The Ethnography Of Tabletop Miniature Game Storyworlds

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THE ETHNOGRAPHY OF COLLECTIBLE MINIATURE GAME STORYWORLDS Ethan Watrall, PhD Assistant Professor – Matrix: The Center for Human Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online Assistant Professor - Dept. of Telecom, Information Studies, and Media Assistant Professor - Dept. of History Patrick Shaw Reactor Zero

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Transcript of The Ethnography Of Tabletop Miniature Game Storyworlds

  • 1. THE ETHNOGRAPHY OF COLLECTIBLE MINIATURE GAME STORYWORLDS Ethan Watrall, PhD Assistant Professor Matrix: The Center for Human Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online Assistant Professor - Dept. of Telecom, Information Studies, and MediaAssistant Professor - Dept. of HistoryPatrick ShawReactor Zero

2. TRANSMEDIA STORYTELLING An era of entertainment media convergence - narrative unfold across multiple media channels and products.Audiences have become information hunters and gatherers, tracking down character information and plot-pointsMaking connections across multiple texts within the same storyworld. 3. STORYWORLD? Multiple media channels are an opportunity to create holistic storytelling realities in which many different stories can be told. Stories are bound together in a ctional reality that is designed (and evolved) with continuity and canon in mind. The reality connects the stories together, and is not only fed by the stories, but in turn feeds the stories, making them part of a living world. 4. MOVIES COMICS NOVELS VIDEO GAMES 5. QUESTION: Do story products that exist within a rich and compelling storyworld provide greater enjoyment for the audience than story products that do not. 6. RESEARCH FOCUS: TABLETOP RPGsRPG materials - signicant space is dedicated to in-depth information that denes the games Researchers focused study on HeroClix Tabletop miniature RPG game produced by WizKids Inc ( 7. WizKids HeroClix games: Marvel HeroClix, DC HeroClix, Indy Heroclix Other Wizkids HeroClix games: MechWarrior, Mage Knight, HorrorClix 8. The primary purchasable unit in the HeroClix game is the Booster Pack. Contains several random gurines 9. Marvel Avengers HeroClix figurines 10. Marvel X-Men HeroClix figurines 11. HOW HEROCLIX WORKS? Each character has 4 statistics: speed (how far the character can move), attack (how likely the character is to him another character, defense (ability to avoid attack), damage, and range (how far away the character can attack) As a character takes damage (damage is measured in clicks), the base is rotated to reveal new stats (reecting the characters increasingly weakened state).Each character has a nite number of clicks (depending on how powerful they are) before they are KOed and removed from the game. 12. STUDY METHODS Mixed Methods: traditional ethnographic participant observation and empirical surveyPrimary Questions: 1. Do players draw upon meta storyworldinformation during gameplay2. When do players draw upon meta storyworldinformation3. How do players draw upon meta storyworldinformation4. What sources do players use to draw uponmeta storyworld information 13. ETHNOGRAPHIC METHODS PHASE I: Interviews with gatekeepers (store owners and WizKids judges)PHASE II: Participant observation at two local (East Lansing, MI) game/comic stores (GS1 and GS2)Each group was observed for 4 game sessions a piece PHASE III: limited number of open ended interviews with select individuals from the observed game groups 14. IN-GAME FIELDNOTES CODING GAME STORE - descriptions and opinions of the venue COMPETITION - comparisons of player skills FIGURES - discussion of the gures themselves GAME PLAY - events occurring in game, such as attack, movement, or character elimination.OTHER - Comments that did not t into other categories. PERSONAL - player's personal lives RULE CLARIFICATIONS - debate about rules STRATEGY - plans to produce a given game outcome. STORYWORLD - storyworld information TEAMS - Discussion of comic based super hero groups or team 15. IN-GAME OBSERVATIONS: RESULTS GS1 GS2 403630 25 INSTANCES 20141110 105 43 1 111 0 00 0 0 00 ees n ldsd nutioorrki guVecaywiz FiWifi orar St Cl le RuCODED OBSERVATIONS 16. OUT OF GAMEPLAY OBSERVATIONS: STORYWORLDOutside of gameplay there were markeddifference between how players from GS1 andGS2 discussed the HeroClix storyworlds:At GS1, the discussion that took place before, between, and after the game rounds was dominated by the discussion of ongoing comic book stories and associated characters. At GS2, the frequency to which players engaged in comic book storyworld discussions was comparatively lower. 17. OUT OF GAMEPLAY OBSERVATIONS: PLAYER MOTIVATION 1. Players at GS2 were motivated primarily by competition 2. Players at GS2 were motivated by a desire to optimize their teams for ofcial WizKids competitive events 3. Players at GS1 were motivated more by entertainment and enjoyment 18. OUT OF GAMEPLAY OBSERVATIONS: VENUE Very little cross pollination between venues Those who regularly played at GS1 rarely played at GS2, and vise versa.The only instances in which there were large numbers of players from GS2 at GS1 was when GS1 held qualier rounds for competitive games that would place .GS1 and GS2 were separate gameplaying ecosystems 19. SURVEY METHODS Original plan to administer survey to players after gameplay proved to be too disruptive (survey made available on web instead)The survey provided information on demography, playstyle, and media consumptionProvided a counterpart in terms of breadth to the depth that naturally comes with ethnographic observation.341 survey respondents 20. SURVEY RESULTS: DEMOGRAPHICS 97% of respondents were male and 3% of respondents were female Average age of respondents was 29 Most respondents (64%) had at least an undergraduate degree 21. SURVEY RESULTS: MOTIVATIONS Participants played the games either for quot;funquot; or quot;competition, but generally not both.96% respondents were primarily interested in fun50% respondents were primarily interested in competition.Negative correlation between fun and competition (i.e. competition is not necessarily the same as fun) 22. SURVEY RESULTS: GAME INTERESTS Fun is positively related to storyworld interest and character interest and negatively related to interest in game mechanics (crunch) Interest in competition is positively related to interest in game mechanics Interest in competition is negatively related to interest in storyworld and characters 23. SURVEY RESULTS: PLAY EXPERIENCE Players with more than three years of experience have slightly stronger interest in storyworld. Other interests were not signicantly different between experienced and inexperienced players 24. CONCLUSIONS Based on ethnographic observations and empirical survey, researchers made the following conclusions:1. The degree to which players draw upon metastoryworld information depends on their motivations forplay (fun vs. competition)2. Meta storyworld knowledge is draw upon extensivelyalong the edges of the game3. Comic preferences draw players to the game &inuence the gures they choose to play (or thecombination of gures they choose to play)4. Individuals who have played longer have a greaterinterest in storyworld 25. FUTURE DIRECTIONS While this portion of the research is concluded, the research model is extensible:1. MMOGs (very similar model of gameplayto tabletop RPGs)2. Original IPs vs. licensed IPs3. Any differences between genres (fantasyvs. science ction, etc.)4. Different WizKids clix genres 26. THANK YOUEthan Watrall Matrix: The Center for Human Arts, Letters, and SocialSciences OnlineDept. of Telecom, Information Studies, and MediaMichigan State University