User-generated videogaming: Little big planet and participatory cultures

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Paper presented at IR12, Seattle, october 2011
User-generated videogaming: Little Big Planet and participatory cultures

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User-generated videogaming: Little big planet and participatory cultures

  1. 1. Francesca Comunello and Simone Mulargia IR12, Seattle User-generated videogaming: Little Big Planet and participatory cultures in Italy
  2. 2. User-generated videogaming: Little Big Planet 1 and participatory cultures in Italy LBP is a PlayStation platform videogame that encourages users to create and share their own gaming levels (easy-to-use editor) . The interactive environment offered by the PlayStation Network (PSN) plays a major role in sharing user's creations, while hundreds of videos showing user-generated levels are to be found on different online environments. Our contribution refers to the empirical findings of a broader research project, conducted by Sapienza University of Rome in partnership with Sony Computer Entertainment Italy, which aimed at studying the relations between gaming and Social Network Sites.
  3. 3. Overview <ul><li>- Background: networked sociability, participatory cultures and the social side of videogaming </li></ul><ul><li>- LBP and participatory cultures </li></ul><ul><li>- Our research project: main purposes and method </li></ul><ul><li>- Research questions and hypothesis on LBP </li></ul><ul><li>- Our respondents </li></ul><ul><li>- Findings </li></ul><ul><li>- Discussion </li></ul><ul><li>- Limitations and further research directions </li></ul><ul><li>- Conclusions </li></ul>
  4. 4. Background: networked sociability, convergence culture and participatory cultures <ul><li>The conceptual framework we are following relies on a wide range of theories covering digital technology, social relations, participatory cultures, and gaming practices: </li></ul><ul><li>- Wellman's and Castells' understanding of Networked Individualism and Networked Sociability </li></ul><ul><li>- Convergence culture: a culture ' where old and new media collide, where grassroots and corporate media intersect, where the power of the media producer and the power of the media consumer interact in unpredictable ways' (Jenkins, 2006, pp. 259-60) </li></ul><ul><li>- Participatory cultures: ' a culture with strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations [….]. A participatory culture is also one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another' (Jenkins et al, 2009, p. 3) </li></ul>
  5. 5. Background: UGC and the social side of videogaming <ul><li>A major role in convergence culture is played by user-generated content and by fan cultures </li></ul><ul><li>Such concepts have been recently applied to gaming practices: users' customization, modding , etc. (Banks & Pott 2010, Bostan & Kaplancali 2010, Sotamaa 2010) </li></ul><ul><li>We also refer to a game studies perspective that focuses on the cultural and social dimensions that are to be found in gaming practices: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Bartle 1996: a typology of gamers that includes socializers (mainly focused on the social dimensions of gaming practices) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- Yee 2007: gaming motivations include social elements (namely: socializing, relationship, teamwork) </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Little Big Planet and participatory cultures <ul><li>When interacting with LBP, users are both interested in playing standard and user-generated gaming levels and in creating their own content, with the explicit goal of sharing them online. </li></ul><ul><li>Little Big Planet belongs both to gaming culture and user-generated content culture: it offers a powerful playground for verifying some of the theoretical assumptions on such topics </li></ul><ul><li>Consistent with the convergence culture framework (cross-platform participatory activities), such practices are not confined into the borders of the single platform in which they were originally meant to take place (PlayStation 3 and PSN): they spread through references, comments, and quotations over different media platforms, adopting a cross-reference attitude towards the text. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Little Big Planet: cross-platform practices and metagaming <ul><li>A wide variety of multimedia content related to LBP is to be found on the web (ranging from dedicated websites and forums to the large amount of videos on YouTube); </li></ul><ul><li>LBP appears to work as a typical example of convergence culture: a variety of symbolic material derived from different texts (movies, comics, other videogames) becomes part of the videogaming experiences designed by the user for other users. </li></ul><ul><li>Metagaming: ('playing games for playing with the games systems', Scacchi 2010): many user-generated gaming levels deal, at a meta level, with the mechanisms that rule LBP and the entire PSN (e.g: levels created to help users rapidly earn a large amount of trophies) </li></ul>
  8. 8. Our research project: purposes and method <ul><li>LBP user co-creation activity can only partially be considered as a part of the pre-existing modding phenomenon: the technical skills required to create a gaming level are quite low and are shared by the majority of videogamers. </li></ul><ul><li>The key purpose of our contribution is to analyze the participatory practices related to Little Big Planet 1 , mainly focusing on the characteristics of the users that appear to be most actively engaged. </li></ul><ul><li>Quantitative and qualitative methods: </li></ul><ul><li>- 39-question survey (invitation sent to all Italian PSN users) </li></ul><ul><li>- 4 focus groups, both in-person and online (22 users) </li></ul>
  9. 9. Our research project: RQ and Hypothesis on LBP <ul><li>After describing the characteristics of the respondents that declared to be LBP users, we address the following questions: </li></ul><ul><li>(RQ1) What are the socio-demographic characteristics of the most actively engaged LBP users? </li></ul><ul><li>(RQ2) Are users’ cultural consumptions related to their active engagement in LBP? </li></ul><ul><li>(RQ3) Is familiarity with digital technology related to user's active engagement in LBP? </li></ul><ul><li>(RQ4) Is a social-oriented attitude to digital technology related to user's active engagement in LBP? </li></ul>
  10. 10. Our research project: RQ and Hypothesis on LBP <ul><li>(RQ5) to what extent are LBP users likely to create and share their own gaming level </li></ul><ul><li>(RQ6) what are the socio-demographic characteristics of the most active gaming level creators? </li></ul><ul><li>Hypothesis concerning RQ 2 to RQ 4: </li></ul><ul><li>(H1) higher levels of users' cultural consumptions are related to higher levels of active engagement in LBP </li></ul><ul><li>(H2) higher levels of familiarity with digital technology are related to higher levels of active engagement in LBP </li></ul><ul><li>(H3) higher levels of a social-oriented attitude towards digital technology are related to higher levels of active engagement in LBP </li></ul>
  11. 11. Our research project: respondents <ul><li>Out of 12199 respondents, 8829 people completed the questionnaire </li></ul><ul><li>- disproportionately male (97%) </li></ul><ul><li>- 23% of respondents are aged 20 to 24 years, 19% range from 25 to 29 years </li></ul><ul><li>- medium-high degree of education: 53.5% have a high school degree, 15.6% have a bachelor's or graduate school degree </li></ul><ul><li>- rich media and cultural consumptions; strong engagement with digital technology, but also with traditional media (books and newspapers) </li></ul>
  12. 12. Findings on LBP: age and cultural consumption levels <ul><li>Out of 8829 respondents to the broader survey, 3054 are LBP users (34,6%) </li></ul><ul><li>- LBP is more popular among younger users </li></ul><ul><li>- For our research purposes, specific indexes have been created in order to operationalize the following concepts: “active LBP engagement”; user's “familiarity with digital technology”; user's “cultural consumption levels”; user's “social-oriented attitude to digital technology. </li></ul><ul><li>- (RQ1) Among LBP users, younger people show higher levels on the “active LBP use” index (but no statistically significant correlation between age and active LBP use) </li></ul><ul><li>- (RQ2) the level of cultural consumption does not show any clear correlation to the level of 'active LBP engagement' (r= 0.121, p = 0.01 ) </li></ul>
  13. 13. (RQ3): familiarity with digital technology and active LBP use Technology familiarity index Active LBP use index Correlation between tech familiarity index and active LBP use: r= 0.525; p=0.01 R 2 = 0.28 49,4% 49,4% 49,4% 49,4% 48% minimum or low medium low medium high high or maximum None or low 36,0% 20,4% 7,9% Medium-low 26,9% 25,5% 24,3% 15,4% Medium-high 18,9% 27,1% 32,5% 28,6% High or maximum 4,8% 11,4% 22,8% total 100,0% 100,0% 100,0% 100,0%
  14. 14. (RQ4): social-oriented attitude to technology and active LBP use Active LBP use index Social-oriented attitude to technology index Correlation between social-oriented and active LBP use: r= 0.488, p=0.01 R 2 = 0.24 57,6% 42,7% minimum or low medium low medium high high or maximum None or low 36,2% 25,4% 10,5% Medium-low 22,8% 29,5% 23,2% 16,7% Medium-high 15,5% 22,6% 31,0% 30,1% High or maximum 4,0% 11,8% 20,4% total 100,0% 100,0% 100,0% 100,0%
  15. 15. (RQ 5 and 6): LBP level creators <ul><li>651 out of 3,054 LBP users (21.2%) have created and shared at least a game level. Compared to the total number of respondents (both LBP users and non-users), 7.4% of PlayStation Network users are active LBP content creators. </li></ul><ul><li>Younger people are more likely to be active gaming level creators: among LBP users, 48% of respondents aged up to 14 years and 37.0% ranging from 15 to 19 years have created at least one gaming level; on the other side, 17.6% of respondents ranging from 40 to 44 years and 15.9% of respondents aged 45 years or more have created a gaming level. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Discussion <ul><li>H1 (cultural consumption and active LBP use) has not been confirmed. </li></ul><ul><li>H2 (technology familiarity) and H3 (socially oriented attitude) have been confirmed. </li></ul><ul><li>The relation between technology familiarity, productive practices and a social-oriented attitude to technology is central both in new media literacy scholarship (see Livingstone 2003, Warschauer 2003, van Deursen & van Dijk 2010) and in participatory cultures theory (Jenkins et al 2009) </li></ul>
  17. 17. Discussion: LBP users and user-generated content <ul><li>The percentage of LBP users (21.2%) and of the whole sample (PlayStation Network users, 7.4%) that have created at least one gaming level is higher than what generally reported in recent literature regarding user-generated content. </li></ul><ul><li>Despite the rhetoric on collaborative media and wikis environments, the nature and the true extent of the phenomenon are still controversial. </li></ul><ul><li>Users appear to be fully aware of the co-creating and sharing practices enabled by the game (spontaneous recalling during focus groups). </li></ul>
  18. 18. Limitation and further research directions <ul><li>Our sample is not representative of the PSN users universe (auto-selected; no pre-existing sociodemographic data on PSN users available to create weighted sample) </li></ul><ul><li>Broader research project (no dedicated focus groups, not possible to build a proper multimedia literacy index) </li></ul><ul><li>Further research directions : other participatory platforms (LBP2, and others); mapping the spreadability of LBP-related UGC; studying the motivations for participatory practices; exploring the relations between user-generated videogames and user's self presentation and sense of identity, and how they are also related to their presence on social network sites; investigating why LBP’s users show a higher degree of user-generated activism if compared to other web 2.0; investigate whether or not skills developed in Little Big Planet (programming skills, social oriented skills, etc.) are likely to be conveyed in other contexts. </li></ul>
  19. 19. Conclusion: LBP as an example of convergence and participatory cultures <ul><li>LBP represents an effective example of convergence and participatory culture. </li></ul><ul><li>(Paraphrasing Wellman, 2004): we have recently moved from a world of programming wizards modifying their games, who used to constitute a small elite (showing attitudes and practices that were similar to the hacker worlds), to a world of ordinary people contributing, co-creating, commenting, and spreading user-generated gaming levels </li></ul><ul><li>higher levels of LBP active engagement are more likely to be found among people that show a high familiarity to digital technology, as well as a high propensity toward a social-oriented use of technology. We are not dealing with programming skills but, instead, with practices and skills that are core elements of participatory cultures themselves </li></ul>
  20. 20. Conclusion: the normalization of participatory practices <ul><li>LBP can be understood as a specific example of user-generated content: it is a videogame that appears to be conscious of the sense-generating processes that surround videogames. Apparently, this platform videogame has a simple structure, but it incorporates the hypothesis that the one to create content should be the user, consistent with the widespread co-creating and sharing practices we observe in the social media environment. </li></ul><ul><li>LBP helps us understand broader processes regarding the “normalization” of participatory practices, as well as some of the evolutionary processes that characterize participatory cultures. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Thank you! [email_address] @fcomun [email_address]

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