5. Player Power – New Life in Video Games

When a little known, two-year-old game appeared on the best-seller list on Steam in 2012, it caught some eyes. ARMA 2 was relatively well received on its release in 2010, but with advancing technologies and competing programs, games generally do not survive as a best seller for two years. The reason for this resurgence in popularity was the release of Day Z, a zombie survival game that was created as a modification of ARMA 2. So, to play Day Z, players needed the original game. Hence the bump in sales, even after two years.

This is an example of the effect of modding, now a common practice in gaming fandom, and one which is largely supported by the games industry.  There is a whole area on Steam, Valve’s gaming portal and the largest Digital Rights Manager (DRM) on the web, dedicated to mods. Through Steam Workshop, users can download mods for many of the games on the site, thus extending the shelf life of their existing games. This is not the only space for mods, but it exemplifies the importance of consumer-created mods to the industry at large. (It should be noted here that Valve is itself a modding success story; their initial success and break into the industry was the game Half Life, which was built as a licensed mod of id games’ Quake 3D engine.)

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Stats from 11/4/17. Counter-Strike and Team Fortress are still making the top ten, years after their release.

So rather than punish users for infringing on copyright or breaking into game code to change their products, the industry welcomes the phenomenon of user creation, as it elongates the shelf-life of their games. This is in line with the idea of media convergence put forward by Henry Jenkins among others, who theorises on the fan’s role as a content producer. An article on Brazilian modding subcultures argues that ‘the fan’s creativity and intense interaction with cultural objects are capable of allowing her to create new productions as a tribute to the “original” product. Cultural appropriations by fans are then considered as a kind of symbolic capital in the participatory culture: a feature of the contemporary media convergence period.’

 Modding has become a healthy relationship for professionals and amateurs alike: professionals make the base game and amateurs, through mod creation, can make it survive and thrive. There’s full-life in Half-Life yet.

Bibliography:

Kücklich, Julian. “Precarious Playbour: Modders And The Digital Games Industry”. Five.Fibreculturejournal.Org, 2017, http://five.fibreculturejournal.org/fcj-025-precarious-playbour-modders-and-the-digital-games-industry/. Accessed on 10/4/17.

“Everything You Need To Know About Halo 5 | Gamestm – Official Website”. Gamestm – Official Website, 2017, https://www.gamestm.co.uk/features/everything-you-need-to-know-about-halo-5/. Accessed on 10/4/17.

“Tribute And Resistance: Participation And Affective Engagement In Brazilian Fangame Makers And Modders’ Subsultures “. Gamejournal.It, 2017, http://www.gamejournal.it/3_oliveira_et-al/. Accessed on 11/4/17.

Poor, Nathaniel. “Computer Game Modders’ Motivations And Sense Of Community: A Mixed-Methods Approach”. New Media & Society, vol 16, no. 8, 2014, pp. 1249-1267. SAGE Publications, doi:10.1177/1461444813504266.

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2. Bellingcat And The Case For Collective Citizen Investigative Journalism

There has been a long history of citizen journalism, from Zapruder filming the assassination of JFK, through the various videos taken on 9/11, to the multitudes of videos, taken on citizens personal phones mainly, of any variety of different scenes and happenings. Phone videos such as these have captured, and at times escalated the response to, shootings in America such as Trayvon Martin and Michael Browne. Footage of these incidents has arguably had a part in the growth of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. And while it is unclear of the long-term position of the citizen journalist, sites have begun to appear which aim to harness and amalgamate the potential of online amateur activists and content providers.

Take Bellingcat for example. Describing itself on its homepage as “by and for citizen investigative journalists, it is perhaps most famous for its analysis of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Bellingcat utilises social media and open source material to investigate its stories. When considering who shot down Flight 17, they were able to prove falsities in Russian claims that it was actually Ukranians who launched the missiles by sourcing satellite images and proving that images used in the Russian arguments were doctored using google images. Later in the year they released a 35 page report further refuting the Russian claims.

So what impact does collective citizen journalism like Bellingcat have on the dissemination of media? Probably very little, as it seems to be proven time and time again that when people find their news online they will believe what they choose to believe, regardless of facts or provenance of information. Everybody is happy to exist in their own ‘echo chamber’. However, long after major media outlets have moved on from the coverage of stories such as Flight 17, as recently as March 2 Bellingcat has continued publishing articles concerning this ‘old’ news. Bellingcat, not stuck to deadlines and operating with largely costless raw materials, is able to partake of long-term, time-consuming operations outside of the scope of more commercial mainstream counterparts.

1. Social Media in 2017: Dangerous or Progressive?

Social Media has undoubtedly changed our modern world.  There is a whole network of connection which nearly everybody in the developed world has access to, all it takes is to reach into a pocket and pull out a phone. But how has it changed the world?

In a way it is undoubtedly progressive: never before has information been so readily available. And it is not just access to information. We are now one click away from purchasing practically anything available worldwide, through sites like Amazon and Alibaba. The world truly has become a global village.

But, to quote the Spiderman movies, ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’ While there is great access to information in the digital age, recently there has been instances of ‘alternative facts’. The development of the internet has given a voice to many people and outlets that would have previously not been able to disseminate their views. This in turn has led to a greater difficulty in proving the truth of these sites. Furthermore, with the 15 minute news cycle, previously careful well known news outlets have had to rush to break the news first, and so more and more these fake news stories, these instances of reporting of ‘alternative facts’ have become more prevalent.

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In fact, there is a recent argument that ‘alternative facts’ may be being actively disseminated by the Trump administration in the United States so that rival news outlets will discuss the untrue nature of these stories, thus deflecting some of the more unpopular measures being carried out by the White House and being able to carry them out without as much reporting as there would be if the people didn’t have fake news to worry them.

That is one thing the Liberal and Conservative medias can both agree on: Whether or not it is good for them, Give the people what they want.