On a Future Paper

What is about videogames that draw so many to them? Is it all about competition and violence? Is it a mind draining activity that has drawn many souls into its cultist like clutches? Unlikely.

 

There is so much more to videogames than trying to explain media effects and violence. There is a richer side, a social side and with this essay I wish to clear up a few things bout them that not many consider. A quick review of their history and many attributes will help us get started. The great variety of their aesthetic representations and game play mechanics that make of video games one of the fastest growing mediums for storytelling as well as an emerging field of competition that has been on the makings since their conception, to the point that the term eSports had to be coined to define them, creating not only an industry but a true phenomena. Video games carry with hem a sum of prowess in art and technology that create a medium that is as innovative and varied in their presentation as it is thought provoking and social conscious when the creators put the effort into it.

 

In this essay I will be presenting a dive into not only the product but into the fanbases surrounding them, trying to meditate and explore the formation of groups interested not only in partaking on the experience but also sharing their opinions, creating related contend and displaying their enthusiasm. This is a very important part of the essay, as it represents the dynamics that form around the games and how they create a community. Like minded individuals with different backgrounds and talents, united by a common thread. Whether it is a game that is a narrative inspiration, a piece of art in motion with an abstract narrative or a fast-paced competitive shooter, each game can draw in individuals that see in them some thing of value for their lives.

 

And with these groups there are power dynamics, dynamics represented by community leaders and content creators whose opinions are elevated or status is upheld by their skills. Add to that individuals that are considered celebrities, wither because of their skills or relationship to the developing team and we have a case that goes much deeper and that require a lot more thought than previously considered.

 

This essay will be part of a larger project, and introduction to my dissertation that while not yet cemented on its theme, will definitely revolve around the communities that form around videogames and how that creates identity for groups of people, a point of departure of a dissertation into exploring the theme of society and interests that emerge from common bonds. I believe it will be a meaningful work, that will set the tone for my future work and will also create in other scholars interest to delve in into these themes that seem so ignored because of their relationship with a phenomena that is usually mis interpreted and mis represented along with the people that participate in them.

Mapping a story

What story could I tell by using an interactive map?

 

There are a few things I could find that would be interesting to present in this format, a narrative about fandoms and enthusiast in Mexico city, so let me tell you a brief story about where alternative cultures and groups find each other.

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Transcript:

 

The tianguis and the importance for Mexican Culture.

 

In the pre hispanic era, the natives of what is known now as Mexico gathered their goods and sold them in special places called Tianguis. These tianguis where not only  a place for trade and commerce, it was also a center of cultural exchange between cultures and groups.

 

The earlier center of trade.

 

The ruins of Teotihuacan (Literally means “the birthplace of gods”) where once a great center of trade for many cultures of the Mesoamerican region of Mexico and beyond. The site itself is an amalgamation of many architectural techniques, that by the time the Mexica arrived to the region was already a sacred ruin.

 

Spanish conquest.

 

The “Plaza de las tres culturas” is an important zone of Mexico city, today it is a place where modernity, colonialism and Mexica ruins live together, it is the site of a very sad chapter in Mexican history and right before the spanish conquest one of the largest and most important sites of trade of the region.

 

Tianguis de San Felipe

 

In the modern era, Tianguis have, for the most part, remained hub of trade for small producers, selling fresh fruits, vegetables, and all sorts of foods and goods. It is not unheard for these Tianguis to reach massive sizes, now following a traveling model. Tianguis in Mexico city are itinerant, taking certain days of the week, and putting up their stalls to offer goods at a weekly basis, and with San Felipe being one that offers over 7 kilometers of stalls, the variety of goods offered is staggering.

 

El Chopo.

 

However tianguis have begun to morph into something else, the idea of offering goods has broken towards  speciality and niche. The “Mercado del chopo” is a contra culture place where fans of grunge, metal, punk and other counter culture music and movements can find goods aimed at them. Dark clothes, studded leather, vinyl records and handcrafts are offered by skilled artisans, a throwback to the times of the prehispanic tianguis and serving as a hub for finding other followers of every movement.

 

Friki Plaza.

 

In a similar vein the Tianguis also finds a use for fans of pop culture. Fans of video games, trading card games, anime, manga and comics find a safe space where they can buy memorabilia, find other players and enthusiasts to create fan art and maybe even show off cosplay (dressing up as characters). Tianguis have become again a place for cultural exchange in a wide variety and more can be find in a metropolis like Mexico city.

Engaging Gamers

Knowing my user base, my subjects of interest, gamers, comes from the knowledge of being a gamer myself. If I can put myself into different shoes and consider the preferences and interests of several groups of people I will be able to engage and offer something for all them.

Of course the common thread in this games, but exactly what kind of games could I consider, and what narrative would I establish. Trying to encompass all gamers in a  sweeping move might be impossible without finding a common thread.

If I want to focus on Multiplayer Games players, I would be wise to know which games to attract, and to keep competition in my mind and themes, while if I prefer to approach gamers who prefer single player games, usually with strong Narratives, I could focus on source materials and script quality. In both cases appealing to what unifies several games would be the way to go.

One advantage that addressing Gamers has is that they are usually technology savvy, know how to engage an interface and can be expected to be somewhat proficient with navigation tools. But it also means that their interest and attention span might be limited without an interface that is not engaging. Thus instead of offering chunks of information a light gamification of the content could be more engagement alluring, and if it is space that allows for user registry and personalization, perhaps an achievement system could be implemented. It all comes down to what I wish to represent and put out there for them, that I something I need to think about? Do I want to offer a depository of information and pieces of “food for thought”? Or do I want to offer a mirror for them to contemplate on their own conditions and ideals?

That is something I must still debate.

Personas of Gamers

Personas:

In my research I deal a lot with gamers, gamers of all economic and cultural origins, with a special interest in Latin America gamers and with a preexisting database of Mexican players. In particular, I am interested in the personas of these gamers in function of their relationship with their family and community, including their jobs. Thus, three archetypical personas I have encountered in my previous research could look something like this:

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Miguel Sanchez: University Student.
Background: Engineering Sophomore at UNAM (Largest public university in Mexico)
Gaming Choice: PC, Occasional Mobile.
Gaming Time: 3-5 times a week, sessions averaging 2 hours.

Quick Take on Miguel: Receives a stipend form the government, has a desktop computer he put together himself, has a background in Mechanics.

Key Goals: Miguel is trying to keep a high GPA while going through college, college is competitive in Mexico and thus his grades determine hiss opportunities. Right now things are good, between his parents help and a government stipend he can stay away from having a part time job, thus he can dedicate time to playing videogames.

Recently he started playing League of legends with other classmates, finds the experience bonding and it can be fun, he is looking into learning more about the game and mechanics. He is focused on online games.

A day in Life: Miguel has classes 4 days a week, he commutes every day an hour and a half each way to get from his family house to the university, his first class is at 8 am. Once there he spends up to 6 hours in campus. As a sophomore he is still to have more compromises. After class he will occasionally hang out with friends, going to a bar or at the nearby hot spots. Miguel goes home in the early evening. Gaming came in the form of online games that he plays mostly with classmates form the university, he has since invited friends from high school that he stays in touch with. Recently he has been looking into more games that are single player. His parents think the gaming thing is just one more entertainment their son does.

Some friends took them to the city’s “geeky” plaza, where he got himself a hat themed after the game they play and he is getting more interested in the lore of the game. Luckily Miguel can be at ease maintaining his GPA for now, and the stipend he receives from the government means he has the extra time to play and enjoy his time. As a mechanical engineer student, he is very adept with computers, the gaming rig he currently uses was put together by himself, they are not premium components, but they get the job done and he has make sure they work well. He is saving up to upgrade his graphics card.

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Humberto Suarez: Cashier at a fast food restaurant.
Background: College dropout.
Gaming Choice: PC, Occasional console.
Gaming Time: 7 days a week, sessions averaging 5 hours.

Quick take on Humberto: Has a computer he had a friend put together for him, works fulltime in a fast food restaurant and lives with his parents, pitching in for utilities.

Key Goals: Humberto is trying to make it big, he considers himself and adept game player and is striving to be accepted into one of the professional teams in Mexico. He dropped out of college because of low GPA. He works full time, but any free time he has he spends honing his gaming skills.

Prefers competitive games that are considered E-Sports, and money he does not use for basics is invested into gear and hardware.

A day in life: Humberto works 8 hours a day, 6 days a week in a fast food restaurant, that means his average day of work starts around 9 am and ends around 4 pm, unless he has a shift in the evening, these changes in shift are periodical. Humberto lives within walking distance of his job, so he can go have lunch at his house. Humberto believes his skills in games are good enough to join the professional circuit, he plays FPSs (First Person Shooters) and is in talks to join one of the Mexican professional Teams. His English is good, and he keeps a good standing within the leaderboards.

Humberto only really interacts with his teammates, but does have a stable relationship with his parents, as long as he keeps helping with utilities, however their parents seem to be losing patience and do not understand his dedication to games. Humberto hopes to be a pro and play for money soon.

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Viviana Ramirez: Marketing Executive.
Background: College Graduate.
Gaming Choice: Console, Occasional PC.
Gaming Time: 5 days a week, sessions averaging 3 hours.

Quick Take on Viviana: A salary worker at an international company, lives on her own in an apartment, has a current gen gaming console and a store bought gaming computer.

Key Goals: Viviana likes her job, she gets paid well and moving up the corporate ladder. From youth she has enjoyed videogames and has kept this interest now that she lives on her own. She keeps up with current console titles, keeping up with franchises she likes. She is dating but has no urge to settle down.

Prefers single player games, though occasionally she will jump into online games with friends, has thought about live streaming her gaming.

A day in life: Viviana works from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday, though days she stays at the office until 6 or 7 pm are not unheard of. She commutes almost an hour each way, having a car but preferring public transportation. Her job applies everything she has learned in college and she is satisfied with her current situation, though getting a raise/promotion is always on her mind. She gets home and as part of her routine she plays videogames, she always has a title she is currently working on, trying to unlock everything in the game she currently plays, except for any achievements that require online multiplayer, she does not particular like those.

She does delves into multiplayer as long as she is playing with friends, she has a laptop she got for that that doubles as an office laptop at home. Viviana has an interest to delve into live streaming games, seeing many English speaker girls do the same and get revenue she believes she plays enough to have a mastery on this, plus she is enthusiasts for the lore and fandom around her favorite titles. She has memorabilia and merchandise from them.

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Some of the information I got ere I got from actual interviews and compile them into these three archetypes. Some of the information is relevant, for example the gaming choice, as it reveals what games the players play and how they play it.