Tag Archives: social gaming

Week 5 Discussion

Q1. Do you think that video games are the first indigenous form of digital media? Are all video games fundamentally different from past games and types of play?

I think that digital media is simply imitating life, which in turn lends itself to life imitating digital media. In the case of games, I agree that the offline counterparts have been around for thousand of years. I like the example of India’s Chataranga in 500 BC which evolved into modern day chess. Digital games have derived from training and tactical games, notably military games. Ancient warriors would use sand to illustrate their strategies to allies, later utilising stones to move across maps to demonstrate action plans.

Smith (2010) discusses in his paper how video games such as Asteroids & Battlezone released by Atari or William’s Defender in the early 1980s have foundation in military training. Online games such as these are very familiar with their own offline counterparts. These however, are games that can only be played in a digital environment, because not everyone has access to military training and staff. Smartphones, for example offer interfaces where with a slide of a finger, gamers can shoot, reload and alternate weapons to defeat enemies. Games can be played anywhere and any time, provided they have internet access.

Q2. What do you think makes a game ‘social’ – is it the type of game, who you play it with, or something else?  (Is there a line between playing and being social, or are they part of the same sort of experience? Do you think that playing some games actually promotes more developed social links with others, for example when a game involves collaborating and trusting others to complete joint tasks?)

I’m a big fan of social games on Facebook; I’ve experimented with a lot of the ones offered. However, I do think that some are more social than others. There are some games such as Texas Hold ‘em that have a chat feature so that you may actually socialise while playing, but for the most part games such as my favourite Mystery Manor and Candy Crush, having more friends play the game with me simply means I can advance through the game quicker. But the only interaction between players is simply the giving of lives, gifts or passes through to the next level. Rossi (2009) explains that essentially, there are two characteristics to online social games: “skills/knowledge and truly social games” and further discusses that while some games may promote relationships between players, other games may weaken these relationships because gamers may de-friend other gamers if they do not carry their weight in the game, particularly if the “friends” are complete strangers, added only to expand their play.

Q3. Do you think that, as Jane McGonigal suggests, that videogames and game players can change the (real) world?

Even if you have reservations about the idea as a whole, can you think of some aspects of gaming and game play that do have the potential to prepare people to do things in the real world? Are there any examples where game skills are already being used to carry out real-world tasks?

I actually really like this idea. I use play as learning with my children and most of the games I have for them are educational (apart of course from Mortal Kombat!). I understand that gamifying education may be seen in a negative light due to the external rewards system. Juul (2010) explains that bribery only works for a while, then children associate learning with rewards and this can lead to negative behaviour. However, Jane McGonigal (2010) explains that games do not need to be about points. Games are more than that. They can teach gamers good values by simply having a good game design. McGonigal’s webpage lists a number of games that can prepare gamers to go on epic adventures, all the while being environmentally friendly!


Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world. (2010). Retrieved from

Juul, J. (2010, February 25). Demotivation by External Rewards. The Ludologist. Retrieved January 4, 2014, from

Rossi, L. (2009). Playing your network: gaming in social network sites. Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory. Proceedings of DIGRA 2009, (2009). Retrieved from

Smith, R. (2010). The Long History of Gaming in Military Training. Simulation & Gaming, 41(1), 6–19. doi:10.1177/1046878109334330

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Posted by on 01/06/2014 in WEB207


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2.4 Play with me!: Having fun with media

1.    Summarise the main points in the two articles.

Claiming a stake in the videogame: what grown-ups say to rationalise and normalise gaming.

Helen Thornham’s article Claiming a Stake in the Videogame articulates the many reasons adults justify and rationalize the ownership of video games and specifically game consoles as well as being an adult gamer. In her research, Thornham uncovers a lack of identification in such area, finding that the majority of studies have been of children and their play. A BBC survey is cited as saying “the average age of gamer in the UK is 28, and 51 per cent of gamers reside in the 35–50 age group.”

Thornham explains that games are often classified as a means of escapism, fantasy, but by contrast “claimed by adult gamers as serious, rational and logical pastimes.” (Thornham, 2009, 142). She goes on about this matter in more depth later.

Pleasure is another topic that is discussed in the article at length, Thornham is aware that gamers feel pleasure when playing, however the way they express it is quite different and the kind of pleasure that is experienced is of great interest to the study. The verbalization of pleasure is seen as a “problematic issue for gamers, it is also, of course, a much debated issue for academics.” (Thornham, 2009, 142). Thornham found that the interviewees while trying to explain why they play games often could not express the pleasure they felt while playing and with the male housemates, discussing the possibility of obtaining pleasure from playing games resulted in perceived abnormal and lessened their social status.

The ethnographic research Thornham was engaged in for four years targeted gamers who:

  • shared adult households
  • were financially autonomous
  • had social power dynamics rather than familial lines

Familial power dynamics involved:

  • parents purchase PC for specific reason (education)
  • parents decide location of PC
  • parents regulate game play (time, place, genre)

Which meant that such a dynamic would be unsuitable for this research. To make things easier the households needed to be socially established on a more democratic footing. While both men and women rationalize and and justify their gaming experience, there are many differences in when they play as well as how and why. Interviews were performed largely in groups, with the exception of solo gamers within the household, who were interviewed separately and alone. The interviews took place in the living room over a few days in which gameplay was recorded and conversations documented.

Thornham interviewed four households initially, but as some people moved away she followed them where she could to continue with the research. This presented a wider basis on which the power dynamics could be studied. All the housemates were skilled players, being able to use the controller, and so forth. Some would spend between 15 and over 30 hours are week playing games and most households contained more than one game console as well as a laptop/PC. Thornham was able to visit on a regular basis, in which she did not interfere with visitors, gameplay or discussions. This visits allowed confidence and trust to build and Thornham was able to let the housemates contribute to her work by way of their reflections, to tie the piece together and maintain good working relationships.

This question is asked as part of the research: Why did the housemates become interested in gaming? And the answers were, social aspects, like peer pressure or social status; multifunctional technology, like a DVD player; boredom and the money. some housemates rationalize the initial purchase of the console later adding their preference of the type of console (PlayStation, X-Box, Atari) This preference along with the games played and how long they are played attracting ridicule and criticism as seen when housemate Simon establishes himself as a rational adult with authority over housemate Steve.

“Simon: [To Steve] you just play it for hours with nothing else going on but . . .
Steve: I used to play it like with either music or the TV on
Simon: so, so you’ve got something else going on, you’ve just turned your brain off. (Brighton 1)” (Thornham, 2009, 148)

Interestingly, when this household breaks up in 2006 and Simon moves in with Joe and Lorna, Simon seems to let Joe be the alpha male and becomes less of a know-it-all. “This suggests that it is not only wider discourses of power and performance that are being negotiated, but that they are also contingent on temporal, social and household specificities.” (Thornham, 2009, 149).

In order to rationalize gaming, people tend to “humanise” (Thornham, 2009, 159) technology with terms like ‘responds’ or ‘reacts’ to the gamer. This is common for Thornham to find as it allowed housemates to talk about pleasure. In this context, they explain that when playing a game and succeeding in passing a particular level brings pleasure after what could be hours of frustration.

It is noted that different types of relationships are built by gamers and their consoles. For example, where housemate Joe’s game will allow him to win because of his expert knowledge, other housemates Beth and Lorna will see the game as the “‘powerful’ partner in their relationships.” (Thornham, 2009, 150). Also there’s the point when the gamer is about to finish playing for the time being and the game persuades them to keep going by “offering” something more. (Thornham, 2009, 150). Thornham points out this kind of pleasure comes from a relationship based on power and the machine is seen as giving (benevolently?) what the gamers want and need.

Another point of discussion is the social aspects of owning a console and being a gamer and the fine line between ‘”‘normal’ and ‘geek'”. (Thornham, 2009, 151). The housemates interviewed for this article all identified owning a console for the social aspects as in playing with others physically present a opposed to online. It seemed to build an image of the solo gamer as abnormal. Two out of 26 housemates insisted they never played alone. These housemates identified “social gaming as the normal and only mode of gameplay”.(Thornham, 2006, 151). The subcontext was that if you played alone you were gay and had sexual perversions and were socially inadequate.

So the games based on this kind of pleasure – including “immersion, escapism, fantasy fulfillment” (Thorham, 2009, 152) are seen as elements of a ‘geek’ nature. ‘Normal’ gamers take pleasure in the social aspects and have a life outside of the game. Male gamers can have fun in a ‘real’ place and time and “can perform close (homosocial) relationships with one another without any threat of perversion.” (Thornham, 2009, 152). ‘Geek’ gamers, by contrast, invest a lot of time on games to the expense of their social lives which puts a question mark on their sexuality as well as being perceived as socially inadequate. Although today’s society has been moving toward a “‘metrosexual’ notion of masculinity, what is interesting about these performances is that they continue along very rigid, sometimes aggressively macho, normative lines.” (Thornham, 2009, 154). Gamers agree that the social aspect of the games is what is most attractive about it.

Another good point made by Thornham is that because children play to learn, when an experienced adult plays they are not doing anything constructive. To an adult with “working lives where every hour has meaning or purpose” (Thornham, 2009, 155) the need to justify owning and playing games is a strong one.

Thornham concludes with the question of pleasure. Adults taking part in gaming are seen as doing anything meaningful or important and therefore feel the need to justify their actions. Although games themselves were not looked at in this article, rather the act of playing and the association with pleasure is the focus here. Thornham feels that there is a need for further research to investigate the link between adult play and pleasure.

Reference: Helen Thornham, (2009). Claiming a stake in the videogame: what grown-ups say to rationalize and normalize gaming. Convergence 15 (2), 135-139.

The War between effects and meaning: Rethinking the video game debate.

Likening video games to books, Jenkins begins this chapter citing Lambaugh (2002) “video games have ‘no conveyance of ideas, expression or anything else that cold possibly amount to speech.'” (Jenkins, 2006, 19). The judge had decreed that games would not be protected after viewing excerpts of four similar games and found them wanting. However, these games were not a proper representation of all the games in the US, and indeed the world, which has set about much discourse.

On the one hand there is the gaming community questioning the judge’s assumption that games have no concepts and yet are able to sway young Americans into violence. And on the other, those who seek to improve on our behavior ask why games need to be protected if they don’t have any impact and repercussions on the people who play them. Jenkins goes on to explain the difference between effects and meanings:

  • “Effects are seen as emerging more or less spontaneously, with little conscious effort, and are not accessible to self examination.
  • Meanings emerge through an active process of interpretation–they reflect our conscious engagement, they can be articulated into words and can be critically examined.” (Jenkins 2006, 20)

Jenkins’s research into ‘boy culture’ (Jenkins, 2006, 20) and gaming was submitted to the courts to overturn Lambaugh’s decision and although the debate continues, so does the support for not just games, but they way they can be used for education.

Looking at the comments by D. Grossman (2000) and E. Provenzo (2001) about games teaching kids how to be soldiers when they play violent war games, “Every time a child plays an interactive point-and-shoot video game, he is learning the exact same conditioned reflex and motor skills.” (Grossman, 2000 cited in Jenkins, 2006, 21) Jenkins challenges this by suggesting “Grossman saw games as shaping our reflexes, impulses and emotions almost without regard to our previous knowledge and experience… the model is one of stimulus-response, not conscious reflection.” (Jenkins, 2006, 22).

Jenkins understands the education works differently to what Grossman is suggesting; that when Jenkins teaches he knows that student don’t all learn at the same pace and some don’t even learn at all. So comparing this to when people sit down to play a game, they do it for the fun of it not to learn a set of skills. On the other hand educational games are different and research is undergoing to explain the difference between Provenzo’s “players being forced to conform to machine logic” (Provenzo, 2001 cited in Jenkins 2006, 23) and J. Gee’s (2003) suggestion “that our active participation enables us to map our own goals and agendas into the game space.” (Gee, 2003 cited in Jenkins, 2006, 23).

More research utilising the game Civilization III is undertaken by K. Squire (2004) where students who were not doing well and were in the minority, discovered African and Native American Civilizations and were able to win the game as well as learn about those civilizations. The teachers played an important part in guiding the students to a more successful outcome. By teaching something that the students could relate to, they could “map those lessons onto their understanding of the real world.” (Jenkins, 2006, 24).

Jenkins explains the act of getting together to talk about strategies is called “meta-gaming” (Jenkins, 2006, 24) and this occurs both in the classroom as well as out of it. It can occur in the home between children, parents and friends. Also, it it can occur online, where it can lead to stronger relationships between the gamers as “social expectations are reaffirmed through the social contract governing play even as they are symbolically cast aside within the transgressive fantasies represented within the games.” (Jenkins, 2006, 25). Using Z. Li’s research in 2003 on the online game America’s Army, Jenkins explains the game was originally designed to influence young people into joining the army, but the game took on more meaning for military personnel as they began meta-gaming and discussed how they related to their own lives.

I found this point interesting. People who don’t like or enjoy violence can still watch a violent movie or play a violent game and look beyond that to the concept they are trying to put across. (G. Jone, 2002, cited in Jenkins, 2006, 25) And the fact the violence has so many different ways of portrayal, all viewing of violence cannot be erased from the world because then people, particularly children would not be prepared for the real world. (R. Pozner, 2001 cited in Jenkins, 2006, 26). By talking about violence, people learn from others mistakes, however, Jenkins admits that reformers often use extremely violent games to support their arguments and never quite look at the concept of the game only the way violence is represented.  Designers do look for ways to make a game more ethical, but these changes are small due to guidelines and genres.

Using The Sims to demonstrate the way people can use “the simulation to imitate real-world interactions.” (Jenkins, 2006, 27) they can explore the psyche of many emotions such as the way we deal with death. Also the ethical dilemmas, of right from wrong. Since people playing a game choose to act out fantasies, some of these fantasies may consist of behaving completely different to what they would in the real world. Another game which allows people the same opportunity but in a different and controversial way is Grand Theft Auto 3 and it’s variations. Here gamers are encourage to try and live outside the law and the challenge is in fact seeing how long one can go without getting caught by the police. These type of games allow gamers to see the consequences to their actions within the game.

Jenkins seems to believe that by learning more about games in the classroom students are better at evaluating them and understanding the concepts underneath the gloss and violence. “Rethinking game genres can encourage greater diversity, and in doing so, introduce new contexts for thinking about game violence.” (Jenkins, 2009, 29). A good example is the way Tropical America was made, using the point of view and experience of Latin American kids. Jenkins concludes that once again, education is the answer. By bringing games into the classroom, teachers are better able to equip students in not taking commercial games at face value and not to distracted by how violence is portrayed but what concepts lie underneath.

Reference: Jenkins, H. (2006). The War between effects and meaning: Rethinking the video game debate. In D. Buckingham & R. Willett (Eds.), Digital Generations: Children, Young People, and New Media (pp 19-31). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Ass.
2.    Write about your personal experience with games and your attitude to video and computer games.

I have to be quite honest, I love video and computer games. In my personal experience, and before I had children, I would spend a lot of leisure time on games. At home we have both a PlayStation 2 and a PlayStation 3. So for each console we have a variety of games. For example, SingStar and Buzz and their many variations from Sony Computer Entertainment Europe; Ratchet and Clank from Sony Computer Entertainment America; Enter the Matrix from Atari and WB Interactive; Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe from WB Interactive and Eye Toy, from Sony just to name a few. We also have quite a lot of PC games, some of which are bought at a store like Microsoft’s Age of Empires in disc form or web games bought from my favourite provider, such as Hidden Object games like Insider Tales or Mystery Stories, also I love Zuma and Bejeweled both from Pop Cap Games and my two year old plays a Dora the Explorer game.

I also enjoy playing games on Facebook, a while back I got into Mob Wars and I could not let a day pass without logging in and getting paid and doing missions. I got all my friends to play it so we could send each other energy and gifts. After a while however the appeal was lost and the idea of logging in everyday became tedious…

When I had free time like when the children were asleep or when I was breastfeeding I would sit at the computer and play. I have stopped completely as I don’t have the time and I do miss playing terribly. I was very happy when I was told to play a game as part of the preparation this week! Obviously I don’t have a problem with games or adults playing games. I think if you work hard then you deserve some time off and if that includes gaming then that’s fine by me. I have been described a nerd which is funny because it’s true. And after reading the article by Helen Thornham, I’m feeling a little bit hurt that I might qualify as geek as well!

I can’t say too much about violent games because I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite. The fact of the matter is this: we enjoy playing Mortal Kombat and my husband will often spar with my two year old. However, I don’t let him play it on his own and I don’t endorse him acting out the moves in ‘real life’. Especially because I need him to be quite careful around the baby.

As for sexually explicit games or violent games that include violence against women, who do not fight back, those games are not welcome in my home. I realize there is a fine line because Princess Katana and Sonia Blade do get beaten up by other characters from the game (Mortal Kombat), however they in turn also kick some serious butt! I guess it’s up to me as parent to separate the game from life for my children and to teach them right from wrong.
3.    Make note of your ideas for the remediation.

I have the concept in my head but the execution is still quite out of my reach. I have decided on what text to use from the Bridget Jones’s Diary book. As the book doesn’t have chapters, rather months (it’s a diary after all!) I’ll be working on the entry for the 23rd of February. When I read it, I laughed and was a bit disappointed it was not put in the film, so I thought I’d try my hand a shooting this particular bit with my own actors and see how I go!

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Posted by on 04/08/2011 in MED104


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