Sense of Belonging within Gaming Communities

While reading the article Real-Time Performance: Machinima and Game Studies written by Henry Lowood, this particular quote caught my attention: “After Doom, intense multiplayer competition, documentation of gameplay through demo movies, and watching others play were inextricably linked. Spectatorship and the desire to share skills were the cornerstones of the creation of a player community eager to create and distribute gameplay movies. The result was nothing less than the metamorphosis of the player into a performer” (Lowood).

Indeed, this sounded very familiar to me and this quote made me think about the relationship we have with walkthroughs and “let’s play’s” videos primarily on YouTube. It then made me wonder about the following questions: why are these videos so successful and popular?  Why are we drawn to them? Is watching walkthroughs as satisfying as playing the game itself? As the article has mentioned, it is clear that machinima enables the performers to connect with the audience through their personalities and the audience, in return, finds pleasure with these videos because they are educational, they are entertaining, and they are connecting with other players as they passively participate within the virtual community. That being said, all of these questions lead to a common goal which is the sense of belonging we all seek deep within us. Whenever there is a trend that is surfacing on the Internet or that is consistently mentioned within a virtual community, there is an innate need to keep ourselves updated with what is going on. For example, the emergence of memes in the Internet is important because it categorizes people: you either are part of the current trends the whole community of the Internet is aware of or you are considered as the “black sheep” of the community. However, because we constantly want to belong somewhere, we are passively participating and interacting with the virtual community by watching videos, recognizing trends, reading comments on videos, reading forums about different topics…all of these aspects and activities are ways of feeling in-touch with the community we want to associate ourselves in.

Those who perform in machinima also seek a sense of belonging within the community they want to address to. According to Patti Pente, who wrote the article called Niche and Community Online: Artists’ Tactical Media Activities as Pedagogy, she points out an important aspect about online communities:
“Niche, derived from the Latin word nidus, meaning nest, suggests a place to grow. Ideally, the nature of a niche online community is hurting; in such relations, we, as members who have similar interests, feel confident and secure in our assumptions that we control who we are and what we do online. Niches are specific to the member’s interests, and satisfaction comes from the educative relationship that develops from the local sharing of knowledge.” (Pente, 68). When we belong to a community, our identity becomes performative. We are constantly readjusting ourselves in order to meet the expectations of other members. Machinima and walkthroughs/playthroughs are then performers’ outlets to transform into an individual they want to be perceived to the outside world. This then becomes an interesting relationship between the performer and the implied audience, because they both want to seek their sense of belonging through each other. This feeling becomes their aim and it drives them to participate within gaming communities to get to where they want to be: it motivates them to be more creative, to be more educated with the subject in question, and to be more involved with the community…

WORKS CITED

Lowood, Henry. “Real-Time Performance: Machinima and Game Studies.” iDMAa Journal 2.1 (2005):10-17. <http://idmaa.org/?post_type=journalarticle&p=586>

Pente, Patti. “Niche and Community Online: Artists’ Tactical Media Activities as Pedagogy”. Educational, Psychological and Behavioral Considerations in Niche Online Communities. IGI Global: PA. Print. 67-80

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