Benefits and Drawbacks of Membership in the Fighting Game Community
AlSamaani, A., Steltenpohl, C. N., Collins, K. & Keys, C. B. (May, 2017). Benefits and drawbacks of membership in the Fighting Game Community. Poster presented at the Midwestern Psychological Association Annual Meeting 2017 in Chicago, IL.

OTL Presents Preliminary FGC Study Findings

On April 21, 2017, the Online Technologies Lab was at the Midwestern Psychological Association’s Society for Community Research and Action Program. There, we presented some preliminary results from the FGC survey we completed last year. OTL designed a survey including quantitative and qualitative questions that was based on the current literature about fighting games, as well as the blog posts, forum discussions, and direct feedback of community members. We wanted to share with all of you Ahmed AlSamaani’s poster about the benefits and drawbacks of FGC membership and the talk Jordan Reed and Kelly Collins presented on the relationship between affective (what people like about their community) and behavioral (good players) aspects of the FGC.

Benefits and drawbacks of membership in the FGC

Benefits and Drawbacks of Membership in the FGC
AlSamaani, A., Steltenpohl, C. N., Collins, K. & Keys, C. B. (May, 2017). Benefits and drawbacks of membership in the Fighting Game Community. Poster presented at the Midwestern Psychological Association Annual Meeting 2017 in Chicago, IL.

Ahmed has been working with me as a part of the DePaul’s DUOS (Doctoral Undergraduate Opportunities for Scholarship) Program. The DUOS program supports collaboration between a doctoral and undergraduate student as they complete a research project. Ahmed was interested in understanding what FGC members considered benefits and drawbacks of being members of their community. This involved reading the qualitative responses of people who completed the survey and developing a framework to help us summarize what people said. This framework, known as a codebook, can then be used to “code” the responses. Ahmed took the codebook he and Kelly developed under my supervision and coded 100 randomly selected responses. He then identified six major benefits and five major drawbacks of FGC membership and member checked them with some FGC members at Evansville Esports. That is what you can see on his poster to the right. If you’d like to see a larger version of the poster, you can see it here.

Ahmed chatted with a fellow conference goer who plays Rocket League and Call of Duty. In their conversation, those communities were used as examples of competitive communities that function entirely online. In contrast, the FGC is a hybrid community, meaning that members interact with other community members using both online technology and in-person meetups. The two mused that this might explain the tight-knit social dynamics we have seen and FGC members have reported. In our lab meetings, OTL members have suggested the FGC’s hybrid nature might give them an edge when it comes to community building and maintenance. In fact, it seems it is almost technically impossible to have fully functional FGC subcommunities without local/face-to-face gameplay, and FGC members themselves seem to differentiate between online “hanger ons” and those who actually show up to their local scenes and tournaments.

Discoveries in the digital age: Implications for community research

In addition, two OTL lab members, Kelly and Jordan, presented preliminary themes from some qualitative, open-ended responses in the FGC survey. Kelly discussed her analyses to responses to the questions, “What do you like about the fighting game community as a whole?” and, “What do you dislike about the fighting game community as a whole?” Jordan presented on the questions related to the concept of good and bad players, specifically, “What makes someone a good player in the fighting game community?” and, “On the other hand, what makes someone a bad player in the fighting game community?” Kelly and Jordan each presented four main themes derived from player responses to these questions. They selected those that were related to each other, based on Blanchard & Markus’ (2002) delineation between sense of community as an affective response and the set of behaviors that can be observed when sense of community is present, but not when it is absent. With this in mind, they presented the likes — or affective responses — regarding the community, and the behaviors of good players:

Likes & Dislikes Kelly’s Comments Example Quote(s) Good & Bad Players Jordan’s Comments Example Quote(s)
Competitiveness One major theme FGC members reported was competitiveness as a shared value within the FGC. The shared value of competitiveness manifests through interactions and social norms based on the competitive nature of the FGC and members report the FGC is a positive  outlet for individual players competitiveness. “It’s a competitive outlet, a way to think strategically about evolving emergent problems, and it’s a source of (and outlet for) intense emotion…” Competition Success This theme focused on amateur play & tournament winning, beating known and high-level players, and showing consistent performance. “well in my opinion it comes down to […] ‘how often do they win?'”
“Results from placing well in tournaments is a given [for good players].”
Enjoyment, Hype, & Enthusiasm FGC members also describe experiencing intense positive emotions around having fun. As expected, this includes feelings such as joy and entertainment, but they also endorsed the unique emotion of hype, which is an electric atmosphere that forms as the intensity of the moment builds and stakes grow increasingly high. This often happens during tournaments or other in-person settings. “Everybody is all about getting each other excited about the game. When one match ends everyone is eager for the next, calling out who will win and why, thinking about counter picks and opportune moments, the hype never ends.” Positive; Not Serious or Critical Many commenters also said good players have a positive attitude and are fun. They abstain from or prevent trash talk and actively remove toxic members. “[Good players] can step back and see the game as a game, have fun with it”
“someone who won’t talk negativity but also knows how to handle [it] if a situation between players gets heated”
Helping Others Another shared value within the FGC revolves around supporting other players, which includes helping others to improve skills or learn game by sharing knowledge, advice, and resources. Helping others also includes helping the community grow in terms of increasing membership or progressing strategic and technical gameplay. “Helping others learn how to play has been as rewarding as when I learned to play.”
“I also love how people work together to learn characters to the best they can be played by sharing advice and techniques, combos, etc.”
Helpful Intuitively, we can see good players help others. They can do this in a variety of ways, including creating content (e.g. streaming, tutorials, music, art, etc.), organizing tournaments,
or teaching others how to play.
“[Good players are] willing to help new players”
“keeping as many people involved as are interested as possible”
Improvement, Growth Mindset Improvement and growth mindset involves increasing skills or becoming better as a person in general. It also involves supporting the FGC’s improvement and growth. This includes honing your focus and showing motivation to be better. The FGC holds a shared value of improvement, provides opportunities for individual members to improve, and pushes for the improvement of the FGC and its games. “These guys help inspire me to focus and train harder.”
“There are a lot of competitors who are striving to be as strong as possible.”
Employs a Growth Mindset A good player employs a growth mindset, meaning they have intimate knowledge about their games and know how to apply it. They have a strong work ethic and practice a lot. They own up to their shortcomings and use losses as an opportunity to grow. Good players accept their own skill level and ask for help; in fact, they actively seek advice. “A good player will always ask himself why did he lose/win and who will learn from his/her mistakes”
“Readiness to learn and be taught […] and humble to ask for help.”

These two presentations highlight the richness and complexity of the fighting game community, and hopefully accurately represents the views of those who completed the survey and the FGC at large. As we develop the results further, we will continue checking in with FGC members to ensure the quality of our findings. We are also working on two other manuscripts: one on meta-stereotypes (the stereotypes that in-group members think outsiders have of their group) and one on how FGC members conceptualize the “gamer” identity label. We hope to have updates for those manuscripts soon, but until then, we hope you enjoy the photos we took while at the conference!

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