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You suck! Playing the blame game in collaborative gaming
Linköping University, The Tema Institute, Department of Child Studies. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The present study examines video documentation of some ways in which participants allocate blame for “untoward events” to co-present players in computer gaming. In such co-located gaming, players will communicate through whatever means available, relying on both on-screen communication (through chat as well as through avatar actions), as well as verbal and non-verbal offscreen communication. In blame sequences, an initial act of blaming provides a reason to locate a blameable event in the on-screen interaction just prior to the blame, thereby functioning as an instruction to “search” recent game-events for a cause of the blame. Blame elicits the scrutinizing of gameplay, and thereby for reflexively establishing at least one event (e.g. the death of a player’s avatar) as a potentially blameable offence. Foregrounding a player’s action constitutes a first step in establishing it as publicly blameable (a similar point is made by Mondada, 2009, in analyses of assessment sequences). Blame does not, however, once and for all decide the issue of who is at fault. Rather, blame is an interactional method for attributing responsibility, but at the same time as it is a move in a sequence of actions, where each one reflexively provides ground for understanding the next.

Playing computer games in co-located settings (such as internet cafés or LAN-parties) is not a quiet enterprise of silent contemplation. Players constantly talk to each other, about events in the game, about other players as well as on topics entirely unrelated to the playing of the game. A lot of talk concerns what is happening in the game (or what has happened), why this has happened and what can be done to make sure it will happen again (in the case of something favorable) or to ensure it will not (in the case of something detrimental to the progression of the game). In so doing, the players continuously interpret and formulate  events in the game.

A striking aspect of these conversations, during game play and in-between individual gaming sessions, was that they are confrontational and harshly disaffiliative. The players use “foul” language laden with sexual connotations, name-calling, challenging each others’ competence and skill in the game as well as general intelligence and abilities. This is not to say that this is the only way that players talk to one another. Blame is a prevalent feature of the players’ interaction, but it is not the only way of handling untoward events. All the same—and in contrast to many other studies of cooperative work conducted in a variety of socio-technical systems — participants’ confrontations is a striking interactional feature of the activity.

National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-70856OAI: diva2:442130
Available from: 2011-09-20 Created: 2011-09-20 Last updated: 2011-09-20Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Gaming Interaction: Conversations and Competencies in Internet Cafés
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Gaming Interaction: Conversations and Competencies in Internet Cafés
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Spelinteraktion : Samtal och Kompetenser på Internetcaféer
Abstract [en]

The dissertation analyzes interaction in adolescents’ computer gaming. Through the use of video recordings in internet cafés, players’ communicative practices are illuminated. Ethnomethodological and interaction analytical perspectives are used to explicate the participants’ methods for meaning-making in the gaming. The aim of the thesis is to investigate how this co-located interaction sets conditions for game playing as a social activity. The dissertation contains four empirical studies. The first addresses the semiotic resources that the players use in collaborative gaming. It shows how gaming activities involve configurations of semiotic resources that are only available in co-located gaming, such as pointing at the screen or rotating your body towards coplayers. In the second study, the players’ use of so called professional vision is analyzed. Experienced players instruct and discipline a novice’s vision by demonstrating how the interface is connected to the rules of the game. In situations with two experienced players, visual aspects of the game can be used to question other players’ competence, by pointing out, for example, what should be visible to them. The visual aspects of the game are thereby made relevant by the players when one of them has acted contrary to conventional practice. The third study addresses the strategies that players use for highlighting their own competence and questioning their coplayers’. In this way the players create local hierarchies, and in the community of practice in internet cafés there are clear elements of exclusion and competiveness. In the final study the relevance of blame for the gaming practices is examined. Blame is used both for highlighting the player’s own competence, at the expense of another player’s, and for enabling a joint analysis “game exegesis”, in which the causal structures of the gaming are examined by the players. The dissertation shows how a player’s competence is constituted out of action both on the screen and in the gamers’ joint, co-located interactions. Their possibilities for positioning themselves in the social community of gaming are conditioned, not only by their in-game skills, but also by their ability to use the communicative resources that the co-located gaming affords.

Abstract [sv]

Avhandlingen behandlar interaktion i ungdomars datorspelande. Med hjälp av videoinspelningar gjorda på internetcaféer belyses några sätt på vilka spelarna kommunicerar med varandra. Etnometodologiska och interaktionsanalytiska perspektiv används för att analysera deltagarnas metoder för att skapa förståelse i och kring spelandet. Avhandlingens syfte är att undersöka hur denna samlokaliserade interaktion skapar förutsättningar för spelandet som social aktivitet. Avhandlingen består av fyra delstudier. Den första behandlar de semiotiska resurser som spelarna använder sig av i kollaborativt spelande. Den visar på hur spelaktiviteter involverar resurser som  bara finns tillgängliga i samlokaliserat spelande, så som att peka på skärmen eller rotera kroppen mot medspelarna. I studie nummer två analyseras spelarnas användning av specialiserat seende (professional vision). Erfarna spelare kan instruera och disciplinera novisers seende genom att synliggöra hur gränssnittet är sammankopplat med spelets regler. I situationer med två erfarna spelare kan visuella aspekter av spelet användas för att ifrågasätta en annan spelares kompetens, genom att exempelvis påpeka vad som borde vara synligt för spelaren. Spelets visuella aspekter blir alltså relevanta för spelarna främst då någon av dem agerat i strid med idéer och normer för spelandet. Den tredje delstudien behandlar interaktionsmetoder som spelarna använder sig av för att framhäva sin egen kompetens och ifrågasätta sina medspelares. Genom dessa skapar spelarna lokala hierarkier, och i den praktikgemenskap som datorspelandet på internetcaféer utgör finns tydliga inslag av exklusion och konkurrens. I den sista delstudien undersöks de funktioner som beskyllningar har i spelandet. Dessa används både för att framhäva spelarens egen kompetens på någon annans bekostnad, men öppnar också upp för gemensam analys, vad som här kallas ”spel-exeges”, där spelets kausala struktur blottläggs. Avhandlingen visar hur spelares kompetens konstitueras av handlingar både på skärmen och i spelarnas gemensamma, samlokaliserade interaktion. Deras möjligheter för positionering i det sociala sammanhang som spelandet utgör utgår alltså inte bara ifrån deras färdigheter i spelet, utan också ifrån deras förmåga att utnyttja de kommunikativa resurser som det samlokaliserade spelandet erbjuder.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2011. 95 p.
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 545
Computer gaming, interaction, ethnomethodology, peer group, informal learning, identity, competence, internet café, Datorspelande, interaktion, etnometodologi, kamratgrupp, informellt lärande, identitet, kompetens, internetcafé
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-70857 (URN)978-91-7393-062-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2011-10-14, TEMCAS, Hus T, Campus Valla, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 13:15 (English)
Available from: 2011-09-20 Created: 2011-09-20 Last updated: 2012-10-18Bibliographically approved

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Sjöblom, Björn
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