A Normal Day In The Life Of A Gamer
An informant’s view:
During the activity, while acting as an informant for another group, I was able to make a few observations on how newcomers react and respond to the activity. Firstly, there were people who were fast learners. They were born gamers who possess the gamer’s gene. However, there were others who really have a hard time in following what is happening in the game. They have difficulties regarding hand-eye coordination and seem to have no idea what to do at times. Aside from this, I was also able to observe how newcomers treat other newcomers. When an opportunity arises where they can gain leverage during the game, they go for it in an instant. Most of them try to target the weakest link (or the person who doesn’t really know what he’s doing). For gamers like me, it is a common etiquette to not feed on the newbies or the slow learners. However, for other newcomers, it was not the case. In addition, I also observed that some newcomers regard me as a god of the game. They seem to look at my gaming skills with awe and reverence even when I’m not really that good in the game. I noticed that advices I give were mostly followed during the game. I was able to influence the way they had their first experience of the game which made it a lot different and maybe easier than it would have been if they tried it by themselves.
A participant observer’s view:
We went to a place called Blue Skies on a Saturday. It’s an internet gaming café in Katipunan, located near KFC. It was dark at the ground floor; the only sources of illumination were from outside and computer screens of the people, mostly students, who were playing what looked like the same game as everyone else in the room. There was also a certain smell that we couldn’t get off our heads. It was like cockroaches were using the place as a restroom. We headed upstairs and it was much brighter than below, due to the presence of windows. We then picked our seats which would correspond to our computer numbers. We couldn’t be beside each other since there were also other people occupying the room. Some of the equipment such as the keyboards and the mousepads look like they’ve been with the place for a really long time and have yet to be replaced. After paying downstairs, we started playing Warcraft.
– the computer shop wasn’t as crowded as other computer shops
– the shop was dark
– the place was well-organized but not that clean
– there was a strong cigarette smell
– the sounds/music for the different games fill the shop
– loud conversations/laughs among the players
– a lot of curse words can be heard (sometimes out of anger or delight)
> How You Felt During the Activity
– excited, it was the first time I played with the games and I wanted to see what got people so into it
– worried, I don’t want to be the one to causing our team to lose
– competitive, I don’t want to lose and I want to prove that I can easily learn something and be good at it
– clueless at some points because the game that we played really confused me
– frustrated because the people I was playing with, despite being clueless at first, picked up pretty fast
> How People Responded to Me
– at first they were understanding that we’re newbies so they weren’t expecting a lot from us
– they were patient when we ask questions about the game at first
– they constantly showed their dominance over us
– the people I was playing with pretty much dominated the game and I pretty much became everyone’s way of getting extra kills
– they were helpful at first and even left me alone at the start to try and figure things out but as the game progressed, they were less sensitive about it and were making fun of us
> What My Key Informant Told Me
– he said that the games can easily be learned, you just need learn things one at a time
– he would frequently joke, “Kung ako ang kalaban ninyo, dudurugin ko kayo.”
– he taught me some basics to the game like how to get certain powers
– he told me not to mind the others for a while and figure out how to play the game first.
> Evidence That My Presence Influenced the Scene
– for a few times, the other players were complaining that I was stealing their kills
– I complained really loud
– I cursed a lot when I was about to die
– I was the only one taking pictures of my experience and putting it on Instagram
1. What insights were gained from participation compared to just observing?
Participation in an activity lets the observant experience quite a number of things that he will not be able to get from just analysing what everyone else is doing from the background. Participation would be essential in certain aspects such as knowing how emotions would trigger a certain person’s actions in an activity. Rather than trying to assume what could have caused the person to act in such a certain manner, the observant could perhaps try out the activity itself in order to see it himself. In our case, we probably wouldn’t have gotten as much insight had we just been observing from the comforts of our seats and watching the others play. To begin with, we probably would not have been able to accurately tell what was going on since we had no idea how to play the game. It definitely was better to be able to learn how to play the game and gain insights from the experience of participating in the battle. We wouldn’t have known otherwise what was causing people to curse very loudly while playing until we ended up being the ones cursing whenever we would die, our attacks would narrowly miss, or when someone else beats you to a kill. Although there are possibilities that what we would feel at the moment would not necessarily reflect that of the other people’s emotions, basing it on one’s own experience will still give a more accurate view than from observing what had happened.
2. What did having a key informant add to your understanding?
Having an informant made it a lot easier to adapt to the new environment. First of all, it was the informant who introduced us to the games we played, which includes Killing Floor and Warcraft. He taught us the basic controls like movements and attacking. For the Killing Floor, it was easy to learn because it’s just a typical First Person Shooter, and all you have to do is kill zombies to protect the group. However, for the other game, Warcraft, having an informant who can play the game helped a lot. In this game, you need to eliminate other competitors by buying different skills (i.e. Lightning, Teleportation, Fireball) using your gold that you can acquire by inflicting damage on the opponents or killing them. Aside from teaching us the basic controls, the informant also guided us through the game. There were times during the games wherein you need to decide what weapons/skills to acquire, and when you’re new to the game, it was difficult to determine what skills you need to buy first. For instance, in Killing Floor, when you reach the safe house, you’ll have time to buy new weapons so being new to the game, I had a hard time picking which weapons to buy because of the choices available. However, with the help of the informant, he was able to advise me which weapons inflict more damage on the zombies. Besides the knowledge on the game, the informant also presented us to the environment around the computer shop. For instance, the players become irritated at someone who does KS or Kill Steal (literally stealing a kill from the one who inflicted most of the damage on the killed player). He also introduced us to the heavy trash-talking that takes place every game and these trash-talking ranges from your skills in playing to personal and non-relational attacks. By doing so, the players hope to disrupt the game of the other players, or just have some laughs in the middle of an intense game.
3. What was learned from participant observation at this event that a questionnaire or interview about it might miss?
Participant observation would give the observant a more realistic view of what was going on than had he decided to give out questionnaires or conduct interviews, which could be prone to dishonesty or less accurate information from the interviewees. This would hold especially true in our experience with internet gaming. Since it would be our first time playing a computer game, if we chose to interview someone who’s an expert in the field of computer games or even just someone who frequents internet cafes, as descriptive as they could be regarding their experiences, it probably wouldn’t match to actually being in the place itself where we get to truly see what it’s like to be in their world. Also, if we were to schedule an interview with certain people instead, the interviewee could have the time to process and think through his answers which could have a possibility to contradict with what was really going on. For example, if our interviewee decided to tell us that Blue Skies is a very bright place or that people don’t usually talk to each other when playing, statements that are obviously false, had we not gone there ourselves, we would probably still believe what the interviewee said as that would be the only piece of information that we would have. Therefore, it would really be better for the observant to go to the venue or the activity rather than just hear about it, if he preferred to have a more realistic view of things.
4. For what purposes might a questionnaire or interview be better than participant observation?
Having questionnaires and interviews rather than observing has it benefits. First, you can obtain more accurate findings. When you’re just observing, you’ll be left with more questions than answer because being in an unfamiliar place entails having unfamiliar actions, reactions and gestures by the people there. For instance, we observe that the players are very noisy and loud when communicating with the other players even though they’re just a few feet away and the shop wasn’t that big. However, we don’t know why they are acting like that, but with a questionnaire or interview, this can be answered. This brings me to my second point, having interviews and questionnaires can answer personal questions that players don’t normally show when in computer shops and around their peers. That’s maybe why they’re trying to be good in video games because they have insecurities or maybe it’s just their hobby/passion but we don’t know. On the other hand, this may be answered through a personal and confidential chat with the players.
5. A comparison and synthesis of experiences between different members of the group
In terms of the venue, the participant observers and the key informant’s views varied. For the observers, it was dark, noisy, smelly and not maintained properly. The observers thought that it could benefit from some improvements like better lighting and newer equipment (such as keyboards). However, for the informant in the group, it could have served as a second home. The lighting is just perfect and there is a certain familiarity with the equipments and facilities in the area. What could have accounted for these differences is the fact that the informant is accustomed to these kinds of places and activities that certain unbearable conditions, like the smell of cigarettes or unsanitary and untidy places, seem normal and even comfortable. On the other hand, first time observers might find it shocking or surprising that one can play and have fun in what for them are substandard conditions.
In terms of the concepts of the games, the participant observers and the key informant’s views also varied. For the observers, the games were something new and something that they have to learn first. The degree of how quick one learns differed between participants. Some could pick up quickly on the concepts of the game while some fumble blindly in the dark on what to do. For the informant, this type of situation is typical. Most gamers start playing games without prior knowledge on how to play them. One just has to learn through experience and the speed of learning depends on how quick a participant can adapt to new surroundings.
In terms of in-game banters and behaviours, the participant observers and the key informant’s views also varied. For the observers, they didn’t know about common gaming etiquettes like not stealing a person’s kill or giving a leeway for the slow learners. The participant observers took advantage of everything to come out on top. What could have accounted for this were the competitiveness and the desire to prove themselves or the desire to not be the slowest learner or the weakest link in the game. Aside from this, the observers were not used to friendly trashtalking and were reluctant to join in at first. However, as the game went on, they became more comfortable and were slowly contributing to the noise (in the form of cursing as they die in the game) and the trashtalking that went on in the shop. For the informant though, gaming etiquettes and trashtalking were normal. It wouldn’t be a computer shop if these things were not present especially trashtalking. For the informant, it is a way for gamers to express themselves and, at the same time, add spice and fun to the repetitive world of gaming.
In the end, the activity was a success as the participant observers were successfully introduced to gaming by the informant and were given enough data about the certain activity. Aside from this, they were able to experience firsthand what it is like to be in the shoes of a gamer, an experience they wouldn’t have gotten through simple interviews and surveys.