Everyday Sociology Blog: Folk Games

On a regular basis Sociology Weblog: People Video games


By Jonathan Wynn

I got here throughout a Twitter thread of people video games, which aren’t board video games however reasonably interactions that look like extremely improvisational. Take a couple of minutes to click on by way of and get a couple of well-deserved laughs. 

Nevertheless it acquired me excited about video games. Partly as a result of COVID-19 restrictions have restricted alternatives for in-person social interplay,  the video gaming trade is booming. Gross sales have been excessive, even when manufacturing has been down.

Though I definitely liked my Atari 2600 once I was a child, I’ve probably not stored up with gaming. There are others who’re positively gamer sociologists. Jooyoung Lee makes use of Twitch (a videogame streaming website owned by Amazon) to show his courses, and Ian Larson is a gamer and a sociologist who hosts a weblog concerning the sociology of video video games. (Karen Sternheimer wrote a put up about analysis strategies and video video games ten years in the past.)

I believe that the performative facet of social media, the potential for capturing giant audiences, has made a marketplace for goofy and typically excessive stakes folks video games. 

Sport Concept” has a historical past in sociology, nevertheless it’s probably not about video video games. Sport Concept is an space of research in arithmetic and economics, and it has been imported into sociology (right here’s a really detailed argument from the 1950s). Broadly, it’s the concept of getting to consider social interactions as having gamers, methods, wins, and losses.

This permits us to explain and mannequin human habits. Maybe the most typical sport principle puzzle is the prisoner’s dilemma (video description right here). There are some video games which might be zero-sum video games (e.g., video games the place there must be a winner), and there are others which might be non-zero-sum video games (e.g., the prisoner’s dilemma, or hockey: there might be ties!). This attitude works greatest when ignoring altruistic or irrational behaviors, and unequal consciousness of the principles and stakes.

Good ole Erving Goffman has an essay, “Enjoyable in Video games,” that implies that video games not solely assist us perceive interplay however arrange limitations for understanding interplay. Video games are, for Goffman, a particular class of encounters that has a world-building construction to them. They’re extremely ordered actions: there are stakes concerned (win, lose), guidelines for behaviors and conduct as actors try and win these stakes, and techniques folks use with a view to overcome obstacles and opponents to attain these ends. Video games are enjoyable as a result of outcomes are unknown and likewise due to the methods they disguise or conceal wider social realities.  These tacitly-held guidelines form the meanings members have concerning the encounter itself. 

These encounters embrace—and I like this phrase—an “eye-to-eye ecological huddle” that “maximizes every participant’s alternative to understand the opposite participant’s monitoring of him” (1961: 17-18). 

In one other essay, he writes that sport principle depends on “miniature situations of a really far-fetched type.” He factors out the important thing weak point of sport principle talked about above: “folks don’t usually know what sport they’re in or whom they’re taking part in for till they’ve already performed.” Sport Concept doesn’t essentially require that “eye-to-eye ecological huddle” facet. (I had to make use of that phrase twice!)

Again to that thread of people video games. A lot of these on Twitter thread use telephone know-how: This one makes use of the shuffle function on a setlist of two songs, and this one is a sport the place buddies textual content “hey” to see who will get a response again first. Then there are the video games utilizing the city surroundings: This is a excessive stakes sport the place the loser walks house with just one sneaker, this one makes use of a lamppost. I like these interactional video games: this Korean sport of 재밌다 (or “Enjoyable”) and variations on paperscissors, rock. A lot of them have that nice “eye-to-eye ecological huddle.” (3 times!)

Among the folks video games on this thread are zero-sum video games (with all or nothing outcomes), others contain excessive stakes recognized by the gamers. However let’s take this one. Two folks tapping the highest of a container that has a uncooked egg in it. The stakes are clear: When one lifts the container the opposite one will get a handful of yolk. They get right into a rhythm, sooner, egging one another on if you’ll. Stakes enhance. This looks like a zero-sum sport: one particular person will get the yolk, the opposite doesn’t. The sport of Enjoyable appears to be extra of a non-zero sum sport, though we don’t see the ending. 

Please be at liberty so as to add folks video games within the feedback part. What interactional dynamics are at work? 

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