’s Play Stuff Blog about the specific of my research findings in the near future, but I can’t express how grateful I am to have received the opportunity to do this form of archival research by the staff at the Strong.

My next post will share some pictures and experiences from the Higher Education Video Game Alliance’s (HEVGA) first Summer School that took place in Skövde, Sweden.

Follow me on Twitter at @SocialVideoGame

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Participation in the “Gaming Blind” Documentary by Accessible Media Inc.

I had the opportunity to participate in Accessible Media Inc.’s documentary Gaming Blind, a documentary that explores blind and partially sighted accessibility in the video game industry.

“After losing her sight, Shelby Travers thought video games were a part of her past. Join her as she discovers how accessible gaming is to the blind and partially sighted community today, picking up a controller for the first time in 10 years.”

You can see a trailer for the documentary here:

but you can also watch the entire documentary, including the interview with me,  right here: Gaming Blind

I had the pleasure of talking with Shelby and we discussed the changing demographics of the video game industry, as well as how developers are attempting to reach a more inclusive audience.  The documentary does a great job of evaluating issues that blind and partially sighted gamers face, and speaks with prominent industry professionals about how these issues may be faced.

Thanks to Shelby Travers and everyone at AMI-CA for developing this great documentary and for allowing me to be a part of it.

Follow me on Twitter @Socialvideogame

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Earnest’s Demographic of Video Gaming

Earnest, a technology company that analyzes data pulled from loan applications, surveys, and/or publicly available data sources released their finding on the demographics of video game consumers. In this case, they pulled their data from student loan refinancing applications. Data sets on video games usages and gamers are relatively rare so I figured I’d examine their findings and share. Despite the less than ideal data source, let’s examine what their key findings were:

Key Takeaway

  • Younger people, especially those aged 18-24, are more likely to make video game-related purchases than older individuals.
  • Men are more than three times as likely to make gaming purchases than women.
  • Individuals with high school diplomas or Associate degrees are the most likely to make gaming purchases, while dentists are the least likely.
  • People making more than $90,000 are less likely to make gaming purchases than their lower-earning counterparts.
  • People are less likely to make video game purchases the more time has elapsed since they graduated from their highest degree program.

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There’s some interesting findings here, some of which reinforce or challenge the Electronic Software Associations. The disparity between male and female game purchasers is significantly higher than the findings of ESA,  who found that men are the purchasers of video games about 63% of the time (compared to 37% for females). Likewise, the finding that 18-24 years are the ones most likely to make gaming purchases conflicts with finding that the average purchaser of video game content is 36 years old.

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This graph I find particularly interesting, because it exemplifies how video games as a medium is a relatively universally participated one. You see some minor dips, especially as income increases, but for the most part there isn’t a huge difference across income levels. As the report points out, some of this may also be tied to age and profession; as one earns more they are often more set in their careers, older, and perhaps have less time for video games.

I’d be interested to see survey myself and to get a little more information about sample size and general demographics of respondents, but this report does provide an interesting perspective that we may not get in other large scale data sets.  You can check out the entire report here: https://www.earnest.com/blog/the-demographics-of-video-gaming/

Follow me on Twitter @Socialvideogame

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Presentation on Capitalism and Video Games at San Diego State University

I’ll be presenting at the “Capitalism: Culture and the Individual” on April 14th at San Diego State University.  The presentation, entitled “Now You’re Playing With Power: Video Games and Capitalism”, will focus on how video games have contributed to a continued capitalist global ethic and an extension of empire. The presentation will also look into how video games may combat capitalism, and how video games may be the medium to implement counter-capitalist ideology. 

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The conference is free to the public and will feature presentations on an array of subjects across the theme of capitalism and culture. My presentation will be apart of a panel focusing on capitalism and entertainment, but the entire day should foster some great conversations. The conference will conclude with a keynote presentation by Dr. Timothy Taylor of UCLA.

You can find out more about the conference, as well as a detailed schedule, here: https://sociologygrads.wixsite.com/capitalismconference

Follow me on Twitter @Socialvideogame

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Can the Nintendo Switch Create Physical Gaming Spaces?

I recently did a pilot study of physical gaming spaces and why individuals choose to attend gaming events. I’m currently looking to extend the pilot study to a fully realized research project, and will hopefully share it when it is complete, but an interesting phenomenon occurred during the course of my research: The Nintendo Switch was released.

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Released in early March, Nintendo’s new console handheld hybrid has been a hot topic in the gaming industry, but few are talking about what potential the console may hold for create physical gaming spaces. Simply put, physical gaming spaces are local gaming gathering, events, or meetings with the intent purpose of interacting together in a shared local environment. Examples of physical gaming spaces range anywhere from LAN Parties to competitive competitions.  Although handhelds have had wireless multiplayer for over a decade, those seeking a true console local multiplayer experience often had to go to great lengths to create physical gaming spaces around console gaming. With the Nintendo’s Switch’s ability to immediately transfer between Console and handheld, it has the unique ability to create authentic local multiplayer experiences anywhere, without the need to connect to a television or several handhelds.

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Anecdotally, we’ve seen new stories of  athletes turning to the Nintendo Switch to kill time during rain delays and long travels, pointing to the console early success in reaching new audiences with innovative ways to create physical gaming spaces anytime, anywhere. Such an occurrence is exciting for anyone who is passionate about local multiplayer, as a rise in people playing in physical gaming spaces may result in more developers designing games that take advantage of space and place.  Although games like the Jack Party Box and Towerfall Ascension have had success in the ever increasing niche local multiplayer market, the industry is progressive moving towards one that promotes online interaction in lieu of local multiplayer; the 2017 ESA Report on video game consumption and use  found that the amount of time gamers play online with others is significantly higher than the amount of time they play with others locally. The Switch is still freshly on the market, and console shortages have prevented many gamers from being able to dive into all that console has to offer, so we’ll have to see how the console develops in regards to physical gaming spaces once the console is more readily available. Nonetheless, it’s an exciting time for people who enjoy playing locally; the industry has seen its first big developer’s push since the launch of the Wii.

I hope to update the blog as my research continues, but I would love your opinion about the Switch and what it may offer to both local multiplayer and physical gaming spaces. Feel free to post a comment or message me with your opinions or questions.

 

Book Review: Coming of Age in Second Life by Tom Boellstorff

I’m a few years late with this, but I recently had the chance to read Coming of Age In Second Life by Tom Boellstorff, an anthropological ethnography of the Massive Multiplayer Online World Second Life. I know this might be an odd book to review, given that it’s nearly 10 years old now and Second Life isn’t quite the juggernaut in the MMO scene that it once was, but the book provides valuable insight for social researcher looking to do research in online worlds.  I thought I’d share my opinion about the book so that others could check it out.

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First published in 2008, Coming of Age in Second Life is part proof of concept and part by- the-books ethnography of a digital world. With new virtual worlds being constructed each year, Tom Boellstorff set out to prove to the academic community that traditional methods of research could be applied to these rapidly changing, new worlds. Coming from an anthropology background and having done. There have been many ethnographies of online worlds, but Coming of Age may be one of the most groundbreaking and influential.

Boellstorff starts the book by discussing the background of Second Life  and painting what a typical day in the world looks like, before moving onto a discussion about the philosophy, ethics, and academic interest in researching such a community. Collecting data and living natively for over 2 years as his online avatar Tom Bukowski, Boellstorff explores various topics of inquiry within this rapidly changing online world. Using traditional anthropological methods and theories, Boellstorff tackles this virtual world with the same keen sense and methods as he would any other social field.  Boellstorff does not claim his research to be a definitive guide to MMOs or even Second Life, rather a dive into a very specific era of a constantly changing world.

The crux of the book comes in the forms of chapters dedicated to overarching themes that emerged during Boellstorff’s research: place and time, personhood, intimacy, community, and political economy. In each of these chapters Boellstorff explores more narrowed down sub-themes in discussions that include the anthropological and philosophical background for their importance,  and data as evidence for their existence within Second Life. This justification through data comes in various forms, including transcribed interviews with second life citizens,  summaries of pertinent events the author witnessed or heard of second hand, and screenshots that give the reader a visual understanding of what the author is expressing.  I mention this range of topics to say that the book offers a sort of survey about the world of Second Life during the author’s stay. While your typical ethnography will focus on one individual topic of interest, Boellstorff has the luxury of exploring a world that many of his respondents will have absolutely no experience with; such a luxury is almost impossible in the “real world”.

Throughout the book, Boellstorff is attempting to both prove that traditional methods work in digital worlds, but also argue that humans have always existed between real and virtual, with  online virtual worlds being newly enacted forms of  traditional culture creation, social interaction, and creativity.  By presenting his years of research with precision and thoroughly thought out discussion, Boellstorff’s argument is carefully explored and fought for.   The only draw back that I may mention in regards to the book, is that it is at time perhaps a little too academic. This of course is a concession the author must of had to make; either weigh too heavily on public appeal and be ignored by the academic community, or weigh too heavily on the academic side and prove a little dry to the general population. In the end, the book seeks what it sets out to do. For anyone seeking to conduct social research on video games or massive multiplayer online worlds, Coming of Age in Second Life proves to be a useful resource to have on your shelf. Boellstorff’s work exemplify what we students of the social sciences and lovers of interactive media should strive to. You’ll be hard pressed to find a deeper dive into an online world.

I hope this book review has proved worthwhile. I’ll try and recommend other useful books and resources as I come across them.

-Ian L

Google Releases Findings on What Teens Find Cool

How do you do, fellow Kids?

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Google today released  It’s Lit: A Guide to What Teens Think is Cool  a report of the brands, technology, and products teens think are cool. Of the topics covered in the report are what teens think are the coolest video games and video games brands. It’s rare that we see a huge company like Google conduct such forms of qualitative research (and share it), so I thought it would be worth looking at.

The first thing you’ll probably notice is the theme of the the whole report. It’s…grabbing?  From the name of the report “It’s Lit” to the usage of headlines like “Gen Z are the most aware generations in recent history”, it’s definitely trying to pander to a certain crowd. Likewise, its attempts at presenting the data seems like a shallow attempt to come off as cool itself; from the terminology being used to the overall design of the report. Google is clearly targeting a specific audience with this report and evaluating a reports presentation, focus, and scope is an important step in analyzing it’s validity and purpose. I can poke fun at how ironically uncool this presentation manner comes off for hours, but let’s move on and look at the actually findings:

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The report finds that the most popular video games  amongst teens are, surprise surprise, the most popular games. The part of this I do find interesting is the reports usage of  descriptions as to why teens like video games. “It’s no wonder most teen boys see video games as a cool escape from reality”. That’s an odd statement that seems to come out of no where, and I’m not completely sure if it’s something they polled for or if it’s something they’re just pulling out of no where.

The narrative of video games prevalence being in part due to its escapism aspects is certainly true, but studies have found that it’s often not the leading cause for why people choose video games. Granted they follow up with more options as to why people choose it, but even those options feel as if it’s interjection added in by the report.

Here are the final two findings regarding video games, and even they are not all that controversial. It’s not unreasonable that a younger generation finds X-Box as the “coolest” video game company, considering that Microsoft has done a considerable amount to appeal to the younger demographic and appear hip and cool. The second graphic of brands is…Odd. To think that teens are saying “oreo”, “doritios” and “chrome” are the coolest of brands sounds almost as if it was a made up as a joke. I’m not questioning their validity, but I do wonder if these answers were perhaps some what leaded.  Which brings us to their methods:

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It sounds like a solid piece of research, but I’d be interested to see what the actual poll looked like. I wonder if the poll was open ended or if it had specific answers for respondents to pick from. If the later was true, I think that would explain answers like “oreo” and “chrome” as appearing as the coolest brands.

In the end, it’s all a bit silly. This market research is attempting to label what is cool by the usage of products, as if they have some inherent value besides what we place upon them. It’s the ultimate capitalist research: we’re defining teens sense of “coolness” by products and things we can consume and buy. Any sort of philosophical or analytical thoughts of why things are “cool” are left to the background and almost completely left out of the findings.

Regardless, it’s interesting to see how a massive corporation like Google collect, interpret, and present data.

Vice’s “The Invisible People: Why Asians Need to Be Better Represented in Video Games”

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Vice News posted an article by Khai Trung Le entitled “The Invisible People: Why Asians Need to Be Better Represented in Video Games” that discusses the the lack or representation and misrepresentation of Asians in video games. It’s an interesting subject that often doesn’t get brought up in the community all that often. Before we discuss the article, here are some important tidbits from the article:

The issue of representation is perhaps more difficult to confront because Asians have always occupied a significant presence in games history, culture, and production, creating the assumption of a non-issue. China, Japan, and South Korea are strong markets for video games with their own idiosyncrasies, studios and market influence, and are certainly as responsible for propagating these tropes as Western developers and publishers. Nor do Asian men experience the same career barriers within the tech sector and generally are not currently under the extremities of harassment and hate felt by others: not under threat of deportation or assumptions of terrorist sympathies, nor under fear of trigger-happy law enforcement. Fortunately, there has been no organized social-media movement against Asians—although some of the coarser language certainly focused on ethnicity—but rather a continuous disregard.

Nevertheless, 49 percent of Asian American respondents to a 2015 Nielsen survey “strongly disagreed” with the statement of “all races have ample representation/inclusion in video game characters.” This is more than twice as high as Hispanic and African American respondents, and similarly more than twice as high than women that “strongly disagreed” with the same statement toward gender.

I think the reason representation in video games doesn’t often get brought up in regards to Asian communities is that there is a misconception that Asian characters are being well represented in video games, primarily due to Japanese characters having a good deal of representation in the medium. There in lies the issue; the terms Asian is such a broad term referring to such a vast number of cultures and people that one population within the umbrella term receiving representation in no way should trivialize other groups’ lack of representation. One Asian community does not represent all Asian communities, and nor should representation be looked at as a form of checking of groups.

The article is pretty articulate in regards to the problems of representation in gaming, but it should be noted that the article’s focus seems to be arguing more so for representation of Asian Americans within gaming, rather than Asian communities outside of the United States. Perhaps this division goes without saying, but the article doesn’t make the distinction which will perhaps lead viewers to extend his viewpoint to more communities than just Asian Americans. Regardless, representation within the Asian American community in general is a subject matter that extends to many forms of media and gaming is no different. As the author puts forward, we’re seeing some positive portrayals in recent games but a significant portion of Asian Americans feel that video games are underrepresenting or misrepresenting their communities. With more emerging game development communities forming in Asian countries like China and S.Korea, hopefully we’ll begin to see other Asian communities better represented within gaming as a whole. Similarly, American developers need to be more conscious of representing the entire American population within their game, which needs to include the various Asian American communities that call the United States home. More diverse characters with more diverse backgrounds mean for more interesting games.