Ethnography: Role-playing Game and Game Essay

Submitted By Clark1894
Words: 1486
Pages: 6

Orion Wagner Section 1
Clark Long Section 2
Chris Bir, Shayne Boyd Section 3
Sociology 101
21 March 2014
Entering this study, we ask the question “Why, in an age that is so technically involved, do people still play games that are based on imagination and not any use of technology?” People involved are playing a game called “Call of Cthulhu”, a tabletop role playing game. Zack Steenbergen acts as the game runner (hereafter referred to as the “Keeper”). He has a scenario in front of him, which he has written himself, that details the course of events throughout the game. Each player is given a character sheet with different skills listed along with chance percentages for each. The keeper also acts as any present, non-player, character in the storyline. The setting the players play in is Zack’s apartment, in the dining area. They play on a wooden table with the players positioned on either side of the table and the “keeper” at the head of the table. The dining room is standard, lit by a ceiling fan that is overhead. Each player has a designated set of dice in front of them that they use to play. The players started inside the apartment with Grace, Mayson, Andrew, Zack, Shayne, Orion, Alex, and Chris present. Grace leaves before the game starts. The loveseat present in the living room is moved over to the table so that each player may sit comfortably. The players start the game at 8:15 and Clark enters 5 minutes after. Alex leaves the game after approximately 40 minutes of play and is replaced by Shayne. The players are now Shayne, Orion, Andrew, Mayson, and Chris. Three of our ethnographers are officially doing field research at this point. The players enter a character that they have predetermined before the start of the game on their “character sheets”. The players signify their breaking of character by raising their hands above their heads. All persons involved continuously make jokes and laugh throughout the entirety of the game. The “keeper” calls for checks of skills that players have recorded on their character sheets. When these checks are called, the players roll two dice, one with consecutive tens starting from 00 and going up to 90, the other has numbers 0-9. These two dice paired together simulate probability out of 100. This group of people represents a micro culture that are deviant from typical adolescents who play video games instead of tabletop RPGs (role-playing games). Not only do these people seem to merely play the game, they also appear to enjoy it just as much, if not more, than groups who play video games. In an interview, one player said that, “The idea of having a person that I made entirely from scratch in both appearance and skills feels freeing. This, coupled with an environment that is far more interactive than video games, creates a much more fulfilling experience.” The group has created their own community within their gaming environment that seems to instill a sense of acceptance and unity in the group. The people who play the game also claim that their experience in the game has made them closer in everyday life. They look forward to getting together twice a week to play Call of Cthulhu. The game helps instill a sense of community much like the rain dance in Papua New Guinea. So the question still remains, why does this community seem so much stronger than that of people who play video games together? The phenomenon can possibly be explained through theories of human interaction. The fact that they are actually there in person while playing the game and that they feel a very real human connection with their characters. One player states, “It gives me more connection to the character because it’s my character and it lets me do what I want without limitations. I just feel too restrained when playing a video game.” Players also feel that it takes a more mature audience to play the game because it requires them to focus throughout the duration and stay in character. The players also show no