RPDR as Transmedia Storytelling

RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR) is a reality television show in which the world’s most famous drag queen, RuPaul, seeks out the next generation of drag queens who are able to use their charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent to champion the art and its rich history. The intended market for this brand is anyone over the age of 21; their biggest sponsor being Absolut Vodka.

The protagonist in this story is the winner of the drag race. That being said, every competitor undergoes the hero’s journey to one extent or another as they all endure a transformation due to trials within the competition which result in their either winning or being told to “sashay away”. Competitors start by going through a series of trials (i.e., application process, mini challenges, main challenges, and runway walks) designed to test their drag related skills as well as their personal development (e.g., social skills, personal conflicts, etc.). By the end of the competition, regardless of the outcome for the competitor, they have likely learned something about themselves and their skills. However, the only true hero’s journey, based on a real and tangible outcome, resolution, or change that is definitive is the winner of the competition; they have the crown.

The archetype of this story is that of the magician. Competitors learn the art of transformation and are motivated by achievement. There are other archetypes which, in one way or another, are also represented within RPDR (e.g., Jester or Outlaw), but the competition is about transformation in all its forms and masteries within the art of drag.

A variety of media are used to bring the journey of the drag queens, as well as their art, to life for consumers. RPDR itself is the flagship of Logo.tv. All episodes of the competition, as well as a show called Untucked, and one called Drag U, are located on the site/channel. Untucked allows consumers a glimpse of the behind the scenes of the competition; a way to connect more personally with the competitors. Drag U is a spin off which allows women to participate with RPDR competitors to undergo their own version of a hero’s journey using the principles and art of drag. Both Untucked and Drag U allow resonance with the brand, as consumers are able to identify with competitors as well as picture themselves in their shoes.

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Another way in which consumers can see themselves in drag stilettos is through the Dragulator. This is an online application which allows consumers to upload a photo of themselves and make themselves up in drag. They can then share the result via a variety of social media sharing options. In addition to the Dragulator, consumers can participate in live chat with competitors and fellow fans during the broadcast via LogoTalk. In addition to discussing the show as it airs, consumers are able to converse with and direct questions to the latest competitor to be eliminated via Elimination Lunch with Michelle Visage, also on LogoTalk. LogoTalk is a convenient way to participate in Twitter conversations which follow the given hashtags during the show, allow for stickers to be gathered on GetGlue (another achievement driven social media). One of the most prominent features of RPDR is the ability for consumers to participate.

While the hub of RPDR remains on Logo.tv, and links to all branches of the transmedia network, Facebook remains a more easily navigated and immersive place for participants to explore. Social media are used heavily within the network. While Facebook is an easy place to share photos, ask questions to promote conversation, and link to other elements within the network, Twitter is used heavily to connect consumers during the shows. Hashtags are given at random times during various segments of the show to promote consist discussion between viewers. Twitter is also used as a way for competitors to connect to their fans and promote their personal performances throughout the country.

Other media are used successfully to immerse consumers as well. An online game called Ru-Dunnit, allows consumers to play a choose-your-own-adventure mystery game with the fierce Michelle Visage as the gumshoe (or “gumstilleto”, as she says in the game). The goal of the game is to determine who stole Sharon Needles’s crown. The game includes product placement by Absolut Vodka, and clothing worn by suspects are consistent with drinks featured in the video. Another example of a game used in the story of the ‘Next drag superstar’ is the Best Friend Race. This is a game hosted by SocialToaster.com which allows for the collection of points which are earned by sharing elements of the network via social media, how many likes and retweets you obtain, and how many of your friends sign up to play the game. This allows those who are achievement driven (consistent with the goals of the Magician archetype) a goal related to the brand with inadvertently further promotes the brand and takes advantage of social networks.

RPDR uses transmedia storytelling to tell a variety of stories about what it’s like to be a drag queen, but also promotes an art form which tends to be, in and of itself, at the forefront of the acceptance of LGBT individuals and culture. By expanding the in-group inherent in RPDR supporters, a social cause is promoted as well.

References:

Mark, M., & Pearson, C. (2001). The hero and the outlaw building extraordinary brands through the power of archetypes. New York: McGraw-Hill. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=63620

**The trading cards in the slideshow came from The LogoTV Tumblr page. Thanks guys! Great pics!**

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Do the Hustle!: JK [Wedding Dance]

The JK Wedding Dance video is interesting because it challenges our social normatives, much like iconic brands do. Jenkins, Li, Krauskopf, and Green (2009) note that in order for something to be spreadable (clearly, this video is an apt example of spreadable media), it must answer a question for us, speak a truth, make sense of something, or touch us emotionally. This video allows us to experience a ritualistically sober ceremony in a non-traditional way, and allows us to do so safely from the comfort of our own home. It shows us  that something we may have previously considered socially taboo, is actually fun and completely acceptable. It allows collective intelligence to demolish pluralistic ignorance.

Chris BrownBowrey (2011) explains that many cases of copyright infringement and related disputes do not actually have the backing of the law that may be assumed. She notes that most people make assumptions about what is actually enforceable, but notes that trademark and copyright laws (and processes) are meant to cover very specific items and not thematic elements (e.g., characters). Additionally, IP laws change with the culture, and interpretation is done with an eye on the current state of culture and conceptualized future progression. This is similar to idea that the medium is the message (Federman, 2004). IP laws are flexible enough to anticipate legal needs as culture and use norms change. By understanding what is underlying and looking for those issues which are not glaringly obvious, IP law can effectively maintain the freedom and cost-effectiveness of amateur material with the commercial and professional, as suggested and called for by Cunningham (2012).

Sony’s brand relies on the notion that using their products, individuals can create whatever they can imagine (Sony Global, 2013). In the case of Jill and Kevin, they imagined a wedding outside the traditionally accepted social norms. They created an individualized ceremony, using Sony’s product (i.e., the song), because they believed they could, and they made it happen: make.believe.

Sony ElectronicsNot only does Sony have a variety of options for promoting their brand, but it seems to be recognized by many consumers that they already have benefited from the video’s popularity. Deighton and Kronfeld (2012) explain that when the video was at the height of it’s popularity, a number of people challenged the integrity of the video, accusing Sony of creating the video to induce sales and reputation reparations. It stands to reason, then, that the perception is that there was an increase in sales, as well as a shift in the artists popularity, despite his domestic abuse arrest. Rather than focusing on the negativity of the personal experiences of the artist, Sony could instead focus on the phenomenon promoted by the video which encourages a happy and unique marriage. Jill and Kevin donated money made from the video’s unexpected virality to a charity in just such a way (Deighton & Kornfeld, 2012). Allowing the song to be representative of something more positive is one way for Sony to not only take advantage of the popularity of the song and the video, but also do something socially supportive while profiting in non-direct ways. This is one of the possible actions to be taken as pointed out by Deighton and Kronfeld ( 2012). Were Sony to do something to threaten Jill and Kevin, they risk not only alienating customers who purchased the song for their wedding in the first place (i.e., Jill and Kevin), but those who spread the video, as well as those who identify with and support the charity they support with the proceeds. They also risk lash back such as that exhibited by Lenz when she the Electronic Frontier Foundation about her YouTube video (Deighton & Kornfeld, 2012). And that is not even taking into account a possibly unfounded complaint which, according to Bowrey (2011), is a very real possibility.

References:

Bowrey, K. (2011). The new intellectual property: Celebrity, fans and the properties of the entertainment franchise. Griffith Law Review, 20(1), 188-220.

Cunningham, S. (2012). Emergent innovation through the coevolution of informal and formal media economies. Television New Media, 13(5), 415-430.

Deighton, J., & Kornfeld, L. (2012). Sony and the JK Wedding Dance. Boston, MA: Harvard Business College.

Jenkins, H., Li, X., Krauskopf, A., & Green, J. (2009). If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead (part one): Media viruses and memes. Retrieved from http://henryjenkins.org/2009/02/if_it_doesnt_spread_its_dead_p.html

Sony Global. (2013). Sony group brand message “make.believe”. Retrieved from http://www.sony.net/united/makedotbelieve/

Monster High: Transmedia Education

Whole_monster_high_crewIndividuals learn in a variety of ways (Felder & Spurlin, 2005). One method for educating is storytelling. Storytelling is a way of communicating and processing events and information; taking away the lessons that life has to offer (McKee, 1997). Understanding that people learn in a variety of ways, and that storytelling is tradition of humankind, it makes sense to tell stories using a variety of media. Hence, transmedia storytelling (Jenkins, 2007).

An example of how transmedia storytelling can teach children is Monster High. Monster High began as a web series; short 3 minute videos which tell the story of a group of students in high school. The catch is that they are all the children of famous monsters (e.g., Dracula, the werewolf, zombies, the Mummy, etc.). From there, Mattel created dolls, games on both computer and DS, art projects on their website, teen paranormal novels, kits to create your own dolls, a wiki, and a whole host of other media telling different parts of the Monster High story. Tim Kring (2008) notes that transmedia includes a central world (he calls in the ‘mothership’) from which all other media branch and to which all other media reconnect. Part of the educational aspects inherent in Monster High come not only from the facilitation of media literacy development, but from the history which is included in the creation of its world. If a child wants to know more about Cleo de Nile’s background, personality traits, habits, and interests, they must research her father (aka the Mummy) and his origins (i.e., Egypt). The same goes for every character. Children who are immersed in this story are guided to topics such as steampunk, French cathedrals, musical theatre, and mythology.

Monster HighAnother aspect of transmedia storytelling which Monster High accounts for is collective intelligence and user-generated content. Countless YouTube videos feature tutorials on recreating the makeup looks of the characters, creating custom dolls, and fan fiction. Monster High has also supported pre-teen focused social marketing content, allowing social issues to be addressed first via web video, then via wiki.

Because of the expansive ways in which transmedia storytelling reaches its audience, it can be harnassed for education as well as entertainment. Monster High is an example of that combination, though many other examples may be found throughout history (MIT, 2006).

References:

Felder, R. M., & Spurlin, J. (2005). Applications, reliability and validity of the index of learning styles. International Journal of Engineering Education, 21(1), 103–112.
Jenkins, H. (2007, March 22). Transmedia storytelling 101. Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official Weblog of HenryJenkins. Retrieved from: http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html
McKee, R. (1997). Story : substance, structure, style, and the principles of screenwriting. New York: ReganBooks.

Role-Playing on Twitter

Role-playing on Twitter may be an effective tool with which individuals may seek online support. Play, in general, is not only a method for escaping the difficulties and mundane activities of every day life, it is also a way for us to understand ourselves, our place in the world, and our relations to others (Chayko, 2008). Role-play, more specifically, has been used for education (Riddle, 2008), the processing and resolution of conflict (Houston, Magill, McCollum, & Spratt, 2001), and as a way to hone interpersonal skills in both virtual and face-to-face communities (Jung, 2007). Twitter, specifically, facilitates disinhibition in virtual connectivity (Joinson, 2007), intimacy via written text (Tanis, 2007), specifically targeted audiences (Marwick & boyd, 2010), and connect to communities based on common interests (Zappavigna, 2011).

role-playing-games-rpg-demotivational-posters-1341522698One example of role-playing on Twitter is the individuals brought together by their interest in League of Legends (LoL), a massively online battle arena (MOBA), who have created Twitter accounts posing as characters from the game. Those characters, bound in some way by the lore already created by game developers, interact in a way which allows LoL to become immersive. These characters already belong to communities, based on their lore, however the community of role-players also begin to develop “meta” rules (e.g., social norms) for what is acceptable behavior when acting as a character. For instance, when speaking out of character the role-player must use “//” before the text.

fantasy_roleplayingRole-players use text to indicate physical movement as well. This is consistent with Tanis’s (2007) note that individuals change writing forms and word usage to indicate non-verbal cues when having text based conversations in which non-verbal cues are necessary. When becoming a part of this community, role-players who have been in the community longer, use the direct message function of Twitter to explain abbreviations, meta rules, and work out characters’ story lines (or TL’s). This sharing of information is also consistent with Parks (2011) assertion that communities inherently have a form of information sharing. Additionally, this community allows for strong bonds between players, allowing for informational and emotional support (Tanis, 2007).

Role-playing in online communities, such as the ones found on Twitter, allow us to learn to develop identities (whether our own, or role-played), adhere to social norms and meta rules for communities, become immersed or facilitated the immersion of others into a transmedia story, and provide or find support using online connectivity.

References:

Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.

Houston, S., Magill, T., McCollum, M., & Spratt, T. (2001). Developing creative solutions to the problems of children and their families: Communicative reason and the use of forum theatre. Child and Family Social Work, 6, 285-293.

Joinson, A. (2007). Disinhibition and the internet. In J. Gackenbach (Ed.), Psychology and the Internet: Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, and Transpersonal Implications, (pp. 75-92). New York, NY: Elsevier.

Jung, Y. (2007). Role enactment in interactive media: A role-play perspective. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, , 4124-4124. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/621722683?accountid=10868. (621722683; 2008-99070-189).

Marwick, A. E., & boyd, d. (2010). I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience. New Media & Society, 13(1), 114–133. doi:10.1177/1461444810365313
Riddle, M. D. (2009). The Campaign: a case study in identity construction through performance. ALT-J, 17(1), 63–72. doi:10.1080/09687760802649855
Parks, M. (2011). Social network sites as virtual communities. In Z. Papacharissi (Ed.), A Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites, (pp. 105-123). New York, NY: Routledge.
Tanis, M. (2009). Online social support groups. In A. Joinson, K. McKenna, T. Postmes & U. Reips (Eds), The Oxford Handbook of Internet Psychology, (pp. 139-163). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Zappavigna, M. (2011). Ambient affiliation: A linguistic perspective on Twitter. New Media & Society, 13(5), 788–806. doi:10.1177/1461444810385097

What is Social Media?

Defining social media is just as important as operationally defining any variable in any research. When a term or concept remains undefined, communication breaks down on a fundamental level. Individuals may discuss the same word with two very different concepts in mind. Social media has been defined as any platform facilitating communication, as well as the content which people share over social networks. Either way, before progressing into a world thick with social media, we must define it.

Social media facilitate and enhance existing and prospective social connections (Donath, 2004). Social media, in all their numerous forms, create opportunities for individuals worldwide to communicate (Rutledge, 2012).

Social media types vary based on their main functions in communication (Rutledge, 2012). Categories includes searches, blogs, wikis, folksonomy, and social networking; each category comes with a variety of applications, sites, platforms, and technologies to facilitate their particular function (2012).  Additionally, individuals may use the same social media in a variety of ways (Chayko, 2008).

Twitter is used to connect like minded communities based on interests and geographical locations (Java, Finn, Song, & Tseng, 2007). Facebook tends to be used to maintain and strengthen pre-existing relationships (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007). MMORPGs have been used to develop skill such as teamwork and leadership, as have first-person shooters (Cole & Griffiths, 2007; Jansz & Tanis, 2007). Social media are also used as a means of identity verification (Burke & Stets, 2009), overcoming social phobias and marginalization (Cabiria, 2008; Orr et al., 2009), and education (Barnett & Coulson, 2010).

References:

Barnett, J., & Coulson, M. (2010). Virtually real: A psychological perspective on massively multiplayer online games. Review of General Psychology14(2), 167–179. doi:10.1037/a0019442
Burke, P., & Stets, J. E. (2009). Identity theory. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from http://site.ebrary.com/id/10329671
Cabiria, J. (2008). Real Life + Virtual Life = One life by Dr. Jonathan Cabiria [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3qwdQLSt2I&feature=youtube_gdata_player
Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.
Cole, H., & Griffiths, M. (2007). Social interactions in massively multiplayer online role-playing gamers. CyberPsychology & Behavior10(4), 575-583. doi: 10.1089/cpb.200739988
 Donath, J. (2004). Sociable media.
Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of Facebook “friends:” social capital and college students’ use of online social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication12(4), 1143–1168.
Java, A., Finn, T., Song, X., & Tseng, B. (2007). Why we Twitter: Understanding microblogging usage and communities.
Jansz, J., & Tanis, M. (2007). Appeal of playing online first person shooter games. CyberPsychology & Behavior10(1), 133–136. doi:10.1089/cpb.2006.9981
Orr, E. S., Sisic, M., Ross, C., Simmering, M. G., Arseneault, J. M., & Orr, R. R. (2009). The influence of shyness on the use of Facebook in an undergraduate sample. CyberPsychology & Behavior12(3), 337–340. doi:10.1089/cpb.2008.0214

Rutledge, P. (2012, September). Social media 101 [PowerPoint].

Game Review: Smite

First, let me start by saying that I’m a League of Legends (LoL) fangirl. I tell you this because when I say Smite might motivate me to leave LoL, it should have impact. Smite has all the things I like about LoL, but takes care of a few of the things I don’t; including the excessive number of trolls and flamers that Riot bans people for reporting. More on that another time. For now, let’s talk Smite!

I’ve always been interested in mythology; no secret there. I have written before about Joseph Campbell and his words of wisdom, not the least of which include the hero’s journey and the universality of myths as truths. Smite uses gods from a variety of mythologies (e.g., Greek, Hindu, Chinese, Egyptian, etc.) and turns them into mages and melee fighters. In teams of 5v5, you set off down the three lanes, all full of towers and minions (and yes, there are jungles too) all leading to your goal; the Minotaur. Take down the fierce golden Minotaur, and you claim victory for your team. Simple as that… in theory.

The view is third person, so it feels more like World of Warcraft than LoL in that respect. Movement is very familiar if you play WoW as well: WASD for running, number keys for abilities, and the mouse guiding your direction of travel. Like with LoL, you use favor (aka IP) or gems (the in-game currency that has to be purchased with actual money) to unlock gods and a variety of skins. There are some gods who excel at defense, some at magic use, and some at melee fighting; as in most any MOBA. And, of course, you can purchase a wide variety of items to passively buff any number of stats on each character. One of the great things about Smite (at least as compared to LoL) is the ability to have your items and abilities auto leveled for you. This means those who are consumed with trying NOT to nerf their team can focus on other things. As you’re entering the game, you simply unmark the boxes for either or both when you’re ready to customize your toon.

Since I’m sure you’re well versed in MOBAs by now, I’ll talk about particulars only briefly. The graphics for this game are phenomenal. The detail to the characters both in character select, in the animations for the skins, and in game play is breathtaking. The sounds for the game aren’t spectacular, but they’re not overwhelming either. The characters have their taunts and musings, and the voices are well done, but they are by no means meant to make or break the game. Something auditory, however, that I did find amusing/helpful was a verbal cue for team notifications. In other words, when someone is trying to warn you that the right lane that you’re trying to push is about to be ganked, a voice says, “Right lane under attack!” and whether you look at the map or read the chat log, you know what’s coming. To be honest, I prefer that to a “PING” any day. Especially when people are spamming the ping… but I digress.

In my opinion, the significant advantage this game has over LoL is the immersion. Because this game is done in third person point of view, the game is far more transportational than LoL is. There is no overhead view; you are IN the battlefield. This, of course, makes map awareness vital, but allies and opponents are labeled well from the third person view as well, so as long as they’re visible, you can easily weave your way through the jungles and lanes. Team fights are also facilitated well by the ease of map awareness and the point of view change. Another bonus (or frustration depending on how you play) is the immersion in fights. As a ranged character, every ability is a skill shot; you HAVE to aim your shots and be in range. However, you’re given an arrow to line your shots up with (making my life SO much easier). As a melee character, you can also see where your ability is going to hit (you can walk around with your ability range lit before you take the shot… VERY handy), but when you’re auto attacking, you have to stay oriented; much harder to do when you aren’t look on from above. 

From a psychological perspective, the social aspect of the game is definitely present; there are chat tabs that you’re constantly exposed to in the lobby (much like you are with WoW), and this is where you friend chats pop up as well. Anyone who has managed tabs on a web browser, can manage these. Though the game is in closed beta, current players have been given invitations to send to friends, and you can always request a game key directly from Hi-Rez (mine took only a few hours to arrive). Either way, the ability to play with friends is definitely a motivator for some to play this game. If your friends aren’t on the game (or you want to get REALLY good before you invite them… ahem…), there is still the team play socialization that facilitates cooperation, planning, leadership, and social adeptness. This game has levels, favor, and types of game play which become available only after reaching certain levels as a player; all of these become reinforcers and promote achievement based game play motivation. The increased immersion, thanks to the third person view, makes escapism and transportation easier and more fulfilling.

Whatever your reason for playing MOBAs, this game covers it well. If you’re a player who likes a laid back, stress free game there are solo training matches where you go one on one, and all characters are available for play. You don’t get favor here, but you get to try before you buy and you can get a feel for the game before you wade into the waters as a noob in the pvp realm. Once you get really good, there are ranked games with more game play styles being released soon. Now is a great time to start playing. If you like MOBAs, my guess is you’ll love this one; it’s not out with the old, in with the new. It’s, “Now here’s something we hope you’ll REALLY like!”

Target Audiences in a Virtual World

Smith and Wollan (2011) discuss barriers to using online social media for customer feedback. The need for instantaneous response to feedback is a grave one. Work of mouth is the most effective form of advertising. As such, it also has a large effect on negative feedback. This is called aggressive consumer activism (Smith & Wollan, 2011). By immediately addressing concerns and comments, companies can effectively minimize the damage done by this negative feedback. Of course, it isn’t possible to deal with every single piece of information/feedback/criticism given by customers. This is challenge number two. Companies must have a fluid and well constructed way to deal with customer input. http://3.bp.blogspot.com/--N6cn5nBwkE/T8rH8nUm9FI/AAAAAAAAAVc/u-sU9YbkBWk/s1600/targetaudience2.jpgThis is a challenge in and of itself. There are a variety of media at the customers’ disposal for feedback. It all has to be monitored, data input and checked against the company’s goals and measurement standards. And, even if they did have a program for dealing with customer data, no one can please everyone all the time. What one customer likes the other may not; even within the same target audience. For that matter, there may be a significant difference between what the customer who expresses himself thinks/wants/feels, and the customer who doesn’t express himself, but whose opinion matters all the same.

Smith and Wollan (2011) also offer suggestions as to the way around some of these barriers. By partnering with influential users of social media, companies can target audiences within a certain area of their market. Organizations can allow existing networks to work for them. Influential social media users have the ability to harness their credibility with followers and friends in a persuasive manner. By obtaining the support of these influential few, companies are able to zero in on their target audience, monitor feedback in a more concentrated way (e.g., monitor the youtube comments of their video blogger who is followed by zillions), and immediately respond to that feedback.

It is my opinion that we all have trusted sites, bloggers, and critics who we find closely represent our personal opinions. By accessing those key people, marketers can reach a larger group of customers. I know that I personally read very specific websites for game reviews. If they don’t like the game, I won’t buy them.

Tell me this isn’t bad ass…. Also… it clicks SO PRETTY!

When I worked for one of these review sites, marketers gave free copies of games to me, asking me to write a review. By giving me a free copy, they were getting their foot in the door, and I was more likely to enjoy the game, as I had a good taste in my mouth about the company gifting it to me. My favorite example of that was when I was given a keyboard to review. My review was so positive and reached so many people, that the company gave me the $130.00 keyboard as a gift. I STILL rave about it. A good example of reaching one to affect the masses (also, I LOVE THIS KEYBOARD!)

Research Review: First-Person Shooter Games as a Way of Connecting to People: “Brothers in Blood”

I love this article. There are a few reasons for this. First, in the disclosure statement there is a note about how no competing funding was provided for this research. That is important because there have been other researchers (who I won’t name, but I REALLY want to) who have accepted monies for their research which may have been influential in the results of their research. This makes their research controversial and more pseudo science than psychology. So, I appreciate that this research was done without “competing financial interests”. Second, the findings of this back up a lot of my favorite gaming research and it was done in a much different way than the others. Allow me to illuminate.

Frostling-Henningsson studied players in Stockholm in two online-gaming centers (yes, I know we don’t use them much anymore here, but this is a great place for qualitative research). She spent time from September 2006 to February 2007 observing gaming sessions, and interviewing gamers. Her participants were 19 males and 4 females between the age of 12 and 26 years old. These ages are slightly younger than typical gamers, but seem to be more accurate of typical FPS players.

She found themes of motivation for play in the responses of the participants. The first one she found was communication. Players like to socialize. This is nothing new to us. Other research I’ve reviewed here has shown the same theme in EQ and WoW players as well. The second theme she found was connection in ways that were unanticipated. In other words, players enjoyed the fact that real world identifiers (i.e., age, gender, sexuality, or appearance) don’t affect whether we are willing to connect with others. Rather, things like personality, kindness, support, maturity, and game skill/cooperation inform our connections. This is a very positive theme in gaming. It means that gaming transcends borders and boundaries that tend to stop us in real life. It makes us less biased and allows us to judge based on more solid grounds; things that matter. This is consistent with what Chayko (2008) says of virtual connections as well; our sociomental connections (i.e., connections we make in mental spaces and not physical, face to face spaces) are a more real kind of real and tend to be more intimate because we invest more time and energy into them.

The third theme Frostling-Henningsson found was that there is a feeling associated with gaming that participants experience. One unlike that of reading (though described to be similar to that type of immersion) or movies, tv or real life. Gaming allows us access to experiences that we wouldn’t otherwise have access to; running through the Sphinx, or shooting up a hospital whose only inhabitants happen to be brain munching zombies. These things don’t happen, they’re not experiences we’re ever likely to have. Yet gaming allows us to experience them. One of my favorite thoughts in the article come from this section as well. The comment is made by one of the participants that he feels relaxed when he is playing CS but his girlfriend says it’s really just a way for him to take out his aggression. Do you think expressing or expelling pent up emotions is or can be a form of relaxation? I certainly do, but I just might have to research this and let you all know what I find out.

The fourth motivational theme found was that of teamwork and cooperation. Gamers preferred to work together, even when they were on opposing teams. Think of all the meta rules implemented when you and your friends game, “Let’s kill everyone else first, then square off one on one,” or “NO CAMPING, YOU NEWB!” The fifth theme was gaming allowed for an escape from the anxieties and stressors of the real world. However, some of the participants mention that they play CS rather than WoW because they feel some sense of control over just exactly how immersed (or ‘sucked in’) they end up being. I’ve heard that plenty of times, but I’m not so sure my CS playing compatriots are any less ‘sucked in’ than I am by League of Legends, or my brother is by World of Warcraft. Could there be personality, perception, or motivational differences in who gets consumed by which games? Another item on my research “to do” list, I assure you.

Finally, Frostling-Henningsson found that gamers like to play because they feel like the virtual world is a real world, just a different real world. This is consistent with research that says virtual worlds are just as real, if not seemingly more real, as the offline real world. People can become different selves, try on personalities, let their hair down, as it were, and become disinhibited all without worrying about real world consequences. Don’t believe me? Check out last week’s article about permeability between virtual and real worlds. The bottom line is that we’re social beings who love, live for, and grow from all kinds of exciting experiences; real, virtual, or otherwise.

References:

Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.

Frostling-Henningsson, M. (2009). First-person shooter games as a way of connecting to people: “Brothers in blood”. CyberPsychology & Behavior12(5), 557-562. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2008.0345

Desperately Seeking Future

This is the portion of the show where we contemplate what our dream social technology would do. I’m not great at dreaming big (the hazard of being a realist). I am, however, great at explaining why I like what I like; we start there.

First and foremost, my favorite social media is Google; all of it. The reason being that there are so many ways to connect, types of uses, and useful media all under one roof. That being said, Google doesn’t work under one application (at least on my phone), so moving from one to the other can be challenging. Google, as a company, seems to be mindful of ways in which the internet COULD be used better, rather than just coming up with more options for current use (although Google+ did kinda do that).

I love Skype because it allows me to see and hear friends who are far away (same reason I enjoy Google Hangouts). I like Twitter because it allows me to connect with people I don’t otherwise know via networking and like-minded communities. Most of my new friends come from Twitter. Twitter, for the record, is also where my secret venting account is. Control over who sees you ginger rage is good. Facebook allows me to keep contact with friends from long ago, keep up on current events (because that’s where they get posted… sadly), and keep in (distant) touch with family that is, well… family. StumbleUpon and Pinterest allow me to explore sites and places on the interwebs that I would likely never find on my own, as well as connect with people who are like minded. Foursquare feeds my competitive side while I’m out doing chores I would be doing otherwise, helps me connect with people in my community who frequent similar places, and gives great access to great tips and discounts. I love texting because it allows me to have instant access to my friends and let’s me word things deliberately. Email gives me a similar outlet, but I tend to use it more formally, and typically when I don’t need an immediate response. I love Pandora because it let’s me discover new music for when I’m studying or gaming, as well as let’s me customize a playlist of music I don’t necessarily own. Dropbox allows me to share things that I don’t want everyone else to see. Gaming let’s me socialize, achieve, and escape. And I love the skills I develop from gaming as well. Finally, WordPress, of course, gives me a place to share my passion, as nerdy as they tend to be. 😉

So, now that I’ve nearly exhausted my list of social technologies I love already, what can be better? Having them all in one place. While the cell phone is nearly that (and allows for immediate and mobile access to boot), I’m talking about an all in one, open source (Apple and Microsoft give me a headache with their exclusivity and partnering), simply designed but fully customizable, social technology that allows for all of my contacts, venting, exploring, connecting,  sharing, etc.

Oh… and here’s the kicker; the reason it’s a dream: I want it to be ad free. No sponsors begging me to allow them to control all of my doohickies… none of that.  I know it’s a lot to ask. But this is MY dream, right?

OOH! And since we ARE dreaming… I want it all to be in an AR contact lens that allows me to drive and still wear my vision correcting lenses. 🙂

Gender Bender Project

It doesn’t get any sexier than the amazing Yara Sophia.

Tyanne Olson (Olson, 2012) does a great job of creating a comprehensive transmedia portfolio which seeks to challenge the social construction of ‘gender’. She uses Twitter (@gendertweet) to target in-group individuals by sharing insights, photos, and creating a community for the safe identity verification of those affected by marginalization. Facebook is used as another way of connecting with the in-group and providing socialization, support, and links to related articles, blogs, and alternate social media outlets. Tyanne also uses Pinterest as a creative element; its purpose is to resonate with in-group and general populations via visual stimuli. To round out the transmedia goodness, she uses Time Magazine to reach the general populous, branching out to begin a reformation of marginalizing social norms.

Tyanne’s project works because she has a targeted audience and uses specific media to reach them (i.e., those affected by marginalization and the general population). She is conscious of the needs of the in-group and provides support for them, allowing for a safe community which facilitates the trying-on and verification of an identity which may be easier to come to grips with in a virtual community first. She also provides a clearly defined identity for the project, which immediately allows the viewer/participant/community member to understand where they are (e.g., what sociomental space they’ve stumbled into) and what is being addressed.

For more information click the links below:

Facebook Page

Twitter Feed

Pinterest

References:

Olson, T. (2012).  The gender identity project [PowerPoint presentation]. Retrieved from: