Gamer

Introduction

This paper will look at an aspect of digital life for young people in the context an “illustration of digital youth culture” as dictated in the Assignment 2 instructions.

The aspect I will explore is ‘Gaming’, in particular on the Xbox platform, where I will look at the motivations, social drivers and addictive qualities around gaming.

I will explore how the youth have built a social structure around the platform and the pitfalls and dangers of this virtual playground.

I will touch upon the guidelines and safeguards young people need to learn  in order to engage with this environment in a safe manner.

Xbox One X

The Xbox is created and owned by Microsoft and is said to be the most powerful console in the world at the time of writing this paper, which over 40% more power than other consoles and 4K gaming (Xbox.com, 2020). As such it is very attractive the youth of today, with a massive uptake in the gaming community.

Youth are attracted by its real world, life-like detail. According to Xbox.com, (2020), it is also a powerful machine with a 6 teraflop GPU, 8 core AMD 2.3Hz CPU and 12GB GDDR5 memory card. This power means that the console had longevity in the gaming marketplace, and because there are hundreds of developer building games for the Xbox, it sets a level playing field.

The advantage of the Xbox over the PC is that as new PC games come out, there is normally a hardware upgrade that is required for the PC to play the new game. This increases the financial burden on youth to constantly upgrade their PC which creates its own social problems that are discussed later in the paper.

The Xbox platform removes the financial burden of upgrading the hardware, by forcing all developer to create content withing the game hardware parameters, making the console more financially viable for the youth.

Gamer for life

Grossberg L, (1983) explored the rise of a youth culture and of the young finding a sense of place, but did not fully explore how this identity would carry into adulthood.

I consider myself to be a life long gamer and I am of an age where I was there at the dawn of gaming. This puts me in a position where I can talk about how gaming affected me as a youth, and combine this experience with that of modern day gaming and the impact it has on the youth of today.

Gaming helped me find “the community that emerges as a result of the intersection of people, technology, and practice”. Boyd D (2014), but this community has grown and evolved with me into adulthood and now incorporates the present day youth culture, not as a sub-genre, but as the main body of the gaming culture.

Gaming is life

My gaming started with a black and white pseudo tennis game called ‘Pong’ back in the 1970s. As technology evolved, so did gaming, as I would invite my friends over to play the Mortal Combat or Street fighter. In this sense as a youth, gaming provided be with the backdrop to my social circle. Social acceptance depended on the ability to socialise with ones peers at the “cool” place as Boyd, D (2014) would later pronounce.

Now the social aspect of gaming reaches beyond the living room as gamers are able to join online communities that span the world. The global fellowship of gaming is one that still attracts the youth of today, and I often find myself in a ‘boss’ battle against demons, monsters, or hoard of orcs, side by side a twelve year old from Hong Kong or a fifteen year old from Kenya.

One of the additional benefits is the social currency attached to gaming. Youth are able to build social networks by talking about their gaming activity. They are also able to embellish their language with in-game references and even in-game language itself as indicated by Martino J (2015).

The youth can also find financial independence in gaming through ‘mining’. This is where youth spend hours killing smaller game fauna, destroying minor structures, or completing minor quests in order to achieve in-game rewards such as new weapons or rare artefacts. These virtual in-game rewards are then sold in online markets for real money, to those who do not have the time or inclination to mine for themselves.

The gaming market is no small place and one can achieve riches and notoriety by being good at gaming, all of which feed into a youth validation mindset, and therefore a youth culture.

In fact, a star of the game ‘Fortnite’ called Ninja (Tyler Blevin) made more than US $5000,000 a month streaming 300 hours a month of live gaming to 10 million subscribers. Paumgarten N(2018)

Getting bloody

Modern games are created to be addictive and are designed to generate a chemical response to virtual danger seen on screen.

The game character is something in which the youth are encouraged invest, by customizing the character to either look like the player or providing the ability to unlock changes in wardrobe. This coupled with the ‘near miss phenomenon’ where players are not made to feel like they have lost, but that they have almost won. Clark L (2009). The gaming strategy has proven to be particularly effective amongst the youth.

As part of a stress response the cortisol levels increase in our blood. Wand GS (2007) explains that cortisol increases dopamine release in a manner that we would expect if using alcohol or cannabis. Our reward to this online addiction to virtual danger, this our in-game survival, and for the youth, this addiction can be all consuming.

The cost of the hardware, the games, and the in-game content can also be prohibitive to youth in lower socio-economic groups, which creates a class structure within the gaming world.

Lower socio-economic youth may only be able to afford older hardware which do not support the latest games. This only serves to reinforce their barrier to entry and creates a gaming subclass, which may cause them to be ridiculed and bullied.

Gaming platforms such as Xbox may also provide a portal for cyber bulling. Youth who may be bullied at school will then find little relief as their attacks continue through the Xbox chat or in-games communications.

It is not unknown for the victims bullying to be reported to the Xbox platforms by the bully, in order to put the victim through the inconvenience of having their account suspended. A uniquely gamers type of bullying.

Government guidelines have been created by the eSaftey commissioner which cover all platforms including Xbox live https://www.esafety.gov.au/key-issues/esafety-guide/xbox-live (esafely.gov.au 2020),  however these guidelines are difficult to enforce and by the time they are enforced, the damage is already done.

Although providing youth with a space and community of their own, it is also important for parents to play their part in policing their children’s activity on this worldwide online platform. This sometimes is in direct conflict with Muggleton (2005) and later Heenfler (2010) and their ideas of youth and their approach to their own space and adolescent identity, but when that space is part of a larger world occupied by all, parental guidance is only prudent.

In the same way that children are taught to protect themselves from the physical dangers of the world, they must also be taught to protect themselves from the dangers of the cyber world.

In the same way that children are taught to present themselves appropriately in the physical world, they must also be taught to curate their online profiles and manage their cyber ‘brand’ visible to the world. Gaming may be the first place that children are exposed to a digital profile.

End game

Games have been held responsible for making young gamers violent and have been cited as the catalyst behind a number of violent acts, but none of this is new. Everything from heavy metal to hip hop has been held responsible for inciting the youth to violence. This “strong undercurrent of negativity” was argued by Zuckerman M (2011).

Martino, J (2015) discusses that this harsh treatment of young people has not diminished, but then goes not to counter this point by exploring the cultural formation of the militarised video game, in particular the ‘First Person Shooter’ (FPS).

The realism of modern gaming has also been held responsible for desensitising the modern youth to emulate the acts of violence portrayed in the game by a number of news outlets, and the accuracy of the military tactics is also said by Martino J (2015) to provide some youth with the simulation platform for warlike behaviour.

However this danger, though not to be taken lightly, has to be put into context. The youth will always carve out a space for themselves and the Xbox provides them with a platform with almost limitless possibilities for a developing mind.

The success of the Xbox platform is a reflection of its success amongst the youth as an environment that they are comfortable to inhabit.

This youth culture has proven itself to be sustainable into adulthood.

Game Over

To conclude: I have explored the Xbox as a gaming console and how it continues to play a large part of youth culture. I have looked at the pros and cons of the Xbox and its social, cultural and physical influence on the mind of today’s youth. I have explored the policies and guidelines around the use of the Xbox in relation to young people and touched upon how these should be used in conjunction with active parenting and youth development.

~ by jeditopcat on 24 May, 2020.

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