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Petro 1

Jack Petro
Ms. Hamby
ENGL 1101-019
8 December 2014
Gauging the Gamer
It employs 120,000 Americans, sold $63 billion dollars worth of merchandise in 2012 and
can be found in 67% of all American households, what is it? Well according to the Electronic
Software Association, its video games. Video games, once considered a niche interest for a few
enthusiasts, is now one of the dominant ways that people spend their free time. To serve the
interests of these millions of gamers, a multibillion dollar industry has been created in recent
decades and continues to grow at a rate seven times that of the rest of the US economy
(Entertainment Software Association). With an active industry producing hundreds of games of
various genres every year, for the enjoyment of legions of players of every age, ethnicity, and
gender the video gamers make up a truly massive and diverse discourse community. It involves
so many people of so many nations, races, and walks of life that to an outsider, it may be easier
to count the ways gamers are different from each other than how they are similar. Still, despite
the vastness and diversity of the group, gamers remain united in the pursuit of their mutual
hobby. In this paper I hope to look at how video games unite so many people and what makes it
such a distinct and enduring community. I hope to look at what makes video gamers a discourse
community and why so many people, of such diversity, are drawn to it.
In conducting research for this assignment I made use of statistics published by
Entertainment Software Association, the trade association for video game industry in the United
States which conducts extensive market based research on who buys and plays video games. This

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research was for the purpose of allowing me to gain a more complete picture of the diversity of
people in the video gaming discourse community. I also made observations based on the online
writings of gamers in forums and chat rooms, and I observed the gameplay and in game
communications of people playing the MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) genre video
game League of Legends. I was not a participant in the game and the gamers would have had no
way to know they were being observed, which allowed me a true glimpse of their normal
After observing the League game, I interviewed a gamer called Nathan. Nathan has been
playing video games for 14 years and is heavily involved in social and multiplayer internet
gaming. He describes himself as an ardent gamer who has played a wide variety of video games
across many different platforms (a platform is a device that facilitates video game playing like a
computer or gaming console). He primarily gravitates towards highly competitive games and
describes gaming as a competition of problem solving. In Nathan's interview and observation,
I primarily focused on how gamers interact in a game and broad questions about gamers and
their community. My other interview subject, Larissa, is a gamer who is very different from
Nathan. Larissa has been playing video games for about 7 years and gravitates towards very
different types of video games like the Sims, a life simulation game that involves building and
furnishing houses and controlling the life of characters that the player creates (sort of like a
computer version of playing with dolls), and Sid Meier's Civilization, where one assumes
command of an empire and strategizes over hundreds of turns of gameplay to make their empire
the most powerful. Unlike Nathan, Larissa does not often engage in online competitive gaming,
preferring to game with small groups of friends or alone. The primary focus of Larissa's

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interview questions was to uncover the unique way video gamers share and expand their game in
the form of modding, that is user made game modifications.
In conducting my research I did face some limitations. Gamers are a diverse group of
people and I would have liked to have represented more diversity in my interview subjects,
however I am limited to those people I am already acquainted with. Still I carefully selected two
individual, purposefully chosen because of their difference in gender and gaming preference. I
also would have liked to have written more about different game genres and the ESRB game
rating system but to make this paper more concise and focused on discourse communities I
contented myself with a more focused essay.
According to John Swales criteria, a discourse community should have a set of public
aims and goals. At first it might seem that the video gamers of the world, with of so little
personally in common aside from video games and spread over the whole world, wouldn't meet
this criteria easily. However video gamers make a hungry community, as eager to devour new
content as the rest of us are eager to see new movies or tv shows. Thus the paramount goal of
video gamers is to create new games. For this it has a multibillion dollar industry whose goals
are very easily and clearly understood; profit. Game companies, like most companies, are
engaged in competition to generate the best product and the most sales. Game makers make and
market their product in much the same way that other industries do by advertising and sales.
Video game companies have a unique advantage in that, by definition, its prospective customers
are easily advertised to by internet ads. This makes it so that its advertising campaigns can reach
and exceptionally large audience. Video games companies also coordinate to hold massive

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conventions that rally not only gamers but also media people together. Here new games are
announced and generate a lot of conversation very quickly.
Large companies aren't the only group that is capable of fulfilling the gamers goal of
generating new content. Gamers themselves, as individuals or in small groups, have proven quite
capable of generating content that generate enormous success among gamers. One of the most
lucratively successful games of recent history, Minecraft, was started by the sole efforts of
Marcus Persson, who is better known by his famous gamertag 'Notch'. Notch is hardly the only
example of small time producers making it big over the established game companies. Even those
who don't make games but rather just hardware, like the then 19-year-old inventor of the Oculus
Rift, Palmer Luckey, earn much recognition and love from gamers who enjoy their work. Often
times doesn't even necessarily mean a totally new game. Some people, like the famous Garry
Newman became famous for their mods. Our second interview subject, Larissa explains A mod
is a fan-made alteration for a game that adds new content that is not in the game naturally.
Mods, a shortening of the word modifications, alters the programming of a game. Some mods are
relatively simple, they might add new items, alter text options or fonts, add new music, or tweak
game mechanics. Other mods can make a game look and feel very different and add new levels
and characters. Some ambitious modder might even remake the game into something entirely
different, using the existing game as a template to build their own in. In the case of Garry
Newman, his Garry's Mod is now sold as a very popular standalone game, despite having
originated as a mod for games made by the Valve game company.
Another criteria of a discourse community is methods of communication among
members. Gamers excel at this. Being a community that is mostly connected over the internet,
they naturally makes use of its many convenient methods of communication. There are internet

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forums and podcasts devoted to talking about games and most multiplayer games provide its own
chat mechanisms for players. Capitalizing on its internet driven environment, many companies
don't even sell hard copies of their games anymore. Instead they use internet market sites like
Steam or Good Old Games and take electronic payment for the download of digital game copies.
Once it was necessary to put thirty gigabyte games on discs with only very small games being
available for download. Advancements in data storage technologies has now made terabyte hard
drives commonplace in computers and thus it isn't necessary to keep a shelf of CD's. Instead
people store their games just like they would word documents. These market sites also provide
forums for people to talk about games and have mechanisms that allow for user generated
ratings. Gamers don't just limit the celebration of their hobby to interaction inside digital
environment either. There are printed magazines like Game Informer that keeps tabs on latest
releases and game news and massive conventions like RTX or E3 attract thousands of
enthusiasts. Video gamers also make groups that meet in real life to play and discuss games like
UNCC's own League of Legends club.
Many of the participatory mechanisms that are used to provide feedback have already
been mentioned but I will address them in more detail. Market sites like Steam provide ratings
for all games that are user generated and anyone who has purchased the game can write a review
of it that can be read by that is attached to that game for all potential purchasers to see.
Numerous sites like Metacritic, IGN, or Gamespot give games rating and act as forums to
discuss games and several youtubers like PewDiePie or Punching Rainbowz make series
showcasing gameplay and their reviews of games. A company can also track their games success
in the same way that most companies measure success, by sales. Numbers of sales are very easily
and exactly measured when the game is sold exclusively by download. Also, as many industries

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have trade associations to conduct research and measure the success of products in the market,
the gaming industry is no exception. The Entertainment Software Association is the trade
association for video game companies. In addition to conducting market research it also runs the
Entertainment Software Rating Board. This board reviews all video games published in the US
and in many other countries and assigns them gamer ratings based on their content. Just as
movies are rated G, PG, PG-13, R, or NC-17 based on their content, this rating board assigns
games EC (early childhood), E (everyone), E-10 (everyone 10 and older), T (teen), M (mature)
and A (adult). It is important to note that games and movies are not rated the same way, as game
ratings are generally much stricter than movie rating. For example nudity in and of itself might
only constitute a PG-13 rating in a movie but in video games nudity alone qualifies for an A
rating. (Entertainment Software Rating Board).
We have already seen numerous examples of the genres gamers use to communicate their
aims. Companies advertise their product by internet ads or even by television. Forums and chat
pages allow for discussion about games and there exist numerous download sites like
nexusmods.com or hard-light.net that allow for the dissemination and discussion of mods.
Market sites facilitate both the purchase and discussion of games. Market sites also usually offer
the free download of the development tools used by the game makers to allow all users with
enough technical knowledge to make and share their own content, thus encouraging modding.
Perhaps on of the most striking things about video games is its unique and rapidly
evolving diction. Some of its diction, like the terms RPG (role playing game) or RTS (real time
strategy) are borrowed from board games, the mechanics of which all video games are based.
Other terms like 4X strategy games (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) or FPS (first person
shooter) are unique to video games and have evolved as the capabilities of computers and game

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programming has expanded. In addition to a plethora of terms used to describe games there are
terms that describe gamers also well. Noob or Newb describe new or inexperienced players
while MLG (major league gamer) describes very experienced ones. GOGs are good old games,
that is games that are out of date from a technical standpoint but still enjoyable. Thus we get the
well know GOG.com, a market website that archives and converts old games to run on modern
platforms and then makes them available for sale. Some curious terms also exist like 'the fog of
war'. While fog of war sounds like a rather ominous term, it really just refers to any part of a
game map that a player cannot see or has not explored. It is most often used in connection to
strategy games, especially 4x strategy games, but almost never has anything to do with warfare
or fighting. There are also Mods, short for modifications, which describe user made content that
alters an existing game and NPC's (non-player character), another term borrowed from old board
games. With NPC's comes the term bots, sometimes used interchangeably with NPC to describe
a computer generated entities but also used to refer to the programing that governs those entities
logic and actions. The term AI (artificial intelligence), while also the subject of many science
fiction movies, is a real term used to describe a sophisticated artificial opponent that is to play
against the gamer. Unlike the term NPC, the term AI is almost always used to describe either the
programming governing an artificial opponent or the artificial opponent in the strategy game
genre like the ones used in computerized chess.
Like all discourse communities, there are different levels of experience among gamers.
The most experienced and respected gamers are usually those who make games or gamer content
like mods. Men like Garry Newman began very successful game development careers from
creating free to access mods. There are other ways to be considered very experienced or
respected gamers. Some people like PewDiePie or Lillypichu are not good gamers or developers

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but rather excellent commentators for gameplay podcasts commonly called 'let's plays'. These
people achieve a respected gamer status or, in the case of PewDiePie, world fame because they
are funny or somehow amusing game commentators. Still there are some gamers who achieve
status purely by skill. The League of Legends World Championship is an annual competition
between teams of the highest ranking League of Legend players who compete for the champion
title, the trophy called the Summoner's Cup, and one million US dollars per person in prize
money. Many of the teams who compete are even sponsored by various technology companies
like Samsung, Computer Logic, and Alienware just like NASCAR drivers are sponsored by Du
Pont or Coca Cola.
Gamers are a group that often have little personally in common but in pursuit of their
hobby they are very much a united community. Their methods for communication, interaction,
unique diction and the common desire to game and add to their gaming experience as well as the
gaming experience of others by multiplayer gaming and by creating new content in mods shows
them to be a united and strong discourse community with a unique culture. They share in a
unique and relatively new hobby but in many ways it is really one of the oldest community
practices of man. As Nathan put it The challenging of our minds in competition with each
other.. and to have fun are the real reasons we play video games. From ancient Chess to modern
League, the reason people game hasn't changed and man's ancient and seemingly innate
enthusiasm for games seems to have only intensified modern gamers unified interest how we
game today, in video games.

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"Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry." www.theesa.com.
Electronic Software Association, n.d. Web. 9 Oct. 2014.
"The Entertainment Software Association." - Industry Facts. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Oct.
"Video Game Industry Statistics | Entertainment Software Rating Board." Video Game
Industry Statistics | Entertainment Software Rating Board. Entertainment Software Rating Board,
n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2014.
Lyons, Sterling. "League of Legends Has 32 Million Monthly Active Players." Destructoid. N.p., 12
Oct. 2012. Web. 14 Oct. 2014.