Player Identity Construction And Co-construction In Counter Strike: Global Offensive Within An Educational Context
Within online gaming, individual players need to work together in teams where the game play demands communication and a common goal. Therefore, their construction of situated player identities within the game context is affected by the situated in-game context. These player identities are actively (co)constructed in and through the in-game interaction, which is, therefore, worthy of studying per se. With the growing esports scene, there is also an additional level to consider; that is, professionalisation within a setting that mainly used to be a spare time activity and has now become present in educational contexts, as exemplified in this study.
In order to comprehend the identities construed within these games, we need to better understand their interactions in and through games such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, CS:GO (Valve Corporation & Hidden Path Entertainment, 2012). In this ethnographic study, a player centered approach offers a participants perspective on CS:GO. Previous research with a player-centered research approach on online games offers different forms of data collection, from observing LANs (Witkowski, 2013) and Twitch streams (Ruvalbaca et al, 2018) to Bennerstedts (2013) autoethnographic screen recordings of an online game. The overarching aim of the study is to explore local player identity construction and co-construction in the multiplayer video game CS:GO within an educational context. This paper seeks to answer two research questions: What possible tools or arenas for constructing and co-constructing player identity does CS:GO offer? and: What player identities are constructed using these tools?
The ethnographic data used in this study was collected in collaboration with a vocational school with an esports programme in Finland in 2017-2018. Seven of their students (aged 17-18, all male) playing CS:GO took part in the study by sharing screen recordings of their games and by taking part in interviews. The students were part of two teams and the in-game data is analyzed from two students’ perspectives, one from each team. The data consists of six hours of screen recordings from both teams (amounting to ten games) and of group interviews with both teams (amounting to seven interviews). The data is analysed abductively with phases of inductive analysis before and after categorisation based upon Burke’s pentad (1969; 1989).
The preliminary results indicate that CS:GO offers tools for identity construction and co- construction on three levels: skins (virtual goods with aesthetic properties), game play (player interaction with the game) and team chat. The preliminary results further indicate that the tools are used in diverse ways to (co)construct player identities. Skins appear to be part of both economic and aesthetic aspects, whereas the gameplay offers the tools for displaying one’s own (and seeing other’s) identities as competent esports players, as well as collective virtually embodied greetings. The voice chat provides affordances for explicit negotiations and orientation towards the external norms of the typical esports player identity. Furthermore, the preliminary results indicate that by analysing how the players orient to the norms of the ideal esports player, we can distinguish their own local, individual, identities.
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Keywords: Identity construction, video games, ethnography