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Co-creative meaning and Resident Evil Outbreak : Re-writing Representations in online game play, gamer made videos and beyond
 

Co-creative meaning and Resident Evil Outbreak : Re-writing Representations in online game play, gamer made videos and beyond

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Discusses the concept of co-creative media and how representations of gender are co-created by audiences as participants in Resident Evil Outbreak, drawn from my Masters research into gender ...

Discusses the concept of co-creative media and how representations of gender are co-created by audiences as participants in Resident Evil Outbreak, drawn from my Masters research into gender representations and identity in REO.

This is the Powerpoint used for my guest lecture at the Popular Culture Forum at Brock University March 2, 2007.
Argument may be difficult to follow without the rest of my verbal explanation, but I wanted to share it anyway.

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Co-creative meaning and Resident Evil Outbreak : Re-writing Representations in online game play, gamer made videos and beyond Co-creative meaning and Resident Evil Outbreak : Re-writing Representations in online game play, gamer made videos and beyond Presentation Transcript

  • Co-creative meaning and Resident Evil Outbreak: Re-writing Representations in online game play, gamer made videos and beyond Popular Culture Forum – March 2, 2007 Joanna Robinson MA Candidate in Popular Culture Brock University www.JoannaSRobinson.com
  • Overview
    • Research drawn from my MA study in progress, ‘Gender Representations and Interaction in Resident Evil Online’
    • What is Co-creative media?
    • Resident Evil Outbreak/Online (REO) and its characters
    • Ways in which gender representations in REO are co-created
    • Examples (some video examples not seen on slideshare, see my youtube account, username sassyshh)
    • Implications for existing and future research
  • What is Co-creative media?
    • Morris (2004) describes online FPS games as co-creative media.
    • “ neither developers nor players can be solely responsible for production of the final assemblage regarded as the game, it requires the input of both” (Morris, 2004, 1)
    • Performances of players in online game play that does not pursue game objectives has been referred to as “creative player actions” and “emergent” play (Wright et al, 2002)
    • Examples include humour, parody and critique of all elements of the game
  • Shannon & Weaver's Communication Model (1947)
  • A possible model for Co-creative media Online gamers are not fans in the traditional sense but rather participants because “their devotion to the game is as players, not spectators” (Morris: 2004)
    • It is important to remember that meaning is created in socio-cultural contexts (Hall) and audiences are capable of forming dominant, oppositional and alternative meanings.
    • This presentation discusses how some of those meanings are formed co-creatively by an audience that participates and makes meaning, rather than in by audience that receives and interprets
  • Co-created representations?
    • Online gaming is a performative activity (Morris, 2004)
    • Game representations gain meaning through play (Salen & Zimmerman, 2003)
    • Audiences possess a high degree of agency, as players learn how to deploy the signs and symbols given them as resources for constructing their own social discourses to others (Burn & Carr, 2003, 14)
    • Layers of meaning are added to online gaming characters through their representation in images in buddy icons and personal banners in forums (Taylor, 2006, Sommerfeldt, 2005)
  • Research Questions
    • RQ1: In what ways might gendered meanings in REO’s characters be co-created by players?
    • RQ2: In online game play, how might players ability to perform characters modify character representations?
    • RQ3: Do co-created character representations observed in REO subvert or challenge or perpetuate gendered character constructs?
    • RQ4: What does this case study contribute to our understanding of new media audiences as participants?
  • Methodological Approach (for my MA thesis research in progress ‘Gender, Representations and Interaction in Resident Evil Online’)
    • Feminist textual analysis (of characters ‘as written’)
    • Autoethnography (telling my story)
    • E-interviews (by email correspondence)
    • Participant observation (showing and sharing of characters ‘as performed’)
    • Some limitations:
    • Small amount of participants (to date) n=11 and mostly male respondents n=7. Game released in 2004, 2005.
    • Many participants balked at having to print, sign and fax/post/scan the ethics form
    • The very specific context of the REO gaming community may mean that findings may not be transferable to other games
  •  
  •  
  • Resident Evil: Outbreak and its characters ‘as written’
    • Players may choose character, outfit and may only communicate in game using primate voice actions (for example Yes, No, Follow me, wait and character specific “adlibs” written by game producers)
    • Players creatively deploy these with other forms of nonverbal communication including pointing, shouldering, stomping and various instances of visual humour
    • Five male and three female characters are available for players to choose from in REO, and in the Resident Evil tradition, one of the women is tough, assertive and competent.
    • Traditional representation of men as strong, women in support roles, with very few exceptions.
    • All participants indicated that they found at least one or more of the REO characters ‘as written’ stereotypical.
  •  
  • Default Character – Kevin the police officer
    • Vitality: 2300 points
    • Viral Infection Rate: 1.19% per minute, 84 minutes to 100%
    • Characteristics:
    • - ‘Superior athletic abilities’
    • - Fastest of all characters
    • - Powerful custom 45 Auto
    • - Pot shot
    • Kicking ability
    • Default character
    Kevin Ryman - Police Officer , Raccoon City Police Department
    • Vitality: 3000 points
    • Viral Infection Rate: 1.31% per minute, 76 minutes to 100%
    • Characteristics:
    • - Highest vitality points
    • - Strongest character in the game
    • - Can move heavy objects that would usually require two players to move
    • - Slowest character in the game
    • - Cannot hide in confined spaces
    • - Blocking special move
    • Custom handgun
    Mark Wilkins – Security Guard, Vietnam Veteran
  • Vitality: 2200 points Viral Infection Rate: 1.04% per minute, 96 minutes to 100% Characteristics: - ‘A man of few words’ - Talented and swift with knives, comes with a folding knife - Able to combine items to create new ones. - 12 Monkey wrenches that can be thrown, with knockdown capability as special move David King - Plumber
    • Vitality: 2100 points
    • Viral Infection Rate: 1.04% per minute, 96 minutes to 100%
    • Characteristics:
    • - Possesses a ‘cooperative spirit’
    • - ‘Easily gains the trust of others’
    • - Medicine creating skills, able to create pills from herbs and shoot them at team mates with capsule shooter
    • - Tackle attack special move
    • Tackle attack can be charged like the pot shot for extra strength
    George Hamilton - Doctor
  • Strongest Female character – Alyssa the Reporter
    • Vitality: 2000 points
    • Viral Infection Rate: 0.89% per minute, 112 minutes to 100%
    • Characteristics:
    • - ‘Strong personality’
    • - Strongest female character in terms of attack damage
    • - Pot shot
    • - Dodging
    • - Tazer
    • Lock picking ability
    Alyssa Ashcroft - Journalist
    • Vitality: 1800 points
    • Viral Infection Rate: 1.43% per minute, 70 minutes to 100%
    • Characteristics:
    • - ‘Skillful at solving puzzles’
    • - ‘Talks too much and bothers people around him’
    • - Avoids attacks by pretending to be dead
    • - ‘Fearful coward’
    • - Runs quickly
    • Coin tossing ability for luck
    Jim Chapman – Subway Employee
    • Vitality: 1500 points
    • Viral Infection Rate: 0.89% per minute, 112 minutes to 100%
    • Characteristics:
    • - Helpful, ‘service oriented’ person
    • - ‘Always thinks of other people first’
    • - Stars scenarios in possession of healing herbs in her herb kit
    • - Ability to heal others
    • - Bandage for curing bleeding on herself or team mates
    • - Suffers status reduction easily
    • - Good movement speed
    • Ducking ability
    Cindy Lennox - Waitress
    • Vitality: 1300 points
    • Viral Infection Rate: 0.78% per minute, 128 minutes to 100%
    • Characteristics:
    • - ‘Extremely knowledgeable about computers’
    • - Lowest vitality of all characters
    • - But low viral infection rate
    • - Can carry four more items than others, using her backpack
    • - Drop and crawl away special move
    • Positive outlook, thinking she will be able to figure out things
    Yoko Suzuki – University Student
    • RQ1: In what ways might gendered meanings in REO’s characters be co-created by players?
  • Ways in which representations are co-creative in Resident Evil Online
    • Conference calling/skype during game play
    • Pre and post game chatroom discussions on the server
    • Online forum discussions, buddy icons
    • Performances and Parody during Live Gameplay
    • Player made game play videos (machinima)
    • Beyond gaming – online/offline social relationships
    • These work to subvert and challenge gender ideologies in characters as well as perpetuate them.
  • Conference calling/skype during game play
    • Online social relationships formed between players and maintained through playing together, as well as chatting or sending messages over the internet also added layers of meaning to characters as player identity was tied to their “main” character.
    • Players reported taking part in telephone conference calling and audio chatting on the computer using programs such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and Skype to communicate with one another during game play, in order to overcome the obstacles to communicating in game (no headset capability and limited voice commands available).
    • During these voice chats, among other conversations, critical comments were made about the representation of characters as constructed, as well as the way in which players were enacting them.
    • Players also roleplayed their own emergent or co-created narratives!
  • Online forum discussions, buddy icons
    • Gamers discussed their favourite characters as well as critiquing them, as well as talking about what they would like to see in the future online versions of Resident Evil they would like to see produced.
    • Players told stories of their favourite moments playing REO and fan fiction was also created by some members of these forums, telling stories about the characters that they created, based on the game but adding their own themes and narratives.
    • Many players also shared their favourite character pictures as their buddy icon to represent themselves on the forums and modified these images in various ways. Interestingly, attitudes toward certain characters may foster and grow in such spaces, such as discussions of “Kevins” (the default police officer character) as more likely to be newbies or team killers.
    • Importantly, these messageboards can function very differently from that of a television program or even an offline game, since much of the activity on them is ongoing discussions which are often shaped by the play of the day or week. So instead of commenting on a static text that they are separate from, the shaping of the textual experience and future textual experiences takes place on messageboards as well.
  • Buddy Icons
  •  
  • Forum banners – linking characters to player identity
  • Fan Art
  •  
  •  
    • RQ2: In online game play, how might players ability to perform characters modify character representations?
  • Playing with gender: Performances and Parody in Live Gameplay
    • 1. Character Parody
    • Players critiquing representations in game
      • E.g. Voice command jokes, visual jokes foregrounding construction
    • 2. Performances of Power
    • Depicting their own representations / revisions to existing representations
    • In doing so, challenging stereotypical female game characters AND stereotypes about unskilled female gamers
      • E.g. Playing female characters in ways that show them to be powerful and capable
    • Video examples of these concepts on my Youtube, search for user named “sassyshh”
  • Player made game play videos
    • YouTube.com, Google Video and others
    • Demonstrations of skill and mastery
    • Parody, humour and other performances
    • Videos were also cut and edited by some players, music, player conversations and additional text added
    • REO characters also represented through other games such as the Sims
    • The videos shown are in my YouTube.com favourites. See user “sassyshh” to see:
    • Resident Evil Outbreak Bad Boys (COPS parody)
    • Cindy Bunny “I found it!” video
    • Umbrella’s child (REO parody using the Sims)
  • And beyond…
    • Players who share online and offline social relationships with other players further complicate notions of a closed text
    • Since some players link their “real” identity closely with their character, characters may continue to be co-created over time
  • Ties to identity, Cosplay
  •  
  • And beyond that!
    • New environments, same old (horror) story –
    • Resident Evil in Second Life
  • Implications…
    • Co-creative media:
    • contain the possibility of Ideological Resistance / Alternative discourses
    • still requires and necessarily contains producer encoded world views
    • Co-created Representations and identity:
    • can result in subverison of gender stereotypes in characters
    • can result in reproducing dominant gender (and other) ideologies
    • can be a source of empowerment for women
    • can be used in identity play
  • Implications…
    • Audience and player-type research:
    • Players display different amounts of investment of their personal identity in their REO characters
    • REO players made character choices based on both appearance and notions of identity as well as ludic properties
    • Audiences who grow up co-creating their media experiences may have different demands of the media to come
    • Audiences form both dominant and oppositional meanings in this example of co-creation
    • Narratology vs Ludology:
    • Debates over online games as play or a narrative based cultural text more like a film are complicated by this community’s diverse modes of interpretation of their activity as well as of the text itself.
    • Participants reported making character choices based on ludic principles as well as notions of representing their identity within the REO story world
  • Implications…
    • REO is both cultural artefact and site of (ongoing) culture and is an important case study of one of the first online games for PS2.
    • See also my paper from Women in Games 2006 “Playing With Gender” and my forthcoming MA thesis.
    • As REO is co-created by the audience it seeks to entertain, we see the beginning of what may be an exciting era in media history - the controller in the hands of the audience.
  • Thankyou for participating!
    • Contact info:
    • Joanna S. Robinson
    • MA Candidate in Popular Culture
    • Brock University
    • [email_address]
    • www.JoannaSRobinson.com