Monday, October 19, 2009

Part 1: The Arm Brand Video

"The first thing I wanted to do was gain an understanding of the ‘Madden’ brand in different and unexpected contexts. I feel that by placing a brand in unexpected and abnormal situations, one can sometimes gain unexpected, unique insights."

Part 1: The Arm Brand Summary

For the first part of this project, I wrote the brand name ‘Madden' on my arm in permanent marker, prior to attending an eighties night. I wanted to combine the trends of ‘specific, honest’ body art, generational themed nights and sports games and observe the outcome.

To my surprise, when I entered ‘80s’ night, a much older crowd was present. 80s themed events are very trendy as of today and usually filled with a very young crowd (20-30s). In a rough estimate, the crowd was 25% ages 20 -30 and 75% ages 40 – 50.

Upon entering the club, I made sure to matriculate to places that would help individuals notice my arm markings; my time was split between the dance floor and the very crowed bar.

(40-50) observations
When the older demographic saw my markings, they were more curious about why I would write the name of a game on my arm, more than the game brand itself. Most of the conversations were spent discussing my decision on body marking.

When the game was discussed, this demographic did 2 things
1. Embraced the fact that they played sports video games, almost using the game play as a ‘badge of pride’ to express how ‘with the times’ they were.
2. Became embarrassed about playing the game, stating that they were too old.

Very rarely did the older demographics fall in between those 2 observations. It was generally one extreme or the other.

(21-30) reactions
The younger demographic barely mentioned the marking on my arm after asking ‘what’s that’. This generation instantly began talking about the game or asking about the game. With the exception of those who identified themselves as ‘gamers’, playing the game seemed to be a very common, ordinary aspect of their lives.

This experiment led me to the realization of the extreme generation gap between the 2 explored demographics. After this experiment I did some further research on trends and discovered articles that stated and developed on the fact that ‘there is a larger generation gap today than ever before. I feel that understanding this gap more fully can open up many new ways to discuss the game and help work it into and individuals’ culture.

Part 2 Video

The next part of this experiment involved a variety of shops. The first shop I went ‘insight fishing’ at was Wal-Mart. I wanted to focus on a shop that sold video games, but didn’t use them as their main source of profit.

Part 2: Wal-Mart

The first woman I talked to was named Steffy, a young mom 30-35 years old. I began asking her softly about video games and then gradually, more specifically, sports games. Steffy explained that being a fan and/or being an active player of the sport affects how compelling the game is to a specific individual; her sister is a huge football buff and embraces Madden to the extreme. Steffy, never being a fan of the sport, never got into the game.

I found it very interesting that the love of the sport had a direct effect on the love of the game.

The next person I talked to was named Adam, a ‘self-proclaimed’ gamer. What I found very interesting about Adam was that being part of the ‘gamer culture’ was a way of expressing his own self-identity. Within 15 seconds of talking to him he stressed his gamer pride and continued to develop on this pride throughout the entire conversation. It was an interesting experience to gain a perspective on sports games from a gamer who expressed an intimate connection with most types of video games, excluding sports games.

Adam explained that there is a major cultural divide between ‘gamer-gamers’ and ‘sports-gamers’. ‘Sports-gamers’ do not tend to define themselves as gamers. For 'sports-gamers' the video games are more of an accessory to their current lifestyles. Adam closed by expressing that he and his gamer friends do not fully understand why sports games are so compelling. He brushed off this genre by saying ,‘They just change the line-ups of characters each year.

I found it interesting that for a 'sports-gamer', video games work with their current personal culture, where as a ‘gamer-gamer’ creates an entire culture and lifestyle from the selected video games.

Part 2: The Mall Video

I then ventured to the mall so that I could ‘insight fish’ in a variety of different stores all under one roof.

While my original plan was to explore stores completely unrelated to the gaming field, I ended up exploring a much wider variety of stores than expected. I think it is important to remain open and flexable in these sort of situations as you never know what you may discover.

Part 2: The Mall

Game Stop: I wanted to explore the various capacities of the Madden brand, the sports game genre and the ‘Gamer-Game’ genre at place where games were the central drive behind generating sales and business.

I talked to John age 45 and Nikki age 19. John, the manager of this particular Game Stop also considers himself a ‘gamer-gamer’ but stressed his understanding of the ‘sports-game’ culture. Nikki was a self-proclaimed gamer-gamer.

When I began asking John questions about sports games he first told me that being a fan of the featured sport and the desire for the sports game almost always coincide with one another. Where as RPG and shooter games are much more concerned with a storyline and graphics, sports games are not. Sports games have a new release each year with an updated, realistic cast of characters. Generating a ‘real sports experience’ is more important than graphics or story.

"When you play a sports game, you are playing the actual sport in a different way and feeding your love of sports; RPG games are more complex." -John

John also explained that repetition is a blessing in sports games and a curse in RPGs/shooters. In sports games repetition is needed because the player will get better at the game by completing the same tasks in a specific order. In RPGs and shooters repetition is hated because the games are much more centered around stories, puzzles and a narrative-like thought process.

In general, RPGs are platforms for a self –created fantasy world where as Sports games help create a realistic fantasy that feeds a sports infatuation. A sports video game is more like a tool to help bring a love of sports to a more intimate, emotional level.

John also brought up a very good point in that the location of the individual affects the desire for the game. I responded by making the generalization that ‘cities with good football teams create an increased desire for the Madden game’, but John quickly corrected my point by developing on the value of ‘extremes’.

Of course when a sports team is great, fans will have a desire to play the related sports game, but when a sports team is awful it also creates a desire for related sports-game game play. A sports -game gives avid fans a chance to rewrite history for the sports team they love. So, if you love the Detroit Lions, for example, you could use the video game to create a fantasy where that team becomes a winning one.

A sports game can create a completely different type of fantasy than an RPG game can. Spots games create realistic fantasies rooted in current sports events and culture, where as an RPG game helps feed an individuals wild and crazy self-created world.

Nikki talked to me about the culture around gamers. Many of Nikki's own actions were inspired by playing RPGs; more specifically her love of Manga, art and Japanese culture.

Champs: I then went to a sporting goods store to help gain an understanding of the sports-game genre in a place where sports memorabilia is the drive behind sales and video games are not.

I talked to a gentleman named Jerome, who loved sports games. He didn't say his age, but was a college student who looked to be about 19. Jerome explained that his love of sports games stems from his love of the sport itself. Playing the game allows him to add his own personal touch on the sport in a different way.

Where as Nikki developed an entire culture from RPGs/Shooters, Jerome was inspired to play a game through his own love of sports culture.

Spencer's: I then went into Spencer's gifts, a joke/novelty shop. I wanted to explore the game in a place where there were no obvious relations. I talked to a worker named Leslie who was 23 years old.

Turns out that Leslie also identified with the gamer culture and expressed that her brother, an avid sports gamer, did not take pride or claim any part of a gamer culture. I find it very interesting that RPG games help create a sub-culture of their own and sports games act as an accessory and embellishment of an already established ‘sports culture’.

I brought up the difference in culture between ‘gamer-gamers’ and ‘sports-gamers’ and Leslie was not shocked. She explained that in a sports game, you are not playing a video game, you are simply playing the sport on a different platform. She also said that Sports games have a different thought process. It involves an understanding of the sport itself and is a lot more Math-centered .

RPGs are more about a self-fabricated world. In RPGs, story development is key where as in sports games having the most accurate depiction of the sport itself is the most important quality.

RPGs create a new world, where as sports games offer a new platform for an existing world. How you choose to play the game depends on what kind of person you are… All video games can be a very personal experience.

Sports games act as an extension to an already existing world. Knowing current cultural trends and developments is very important when understanding how to position a sports-game to a specific audience

Boarders: I then went to a book store to compare the desires of buying a sports game with the desires of buying a tangible, sports book. I talked to a younger worker named Angie, age 27, who did not like sports. She told me that from her own observations, sports readers and sports gamers do not usually go hand in hand. However, another worker told me in passing that ‘at the end of the day, a sports fan is a sports fan.’ From this I understand that sports fandom has many different levels and is all dependant on what sort of sub-culture the particular individual is involved in. However, most sports accessories and memorabilia can be appreciated by any fan.

This was a very interesting 'insight fishing' trip. I really worked hard to obtain a variety of perspectives that would help increase the understanding of the gamer culture/sports gamer culture and audience. I found it so interesting how much of an apparent 'divide' there is between the 'Gamer-gamers' and 'Sports-gamers'. It is really interesting that 'Gamer-gamers' use gaming as a method to define themselves and that 'Sports-gamers' use gaming as a method of feeding an already existing love and infatuation.

If I were to further this project, I would want to explore more of the 'Sports-gamer' culture. I feel like I received a nice window into 'gamer-gamer' culture and how the 2 game cultures exist with one another, but I want to understand more of the motivations behind playing a sports-game.

I would love to further explore how sports-gamers see these games as part of their culture. I would also like to talk to an individuals who both enjoys sports-games and 'gamer-games' so that I can work to understand what qualities may be loved and embraced by both.