Bridging the Gap Between Games and User Content
A friend came over to my house the other day. He wanted to play a game of NCAA Football 11 online against another member of my online dynasty and so he came over after work. After he “recovered” his Xbox Live gamertag, he hopped online and played his dynasty game while I watched. It was a great game and in the end my buddy lost in a close match. Well the next morning I log onto dynasty anywhere to read what the guy on the other end of the Internet wrote. It was a good retelling of the game, but from a completely different perspective. It reminded me of the blog I posted last week or so about how framing theory and user-generated content makes for interesting research.
This story I read told the game narrative from a completely different perspective. Though the writer did take the time to include both sides of the story, I was amazed at how his perspective differed from my own. That started me thinking about a content or textual analysis of dynasty wire might produce some interesting results. From there I expanded into other area that might be ripe for study.
Internet discussion boards were one of the earliest places for gamers to express their opinions about their love for gaming and write about game-related topics. I spent time exploring gamer forums in my dissertation but that was limited to the rather modest subset of Christian gamers. There are many types of gamers who post their thoughts, ideas, and reactions on a variety of sites. A more expansive look into gamer discussions could easily become a longitudinal study spanning weeks, months, or longer. It seems that gamers spend a fair amount of time writing about their games. From the forums on Xbox.com to those of major publishers such as EA and Ubisoft there is no shortage of material.
Of course gamers also have discussions on a variety of topics as they play and so a researcher who explores the transcripts of cooperative and competitive play is sure to find rich texts. Now I know Xbox Live is the notorious playground of racists, sexists, and homophobes, but, surprisingly, there are also intelligent conversations taking place. With millions of users logging in and gaming every day, the amount of content produced is truly staggering, but what an addition it is to all the “social media” buzz going around these days.
Some game publishers take the extra step and allow users to generate content on official game websites. Bungie does a wonderful job in giving users a place to store game content as well as create new images and movies from gameplay. No doubt they will only expand on what users can do for the upcoming game Halo: Reach, which due out this September. Whereas websites used to be all about forums, now users can manipulate and upload game content for all to enjoy. Aside from the obvious application of Uses & Gratification Theory, we might also find new areas of application for the Gatekeeping, Framing, and Priming Theories.
Dynasty Anywhere (and similar applications)
There are some online dynasties in NCAA 11 where all users are required to write stories for their games. An online dynasty can run 60 seasons. There are 12 games per season (plus bowl games). With a full dynasty of 12 players, there could be at least 144 stories per season and possibly 8640 stories over the life of the dynasty. Imagine how rich the content would be from such diligent publishing.
Indeed user content really does add another dimension to the video game experience. Yes, I do think the term “social media” is now overused almost the point of cliché, but I also believe this is a rich and virtually untapped area of study. Our use of entertainment media in general and video games in particular continues to evolve and academic researchers must strive to keep pace.
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