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Methods for Analyzing Let's Plays: Context Analysis for Gaming Videos on YouTube

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Abstract

Let's Plays, gaming videos distributed on video platforms such as YouTube, became immensely popular during the last years. As a new research field they offer a huge new pool of research data for the study of video games/gaming and religion. But how to adequately analyze these data? We here propose a matrix for the initial section of analyzing Let's Plays, namely context analysis which then of course needs to be followed by content analysis. Based on the six wh-questions as applied especially also in the classical historical-critical method, we here propose a structured, step by step procedure analyzing specified and clearly defined components. Each step in this context analysis takes up one specific component of the Let's Play and provides context information for it. As such, we present and discuss a sequence of steps which is applicable not only in the study of Let's Plays and religion, but in research on Let's Plays in general.
Issue 02 (2015)
articles
The WoW Factor: A Virtual Ethnographic Study of Sacred Things and Rituals in World
of Warcraft
Sonja C. Sapach , 1
Spirits in the Aether: Digital Ghosts in Final Fantasy XIV
Tim Appignani, Kaylee Kruzan, Indira Neill Hoch, 25
Extending the Dimensions of the Social World through GameWorlds
Jonathan Tuckett, 61
Methods for Analyzing Let’s Plays: Context Analysis for Gaming Videos on YouTube
Kerstin Radde-Antweiler, Xenia Zeiler, 100
interview
Interview with Third Faction
by gamevironments, 140
research reports
Establishment of a new AAR-Seminar “Video Gaming and Religion”
by Kerstin Radde-Antweiler, 153
IASGAR: The new International Academy for the Study of Gaming and Religion
by Xenia Zeiler, 156
game review
The Witcher 3: A Wild and Modern Hunt to Medievalise Eastern and Northern Europe
by Derek Fewster, 159
100
Methods for Analyzing Let’s Plays:
Context Analysis for Gaming Videos on YouTube
Kerstin Radde-Antweiler, Xenia Zeiler
Abstract
Let’s Plays, gaming videos distributed on video platforms such as YouTube, became
immensely popular during the last years. As a new research field they offer a huge new
pool of research data for the study of video games/gaming and religion. But how to
adequately analyze these data? We here propose a matrix for the initial section of
analyzing Let’s Plays, namely context analysis which then of course needs to be followed
by content analysis. Based on the six wh-questions as applied especially also in the
classical historical-critical method, we here propose a structured, step by step procedure
analyzing specified and clearly defined components. Each step in this context analysis
takes up one specific component of the Let’s Play and provides context information for
it. As such, we present and discuss a sequence of steps which is applicable not only in
the study of Let’s Plays and religion, but in research on Let’s Plays in general.
Keywords: context analysis, Let’s Play, gamevironments, Beyond: Two Souls, YouTube
Introduction
In July 2015, the German press reacted with astonishment and partly harsh critic as a
young man (not a journalist) interviewed the German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel.
What had happened? The YouTuber LeFloid every Monday and Thursday publishes a
video in the video series named LeNews, in which he discusses the recent news as
presented in TV. These videos are quite successful and are watched by 800,000
1,000,000 persons per video, especially by teenagers. So, it is not surprising that
LeFloid’s channel at the moment of writing this article, on 25 September 2015, is ranked
in the Top 5 of all German YouTube channels, having more than 2,7 million subscribers.
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This development linked with the rising phenomenon that the traditional TV news are
almost not watched at all by the younger generation anymore lead to the exceptional
interview “Das Interview mit Angela Merkel - #NetzFragtMerkel”i. In it, LeFloid referred
to questions which were posted by the YouTube community with the hashtag
“NetzfragtMerkel”.
This case clearly shows the rising importance of YouTube channels and videos published
therein not only for the mediatization of political content, but in general, for the public
discourse. As part of these videos, which are posted not only on YouTube but on other
(streaming) video broadcasting sites such as Twitch or MyVideo as well, we can identify
the so-called Let’s Plays, which became immensely popular during the last years and are
one of the most popular video genres. We define Let’s Plays as:
“'Let’s Plays’ are increasingly and widely popular self-recorded gaming videos in
which the respective gamers, the ‘Let's Players’, comment on their journey
through the game as well as on various aspects of it.” (Radde-Antweiler,
Waltemathe, Zeiler 2014, 17).
Let’s Plays have growing economic importance and relevance in the transformation
processes of media usage, and as such they are a new research field which offers a huge
new pool of research data for the study of video games/gaming and religion. These data
allow to extend the research and analysis of games (and their possible religious content)
to the respective recipients, that is people playing these games and people watching
Let’s Plays, giving us access to their perspectives, which become visible in the Let’s Play
videos as well as in comments on these videos.
While analyzing Let’s Plays, we have to distinguish between three different levels:
a) the game, which is played by the Let’s Player in the video,
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b) the Let's Play, including the video with its gaming performance, the live comments,
and sometimes the video images of the Let’s Player as well as the channel with its links
and contents, as well as
c) the comments on a Let's Play.
But how to adequately apply a structured context analysis for Let’s Plays? Any serious
analysis starts with information on the research object - in short: with context. But while
it is generally agreed upon that such information is beneficial and necessary, the
quantity and quality of contextualization greatly varies. This is true also for research on
games and gaming in general, and on Let’s Plays in particular. So far, there is no
standardized information on what precisely a contextualization may or should include,
and why. Considering that contextualization should provide significant initial
information on the research object in order to then facilitate the content analysis, this is
all the more surprising.
In fact, context analysis permits the only secure initial approach to a research object, and
it contributes to define the research question(s) we can effectively apply. In our
understanding, context analysis is a standardized and mandatory initial section of any
analysis. It provides basic but nevertheless absolutely essential information
contextualizing a research object - in our case the gaming video. As such, context
analysis does not simply precede the ‘actual’ analysis or does not solely help to
preliminarily better understand Let’s Plays and their environments, but rather it is the
first and equal part of any analytical work. Consequently, it is a structured, step by step
procedure providing answers to specified and clearly defined components. Only after
context analysis, research questions are to be applied to the material.
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Context analysis of course is not new. On the contrary, especially in the Humanities as
well as in Cultural Studies the analysis of the technical, historical and cultural
environments of a specific material - such as texts - is well known. Similar to the classical
historical-critical method, the aim of our proposed analysis matrix is to answer (at least)
the six wh-questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Context analysis for
example has to take into account the technical, historical and cultural context of a
(religious) text at the time and place it was written. Regarding Let’s Plays, this means
that we also accordingly need to ask for the technical, historical and cultural contexts a)
of the game, b) of the Let’s Play, and c) of the comments.
Context analysis and the respective individual components which we propose as
essential and obligatory are thus not restricted to research dealing with Let’s Plays and
religion. Rather, we provide a sequence of steps which is universally applicable in the
study of Let’s Plays. Each step in this context analysis takes up one specific component
of the Let’s Play and provides context information for it (for example, the component
‘Costs and sales’ on the game level gives background information on the respective
game’s budget and sales figures, the component ‘Time period’ on the Let’s Play level
gives background information on the publishing dates of the video, including the
channel and playlist it is part of, or the component ‘Quantity’ on the comments level
gives background information on the number of comments posted for the respective
Let’s Play). The components specified and discussed here are the outcome of
discussions and test and try processes lasting several years. They namely also build on
results from individual case studies by the authors as well as on collaborative work, for
instance in the form of joint conference presentations and discussions arising from
these.ii
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Technological tools to support archiving and analyzing data sets - be they video, audio,
or textual - rapidly develop at present and constantly change. While new technical tools
are more or less regularly introduced, especially when it comes to quantitative analysis,
we also find the case that older ones are no longer available, that software which
thitherto was free of charge begins to charge for its use, etc. Especially because of these
permanent shifts, in this article we make no claims to be complete in naming specific
software and/or other technical support, but only mention examples.
This article begins with remarks on archiving which is a prerequisite of all research. This
section especially makes aware of and discusses strategies for the specific challenges
posed when archiving Let’s Plays and their environments. Next, the article discusses our
proposed matrix, consisting of the individual components, for context analysis of the
three different levels which need to be distinguished when researching Let’s Plays
(game, Let’s Play, and comments). This section of the article is structured in the
following way: First, each component, i.e. each step of the context analysis, is named and
explained, and second, the respective component is directly illustrated with concrete
information from a case study. This step by step manual or matrix for contextualizing
Let’s Plays enables the researcher to get (1) a grounded overview and (2) a deeper
insight into important basic information. This background information will thus not only
provide the indispensable thorough background on the research material but also
support reflections on which research questions may be successfully applied to the
material used.
As our case study to illustrate the components of the context analysis, we selected a
specific Let’s Play published on YouTube. The highly popular YouTuber and Let’s Player
PewDiePie played the game Beyond: Two Souls and published a series of Let’s Plays, out
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of which we here refer to the gaming video named “MANLY TEARS! - Beyond: Two Souls
- Gameplay, Walkthrough - Part 12”iii.
Game
Let’s Play
Comments
Prerequisite:
Archiving
Archiving
Archiving
Archiving
Context
Analysis
Game design
and
development
a) Platform
b) Channel
c) Playlist
d) Video
Comments
Quantity
Release dates
and global
distribution
Language(s)
Costs and sales
Time period
Time frame,
date, frequency
Systems and its
requirements
Topics
Particularities
and
characteristics
Age rating
Statistics
Reception,
rankings,
awards
Play and game
mode(s)
Game controls
Let’s Player
Person
Commenters
Quantity
Media
reception and
pre- or sequels
Network
Relation of the
numbers of
comments and
commenters
Specifics
Media repertoire
Figure 1: Matrix for Context Analysis of Lets Plays
To gather and structure information on contextualizing specific video games, Let’s Plays,
and comments levels for gaming videos, we are in the process of installing an open
access space on the website gamevironmentsiv to be jointly fed by researchers working
in this field. Context information on any case study could thus be made available and
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(re)used by the researcher community in all cases where such context information is
needed.
While context analysis always remains standardized and as such unmodified irrespective
of the research question(s), the next steps of analyzing Let’s Plays of course need to be
chosen according to what is asked in detail in the respective research. Existing analytical
approaches are numerous and diverse and may involve various analytical techniques,
also when it comes to questions regarding Let’s Plays and religion. For instance,
depending on details of the research question(s), approaches involving coding
techniques, thick description, or film analysis may be of use for certain studies, as much
as network analysis may support other studies.
This article forms the first part of a planned series of articles presenting Methods for
Analyzing Let’s Plays. Following the detailed discussion in this article of context analysis
as the indispensable first step of any Let’s Play analysis, future articles will subsequently
highlight and illustrate precise analytical approaches (such as thick description, coding,
network analysis, etc.) including concrete and practical analytical steps, discussed again
using one game as an example. Look out for these articles in the following regular issues
of gamevironments!
Prerequisite: Archiving
Contextualization, the initial step forming the first part of the analysis, necessarily begins
with data archiving. In the academic discourse it is without doubt, that the material of
analysis has to be archived so it can be accessed and verified at any time. But, a
particular problem of digital media research in general and of the research of
gamevironments (Radde-Antweiler, Waltemathe, Zeiler 2014) in particular is the
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archiving of web and video gaming content. Archiving material of any kind usually
implies a general problem, namely the transformation of data by reproducing it: “The
archivization produces as much as it records the event.“ (Derrida 1996, 100)
As already mentioned, we have to distinguish between three different levels, which all
have their own challenges and procedures when it comes to archiving.
Game
In order to archive game-related content it is not sufficient to only archive the respective
game. Due to the fact that technical equipment constantly changes it is essential to
archive this technical equipment as well, for example the specific console or the specific
computer. In both cases we have to consider the fact that additionally, the respective
software (for example the specific version of the adobe flash player) as well as the
respective operation systems have to be secured.
Let’s Play
Next, research on Let’s Plays needs to archive the respective Let’s Play itself, that means
the videos as well as the channels and video platforms which host it. Whereas videos as
such can be archived relatively easily, by using specific software tools, it is not sufficient
to limit the archiving to the videos only. Also the channel on the respective video
platform has to be archived, due to the fact that it presents the contextual frame in
which the video is embedded. Without this, the access to the selected channel’s
background information, such as network, links, and recommendations, cannot be
guaranteed. We have to keep in mind that web pages may change at any time and data
may get irretrievably lost. Due to the fact that there is no standardized archiving for
Internet sites such as video platforms, it is an urgent and necessary task to develop the
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necessary archiving tools, in order to preserve data for the future.
In general, they are two approaches to archive web content:
a) the comprehensive approach, using special software (for example HTTrack or GNU
Wget) to mirror an entire address (including the subdomains and links), or
b) the selected approach, by downloading all files from a particular URL by selected filter
settings.
However, we need to reflect that both approaches change the original content, for
example by changing the links from specific subdomains to a specific storage position
on your computer or hard disc (for example
http://www.gamevironments.org/?page_id=25 moves to file:///C:/Users/Radde-
Antweiler/Desktop/Forschung/http://www.gamevironments.org/?page_id=25). Thus, the
original web content will no longer be available in the original context after archiving,
given that the mirroring process changes the source data. For the management and
conservation of authentic web-based records, the capture of metadata has a central
position:
“A successful preservation process relies to a large extent on description of the
nature and history of the archival resources: on metadata, in short. Metadata is
also required to guide the way archived objects are rendered to and understood
by users.” (Warwick/Webb/Whiting 2001)
The metadata provide the researcher with the basic data information concerning the
analyzed website. This data is not only fundamental for later identification of the
observed material for citation or the like, but it is essential in terms of storing and
archiving the data. It consists of the Uniform Resource Locator (URL), the domain as well
as connected subdomains, their respective volume, and the domain’s owner.
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Next to that and taking the multimedia character of the medium into account, it is not
enough to save just the video or textual elements but to store all related data, that
means also interactive multimedia applications and the dynamic structure (for example
links) as well as invisible contents and structural elements for the browser (for example
page sources). This requires not only extensive storage space, but the necessity to
provide long-term archiving.
While archiving these data we face three processes:
a) the migration, namely the transfer of information to a new platform,
b) the transfer of information into a new, standardized file format, and
c) the choice of the storage medium.
Especially the issue of the storage medium to retain the data requires a special long-
term archiving methodology. It is now within the responsibility of science to develop
preservation strategies for web material, to secure the Internet discourses and
information as part of cultural heritage. Rapid technological change, for example in the
field of the computer industry, leads to a rapid obsolescence of media and data formats,
a fact which constitutes an acute threat to the long-term usability of digital objects.
To sum up: when archiving Let’s Play material, we have to keep in mind the necessity to
(1) archive all the data of the respective channel, for example audio-visual material,
textual elements including their interactive structure, and meta tags, and (2) prevent the
archived material from potential loss.
Comments
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Archiving all comments for a Let’s Play may turn out to be a challenging task, depending
on the platform and the number of comments. Some popular Let’s Plays not only have
an extremely high number of comments, but also this number and possibly the order of
individual comments continuously changes, as new comments are added. Precisely
because of this growing and shifting set of data it is imperative to archive the comments
at the very beginning of your study. Different platforms of course offer different
archiving tools. But the embedded tools even for displaying and more so for archiving
the comments on gaming videos on many popular websites, such as YouTube, are
insufficient when the number of comments reach a certain limit. As very high numbers
of comments on Let’s Plays increasingly seem to be the trend, it is now necessary to
develop new software for accessing and archiving - new research data also require new
technical solutions.
YouTube poses specific challenges when it comes to archiving, and in some cases even
simply accessing, comments on Let’s Plays (or any video uploaded on YouTube). As one
single Let’s Play may have more than 30,000 comments, YouTube does not display all of
them. While it is generally possible to reload the comments page and gain access to
older comments, this function only works to a certain point. The sheer amount of data
seems to get in the way of accessing all comments. Thus, the entire data of the
comment level for intensively discussed Let’s Plays may only be securely accessed when
asking YouTube itself for access.
Also, we need to keep in mind that comments may be administered, i.e. posts may be
deleted by the person with administration rights for the respective channel, for various
reasons. For instance, the total number of comments given for the case study taken as
an example in this article, MANLY TEARS! - Beyond: Two Souls - Gameplay, Walkthrough
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- Part 12, on the time of taking a comment level sample on 2 July 2014 was given with
29,106, while at the time of writing this article on 25 September 2015 it was displayed as
26,977.
1. Level - Context Analysis of the Game
Game design and development
Besides the chronological and geographical setting, one of the first questions is
generally the one regarding the author. Who created the research object and - in a next
step - why? In case of video games the who it is more difficult to answer, due to the fact
that very many people are engaged in the production process and thus influence its
design and concept. Thus, we need to consider people such as author(s), developer(s),
producer(s), designer(s), and their role in the design and production process. It get’s
even more complicated as within the usual process of games production, a game is not
created as a whole but in different parts, by different companies in different countries.
This complexity leads to the fact that (only) persons such as the chief designer are
specified, whereas of course mostly whole teams work in the background. Nevertheless,
for context analysis it is sufficient to know the main designer(s). Additionally, context
analysis should reveal possible networks of producers, designers, authors, etc. and
former cooperation in game productions. Concerning the why, context analysis is based
mainly on information from published or self conducted interviews. Here, the blurring
border between context analysis and content analysis becomes apparent.
Example from the case study:
Beyond: Two Souls was published by Sony Computer Entertainment. It is one of the
biggest video games companies worldwide which published, among other things,
games like The Last of Us, Final Fantasy XIV, X, and VII. The game was developed by the
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French video game developer Quantic Dream, which was founded by David Cage, who is
the director of Sony Computer Entertainment. He himself wrote and directed it. Lorne
Balfe, Hans Zimmer and Normand Corbeil were responsible for the composition. The
Canadian composer Corbeil, who was responsible for the soundtracks of Heavy Rain and
Fahrenheit, died during the time of development, so Beyond: Two Souls was dedicated to
him. Balfe succeeded him and worked together with the German composer Zimmer,
famous for his work in the films The Lion King, Pirates of the Caribbean, Gladiator or
Interstellar. Both already worked together for different games such as Call of Duty:
Modern Warfare 2, and for different bible films. The chief designer was Christophe
Brusseaux, the lead game builder was Sophie Buhl, supported by Julien Colas and Simon
Wasselin. Guillaume de Fondaumière, since 2004 part of Quantic Dream as the chief
operating officer in charge of administration, finance and business development,
produced the game. He was assisted by Charles Coutier, as well as by the associate
producers Alexandre Plissonneau and Jérôme Vu Than. All already worked together in
the production of the video games Heavy Rain and Indigo Prophecy.
Release dates and global distribution
Another basic context information concerns time and place of the game, that means its
production and genesis, the release, and its distribution. To put it in the classical W-
questions: When and where was the video game designed and produced? Just like for
the study of texts or other material, the historical context is important to evaluate socio-
cultural conditions as well as references to specific conditions and situations in which
the game was planned and developed. Video games, just like texts, of course also
consequently refer to their specific time or period. Additionally, we need to know a
game’s global distribution, especially if we are interested in the gamers and in the
analysis of gamevironments (Radde-Antweiler, Waltemathe, Zeiler 2014).
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Example from the case study:
The video game Beyond: Two Souls was first released in the USA on 8 October 2013. One
day later it was released in Australia (9 October 2013), three days later in Europe (11
October 2013) and nine days later in Japan (17 October 2013). The game itself is
available in different languages: English, Finnish, French, German, Italian and Japanese.
Additionally, subtitles are available also in Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and Turkish. The
game is distributed worldwide.
Costs and sales
Information on development costs as well as marketing and contribution costs give
notice of the effort taken to design and create as well as to distribute a game. Often,
these budgets are also indicators for a game’s elaborateness and/or complexity, and
even for (technological) quality. Sales figures testify to the success of these invested
costs, i.e. they contextualize how many copies of a game are sold.
Example from the case study:
The game’s development costs are given with 27 US dollar (not including another 18 US
dollar for marketing and distribution)v, making the budget moderate considered that
Beyond: Two Souls intensively used an innovative motion capture technique. Also, this
budget stayed below many other AAA game costs. The sales figures worldwide summed
up to one million sold copies by the end of the release year 2013, i.e. about three
months after release in October 2013.vi
Systems and its requirements
The issue of system requirements is one of the questions of how, that will be dealt with
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in the further categories as well. Additionally, it is important to know the possible
differences between the different versions for the respective consoles or PC’s.
Example from the case study:
Beyond: Two Souls at the moment is only available for PlayStation 3. In June 2015, the
game developer Quantic Dream tweeted that a PlayStation 4 version will be available for
Northern America and Europe.vii
Age rating
The age rating for a game is important contextualization indicating levels of especially
violence and sexual content in the game in general, but also, the age rating may vary
from country to country. This among other things may provide some background
information on a country’s official video game policies and indicates certain national
and/or cultural specifics.
Example from the case study:
Different countries gave the game different age ratings. The US rating is 18+, and also
the Australian Classification Board decided on a 18+ rating. The depiction of drug use
and violence were stated as reasons. In contrast to this, the Pan European Game
Information (PEGI), i.e. the European video game content rating system, rated the game
as 16+. This was the outcome of two short editings which were made to the game’s
European version as to match a PEGI 16 rating.
Reception, rankings, awards
This aspect gives background information on how the game was received, by both
critics/reviewers and gamers, which scores it achieved, and which awards it was
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nominated for respectively it succeeded in. This information may indicate not only a
game’s general level of popularity, but also specifics and characteristics which it was
praised respectively criticized for.
Example from the case study:
Beyond: Two Souls was overall very well received by both reviewers and gamers. While
ING criticized the gaming experience as too passive and the plot as too confusedviii, in
general it was highly praised especially for its audio and visual quality, achieved through
an unique and innovative motion capture technique, and for its complex and detailed
narrative.ix The game was consistently ranked around 70%, for example it received
72,04% from Game Rankingsx, and a metascore of 70 from metacriticxi.
The game was nominated in several categories for several awards, for example in the
categories Best Original Music, Artistic Achievement, and Best Performer in the BAFTA
Awards 2014, or in the category Best Original Score for a Video Game or Interactive
Media in the International Film Music Critics Award (IFMCA) 2013. None of these
nominations resulted in an award.
Game genre
For a context analysis, one of the essential information to be given is the gaming genre.
It may indicate the form of narrative (for example adventure), of aesthetics (for example
graphic novel), etc. In most cases, producers themselves publish information on this, but
at times also gaming journals, game reviews or discussions by gamers offer detailed
material.
Example from the case study:
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Beyond: Two Souls is an interactive action-adventure video game. It stands out as it
crosses the genres of film and video game, a crossover facilitated by the innovative
motion capture technique applied throughout the game. Because all game scenes
consist of full motion video, it belongs to the game genres of so-called interactive
movies.
Play and game mode(s)
Depending on the play and/or game mode(s), a game of course can accentuate certain
aspects in the gameplay - for example, multiplayer modes often accentuate cooperation
skills, unlike single player modes which often emphasize strategy skills. Also,
contextualization needs to include the possible different perspectives in a game (for
example first-person perspective or third-person perspective), as different perspectives
for example support different identification possibilities.
Example from the case study:
Beyond: Two Souls can be played in singleplayer modus and in the so-called dual mode
newly introduced by the developer Quantic Dreams, a kind of coop multiplayer which
allows two persons to play the game in cooperation, by playing one main game
character (Jodie and Aiden) each. The dual mode allows either Jodie or Aiden to play at
a time; both characters cannot be played simultaneously.
Game controls
Details of the game controls very much govern the freedom of a player’s movement and
the degree of difficulty in gameplay. What is possible (and what not), how characters
may move (or not) is predefined by game control presettings, which is why this
information necessarily belongs in the contextualization of a game. Also, the level of
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immersion for the people playing a game may be intensively influenced by the
mentioned presettings - immersion is among other things of course affected by the fact
which character can be played, and in which way.
Example from the case study:
The game’s controls allow for the main character Jodie’s free movement with the left
analog stick. Interaction possibilities throughout the game are mainly marked with a
white dot, pointing out to the player where interaction is possible/needed. Also, written
instructions on the screen guide through the gameplay. The second main character
Aiden’s movements are constantly announced and visually marked by blue light halos,
and like Jodie’s movements are in many cases guided through written instructions on
the screen.
Media reception and pre- or sequels
The narratives of some games are based on novels or films. Also, especially successful
games may be taken up by other media genres than games after their release. The
information on both, on eventual media predecessors and successors of a game, is
relevant to understand a game’s genesis and influence. Of course, it also testifies for the
general popularity of especially a game’s narrative. In order to allocate the content and
construction of the respective video game it is furthermore necessary to know if the
game is developed in a series. If the game has a prequel, the researcher needs to know
the (narrative or other) references to this previous game.
Example from the case study:
The game stands alone as it does not have a game prequel or sequel. Its narrative is not
based on or is later taken up in a literary or filmic version.
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Specifics
Some games get attention especially for specific details and/or characteristics. These
may concern technical aspects, production specifics, audio, visual, or gameplay
innovations, the game narrative, etc. Especially technical novelty elements or
controversial narrative elements may lead to heated debates among gamers and highly
contribute to a game’s fame (and sales figures).
Example from the case study:
The most important feature, making the game outstanding in the global game market,
is its use of a new motion capture technique which pushed the game beyond the
boundaries of established video games. In this technique, actors are equipped with
multiple sensors not only on their body but also on their face, which then capture the
facial and body movements. The result is a unique, highly discussed and praised visual
and audio quality which reminds of film and places Beyond: Two Souls between the
genres of interactive film or visual novel and video game.
A specific characteristic also is that voices by popular actors were integrated, such as
Willem Dafoe (Platoon, The Last Temptation of Christ, Antichrist, Spider Men I-III) as
Nathan Dawkins, and Ellen Page (X-Men: The Last Stand, Inception) as Jodie Holmes.
Additionally the ingame characters were visually modeled after these actors.
2. Level - Context Analysis of the Let's Play
In general, we have to distinguish between two different elements when it comes to
context analysis of the Let’s Play level: Let’s Play and Let’s Player. Contextualizing the
Let’s Play offers basic information especially on the video content and on playing the
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game. Additionally, it provides an insight in the frame in which the Let’s Play is
published. A context analysis of the Let’s Player offers us background information about
the person playing the game and producing the video. Even if the later research
question primarily focuses on one of both layers, the context analysis has to include
both.
A) Let’s Play
Regarding the element of Let’s Plays, we have to contextualize the platform, the
channel, the playlist, and the videos.
Thus, the where-question must be answered on four levels:
a) the video platform,
b) the YouTube channel, which is published on a specific video platform,
c) the playlist, which is published on the respective YouTube channel, and
d) the videos, which are published in the respective playlist.
a) Platform
Self-recorded gaming videos, e.g Let’s Plays, are mostly published on video platforms
such as YouTubexii or MyVideoxiii. Here a large quantity of videos can be found, which
are grouped in different channels. Additionally, most well-known Let’s Players have their
own website, which hosts these videos as well. The owner of a website can be identified
on search websites such as betterwhois.org, which search for registration informations
from all Internet domains.
Example from the case study:
The YouTube channel by PewDiePie is http://www.youtube.com/user/PewDiePie.
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Additionally, the videos are uploaded on PewdiePie’s own website,
http://www.pewdiepie.com. The domain PEWDIEPIE.COM with the domain ID
1700831683_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN is registered by godaddy.com and was created on 7
February 2012.xiv
b) Channel
Each person who wants to publish his/her videos on a video platform has to registrate
and create a channel, where he/she uploads his/her videos. Additionally, the user can
give background information on his/her person and on the videos. Also links to other
channels are possible.
Nevertheless, the analysis of the channel content has to be done considering the
consequences of the adjustments of YouTube in your own browser and on the
respectively used operation system. All these prerequisites lead to the specific display of
channels and videos. On YouTube, you can choose between different languages,
countries and modes - restricted or not. The restricted mode will hide content in form of
videos or comments that can contain inappropriate content.
Looking at a YouTube channel we can identify several elements, such as
1. name of the Let’s Player and his/her verification
2. different categories, namely “Home”, “Videos”, “Playlists”, “Channels”, “Discussion”,
“About”, and the Search function
3. related channels, which were either given by the YouTuber or - in case he/she has not
done so - by YouTube itself
4. information on your subscription status and the possibility to get notifications for this
channel
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5. information from other subscribed channels, if the respective YouTubers have
subscribed this channel as well
6. links to the media repertoire such as Twitter account, Facebook account, etc.
7. a proposed video, which is selected by the Let’s Player
8. selected videos from different playlists.
Example from the case study:
The context analysis depends on the chosen platform, even though most platforms have
a similar design. Naturally, this context analysis refers to all YouTube videos. The
adjustments of YouTube for our case study were: PC, operating system Windows 7,
Firefox 40.0.3, language setting: English, country setting: worldwide, non-restricted
mode.
At the time of writing this article, on 25 September 2015, 2,503 videos in 248 playlists
were published on the YouTube-channel PewDiePie. The channel has a verified name.
The video “10 Billion Montage”xv starts running automatically when accessing the
channel, as it is proposed by PewDiePie himself. In the category “discussion”, 1,538
comments plus replies can be found. The channel doesn't feature any other channels, so
the category “channels” is without information.
c) Playlist
In the respective YouTube channel the videos are mostly grouped in so-called playlists,
mostly with a specific topic or game genre, for example “PVP-videos” (Player-versus-
Player) or “fun-videos”. They have titles and can be subscribed by the registered viewer.
Example from the case study:
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The playlist “Beyond: Two Souls” can be found on
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhMptotuYeM&list=PLYH8WvNV1YEksqETY8aOdO
OE3PHsKZ20e and contains 17 videos, ranging from 15 to 50 minutes each. The title
indicates that all videos in this playlist are Let’s Plays of the game Beyond: Two Souls.
d) Video
Within the playlists you can find the specific Let’s Play video. Each video has its own
comment field. The viewer can rate and comment on these individual videos.
Example from the case study:
The selected video with the title “MANLY TEARS! - Beyond: Two Souls - Gameplay,
Walkthrough - Part 12”xvi is published in the playlist “Beyond: Two Souls”xvii. It takes
26:40 minutes and has - at the time of writing this article - 3,344,417 views, 110,461
likes, and 1,215 dislikes. In the field for further information you can find
- the publication date,
- the link to part 1 of the respective playlist,
- the link to the subscription of the channel,
- links to two other videos, which might be interesting for the viewer, namely Let’s Play
videos of the video games The Walking Dead and Heavy Rain,
- the links to PewDiePie’s Facebook and Twitter accounts,
- links to his merchandising products,
- the following information: “Please: Respect each other in the comments. Thanks for all
your support bros, rating the video and leaving a comment is always appreciated!”,
- and a typeface:
“...........
...................__
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............./´¯/'...'/´¯¯`·¸
........../'/.../..../......./¨¯\
........('(...´...´.... ¯~/'...')
.........\.................'...../
..........''...\.......... _.·´
............\..............(
BROFIST ...........”
Time period
Besides the question where the video was published, of course the question of when is
important. Again, one has to take into account the different levels, namely the YouTube-
channel itself, the playlist and the respective video.
Example from the case study:
Whereas the YouTube-channel PewDiePie started on 29 April 2010, the first video with
the title “Minecraft Multiplayer Fun” was published on 2 October 2010. The playlist
“Beyond: Two Souls” was published just shortly after the game itself was released in
Europe, starting on 8 October 2013 and ending on 24 October 2013. The respective
video went online on 19 October 2013.
Topics
Considering the what-question, it is important to know what the main contents of the
respective YouTube-channel are. Is the selected video an exception or is it typical? Are
there other genres besides Let’s Plays?
Example from the case study:
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Most videos and playlists are Let’s Plays of horror or action games and include
blockbusters such as GTA V, Mortal Combat, The Witcher 3 or The Last of Us. After 2011,
so-called vlogs - the abbreviation for video and blog/weblog - were published as well,
for example „Fridays with PewDiePie“xviii.
Statistics
The analysis of the numbers of the views and subscriptions gives the researcher a
glimpse into the relevance and popularity of the respective Let’s Play. The different
levels have to be considered again. Thus, we have to ask for the numbers of subscribers
including their chronological development, and the number of views concerning the
playlist as well as the respective video. It is thereby important to distinguish between the
subscription numbers and the views. It is as well necessary to consider the difference
between views and viewers. Due to the fact that YouTube displays only the number of
views, we cannot equate them automatically with the numbers of viewers. Additionally,
we have to reflect that the number of views does not mean that the videos are watched
completely by each viewer clicking on it.
But also the rating of the respective video plays an important role: the viewers can rate
via the buttons “I like this” or “I dislike this”, in addition to their personal feedback via
comments. The biggest problem with statistic data is to get them. Whereas it is
relatively easy to look for the ascription and view numbers, as well as for the assessment
by the viewers on the basis of the published numbers, it becomes quite problematic to
identify data for more than the specific point in time when the researcher is looking for
it. Only a few minutes later, the numbers can be quite different. In this context various
software tools are of great help, but not without problems. One of the most important
tools is provided by YouTube itself, namely YouTube Analytics (YTA). It offers the
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registered user statistical data for the own channel, including views, reports (for example
demographics, playback locations, traffic sources, devices and audience retention), and
engagement reports (for example on subscribers, likes and dislikes, comments, and
sharing). Nevertheless, in most cases the researcher does not have access to the
respective account.
Another possibility is VidStatsXxix, which offers data of subscription, ranking, and video
statistics. On this base you can get a deeper glance at the chronological development of
a specific YouTube channel and the actual ranking. Nevertheless, due to the fact that
VidStatsX is not a scientific tool but earns money with offering the explicit promotion of
YouTube channels, it is not without problems.
Example from the case study:
The YouTube channel PewDiePie has nearly 40 million subscribers (39,308,823)
xxiii
xx and
over 10 billion views (10,102,088,800)xxi. At the time of writing, PewDiePie is one of the
most prominent and most successful YouTube channels worldwide: According to
VidStatsX-data, PewDiePie is number four of the most subscribed channels by
subscribersxxii and number one of the most viewed YouTube video producers, ranked by
views. To give an example: the hourly (!) subscription on Sunday, 20 September 2014
had an average of 900 subscriptions.xxiv
B) Let’s Player
Person
Contextualizing the Let’s Player is similar to the question of authorship in textual or
historical analysis. Naturally, we have to distinguish between self description and the
description by others. Most of the self description can be found on the main website, in
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the YouTube channel in the category “About” or on other social media sites such as
Facebook, Twitter, etc. Additionally, Let’s Players often place their own self-created
identification marks in the form of a special video editing/montage style in their videos,
identification marks which are then recognized by the viewers.
The descriptions by others are dependent on the relevance of the respective Let’s Player.
Whereas Let’s Players with a lot of subscriptions, such as PewDiePie or the German
Gronkh, are famous stars who created their own brand and get a lot of media attention,
it may be difficult to gather information on more unpopular Let’s Players. Nevertheless,
along with the growing importance and relevance of Let’s Plays, the production of fan
sites, for example gamer wikisxxv, will most possibly grow in the nearer future.
Example from the case study:
Interestingly, there is only little material in written form giving explicit data on
PewDiePie’s offline activity from self description. An exception is the Facebook
information category where he informs the reader that he is male and was born on 24
October 1989. Additionally, he declares himself a YouTuber, in the category “personal
information”. In contrast to this, there are tons of material in audio-visual forms. In
addition to the Let’s Play videos where he is visible and audible to his audience, we find
a lot of photographs on Instagram and Facebook. From this we know that he is a
European man in his twenties.
According to descriptions by other media sources, such as the wikipedia entry
“PewDiePie” xxvii, we learn that PewDiePie’s real
name is Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, he was born in Gothenburg, Sweden, and now lives in
Italy. The choice of his pseudonym originates from a mistake: „his original YouTube
xxvi or the Internet Movie Database IMDB
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account was called PewDie ‘pew’ to sound like a laser gun, and die for death” but
when he forgot the password he was forced to create a new account, so added the
‘pie’.”xxviii He dropped out of his studies of Industrial Economics and Technology
Management to concentrate on his YouTube activities. According to the Wall Street
Journal he earns four million dollar a year.xxix His influence even on games is noticeable
in various acknowledgments, for example in the McPixel level in the video game
Amnesia: The Dark Descent, designed in his honor, and in a NPC named after him in the
video game Party Hard. Aside from his records of being the most subscribed YouTube
channel worldwide, Kjellberg received many awards for his work in the PewDiePie Let’s
Plays, for example the Starcount Social Star Awards in the category “Most Popular Social
Show” (Singapore 2013), and the “Teen Choice Awards” in 2014.
Network
The component network refers to the links the respective Let’s Player has on his/her
channel and beyond. This may be other YouTubers or Let’s Players as well as so-called
YouTube networks. These networks were founded to connect several channels, to
market them collectively, and to thus gain higher contact rates. Their aim is to help
YouTubers to build up an audience through cross-promotion within the network, and to
support them in public relations and the promotion beyond the platform. Especially for
new and smaller YouTubers these networks are of high importance. Examples for bigger
networks are Maker Studios, IDG Germany or Mediakraft Networks, which are
specialized on gaming. Nevertheless, these networks are not without criticism.
Example from the case study:
The YouTube channel PewDiePie is related with channels by jacksepticeye
xxxii, Smosh Gamesxxxiii, CutiePieMarziaxxxiv, and Smosh
xxx,
Markiplierxxxi, VanossGaming xxxv.
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With the exception of his girlfriend’s channel CutiePieMarzia, all mentioned channels are
channels of Let’s Players. Additionally, the channel is signed under the network Polaris,
which is a sub-network of the Maker Studios. Maker Studio was bought for 500 millions
dollar in 2014 by Walt Disney.xxxvi
Media repertoire
In line with Hasebrink and Popp (2006) we understand media repertoires as the Let’s
Player’s selection of media he/she uses next to the Let’s Play, which in most cases is
connected to the media repertoire. Thus, we have a lot of social media interactions, such
as linked Facebook, Google+, and Twitter accounts, or associated webshops, where Let’s
Players offer fan merchandise, for example T-shirts or caps with the respective logo.
These interlinked media offer much information, such as descriptions and
advertisements for the published video, or further discussions, within the fan community
as well as within the Let’s Player community. Additionally, Let’s Players answer questions
from their audience (for example on ask.fm), offer playlists including their favorite music
(for example from spotify or soundcloud) or publish pictures (for example by Instagram).
In most cases, a direct link is given to a live-streaming platform, where the Let’s Player
occasionally offers live-streams, which is advertised on Facebook and/or Twitter. In a
context analysis, however, it is only possible to collect data of the media repertoire as
such, namely of what the media repertoire consists of. The question of how the Let’s
Player uses the media repertoire depends on the research question and should be
included in further content analysis of the respective sample.
Example from the case study:
The YouTube channel PewDiePie is interconnected with a huge amount of other social
websites. As mentioned above, http://www.pewdiepie.net is the main site, which
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connects to every other site. Additionally, the YouTube channel PewDiePie features the
same content. Both sites offer links to the Google+ account, which is necessary to run a
YouTube channel. The Google+ profile has over one million followers.xxxvii
xxxviii
xxxix
The linked
Facebook account PewDiePie is even more successful, with over 6,5 million likes.
Interestingly, the Twitter account with equal numbers of followers is operated under
PewDiePie’s real name, Felix Kjellberg, and maintains nearly 3,000 photographs and
videos. Since 2011, an Instagram account is available, at the moment with 5,5 millions
followers, containing only 371 photographs, mostly depicting PewDiePie himself.xl A
merchandise shop can be found on the main site, offering products ranging from T-
Shirts, sunglasses, caps, and towels to posters backpacks.xli
3. Level - Context Analysis of the Comments
The comment level by definition of course differs from both previous levels in a number
of ways. It contains mainly plain textual material, at times also graphics such as symbols
or emoticons or interactive elements such as links, but only very seldom video or audio
material. The comment level for a Let’s Play video comprises of at times tens of
thousands of single comments, posted by nearly as many individual commenters,
making this level not only a quantitatively speaking very voluminous but also
qualitatively speaking highly complex and multilayered set of data.
A general contextualization of the whole comment level thus is both useful and
retrievable only for some basic information, such as the number of comments or the
main language of the comment discussion. More specific contextualizing aspects, such
as the use of web jargon or symbols, emoticons and acronyms, or national respective
regional backgrounds of commenters, depend on details of the planned research and
should be included in the context analysis of the respective sample of comments.
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Contextualization needs to differentiate between comments and commenters. While
contextualizing commenters offers basic information especially on the persons behind a
comment, the section contextualizing comments obviously focuses on the statements
themselves. Research questions may focus on either comments or commenters, but a
contextualization of the comments level needs to include both.
A) Comments
Quantity
The number of comments not to be confused with the number of commenters offers
initial basic quantitative context. It denotes how many comments have been posted for
a Let’s Play. The number of total comments on a Let’s Play is evidence for the popularity
of a certain Let’s Play, and a high number may also indicate a controversial topic in the
Let’s Play or in the comment discussion. The number of comments constantly and, in the
cases of popular Let’s Plays, rapidly changes and may reach a very high number.
Example from the case study:
All available comments on the Let’s Play analyzed here summed up to 29,976 comments
at the time of writing this article, on 24 September 2015.
Language(s)
The component language(s) of comments offers information on the precise language or
languages which are used in a comment discussion. Of course, languages may be and in
practice are sometimes mixed in the discussion (or even in one single comment).
Information on the language(s) of comments is essential context, as the choice for
language use is not necessarily straightforwardly dictated by the language of the Let’s
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Play.
When it comes to language, the differentiation between comments and commenters of
course is blurred. While the majority of the discussion may take place in one language, a
number of commenters may choose to use another language. This may disclose
personal choices, opinions and preferences of a commenter. Especially in the global
context, which language(s) are chosen in which context may be a conscious statement of
a commenter referencing to normative language uses of the commenter’s cultural,
national, or regional background.
Example from the case study:
The comment discussion for the Let’s Play takes place (by far) predominantly in English.
Only very few individual comments are posted in another language.
Time frame, date, frequency
This gives basic information on the temporal frame of the comments, and of their
frequency. When was the first comment on a specific Let’s Play posted? How long was
this after the Let’s Play itself was uploaded? In which frequency were the comments
posted, how are the intervals between postings? How did these intervals change as
more time passed since the Let’s Play upload, indicating how the commenters’ interest
in the Let’s Play changed over time? When was the last comment posted?
Some of these details may be difficult to retrieve as YouTube does not display exact
information on the posting date of a comment. What is always immediately traceable is
the total number of comments and the information on when the last comment was
posted (for example ‘four days ago’), the latter by using the “Newest first” display
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function for comments. But, if the number of comments is very high - as it is in our case
study - the current display functions for comments on YouTube enable access only to a
restricted number of these comments. They then do not enable access to very many
older comments, including their posting dates. This restricted access also prevents to
retrieve information on intervals between older posts or their frequency. Nevertheless,
the full range of context information as suggested here can be retrieved in the case a
Let’s Play is not very heavily commented upon.
Example from the case study:
The extremely large number of comments for this case study allows to retrieve
information only on when the last comment was posted, namely two days before writing
this article on 24 September 2015. This information for example documents the Let’s
Play’s popularity in the sense that even almost two years after its upload on 19 October
2013, it is still commented upon.
Particularities and characteristics
In case there are particularities and characteristics in the comments discussion, this
should be indicated in the context analysis. The comment level may be dominated by a
certain theme or topic, the discussion may be exceptional intense or even heated, etc.
Example from the case study:
Even a first glance at the contents level it instantly reveals a particular focus on one
topic. During the Let’s Play, in a crucial and very emotional moment in the narrative,
PewDiePie loudly sneezes. This is commented upon intensively and in a way dominates
the whole comment level. Numerous comments refer to this sneeze, as in “omg!!idk
why..but when pewds sneezed near the end of the video it made me jumpXD not cool”,
133
“Your sneeze scared the shit out of me”, “SHIT PEWDS !! THAT DAMN SNEEZE WAS A
FUCKING JUMP SCARE”, or simply “Dat Sneeze” or “bless you!”.
B) Commenters
Quantity
The number of commenters offers initial basic quantitative context. It denotes how
many persons commented on a Let’s Play. The number of total commenters on a Let’s
Play can offer evidence for the popularity of a certain Let’s Play, or may indicate a
controversial topic in the Let’s Play or in the comment discussion. Also, the number of
commenters is of course needed to then relate respectively compare the numbers of
commenters and comments, contextualizing how many persons repeatedly engage in
the comments discussions. The number of commenters, just as the number of
comments, constantly and, in the cases of popular Let’s Plays, rapidly changes and may
reach a very high number as new commenters join. Reliable data on this can be aquired
only from the hosting platform YouTube itself.
Example from the case study:
The number of commenters for this case study cannot be retrieved from YouTube, as
older comments (and with this commenters’ names) cannot be accessed with current
display settings.
Relation of the numbers of comments and commenters
It is necessary to differentiate between the number of comments and the number of
contributing commenters, and to relate them. This contextualizes how many persons
repeatedly engage in the comments discussion. Both the number of comments and
commenters constantly and, in the cases of popular Let’s Plays, rapidly changes and may
134
reach a very high number. Each newly added comment, of course, creates a new ratio of
the number comments versus commenters. Reliable data on this can be aquired only
from the hosting platform YouTube itself.
Example from the case study:
The relation of the numbers of comments and commenters for this case study cannot be
established, as the number of commenters cannot be accessed with current display
settings for YouTube comments.
The context analysis as proposed here provides us with a very detailed and founded
sum of information on various contextual facts and figures regarding our researched
Let’s Play. On this basis, the researcher now is able to make an informed decision how to
proceed with the research material, and to define research question(s) as well as to
select the respective sample(s) and method(s).
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... Dolayısıyla olgu, ilk bakışta şaşırtıcı olmaktan ziyade düşünme şeklimizdeki örtük değişimi keşfetme imkânı sunması bakımından incelemeye değer bir potansiyel sunar. Bununla birlikte -Türkçe literatürde dijital oyun videolarıyla ilgili analizler oldukça seyrek olsa da-İngilizce literatürde olgunun yalnızca bir araştırma teması olmaktan öte anlamlar ihtiva ettiğini, bu konuda Radde-Antweiler ve Zeiler (2015) tarafından gerçekleştirilmiş olan metodolojik tartışmalardan anlamaktayız. Onun metodolojik önemi bir yönüyle içeriklerin altına gönderilen yorumların birincil veri havuzu oluşturmasından kaynaklanır. ...
... Türkçe yazında YouTube'daki dijital oyun içerikleri kayda değer hacimde bir tartışma alanı bulamamış olsa da İngilizce yayınlarda bu alanın bir araştırma nesnesi olarak yapılandırılmaya çalışıldığını söylemek mümkündür. Zira Radde-Antweiler ve Zeiler (2015) tarafından, dijital oyun içeriklerinin sunduğu niceliksel bakımdan hacimli ve niteliksel bakımdan birincil olma özelliğine sahip olan verinin (Zeiler, 2017) nasıl daha sistematik bir şekilde analiz edilebileceğine dair metodolojik tartışmalar gerçekleştirilmiştir. ...
Article
Upsetting familiar daily routines, cultural traditions, and seasonal events, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted social and cultural life in many places around the world. In Japan, the absence of cultural and seasonal events, which play a central role in the annual calendar, and which serve as an important source of cultural identity, was painfully noticed. In search of adequate substitutes, many people have turned to digital spaces. How do these spaces cater to the need for familiar routines and cultural customs? How did users appropriate these spaces to reclaim everydayness? In this article, I consider these questions in the context of the widely popular game Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Nintendo 2020) and its related YouTube videos. Drawing on metadata and user comments for 282 Japanese-language YouTube videos that reference the game, I show how players and users interweave the game space and the YouTube space in various practices of recasting cultural customs and seasonal events. The interactions on YouTube further show the degree to which Let’s Play seriality is used as a way of reclaiming everydayness. As such, the analysis highlights the important role commercial digital spaces play in terms of stability and as discursive spaces for negotiating crisis.
Chapter
This chapter discusses the concept of the retelling as a narrative product and as an instrument of narrative design analysis and criticism. Focusing on longform video essays as a prominent category of critical retellings, we analyze transcriptions of Noah Caldwell-Gervais’ video essay and Jose Antonio Vargas’ video review of the 2020 videogame The Last of Us Part II. Using web-based reading and analysis environment Voyant, we investigate the indicators of how they approached and discussed the game’s narrative design and compare their texts as examples of critical and popular retellings of video games.
Article
In light of the growing phenomenon of parent-child digital co-play of online games, we conducted a study to understand the different ways of digital co-play and how they can offer opportunities for the child's learning. We analyse four cases of parent-child digital co-play on Let's Play gaming videos with Roblox on YouTube. Our research method adopts a netnography research approach and multimodal discourse analysis to examine the data. We identify three ways of digital co-play, which include the parent-directed, parent-child negotiated, and child-directed parent-child interaction styles from the analysis of the videos. Following the analysis, we discuss how each of the ways of parent-child digital co-play can be productive in helping the child learn through shared gameplay with parents. We suggest how children can learn through communicating with parents during gameplay, creating something by themselves in the game, modelling parents' in-game behaviour, teaching their parents by sharing their knowledge, and leading the co-play. Our study aims to serve as a conversational starter to contribute to the global discourse on the phenomenon of parent and child shared interactions with digital technology as well as the ways in which learning can be facilitated through such experiences. ARTICLE HISTORY
Method
Full-text available
What is the most effective way to formally incorporate my game play experiences into my highly personalized research plan? How can I study not only the games that I am playing, but my own reactions to those games? How can I do justice to my genuine experiences and reactions without having to break my immersion during gameplay to take field notes? How can I convince my interdisciplinary (and strictly disciplinary) peers and supervisors that my game play experiences, and game play related memories, can be studied following a formal research methodology? These are the questions that I found myself asking while designing my dissertation. As a response to the questions asked above, I argue that the research methodology that I am utilizing for my dissertation research – the Let’s Play – answers a call made by Frans Mäyrä in the preface of the book Game Research Methods: An Overview: “…game scholars need to be active in evaluating, adapting, and re-designing research methodologies so that the unique characteristics of games and play inform and shape the form research takes in this field.” (xii) http://www.firstpersonscholar.com/lets-play-with-research-methodologies/
Book
Game studies has been an understudied area within the emerging field of digital media and religion. Video games can reflect, reject, or reconfigure traditionally held religious ideas and often serve as sources for the production of religious practices and ideas. This collection of essays presents a broad range of influential methodological approaches that illuminate how and why video games shape the construction of religious beliefs and practices, and also situates such research within the wider discourse on how digital media intersect with the religious worlds of the 21st century. Each chapter discusses a particular method and its theoretical background, summarizes existing research, and provides a practical case study that demonstrates how the method specifically contributes to the wider study of video games and religion. Featuring contributions from leading and emerging scholars of religion and digital gaming, this book will be an invaluable resource for scholars in the areas of digital culture, new media, religious studies, and game studies across a wide range of disciplines.
Article
Full-text available
Despite the fact that the medium is technologically capable of an infinite number of representations nowadays, video games still frequently resort to simplistic, ideologized and stereotypical portrayals of characters as well as virtual environments. Binary othering constructions of race, gender, national, cultural or religious identities are common modes of representation in any genre. I argue that in many instances religious identity as an excluding and marginalizing element only becomes visible in all its complexity when examined intersectionally, meaning in relation to other categories of difference. This article explores how religion can function as an element of othering in video game representations and how it appears as such in relation to other categories of difference. This is investigated by looking at the example of representations of Islam in contemporary military shooters, specifically in Medal of Honor: Warfighter (2012). Taking metaludic discourses into account (Ensslin 2012, 9), the article concludes with an examination of comments on YouTube-Walkthroughs to investigate whether the othering representations observed in the game are also perceived as such by gamers.
Article
Current Key Perspectives in Video Gaming and Religion.
Article
Full-text available
Many games "play" with religious symbols or construct symbolic universes to be understood as "religioscapes". It is not surprising that a lot of research from the narrative perspective focuses on game design and how religious symbols are transferred as well as transformed within the game. The crucial question, however, is this: are these symbols relevant to the gamers or do they just serve as decorative framing? The article discusses gamevironments as an analytical concept based on the actor-centered approach, which integrates the analysis of the game narratives with a view to combining the narrative and the ludic approaches. Thus, "games/gaming" - "environments" - in short gamevironments - comprises two levels: the technical environment of video games and gamersas well as the cultural environments of video games and gaming.The article deals with a specific example of what is one part of gamevironments. One new "environment" of games are the so-called "Let's Plays" - increasingly and widely popular self-recorded gaming videos in which the respective gamers, the "Let's Players", comment on their journey through the game as well as on various aspects of it.
Article
This article sets out to provide a conceptual contribution to theoretical and empirical work on the level of media repertoires. We will first discuss theoretical approaches which allow for an explanation of media repertoires and relate them to the most prominent approaches to selective audience behavior. Secondly, in order to empirically analyze media repertoires we propose a combination of secondary analyses of existing surveys on media use and qualitative studies on the internal ‘architecture’ of these repertoires and their practical meaning in the user’s everyday life. These proposals for secondary analyses are illustrated by two examples based on different data sets and referring to different levels of analysis.
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