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Communications, Geek U

From Humble Beginnings to Near Domination: Communications and the (R)Evolution of Geek and Gamer Culture Part 2

Part 1/Part 2

By Jason McLarty

A Digital Revolution

Geeks and Gamers champion the cultural boom, created by the Internet, by acting as early adopters of new media channels. The Internet presents an ideal example where gamers transition from D&D or tabletop games to Massive Multi Player Role Playing Games (MMORPG) such as World of Warcraft. Since its release in November 2004, World of Warcraft continues breaking records, for example, surpassing 12 million subscribers; a figure that outnumbers the population of some European countries.13

Warcraft creates an ideal environment encouraging social interaction, which facilitates the exchange of ideas throughout a culture spanning multiple continents. Players immerse themselves into massive online three-dimensional digital worlds that engage multiple senses. This experience mirrors Marshall McLuhan’s predictions regarding the ‘global village’ where society encounters a new tribalism surpassing national boundaries. His theory of Media Determinism states the medium creates the validity of the message.14 The immense popularity and adoption of World of Warcraft by Geek and Gamer culture exemplifies the effectiveness of selecting the correct medium for the message.  This effectiveness correlates into how communication facilitates the strengthening of cultural bonds.

A Humorous Jab at WoW from the Dice Rolling Godfather of the Fantasy Role-Playing Genre

Communication between Geeks and Gamers reinforces social relationships because those outside of popular culture gather to pretend to be someone outside of their familiar world. We share a common origin because initially many of us play games such as Dungeons and Dragons or World of Warcraft as a means of escapism.15 These actions show a deliberate choice in media content to serve this need.16 Those involved in this form of play, talk and share ideas. Some members who hold higher prestige amongst the group possess greater influence on what ideas their admirers adopt.17 These bonds strengthen when members collectively share and experience other forms of media within the culture.

 

 

 
 

We Are the Champions…

With reinforcement, Geeks and Gamers possess greater likelihood to collectively confront opposition and negativity from external sources. Geeks and Gamers commonly experience the Spiral of Silence, a phenomenon where the collective group remains silent about opinions existing outside of popular (dominant) opinion.18 In Revenge of the Nerds, the protagonists first remain silent about their mistreatment. However, through the communication and group dynamic they find reinforcement in embracing their culture.19

A modern example of this reinforcement presents in a recent article about the story of Katie, a young girl facing ridicule for taking her Star Wars lunch box to school. Her mother posts the story on a blog and within a week thousands of like-minded Geeks show overwhelming support.20 The story of Brian Wood presents another example where Wood, a well-known game developer, sacrifices himself to save his pregnant wife in an automobile accident.21 In response, Gamers around the world send condolences and donations to his amazed widow.22 This exemplifies the group identification and solidarity within the culture.

Collective experiences reinforce the solidarity within the culture and the group identity. Often individuals build lasting relationships without direct contact relying solely on machines to encode their communications.23 These experiences exist within games or common passion involving a specific genre of media. This solidarity fulfills the individual’s need to identify with a group they admire and seek to belong.24

We recognize each other by phrases from culturally popular media or cultural symbols such as the Vulcan hand gesture, “Live long and prosper” from Star Trek or “May the Force Be With You,” and the rebel alliance crest from Star Wars.25, 26 Warcraft players identify with specific factions within the game world and cry out “For the Horde” in common conversation. This cultural pride also extends to those who hold prestige in other circles as the influence spreads beyond sub-culture into the mainstream.

Geek and Gamer influence grows in popular media in great thanks to various communication options. The adoption of new media facilitates the growth of a sub-culture fostering the free exchange of ideas among like-minded individuals. The Internet creates opportunities for media, such as World of Warcraft, to enhance communication potential within the culture. The diffusion of new ideas within the members of the culture strengthens its solidarity through media that engages multiple senses and reaches members across several continents. This strength now radiates into popular culture where opinion leaders in other social circles take notice of the ideas coming from the Geeks and Gamers. With each step, these leaders bring a sub-culture into the mainstream and give outsiders power to guide where the message goes next.

Geek U takes popular topics in Geek Culture and places them into an academic atmosphere. Feel free to cite these articles in your own papers by using the citation information on the Credit Page.


Notes

13.  Blizzard Entertainment. World of Warcraft Subscriber Base Reaches 12 Million Worldwide. Irvine: Blizzard. 07 October 2010.

14. Severin and Tankard, Communication Theories, 281.

15. Nugent, American Nerd, 113-118.

16. Severin and Tankard, Communication Theories, 293.

17. Severin and Tankard, Communication Theories, 202-203.

18. Severin and Tankard, Communication Theories, 272-273.

19. Revenge of the Nerds, Directed by Jeff Kanew, Interscope, 1984. DVD

20. Jamie Gumbrecht, “’The Force’ is with You, Katie,” cnn.com, TBS, 9 Dec 2010, Web, 11 December 2010.

21. Winda Benedetti, “Grieving Widow Thanks Gamers for Their Support,” msnbc.com. Microsoft, 15 Sept 2010, Web.

22. Brian Crecente, “Gamers Unite to Help Grieving Widow,” kotaku.com, Kotaku, 15 Sept 2010, Web.

23. Bonnie A. Nardi, My Life As A Night Elf Priest, 202.

24. Severin and Tankard, Communication Theories, 192.

25. Star Trek, Directed by Robert Wise, Paramount Pictures, 1979, DVD.

26. Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope, Directed by George Lucas, 20th Century Fox, 1977, DVD.

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