Documentary touch up

May 26, 2009

I’ve done up my last section, which was mostly based on player interviews. I could go on to add more content, such as “Is the endgame of WoW a group mediated stage” but I think I don’t want to overload non-gamers/the layman.

I followed Dean’s advice , and linked up some texts, but hit a problem:

Many of the primary texts I reference such as the Games and Culture ones require subsciption to access. (I was accessing through RMIT). So the average web browser might not be able to access them…

In the Games and Culture case, I am going to link them in-text now, instead I will put them in the sidebar for easy and optional reference.

Other sites such as the Daedalus Project that was more accessible I have linked.

I think my documentary is pretty much complete, so I will put up the link in my side bar now, but I might pretty it up a bit in the next few days, while being mindful of Dean’s warning of my site becoming a “picturebook”.


Rough cut viewing

May 26, 2009

I think it went well, I was impressed by everybody’s documentaries, especially those that utilised video and audio, and even in one case animation! Particularly when I look at  my own documentary to be more text-based and academic I personally thought that mine would be very dry in comparison. I thought everybody did a spot-on job, and even though Eileen has been complaining to me about the rough edits of her hip-hop interview video, I was damn impressed by the quality of production, the variety of interview spots and angles, and the dancing footage was very interesting. (Again, feeling that mine is boring).

Yeah, basically anyone who did a video impressed me, because I simply do not see myself having the skills to do something like that!

Some of the scripted narration worked really well too, the dictation was concise and informative. I think this was a documentary about community at work.

Additionally, it turned out that most of the people used WordPress as a base for their documentary, and despite my misgivings at the start, WordPress has turned out to be a solid and easy to use text base for me. Easy to set up navigation, and even embedding of videos which I thought would be difficult was very easy.

Dean put some of my doubts about my documentary to rest, assuring me that my more academic approach was just as valid, complimenting my content (which I previously thought would be my only saving grace), and my site was okay digestible.

Going to work on the last section now, as well as some of Dean’s advice about linking to the texts I mentioned.


Documentary update

May 26, 2009

I haven’t been blogging much about my documentary, as most of production stage involved research and interviewing of players.

Talking to players particularly has been very interesting, they provided me with many useful insights that expound on topics past the scale of my documentary. Especially since I don’t play WoW, so some of the things they talked about like immersion and guild drama have been fascinating.

My main problem has been scaling down the research density, and making the site more accessible to the layman. My main aim of the documentary is to make WoW interesting to non-gamers, and to show them a side beyond their preconceptions of 3d polygonal characters simply getting online and hacking and slashing at monsters.

I’m trying to dissect the social nature of WoW that is so intricate to the playing motivation, as well as the game mechanics of WoW. And hopefully people will find that interesting, that WoW is such a human game. There’s a lot of theory in my documentary, so I will try to keep it to a minimum, with big labels and disclaimers, so that casual browsers will not be turned away.


Brief Theory Part 2.

April 29, 2009

The central theory I will use to attack the complex player hierarchies and mechanisms of WoW is that of social capital, particularly the work of Putnam (1995, 2000) and Bourdieu (1986). Bourdieu and Wacquant (1992) define social capital as “the sum of the resources, actual or virtual, that accrue to an individual or a group by virtue of possessing a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition” (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992, p14).

Malaby (2006) notes how Putnam (1995, 2000) treats social capital not just as a market capital as a resource for individuals, but instead as an index for diagnosing the collective civic health of society. Malaby (2006) suggests that this analysis which seeks to put social capital in society on a par with for example, gross national product, it will at the same time fail to show the emergent social practices of individuals and new groups that draw on the obligations throughout their social networks to use as a resource in the manner of any material resource.

Additionally, work done by Castronova (2001, 2005) and Taylor (2006a, 200b) establishes that these forms of value created in virtual worlds can often be transferred into material domains.

In fact Castronova (2001) has done this very literally in his study on EverQuest: “the nominal hourly wage is about USD 3.42 per hour, and the labours of the people produce a GNP per capita somewhere between Russia and Bulgaria. A unit of Norrath’s currency is traded on exchange markets at USD 0.0107, higher than the Yen and the Lira.”

Bourdieu’s (1986) analysis of the “economy of practices” has formed the basis for the framework of studies such as Malaby’s (2006), in which he describes “Reciprocity, the moral relationship created through the mutual exchange of gifts and acts, is the means by which social capital is generated, and this is all but invisible to a strictly market-oriented gaze. Learning, the passing of competencies in language, etiquette, criticism, and all other culturally specific skills through the channels of family, profession, or other relationships, is another form of human exchange nearly invisible to the market. Finally, formal authorization—the conferral of degrees, licenses, and other credentials that objectify capacities of title or office—is the institutionalized form of exchange, primarily identified with educational systems, and although often involving market capital, these are also intractable to full marketization (despite the continued best efforts of neoliberal policies).” (Malaby 2006, 148).

These three elements can be easily translated into practices in WoW, such as Reciprocity tying into players investing time in building relationships that yield valuable in-game resources and skills, Learning is highly relevant to the collective knowledge of the player base, and Authorization can be examples such as Guild titles and ranks, as well as tangible symbols of power such as epic weapons. Malaby (2006) basically concludes that value in an MMORPG is made up of a number of these attributes, such as the market, social, and cultural capital that a player creates as he or she progresses within the game.

Malaby (2006) notes that it is wrong to mistake the network itself for the resource of social capital, it is important to note that social capital is not the abstract link or relationship between people, it is simply their “state of their moral relationship of mutual obligation” (Malaby 2006, p154).

Studies such as Williams, et al.’s (2006) text From Tree House to Barracks: The Social Life of Guilds in World of Warcraft, have studied how game “mechanics” affect the social behaviour of groups, and essentially conclude that these game mechanics and social architectures have an significant impact on the resulting social formations and interactions within these spaces, to the point that they often dictate; how large groups are, their motivations for remaining together, as well as the roles necessary for group success. Another concern noted in their research is how game research has been conflicted with the age old qualitative/quantitative methods conflict that afflict other fields, with the added concern being that MMORG research often presents unique problems to the researcher, being that seeking original empirical data must often be conducted remotely and anonymously (Williams et al. 2006). Their study brings many interesting insights into the nature of guilds as social network hubs, and how far sociability extends into gameplay, as can be seen with player quotes such as “This game is more like World of Chatcraft for me.”, and also how it bridges into issues outside of gameplay (Williams et al., p 351).

Grundy (2008) explores how these investments in social capital are linked to personal attachment to the game which is then in turn based upon one’s attitude to the game. Using Bartle’s (2003) player types of “achiever,” “killer,” “explorer,” and “socialiser,” one could analyse this “risk” of investment, but would then run into problems with the model’s lack of empirical grounding as described by Yee (2004).
Bourdieu, P. 1986. The forms of capital. In J. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research in the sociology of education (pp. 241-258). Westport, CT: Greenwood.

Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L. 1992. An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Castronova, Edward. 2001. Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier. CESifo Working Paper No. 618, December. Reprinted in 2006 in The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology, ed. Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman, 814-863. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Castronova, Edward. 2005. Synthetic statehood and the right to assemble. Terra Nova (1 February). Available at <http://terranova.blogs.com/terra-nova/2005/02/the_right_to_as.html&gt;.

Grundy, Dave. 2008. The Presence of Stigma Among Users of the MMORG RMT: A Hypothetical Case Approach. Games and Culture Vol.3 No. 2, p 225-247.

Putnam, R. D. 1995. Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital. Journal of Democracy, 6, 65-78.

Putnam, R. D. 2000. Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York:
Simon & Schuster.

Malaby, T 2006. Parlaying Value: Capital in and Beyond Virtual Worlds. Games and Culture, April 2006; vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 141-162.

Williams, Dmitri., Ducheaneat, Nicolas., Xiong, Li., Zhang, Yuanyuan., Yee, Nick., and Nickell, Eric. 2006. From Tree House to Barracks: The Social Life of Guilds in World of Warcraft. Games and Culture, Oct 2006; vol. 1: pp. 338 – 361.

Yee, N. 2004. Unmasking the avatar: The demographics of MMO player motivations, in-game preferences,
and attrition. Gamasutra. Retrieved March 17, 2009, from http://www.gamasutra.com/
resource_guide/20040920/yee_01.shtml


Some brief theory or literature review. Part 1.

April 29, 2009

WoW as a community has many aspects being worthy of study, such as the participatory nature of the culture and the players within it who both serve as producers and consumers. In addition, several scholars such Aarseth (2001), Eskelinen (2001), Buckingham (2006), emphasize the importance of studying games with their own logic and rules that differ entirely from that of film, literature and hypertext.
Henry Jenkins, describes the creation of community as a function of participatory culture: “Fandom here becomes a participatory culture which transforms the experience of media consumption into the production of new texts, indeed of a new culture and a new community” (Jenkins,1992, p. 46). Taylor (2006b) also provides a specific account of how player-made texts contribute to the formation of a larger player community in her book Play Between Worlds : “Relating shared experiences through art (be it comic or not) is a common way players circulate feelings about the game to others and reflect on their own experience… I recently saw, a long-time player touring the world as a way of saying goodbye and leaving the game – links to them often circulate rapidly. While sharing information about the game or passing along a link to a favourite comic can be a way of connecting with an existing social network, it also becomes a powerful mechanism for participating in a larger game public.” (Taylor 2006b, p. 58).
.
Buckinham, David. 2006. “Studying Computer Games.” In Computer Games: Text, Narrative and Play, ed. Diane Carr, David Buckingham, Andrew Burn, and Gareth Schott, 1-13. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Aarseth, Espen. 2001. “Computer Game Studies, Year One.” Game Studies 1, no. 1 (July). Available at <http://gamestudies.org&gt;.

Eskelinen, Markku. 2001. “The Gaming Situation.” Game Studies 1, no. 1 (July). Available at <http://gamestudies.org&gt;.

Jenkins, H. 2006. Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York and London: New York University Press.

Taylor, T. L. 2006a. Does WoW Change Everything? How a PvP Server, Multinational Player Base, and Surveillance Mod Scene Caused Me Pause. Games and Culture, 1(4), 318-337.

Taylor, T. L. 2006b. Play Between Worlds. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Aarseth, Espen. 2001. “Computer Game Studies, Year One.” Game Studies 1, no. 1 (July).


Documentary Learning Contract.

April 3, 2009


CONTENT

1. What is the community that you will make your documentary about?
The World of Warcraft (W0W) Community.

2. What interesting issues about community and identity will you be able to explore in relation to this community? (With reference to the theory you have read)

WoW is an inherently social game, you need to socialise to play it, and the intent to play it often is derived from the urge to maintain/strengthen existing social networks, or an extension of existing social practice.

Therefore, I will be looking centrally at social capital in relation to WoW, analysing the importance of it, as well as delving into the functional mechanics of it.

One side of social capital in WoW is directly related to gameplay, for example; it is essential in group play such as raids, and the degradation of this social capital can lead to the breakdown of guild hierarchy, group play efficiency, and player pleasure. WoW is a game that almost requires you to build your own social capital as you proceed in the game, as levelling up your character and reaching the highest level of play is only possible through a sort of staggered group play, as you rely on other people for transportation, resources, furthermore interacting with fellow players is the central way to bypass the mundaneness of the “grind”. Without a solid network of people, you limit yourself in terms of collective knowledge, resources and various capabilities of other players. In this way social capital directly affects one’s WoW experience.
The game can by itself also simply be a way to accumulate social capital, for example allowing people who are separated geographically to maintain their social links, as in the case of a grandfather using WoW to be part of his granddaughter’s daily life in college.

3. What theorists will you incorporate into your documentary? (Summarise the ideas you will engage with)
I will look at Bordieu, Colman, and Putman in regards to the theory of social capital. The central idea of collective knowledge and skills when exerted by a cohesive group of people as a simple bottom line for high level play efficiency can be related to Bourdieu and Wacquant’s (1992) definition of social capital as “the sum of the resources, actual or virtual, that accrue to an individual or a group by virtue of possessing a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition”
Another theorist I might engage with Henry Jenkins (2006) as he uses the work of Pierre Levy to discuss “collective intelligence” the knowledge made available to all members of a community and its mutual production, and how it relates to fandom.
I will also look at studies such as Taylor’s (2006) studies on WoW, and emergent culture, and other studies utilizing game ethnographies.

References:
Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L. (1992). An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York and London: New York University Press.

Taylor, T. L. (2006). Does WoW Change Everything? How a PvP Server, Multinational Player Base, and Surveillance Mod Scene Caused Me Pause. Games and Culture, 1(4), 318-337.

Taylor, T. L. (2006). Play Between Worlds. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

4. Why are they relevant / important? (A critical analysis of these ideas in relation to the community you are documenting)
The idea of social capital in relation to WoW is a unique opportunity to study directly how the level of capital is in direct relation to processes, efficiency, pleasure and motivation. In addition the very nature of WoW as a social networking program not just in practical game operation organisation, but how it bridges offline and online social spheres, and create new social practices. Such as, a family might have pizza night every week on the Tuesday their server goes into maintenance.
Taylor in her book Play Between Worlds, provides a relevant account of how player produced information and texts contribute to the formation of a larger player community: “Relating shared experiences through art (be it comic or not) is a common way players circulate feelings about the game to others and reflect on their own experience. For example, when new fan-produced movies turn up [such as] a long-time player touring the world as a way of saying goodbye and leaving the game – links to them often circulate rapidly. While sharing information about the game or passing along a link to a favourite comic can be a way of connecting with an existing social network, it also becomes a powerful mechanism for participating in a larger game public.”

5. How are you going to introduce their ideas? (In terms of the structure of your documentary or the argument you are proposing, how does the theory come in, and where/when?)
The theory will be used to define the relationships and communications WoW players share in their community, breaking it down in terms of resources, and the positive, and negative effects. Essentially the theory will serve as tools to make sense of this world, and in terms of structure, will be quite central in introducing the significance of the hierarchies and phenomenon that occur in WoW.

6. What is the structure of the documentary? (This could be a short treatment of the way you see your documentary unfolding)
My documentary will unfold pretty much like a general study on social capital in WoW, and will strive to illustrate the theories with stories about and told by WoW players and disgruntled retirees. Hopefully media such as “quitting texts” such as YouTube videos depicting the virtual suicides of characters that bear great emotional significance to the player, that serve to provide insight about player’s frustrations, and motivations to not pursue being motivated to play.
I hope to build three sections of my documentary, the first being a description of WoW, its place in pop culture, and how game theorists have tried to analyse MMORGS. Theory will form the second part of this section, I hope to so simply and practically the theory in relation to WoW so that the average layman can understand it, and be interested (and bemused) by it.
The second section will be detailed analysis and case studies of the application of social capital in WoW through such things as guild hierarchies, and I hope to have several case studies here.
The third and final section will be the conclusion, speculation, and possible further areas of studies.

7. What is the style of the documentary? (you can refer to documentary theory if you know it; if you don’t, discuss how you see the relationship between you the documentary maker and your subject, and how that will influence the work you produce. Examples of other documentaries will be relevant)
The documentary will be written from an observational and neutral point of view, and while I lack the actual experience of having played WoW, I hope that will help me in my neutrality.
The style will be simple, relying heavily on the voices of the people who’ve played WoW, their opinions and their produced texts in their forums or in other forms such as stories about quitting produced as machinima. The documentary will be primarily text-based, but supplemented visually from the engine of WoW, and external fan-produced media.

8. What type of media will your documentary consist of (e.g. audio files, text, stills, video, animation etc)
It will consist of text, video links, game screen shots, and possibly machinima. A host of links to supplementary and informative media will also be constructed.

9. Given that your documentary will be published online, how will you tailor production and post-production to be appropriate (e.g. image size, frame rate, design issues, copyright)?
One big issue is the readability of the text. I have to make it so that non-players will want to read it, and casual readers will not find the theory hindering. In regards to other media such as video and screenshots, I will try to scale my images to a manageable size and to be honest, with video I have no idea about manipulating size or embedding so I might have to use links if all else fails.
10. What are your skills in making this style of media?
I have almost nonexistent skills in making this style of media, having only the basic computer skills of typing and perhaps some experience with manipulating social software sites like Livejournal. I hope that I can build up some of these technical web skills in the tutorial weeks to come.

11. Are you enlisting the help of any crew during the production phase of your documentary?
No.


12. Will you need to borrow technical equipment from the Applied Communication techs? If yes, what do you want to borrow? When do you want to borrow it?

(You must get the borrowing form signed by your tutor in order to borrow gear, and your tutor must be convinced that you already have sufficient technical skills to use it.)
No.

PERMISSIONS
13. What talent do you need to get release forms signed for?

I have verbal agreement from several ex-WoW players, and access to some public resources such as forums. Before any interviewing commences, I will need them to sign a release form, and plain language statement.
14. Are you going to interview any minors? (If yes, you must get their release form signed by their parent / guardian)
No.
15. Do you need permission to shoot on location?
No.
POST-PRODUCTION
16. What software do you need to edit your documentary?

I will need a basic web editing software, or some knowledge or the web tools that are available to the web host that I will be using. I will Photoshop to deal with images.

17. Do you have sufficient skills with that software?
No I do not have sufficient skills with producing text on the web.

18. Do you have sufficient access to that software?
In regards to access, I do have access to the software I need.

PUBLICATION
19. What social software environment will you publish your documentary to?

I will be using a blog, probably WordPress, as my backbone of the documentary, with all the key textual pieces organised coherently on the blog. I will be linking to various other sites such as Youtube, WoW communities on Facebook. Every facet of my documentary will be able to navigated by any readers through this blog, and they can use it to post feedback and commentary.

20. Is the media you are creating appropriate for that environment?
With the simple nature of the documentary, content will be king, so I see no need for overly intricate social software or a veritable smorgasbord of flash images and cheesy music.

21. Have you become a member of that environment?
In regards to blogs, I already have a WordPress account, as well as a Livejournal account, so I can easily set up another blog for this purpose.

22. Have you done a ‘test’ publication?
I have tested text posting, but I have not worked on creating a coherent navigation structure, as well as video and images.

23. Does the environment stipulate any limits (e.g. file size, dimensions, file types, copyright, legal issues) that you will need to meet?
With the content that I have, I am reasonably assured that I will not run into problems such as data limitations, with the example of WordPress having a 3 gigabyte limit which is more than sufficient for my needs.

24. Are there any competitions or other deadlines that the environment imposes?
No.

LEGAL
25. Have you got copyright permission for all the content you use?

The body of the text will be produced by me, and I will implicitly state ownership of any intellectual property and media I link to.

26. Do you have an appropriate credit list that attributes every work and everyone involved?
So far, the players that I’ve talked to would rather choose anonymity. I will put up a list of references that I’ve drawn upon.

27. There is no defamation or slander?
No.
28. Any other legal issues?
No.
RISK ASSESSMENT
29. What are the most likely things that could go wrong with your project?

Time management and chasing people down for interviews! Another big problem is technical production on the Web, a murky territory for me.
30. What is your back-up plan if these things occur?
If I can’t build a substantial information base from interviews, I can always supplement it with ethnographical studies carried over the years. If web production is really a problem, I can keep it even simpler and submit it as an article. I’ve seen some sites that host guidebooks and studies done up in pdf form, or as streaming documents.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT
31. What is the date of your rough-cut showing?

Week 11.

32. What is the final due date?
June 12, 2009.

33. When do you intend to start post-production?
Around Week 9.


34. When do you intend to start production?

When I have finalised my learning contract, and conducted some preliminary research.
35. Given your production start date, have you already booked any technical equipment you need?
Not applicable.
36. How do these dates work in with assessment deadlines from other courses?
They work very well, in terms of suffocating me deep under a load of a thesis and two electives. What doesn’t kill me, will make me…


37. If you are using talent, does their availability suit your production schedule?

At this point, it is impossible to say, except that I will try to push them (stopping short of transgressing civility and becoming annoying), to get the date in before a month’s time.


community of procrastination =

March 24, 2009

1.

I’ve been thinking of what community to use in my documentary.

a) Smogon University

b) Addicts of WoW (World of Warcraft)/retirees of WoW/ Alcoholics Anonymous equivalent

Dean has been advising to use WoW as my community, as it is closely related to my minor thesis that I’m working on this semester. It is tentatively called “Is there a world after WoW?” What I’m trying to do is explore the motivations, pleasures, and frustrations of playing WoW, and what leads people to quit the game. Essentially why I’m doing this line of research instead of a more obvious question such as gender and identity construction is because I have to cover a gap in the research. And not much research has been done on just why people choose to retire from WoW. It’s not as straightforward as simply getting tired of playing this game, there are a myriad of reasons and motivations, because playing WoW is not the simple activity one might envision about playing computer games.

The average WoW player spends twenty hours a week playing, with the more dedicated players perhaps spending twenty hours a day on the game. The average age of MMORG players is around 26, 50% of them work full-time, 36% of them are married, 22% of them have children, and contrary to popular stereotype, only 25% of them are teenagers. Basically you have a bunch of people (8.5 million of them in 2007), choosing to spend significant amounts of time and money in a virtual world, in which conventional definitions of play such as Salen and Zimmerman’s that games must have a “quantifiable goal or outcome” are overturned in favour of a system that strives to be open-ended and never-ending.

Deep and intricate social systems are needed to tackle the higher end of WoW gameplay, with your group raids (basically an attack on a specific level or dungeon typically stuffed with extremely powerful monsters for the chance of obtaining rare equipment) and your massive Player vs Player (PvP) fights, both requiring an incredible degree of group coordination and timing. Hierarchy is very significant here, with guild roles such as leader or other administrative roles bearing heavy responsibility. To reach a high level in WoW, not only will you have to invest months and months of dedicated play, but you simply cannot get anywhere without building up a substantial social and support network. What then, motivates a player who embraces the nature of all this, to walk away from it?

Some motivations I have discovered involve the collapse of hierarchies, sometimes when members of a guild “executive boardroom” chooses to leave, the guild collapses because efficiency and ability has been compromised perhaps beyond repair, and a multitude of people simultaneously quit as a result. Why not join another guild? The idea of collective knowledge is one that does not just apply to power gamers, and it roughly means a group of people being active and progressing in a game because of their shared knowledge and experience. Quite often, they move in packs, and simply move around from game to game. Another reason to quit is the time previously taken to establish a social network, and when this network starts to degrade, people decide that they do not want to start from zero, and quite often after playing for so long their principal pleasure in playing is derives from social networking.

So you can see there is a multitude of questions to ask, and now here’s a transient spaces related question.

What is a community?

Between my two choices, Smogon and WoW-related communities, I can define Smogon as a community with much greater ease. It is many things, a bureaucracy, a governing democracy, a forum, and an economy. Basically Smogon is the premier competitive Pokemon battling community in the English-speaking world. They discuss strategies, analyse the state of the “metagame” which is their term for the shifts and flow of power, trends and status quos in the battling world.

Smogon is the most comprehensive and accurate online resource for competitive Pokémon battling. They offer articles and advice via community forums to help fans of the game compete at every level while honing their skills in every aspect of competitive Pokémon from team building to battling tactics. The players involved go into extreme depths in what is generally seen as a kid’s game, hacking into game code to obtain data such as:

Damage Formula = (((((((Level × 2 ÷ 5) + 2) × Base Power × [Sp] Attack ÷ 50) ÷ [Sp] Defence) × Mod1) + 2) ×

CH × Mod2 × R ÷ 100) × STAB × Type1 × Type2 × Mod3

It’s not just battling, the community spills over into other areas such as breeding, where people spend hundreds of hours trying to breed the perfect Pokemon, trying to get the last digit on the random number generator to hit 32. It is pretty mindboggling the amount of effort people put in, and the degree of number crunching involve, just to squirt what is essentially just a nugget of digital information

Here’s an example of the numbers involved, taken from the Smogon breeding guide. Warning: please skip this section if you find this kind of thing incomprehensible. I know I do.

How to discover the IVs of your Pokémon

(Italics are my notes attempting to make things a bit more comprehensible)

You might think that the IVs (individual value numbers that determine the statistics) of a Pokémon can be found rather easily among that particular Pokémon’s stats. The truth is, the game conceals the IVs of your Pokémon, and rather well at that. So how can we discover the IVs of our Pokémon?

1. Estimation

When you breed a Pokémon and the egg hatches, the Pokémon will hatch at Level 5. (In DP, it hatches at Level 1. To make it Level 5, give it 4 Rare Candies (An item that raises the level on your Pokemon.) Even at this low level, you can have a rough estimate of your IVs by looking at the babies’ stats if you know the base stats of that Pokémon.

First of all, let a be the base stat without its last digit, and b be the last digit of this base stat. For example, if the base stat is 105, then a = 10 and b = 5.

Now, at Level 5, if a particular stat is unaffected by the Pokémon’s nature, that stat always has the following minimum and maximum numbers:

If the stat is not HP (Hit points denoting your vitality):

Minimum stat is a + 5

Maximum stat is a + 6, if b is between 0 and 4

Maximum stat is a + 7, if b is between 5 and 9

If the stat is HP

Minimum stat is a + 15

Maximum stat is a + 16, if b is between 0 and 4

Maximum stat is a + 17, if b is between 5 and 9

If the stat is boosted by the Pokémon’s nature (a particular trait of the Pokemon that affect its statistics) and the stats above has more than one digit, add the first digit of that stat to it. For example, if the minimum stat calculated above is 8, then it stays 8. If, however, it is 16, add 1 (the first digit of 16) to 16, becoming 17.

If the stat is hindered by the Pokémon’s nature, first subtract the stat by 1. Then, if that resulting number has more than one digit, subtract it further by the first digit of that stat. For example, if the maximum stat calculated above is 10, then subtract 1 from it, becoming 9. Since 9 is a one-digit number, it stays 9. If, in another example, the maximum stat calculated above was 13, then subtract 1 from it, becoming 12. Since 12 is a two-digit number, we subtract it further by 1 (the first digit of 12), becoming 11.

Also, if your Pokémon has a maximum stat at Level 5, then:

If b is between 0 and 4, then the IV for that stat is between 20 – 2×b and 31.

If b is between 5 and 9, then the IV for that stat is between 40 – 2×b and 31.

The above information can be used to see roughly if the Pokémon’s IVs are bad, so that you can release it immediately if they are not good enough before proceeding to find the IVs more exactly.

Let’s give an example. Suppose you have bred a Magikarp (a fish Pokémon), and want to check if your Speed stat has a good IV or not. Let’s assume that your Magikarp has a Jolly nature.

Magikarp’s base Speed stat is 80. In our case, a = 8 and b = 0. So the minimum speed stat is 8 + 5 = 13. Since the stat is boosted by Jolly, we add 1 (first digit of 13) to 13, becoming 14. The maximum speed stat is 8 + 6 = 14. Again, since the stat is boosted by Jolly, we add 1 (first digit of 14) to 14, becoming 15. So, if the Magikarp’s speed stat is 14, you can dismiss that Magikarp out of hand.

If the Magikarp has a maximum Speed stat of 15, then its IVs are in the range 20 – 2×0 and 31, i.e. between 20 and 31.

Let’s give another example. Suppose you breed a Timid (a specific speed boosting nature) Treecko (a tree Pokemon) and you want it to have a high Special Attack stat. Treecko’s base Special Attack is 65, so a = 6 and b = 5.

Its minimum special attack stat at level 5 is thus 6 + 5 = 11. Its maximum special attack stat is 6 + 7 = 13.

If your newborn Treecko has a special attack stat 11 or 12, then you dismiss it. If it has a Special Attack stat of 13, it means that its Special Attack IV is between 40 – 2×5 and 31; i.e. between 30 and 31 – a very good IV indeed.

End of Excerpt and Death on your Eyes

So, some people in the world spend their waking days breeding the perfect Pikachu. And in turn, there is a virtual economy that exists, of trading Pokemon. The aesthetic beauty of a Pokemon, the novelty of the move set (attacks that a Pokemon carries), the perfection of its battling statistics, and the simple fact of whether any other person has chosen to devote weeks to breeding a perfect specimen of a perhaps unremarkable species.

There is a sort of irony that exists in this economy, in which the greatest sin is that of hacking, as that defeats the whole time-consuming exercise of breeding, if you can hack it in seconds. However, the whole virtual Poke-economy is based around a tenet of hacking that is condoned, which is cloning. After all, you cannot have an economy if you cannot manufacture your product, or in this case, reproduce your prized Pokémon.

This creates an interesting quandary; how far does one take this “necessary hacking”? Is the instant hatch hack, which cuts down breeding time immensely, an ethical choice, from the viewpoint of a breeder?

At the same time, you have underground Pokémon black markets, in Germany and Italy, where unethical hackers trade hacked Pokémon for the prized “legitimate” Pokémon of other economies. This unsurprisingly creates outrage in communities such as Smogon, and the community goes to great lengths to hack check, as well as delve into game source code to further innovate measures to ensure breeding legitimacy. This raises another question; if a person is willing to take the time, or rather willing to take the shortcut to save time, to hack a Pokémon, what on earth is he or she doing actually trying to trade for legitimate Pokémon when it could be hacked with less time and effort?

I suppose it is for the prized commodity of certain community-famous Pokémon that a hacker might go some lengths to obtain, but it is interesting to question the motives of the so-called Pokémon black market.

So what defines this community? Common interest: Pokémon battling and everything related. It’s a virtual community, and lacks geographical localization. Another common denominator is English. It is a rule on Smogon to speak English, and grammatical correct English on their forums.

Dabbling on their site for a few minutes, I was infracted after five minutes for two instances of improper grammar!

Smogon also carries several institutional and social functions. It is a governing body, determining tournament tiers and rules, and the methods it uses to resolve issues of dissent are highly democratic. For example, take the banning of a simple hammerhead shark like dragon Pokémon called Garchomp.

Garchomp had been seen as a certainly powerful, if not particularly versatile Pokémon at the outset of the newest generation of Pokémon games. He had access to a move that essentially doubled his attack statistic, called Swords Dance. This was however, balanced by the fact that he had a hybrid Dragon-Ground typing, which meant that he took quadruple damage from one of the most common attack types in the metagame; Ice. The fact that he could knocked out easily by virtually any ice attack ensured that he was never seen as a top-tier competitor.

People soon figured out that if you stuck a certain single-use item to halve the damage of said Ice attacks on Garchomp, with his great speed and access to an attack boosting move, he would become an uncounterable Pokémon. Smogon was quick to this trend, and their October report showed that nearly 80 percent of Pokémon teams in the Standard tier had a Garchomp on it. It was time to get the land shark banned.

Administrators set up a separate, Garchomp-less server for players to play test a metagame without the looming shadow of the dragon Pokémon, and set up a voting process, in which players had to build up a sufficient competitive ranking to be able to vote. They also set up multiple discussion boards where the pros and cons of banning Garchomp was debated endlessly. Having previously gone through a more open-ended voting system that proved to be very problematic, Smogon decided to let their best and most experienced battlers have the final say.

The debate raged on for weeks, with a new generation of battlers weaned on quick success with their Garchomp-centered teams arguing that Garchomp played a central role in the metagame by keeping other certain top tier threats in check, and that a good competitive battler would automatically build several Garchomp fail-safes into their teams. They pointed out to ban Garchomp would shift the entire focus of the metagame, which was becoming increasingly fast paced and offensive, in an unnatural manner.

The argument against Garchomp was that of “overcentralisation”, that it was not good for the metagame to have virtually every team built around, or built to counter Garchomp. And that Garchomp broke one of the central dynamics of Pokémon battling, that of rock, paper, scissors. With only one (albeit highly glaring) weakness that could be remedied with an item, Garchomp could simply kill anything in front of it. Sure you could kill it with an ice attack after your first ice attack had been softened from the single-use item, the Yache berry, but you had to let something die to Garchomp. The fact that Garchomp dictated that you had to sacrifice at least one Pokémon just to stop him, was felt by many to be a direct contradiction to the central philosophy of Pokémon battling.

In the end, the vote was cast with an overwhelming 72 percent voting for the banning of Garchomp. All this was done in a month. Imagine, if in the world of soccer, that foreign takeovers of football clubs were banned, for the economic inflation of transfer rates and salaries created by the whims of billionaires buying their favourite clubs and splurging hundreds of millions of dollars on star players. Obviously takeovers such as Roman Arkadyevich Abramovich’s buying of Chelsea F.C., create huge inequalities in financial power, and make the idea of equal competition in the modern game almost unthinkable.

Smogon has other functions of debate, but I think my post has gone long enough, and I have said a lot about a community that I already choosing to not cover.

Perhaps a post in redundancy.

I have a small grasp of the inner workings of Smogon, having studied the community for a feature story for another elective, but I will probably go on to do a documentary on a WoW community, perhaps The Truants, a WoW Guild made up entirely of academics, or perhaps WoWdetox, a volunteer-run web site aimed at people with a gaming addiction to WoW, where gamers and ex-gamers can share their testimonies freely and anonymously.

There are several limiting factors such as the fact that I do not play WoW, and am trying to educate myself about the game this semester.

WoW is general is a huge community, and I need to narrow it down, and it presents a huge variety of ways to attack it in terms of theory.

For example WoW is certainly a community of shared activity, and one activity defined by Lisa Nakumara in Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity and Identity on the Internet (2002) is “identity tourism”. The world of WoW is divided into two factions, the Alliance and the Horde, and she suggests those who play the Alliance choose to slip into roles that follow Western fantasy and video game conventions, and those who play the Horde are choosing to appropriate an identity that is informed by a “otherness”, a opposite to white Western value, or colonization. Horde players may also do so in order to challenge the normativity that gives rise to this dichotomy, and is an example of the hybrid identity of the WoW player/avatar and how it can be used for “identity tourism”, and well as subversion of expected norms.

I guess I will need to further narrow my approach to community within WoW, and more thoughts will follow. I know that long posts are discouraged, but somehow I seem to fall into this trap inadvertently, (or perhaps stubbornly).