PvP Subcultures in Dark Souls III: An Auto-E Study

Dark Souls has long been one of my favourite games to play whenever I feel like I haven’t had enough self-loathing for one day. Given the amount of time I’ve put into playing it, however, I am almost astonished by the amount there is I’ve still yet to discover in all four iterations of the Souls franchise. One facet of gameplay I have typically avoided is the PvP aspect of the series, which makes up a substantial part of the gameplay. Typically I did so because I considered myself to be very poorly skilled in that area – I’d had enough of a hard time with the basic mechanics of the game, I decided to play the easy route; i.e., be “carried” through the game.

I was leisurely playing the game one day, and my partner who was playing cooperatively with me began pressuring me into Player vs Player (PvP) play. Partly to silence him, I relinquished and agreed to some organised PvP gameplay in Dark Souls III. While undertaking this “challenge”, I began to notice nuances of etiquette. Having been briefed on a few unofficial rules prior to my foray, these nuances became quirks that changed from player to player. Thus, an idea was born: to look into these subtle nuances and quirks of PvP in this virtual world, and seek to understand the etiquette behind the different groups. Upon undertaking this study, I began to understand that the virtual world was rich with its own sub-cultures that I had previously been blind to through my reluctance in participating.

As a method, autoethnography combines characteristics of autobiography and ethnography. When writing an autobiography, an author retroactively and selectively writes about past experiences. Usually, the author does not live through these experiences solely to make them part of a published document; rather, these experiences are assembled using hindsight (BRUNER, 1993; DENZIN, 1989, Freeman, 2004).

The Methodology

So with this in mind I hunkered down and considered how I would even begin studying such a topic. I discovered that I had simply scratched the surface of what would end up being a very deep rabbit-hole. The subject matter, however was a prime opportunity to undertake an autoethnographical study. What appears to be a daunting compound word becomes quite clear once you break it down:

Auto = Self; Ethnos = Cultural; Graphy = Research.

Self-cultural-research. More eloquently put, autoethnography is a method of research where the researcher takes part in the culture that they are studying in order to gain an understanding of the subject. It is a mashup of autobiographical and ethnographical methodology.

There are many ways to incorporate the researcher into a culture which is often dictated by the form this culture takes; so it goes without saying that there are many different approaches that can be taken to autoethnographical study methods. In the virtual world of the internet, the most common approach to becoming involved in an online community is to create an account with the affiliated branches of such. This includes accounts for video games, related forums and content sharing websites. You would then actively participate in the community by contributing and involving yourself in associated events within the community itself.
I took a number of approaches myself. I began participating and even creating threads on Reddit – making sure to subscribe to and contribute to topics within relevant ‘subreddits’ to the Dark Souls community. I created an account on livestream platform Twitch, downloaded some streaming software, and began to record and stream my own experiences with the game. Twitch streaming ended up snowballing into something bigger – which I will touch on later – but through that, I gained access to communities I never even knew existed through communication platform Discord, as well as began to interact with my own audience through Twitch who contributed to my streams.

 

You know what they say about assumptions…

As mentioned previously, I avoided PvP like the plague. I assumed I was absolutely terrible at going up against other players, especially skilled ones, who had actually put time and effort into perfecting techniques that specifically target other players rather than the environment and enemies found within the game world. I had previously formed most of my opinions by overhearing my partner and my friends’ interactions with other players while being in Xbox party chat with them; in between sounds of victory cheers, there was a lot of frustration. I knew these people to be rather good at the game – they were marginally better than myself, I opined – and therefore I had absolutely no chance of getting anywhere other than on a one-way trip to frustrationsville.

From these assumptions I had formed a hypothesis prior to undertaking this study: that I would be in for a terribly frustrating time gathering information, and I may not even be able to see how deep these sub-cultures really went as my skill level will have restricted me from participating to the fullest extent. Because of this, I decided the best starting point for this assignment would be Reddit – because I knew that if I would not be able to gain entry into the coveted inner-circles of the PvP world, then I may as well ask the opinions of those who had. I had some success in this venture and gained quite a lot of insight, but not before the thread descended into pointless bickering. Typical of Reddit; my initial hopes were high but they were subsquently lowered as soon as name-calling began.

I knew little about PvP etiquette in the Souls series – only that invaders employed ‘scummy’ tactics in order to win by any means necessary, and that ‘structured’ PvP was dictated by a few generally-known rules; the community-based code of honour had seemingly completely changed the way PvP was handled in the third installment of the Souls franchise in a way that may have been completely unintended by the series’ creator – which even inspired additions to the recently released downloadable content (DLC).

 

So what is this series you keep referring to?

If you are not familiar with the Japanese phenomenon that is the Souls series, it may be a little difficult to follow on. The franchise has four games total, and each iteration besides the first has accompanying DLC. In order of release, there is:

  1. Demon’s Souls (2009)
  2. Dark Souls (2011)
  3. Dark Souls 2 (2014)
  4. Dark Souls 3 (2016)

Each subsequent instalment in the franchise increased revenue for the series’ publisher From Software. The creator and directer of the series, Hidetaka Miyazaki, took the opportunity to increase the budget for each iteration. Demon’s Souls, being the predecessor to the Dark Souls games, is often overlooked and is largely considered by many to be the experimental grandfather of the series. In terms of gameplay mechanics, it did not seem to be quite as refined – however carried the foundations of the challenging gameplay that would go on to be notoriously associated with the franchise.

Dark Souls (2011) was also considered to have a rather niche community following, however its notorious reputation soon caught up and the game series began exploding in popularity following the release of Dark Souls II (2014). The third instalment, however, was not directed by Miyazaki, and thus many hardcore fans of the previous two games noted (some quite passionately) that the game did not feature some of the core gameplay mechanics that had come to be associated with the series. Generally speaking, many considered the game to be much ‘easier’ – however that opened the door to more casual players who wanted to try their hand at being killed over and over again without giving up in the first five minutes of play.

By the release of Dark Souls III, the franchise had grown a following of the ‘hardcore’ players from the first two instalments, as well as the more casual following from Dark Souls II, and was quite well-received by both camps. It was praised for being able to succesfully incorporate the best mechanics from both games – by simultaneously returning to a lot of it’s core mechanics from Dark Souls, as well as a few from Dark Souls II. The game retained a harsh difficulty curve, however for newer players it was a lot more welcoming than the earlier releases.

What began as a niche game in the Japanese markets extending to Western indie-level markets became a worldwide phenomenon, retaining its cult following while gaining familiarity amongst even casual gamers – most of which feel obligated to stay very far away from due to its notoriety; or some taking the challenge to see how long they can last before giving up and going back to games that held your hand. In my recent group project, my team and I discussed this in detail.

The Methodology:

So we move on to the PvP aspect of the game itself. As stated in my previous blog post on this subject, there are many different aspects to PvP in the game itself. I won’t waste time reiterating that in this post, however feel free to read that entry before continuing onto my observations through my own gameplay experience and participation in Reddit threads.

There are many unique aspects to PvP in the Souls franchise compared to many Western games. When faced with the word multiplayer, a lot of thoughts flicker to party games such as the Mario Party franchises, MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas) such as DotA or LoL, MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) such as World of Warcraft, or FPS (first-person shooters) such as the Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Halo series. In terms of the way online play works in Dark Souls III works, it has become multi-faceted and evolved beyond simply killing other players to achieve a goal. It has born communities and sub-cultures that follow doctrines created by the player base; there are several different codes of conduct for each faction and covenant in the games, each dictating a different player style.

Despite their allegiance to a certain covenant, many players feel committed
to the morals of honor, commitment, and fair play as can be seen in the many forum
discussions on the use of kiting, ganking, and backstabbing. In the context of
this brutally difficult and punishing game, players seem to demand from each other
a sense of honesty, clarity, and straightforwardness. Of course, these kinds of
discussions are held over all kinds of online games, and while in Dark Souls plenty
of players still use these techniques, there is a notorious amount of people on
forums who argue that an unfair style of gameplay devaluates a certain ‘code of
honor,’ such as bowing before and after a fight. (Tom van Nuenen, 2016)

The oft-repeated mantra of “get good” has become synonymous with the player base not only for the game but for those wishing to participate in PvP, or for those who become frustrated with being endlessly slaughtered from invasions while they are trying to progress through the storyline. This was a line I heard a lot myself, especially once I started streaming through twitch. Advertising my streams mostly as a noob (inexperienced player) working on a PvP character drew in a lot of viewers who loved to watch people get angry with the game, and quite a few stuck around to watch me squirm everytime an invasion notification appeared on my screen. It was through my streaming that I was invited into a group of players on Discord who organised a lot of PvP tournaments amongst themselves.

If I were to list from the top of my head the types of communities that I began to see in the Dark Souls III PvP base, here is how I would address it:

  • Early game invaders
    • There are two types of these. First are those who, at low levels, seek to get a slight boost early in the game by invading other players as soon as they are able to. These players are generally either quite experienced players preying on the inexperienced, or inexperienced players testing out the invasion mechanics.
    • The other type of early in game invader is commonly referred to as a “Twink”; these are players who progress through the game at a low level and gain access to late or end game items, weapons and loot, in order to come back and mercilessly slaughter those who are just starting a new file.
  • Mid-Game covenant invaders: Player Directed
    • There are four different covenants that encourage invasions throughout the game in order to advance through the rankings and gain loot. Two of these are relied upon by the game’s mechanics in order to add an extra challenge to certain areas of the game, and the other two are player-directed.
    • The two player-directed covenants are the Mound-Maker’s covenant, who take the form of Mad Purple Phantoms; these players are susceptible to damage by the environment and can choose to help the host – or slaughter them for covenant items. Most choose the latter. The other is the Fingers of Rosaria – the game touts this covenant as the one to join if you should simply wish to wreak havoc on players in other worlds and encouraged by NPCs to pillage as much as they’d like. Those in the Fingers covenant are known to employ as many tactics as necessary, completely forgoing all kind of etiquette.
  • Mid-Game covenant invaders: Game Directed
    • The other two covenants in this category are those that the game automatically summons into host worlds of ‘trespassers’ as obstacles to slow down and stop hosts from progressing through certain areas as a defense mechanism for that area’s boss, tied to the lore of the game.
    • The first of these covenants is the Watchdogs of Farron, which is encountered towards early-mid game progress. From game launch this covenant was considered to be ‘broken’ as the mechanics required for summoning an invader in this section of the game seemed rather unreasonable for the length of time a player would spend in that area. It was largely forgotten about.
    • The second of these covenants, and perhaps the most notorious covenant in the game, are those in the Aldritch Faithful. Much of the player base regards these invaders as the scum of the game-world. The area is already overridden with challenging environmental enemies, and the summoning mechanics for this covenant mean that more than one invader can be summoned automatically into a host world. Due to this covenant’s positioning in an essential area of the game, this means a lot of frustrated players.
  • Invasion trappers, or “gankers”
    • These are players who take it upon themselves to turn the tables and frustrate those who would normally cause grief by invading. This is enabled by the game’s mechanics – the more friendly cooperative players there are in a host world, the chances of an invasion are increased. In conjunction with an item that allows more players into that world, which increases the chance of being invaded once again, invaders are quite often dumped into worlds with groups of up to 4 opposing characters. These players would then ‘farm’ the invaders and reap the rewards.


Trying to gank Watchdogs of Farron – this scumbag gets what she deserves.

  • Friendly, cooperative players.
    • Once again there are two types of cooperative players. The first are those who you can choose to summon in through in-game items; this enables cooperative play with friends or strangers who are willing to assist players in getting through tough areas. One covenant that is well-known for helping is the Warriors of Sunlight – popularised by the NPC Knight Solaire in the first Dark Souls game – and now affectionately referred to as the ‘sunbros’. Warriors of sunlight appear with an orange glow around them in the game.
    • In order to give a moment of reprieve for some players, the other two covenants are designed to assist a player in a world that has been invaded. Those belonging to the Way of the Blue covenant may have a player from the Blue Sentinels or Blades of the Darkmoon summoned in to fight invaders. The Blades of the darkmoon are specifically summoned to fight the Aldritch faithful in the Anor Londo area, as lore dictates they are warring factions. These summons are sent home when their duty is fulfilled, either by successfully defeating the invader, or if the host dies. If the latter happens, there are no rewards gained.

 


My own experience with a fight club: devastatingly killed by lag. Warning: Swears of salt.

  • PvP Arena/Fight Club players
    • This is perhaps the most interesting dynamic of player communities to study and in fact can have its very own study as it can be fairly substantial in itself. When I refer to etiquette, rules, and codes of honour, these players are a prime example.
    • A fight club is started in an area where many invasion summon signs are placed down, and a host who has not yet defeated the area boss (which prevents summons) will choose 3-4 players to invade their world, willingly, and fight amongst themselves to test their skills against each other. The item rewards here are quite minimal, and is therefore mostly a way for players to dominate others.
    • Etiquette rules include not healing during the fight, bowing before a match to show respect, and not attacking uninvolved players or the host of the world. If these rules are broken, other players in the world have a tendency to interrupt the match and kill the offending player before the tournaments are resumed.
    • Another recent trend are hosts on streaming sites that invite players into their world to partake in made up games, such as olympics-styled gauntlet runs to compete for a reward.


One such Olympics type setup (warning: very long)

 

 

 

So what did we learn?

I myself tried my hand at a variety of these and found myself personally most drawn to being in the Watchdogs of Farron – it was fun to hunt down the more inexperienced players and kill them, as well has to partake in my very own ‘gank squad’ so as to lure covenant players into my world and kill them over and over again. I guess due to my poor skill in the game, what little power I felt here was quite addictive; I could see why there was a huge draw to those with higher skill who were able to dominate the fight club arenas.

I did participate in the fight club arenas, mostly among my own friends. This however made it all the more rewarding when I was able to get a kill. That thrill was not something I had expected prior to undertaking this project, and made me want to get better at the PvP aspect of the game to further satiate my desire for making someone other than myself wallow in despair. This was something that was intended by Miyazaki – that the challenge of the game would result in elation once an obstacle was surpassed. One cannot ignore that this can be deeply rooted in the Japanese love for perfection in everything they attempt – particularly noted heavily throughout the very popular arcade culture which dates to the very beginning of arcade game’s existence.


I become overwhelmed with joy over getting a very lucky kill on my boyfriend. Warning: swears of happiness

In future I would love to come back to studying more deeply the dynamics of the fight club culture (even if some would say we do not talk about fight club) and study the way the players seem to interact with each other. I thoroughly enjoyed this journey into a world that I was so hesitant about joining – and I have managed to dash my misconceptions of PvP; something that was a complete nuisance to me, that I hated, and have now come to embrace.

 

Textual Resources:

  • van Neunen, Tom, 2016. Playing the Panopticon: Procedural Surveillance in Dark Souls. Games and Culture 2016, Vol. 11, 521.
  • Ellis, C, 2011. Autoethnography: An Overview. Qualitative Social Research, Vol. 12, No. 1
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Whose Bloody Brilliant Idea Was This?

Who thought it was a good idea to let me slowly descend into madness by playing this game?

I love the Dark Souls series for it’s rich lore and RPG gameplay elements, but holy sh*t was I under exaggerating when I said that PvP was a different thing entirely.

So it has been a few weeks and I have been steadily streaming and building an audience on Twitch, allowing them to engage with me as to how I should build my character to be ready for this PvP study. Unfortunately I got a little bit carried away with playing the game itself and engaging with said audience, by including small games and music to the streams, rather than spearheading a discussion about the PvP subcultures. However, I have gotten quite a lot of satisfactory footage that highlights a lot of what I had assumed about the cultures in the past.

twitch
This isn’t even half of it.

Quite a few of my assumptions have been elaborated upon in these past couple of weeks just in the preparation of the actual PvP action, and some expectations have actually been turned upside down entirely.

For one thing, I didn’t imagine I would become successful at streaming at any point, however I now have 140 followers and a steady audience of 10 viewers at most times (my most views at once were 48, which put my 2nd on the list of Dark Souls 3 streamers at the time). I also didn’t anticipate the feelings I would get as I got better at PvPing in the game and began invading other players myself.

I’ll tell you something somewhat sadistic for starters. I find it somewhat satisfying to finally slaughter another player after they have spent the last 5 minutes running away and hiding from me, playing a glorified and violent game of hide and seek meets Friday the 13th.

jason-game-3
Got you.

Reaping the rewards of the kill knowing the largest consequence would be the inevitably frustrated player on the other end possibly rage-quitting their game was unexpectedly enlightening. In fact it even makes me begin to understand the draw to it, and why so many players see fit to rabidly defend using ‘scummy’ or ‘dishonorable’ tactics to get the kill (such as drawing enemies towards the player to distract them and make them vulnerable… which unashamedly, I have done).

Next on my list of things to do is to actively engage with fight-clubs. My PvP character is almost ready, however I need to learn to actually fight against other players properly. As has been stressed to me previously, fight-clubs are a completely different ball-park to traditional hunting PvP that is invading. It is structured, and the players are there to actively pit their skills against yours. Many of these players have been doing nothing but killing each other for hundreds of hours. I never saw the appeal in fighting games and avoided fight-clubs for this reason, so it will be quite a unique experience to me.

The Reddit discussion I began a few weeks ago has taken off and quietened down rather quickly, but not before providing a few amazing gems of insight. I would strongly recommend giving it a gloss over if another perspective on this subject matter interests you. There are some players that go rather in-depth into the cultural changes from Western to Eastern players as well. I cannot wait to collaborate this info with my own findings.

[Edit 29/9/16] I would also like to have a brief look into some other aspects of PvP that have begun popping up since the hype around the game has started dying down – games made up by streamers or youtubers that are played with their audience for fun with elements you normally wouldn’t expect. I will leave one such video below for you all to look at!

An Outline of of my very own Auto-E Study: Dark Souls PvP Subcultures

After studying what auto-ethnography is about, it is finally time to begin undertaking my studies. One will be with a group, and the other I will be doing on my own. There are many different elements to the auto-e experience and I am hoping I get it correct from the very beginning. With that said, it was important to me that I was able to choose a subject matter that was simultaneously familiar to me, yet some concepts of which continued to elude me.

This decision came rather naturally to me one evening while settling down with my partner over skype and grinding out some playthrough on the video game Dark Souls III. I had been ‘farming’ for ‘covenant’ items; items which are usually earned through the player vs player aspect of the game, in order to get a 100% achievement unlock rate for the game. I was expressing my distaste for this boring gameplay to my partner when he simply and bluntly stated, “why don’t you just PvP for it?”.

I scoffed at the thought. Me? PvP? Nonsense! I was absolutely terrible at it. Technically I was terrible at the whole game. The Dark Souls series, the brainchild of Japanese game director Hidetaka Miyazaki, was known for being punishing. I’d enjoyed it as casually as one possibly could for someone who does not seriously hone gaming skills. The offline gameplay was challenging enough. Online, with other players trying to kill you… It was another thing entirely. I expressed my distaste for PvP gameplay. “Because I can’t. I’m sh*t at this game. Everyone is just too good” I complained.

But why were they good and why did I see myself as bad? Beginning to think about how I could quickly gain these covenant items through PvP gameplay without the challenge was really what started me down the path of thinking about the different subcultures within the Dark Souls online community; which is so centered on players killing players.

Interestingly, to me, there are two types of online play; cooperative and competitive; however, there are multiple types of competitive play. Cooperative play is mostly limited to being able to ‘summon’ other players to your own world via in-game summoning signs. A player places these summon signs near challenging or boss areas to be summoned to help others, and gain in-game rewards in the form of ‘souls’; which is the games form of currency. There are two exceptions to this in the form of covenants, which I will elaborate on soon.

hgy0fo8

There are 3 types of competitive play in this game. Competitive play mostly centres around hindering others from making it through certain areas. There are two such covenants that do this, which are made up of in-game groups of players which choose to align to this covenant for the potential rewards – usually high powered spells and items. Both covenants, the Aldrich Faithful and the Watchdogs of Farron, are automatically summoned by the game in their respective areas to prevent the progress of ‘trespassers’ – players who are trying to get through these areas to kill the bosses to progress through the game. It is the job of these automatically summoned ‘invaders’ to dispatch the ‘trespassers’ of these areas for their own rewards. The Aldrich Faithful covenant is a rather unique example in this type of PvP play due to it’s connection to the area it takes place in and it’s rivalry to another covenant, The Blades of the Darkmoon.

In Dark Souls 3, there is an area called Anor Londo which was recently over-taken by a heretical priest-like figure named Aldrich, the Devourer of Gods. The Aldrich Faithful are warring with the Blades of the Darkmoon, as their leader has had her brother (considered an in-game God-like figure) devoured by Aldrich. This leader sends her Knights to protect other players who have had their own worlds invaded by the Aldrich Faithful in the Anor Londo area. Still with me? Here’s why this is important.

Basically, a player tries to move through the Anor Londo area to defeat Aldrich and progress with the game’s storyline. However, to stop them from ever making it to him, Aldrich sends his ‘faithful’ to invade their world and kill them before they ever reach him. If an Aldrich Faithful has invaded a player’s world, then another player belonging to the Blades of the Darkmoon may then be sent into that same world to ensure the success of the player. It all sounds complicated, but here’s where it gets interesting.

Among the player base, the Aldrich Faithful are considered ‘scummy’ players and the Blades of the Darkmoon are considered the more noble covenant to align yourself with. When looking over forum sites like Reddit, the criticism of those who choose to align with Aldrich is rather clear. Those who align with the covenant simply state it’s a part of the game and that those who dislike their choices should simply get better at the game.

aldrich
The word choice is perhaps a little less eloquent than I have described.

 

The other ways to engage in competitive play involve using an in-game item, red-eye orbs, to invade other players worlds in any areas where the boss has not been defeated. The players that choose to invade this way do it for one of two reasons; either they have aligned themselves with a covenant and are collecting the covenant items gained when they kill they host player, or, quite simply, they just want to kill someone for the fun of it.

And then there is the ever-interesting ‘fight club’ scene in Dark Souls. In the same way that you can place a summon sign to allow cooperative play, you can also place a summon sign that allows you to damage other players in the game; the host, or other invaders. One would think that it is crazy to simply allow an invader (red phantom) loose in their world to kill them, however you can gain souls as a reward for defeating these players. This is where the interest lies – in some locations of the game you can actually summon multiple of these red phantoms and they are able to kill each other.

And so the culture of fight-clubs was born. As the Anor Londo area has a small arena-like setting, it is a prime location where players put their summon signs down to be summoned into a host world to pit their skills with each other and continuously fight until there is a victor.

ympv9uc
The red signs are regular phantoms, the purple signs are ‘mad’ phantoms which are able to attack in-game enemies as well as players, and the orange signs are red phantoms that belong to the in-game covenant the Warriors of Sunlight (affectionately known to many as the sun-bros).

These fight-clubs have their own cultures and their own sets of rules and the rabbit hole goes rather deep. Exactly how deep is something I would like to investigate, but it also requires for me to get good at PvP.

 

So, here we are.

The point of my auto-e studies is to ‘git gud’ at the PvP aspect of the game in order to investigate for myself how these subcultures work and how they are structured internally.

My previous experiences with PvP have been mostly me hiding behind my partner in cooperative play and allowing him to deal with the problem. When he was not around, I died. Alot.

In order to record my own experiences, I will be using the streaming platform Twitch in order to engage with an audience and perhaps even spearhead discussions on the subject matter. I will also throw in a few Reddit threads in the Dark Souls III for discussing my own observations with others and even livetweet some of my experiences along the way to see how my followers react. I will also take advantage of pseudo-skype/teamspeak platform Discord, which allows both voice and text chat to speak about the topics with anyone who chooses to engage with the subject matter through my streams.

I will be playing the game on both Xbox One and PC to see if there is at all a difference between the way console players and PC players conduct themselves as well. Additionally, I will trawl through youtube video comments on other PvP videos to see if there is any insight onto the subject matter outside of the usual troll comments. Wish me luck.

In the end I hope to collaborate my observations into one video. I believe it may be hard to keep these videos to the required time (10 minutes!) but I hope to get a clear and concise understanding of the way PvPers in Dark Souls create their own virtual cultures.

Until then, feel free to watch this video that highlights some of the PvE and PvP shenanigans that are encountered in Dark Souls 3’s predecessor.

TBT: When Tokyo was destroyed.

Having had the chance to really look into the Ellis reading a second time around, I’ve decided to re-analyze my initial blog post on the Godzilla (1954) text. It was quite a lengthy and in-depth post, so for the interests of keeping it somewhat shorter, I will only address a few of the topics I brought up in the post. First, a closer look at how I will be making this analysis, with a better look at the way autoethnography is done, and by going through the methods and definitions as outlined in the reading..

The reading states:

As a method, autoethnography combines characteristics of autobiography and ethnography. When writing an autobiography, an author retroactively and selectively writes about past experiences. Usually, the author does not live through these experiences solely to make them part of a published document; rather, these experiences are assembled using hindsight (BRUNER, 1993; DENZIN, 1989, Freeman, 2004).

My initial assumption of writing an auto-e was that I would just present information how I subjectively interpreted it, while relating to my own experiences. I do believe I did that, to a degree, however the nature of those expressions were so anecdotal at times it ran the risk of not being related at all.

Most often, autobiographers write about “epiphanies”—remembered moments perceived to have significantly impacted the trajectory of a person’s life (BOCHNER & ELLIS, 1992; COUSER, 1997; DENZIN, 1989), times of existential crises that forced a person to attend to and analyze lived experience (ZANER, 2004), and events after which life does not seem quite the same.

I feel like I wrote of one ‘epiphany’ when I spoke of my experiences with the 1998 film, however I really didn’t touch much on my own ‘epiphanies’ while viewing the text itself, so I will touch on these further on.

When researchers do ethnography, they study a culture’s relational practices, common values and beliefs, and shared experiences for the purpose of helping insiders (cultural members) and outsiders (cultural strangers) better understand the culture (MASO, 2001). Ethnographers do this by becoming participant observers in the culture—that is, by takingfield notes of cultural happenings as well as their part in and others’ engagement with these happenings (GEERTZ, 1973; GOODALL, 2001).

Here is where I felt my blog was most lacking. My lack of cultural understanding surrounding the film was something I did intend on looking more deeply into, however I still have not done so.

An autobiography should be aesthetic and evocative, engage readers, and use conventions of storytelling such as character, scene, and plot development (ELLIS & ELLINGSON, 2000), and/or chronological or fragmented story progression (DIDION, 2005; FRANK, 1995). An autobiography must also illustrate new perspectives on personal experience—on epiphanies—by finding and filling a “gap” in existing, related storylines (COUSER, 1997; GOODALL, 2001).

I felt that I was able to achieve more of the above quote in my second blog post, which I wrote after I had a chance to briefly gloss over the reason. It is something I will aim to apply below.

When researchers write ethnographies, they produce a “thick description” of a culture (GEERTZ, 1973, p.10; GOODALL, 2001). The purpose of this description is to help facilitate understanding of a culture for insiders and outsiders, and is created by (inductively) discerning patterns of cultural experience—repeated feelings, stories, and happenings—as evidenced by field notes, interviews, and/or artifacts (JORGENSON, 2002).

Here’s where it gets a bit hard for me. To be able to provide this description I feel like I would need to take a deeper look into the culture surrounding the text – in this case, Godzilla – to be able to do this correctly. I do believe I failed that part last time.

With all this in mind, I will briefly re-touch on the text.

So, as stated in the initial blog post, prior to watching this film, my only experience with the Godzilla franchise was the 1998 film. So going into it, I was expecting a little more mindless action, a little more violence, a bit more of Godzilla just killing people. However that didn’t actually happen as I thought it would. Rather, he seemed more focussed on just destroying things that happened to bother him than going out of his way to hunt down humans explicitly.

So imagine my surprise, or my ‘epiphany’ moment, when this was not the case. When the story was a little bit more developed than just those same old Hollywood tropes. How the ending was still bittersweet; there was in immense loss felt throughout the characters after Daisuke sacrifices himself to kill Godzilla with the oxygen destroyer, ensuring that he could die with a clear conscience and his invention would not fall into destructive hands.

After having a brief look over other blog posts on Godzilla from classmates, it seems a few others had trouble digesting the film. Whether this be because the film quality wasn’t so great, or they were used to Hollywood effects like I was, or the film was simply just too hard to follow because they were bored. I suppose all of these need a certain patience to them to be able to get the most out of the experience.

The film was grainy due to the obvious fact that it’s 62 years old, and the effects may seem dated for that same reason. Even if the film was given an HD remake, there would still be a lot of detail lost. The effects, while practical, were telling at some points. But the scale of the miniatures used was impressive; and the fact that they were able to trick the camera using perspective tricks to make Godzilla appear huge compared to the people on the same screen was downright impressive.

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This article seems to shed some insight onto the cult following of the film; the deeply political and environmental messages behind the film, and really gets into the nitty gritty of the scientific significance. I will save myself from regurgitating the contents; however reading it over will be beneficial if one has trouble discerning why the film was so significant.

In future analyses I will keep in mind the methodological approach to autoethnography from the beginning.

State of I need Some Damn Sleep

It’s 6:51 am as I start this blog.

I am surrounded by empty cans of (free) red bull, dim lighting provided by over a hundred PC monitors; the sound of  muffled dubstep ringing through headphones, and incessant clicking and clacking of mechanical keyboards that are fading each minute as gamers give in to the fatigue of heavy competition play throughout the night.

This is Gamefest.

I have been up for the last 24 hours, without sleep, to take part in the University of Wollongong Video Games Association’s LAN convention, held in the uni itself. I personally did not partake in much gaming myself – I did come 3rd in the hastily arranged guitar hero competition at around 10pm last night – I was here to capture the event through the eyes of my lens. I bailed on actively taking photos at around 2am when all the cosplayers had left and the only action to be had was from intense competition play, which I opted to steer clear of to avoid blinding some very tired and very serious players with my camera flash.

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CS:GO Got quite heated, despite some technical issues early on.

So when the action died down, I trundled over to my computer and began to live edit the images that I’d taken over the night. 4 hours later, they are mostly done, and I feel like I’m going to pass out any moment like a few attendees scattered around me have already done. And then I get approached to start taking photos of the teams who have won the League of Legends and the DotA2 competitions. Which prompted me to remember the documentary we had watched earlier in the week: State of Play (2013). Seeing as I’d finally had a chance to have a look at the Ellis reading it would be a perfect opportunity to use what I’ve picked up from the article and write about this documentary.

If someone who’d never gamed in their life took a step into this room right now and looked at the spectacle before them, I doubt they’d understand. I’d imagine they’d shake their head, even turn up their noses in disgust (some of these people were notorious for forgetting that deodorant exists) and just think, these people are bloody crazy to dedicate so much time and energy to some videogames. Which is a thought that I almost echoed within my own mind after seeing State of Play. If you think Gamefest is insane, take a look at these guys!

The documentary follows a few hardcore competitive Starcraft gamers from South Korea; each at their own different level in terms of skill and fame. To me, the concept of this was so foreign, despite the fact I’d been a gamer (non-competitive) since before I was even able to hold a controller. Gaming was considered a full-time job to these guys. The professional teams had their own mini-buses. They were styled from head-to-toe; what they wore, their hair, even makeup for a few before getting on stage in front of thousands of people. The stages and arenas were fully curated from lights to special effects, screaming crowds, and cameras to broadcast the games to millions of viewers throughout the country. They were celebrities. They had fangirls screaming at the top of their lungs for the top players like the women would scream at the Beatles as they emerged onto the tarmac from their private jet.

It’s crazy.

To us.

But why did I find this so utterly outlandish?

Being a 90s kid, I was born amongst that first true disconnect of generations. We were growing up with rapidly changing technology that our parents would struggle to keep up with. Whenever I would play the playstation a little more than my allowable time, my parents would scold me for playing ‘too much of that Nintendo’. There was one scene in particular that resonated with my own experience; one of the more well-known players travels to his ancestral home and joins his parents and elders for a meal. They grill him about his choice of career; unbeknownst to them, he is practically a celebrity in what he does, and they struggle to understand the culture surrounding it; seemingly oblivious to the fact that he leaves in a Team house, surrounded by other players, who practice their sport from the moment they wake up, until they go to bed. They are sponsored for thousands of dollars. There have been instances of betting rings that have absolutely torn the sport apart, just like any other major league sport; it’s even more hardcore in South Korea than Football seems to be in the US.

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I’m seriously not exaggerating.

When I think about that generational disconnect, I want to think about how long it would take to overcome. In South Korea, it seems mostly restricted to the more rural communities. But in Western societies, our gaming culture is no where near that huge. I know in the US they attempted to create a hype-train around the WCG Ultimate Gamer Championships… and THAT was cringy. From time to time, Western players will tune into streams of championships that are happening overseas – but the majority of these massive tournaments seem to happen in Asian countries for games like League of Legends or DotA. The Western FPS culture doesn’t seem to be strong enough just yet to gain that kind of momentum.

It will be interesting to see if this disconnect closes within the next few decades, as the aging population shifts into those who grew up surrounded by videogame culture. We are at a point now where we have parents with children who each have their own consoles; where young families are using Xboxes as a family-time tool instead of gathering around the TV and watching Australian Idol and calling that ‘quality time’. There are ‘gamer-mums’ out there, knowing which games can and can’t be paused almost instinctively, where as it took about a year of pleading and an account ban for my mother to realise that when my younger brother starts a League of Legends game, there are penalties for leaving your keyboard.

Perhaps it is something that I may choose to follow over these years. If I ever have my own family, it will be interesting to see the family dynamics behind videogaming. I’m not sure what I’ll say to my child should they come home one day and tell me that they are considering a career in videogaming; much like some of the parents in State of Play – will I ask my child to perhaps consider high-school over a career in gaming?

Oooooh no, there goes Tokyo!

Go, go, Godzilla!


One of my more recent ‘dealings’ with Godzilla just happened to be with this song on Guitar Hero. Those solos were hard!

 

I have probably had this song stuck in my head since yesterday’s viewing of the original Japanese 1954 classic film, Godzilla (or Gojira, as some have come to know it by).

Unfortunately I have yet to enjoy the absolute pleasure that will be reading through Autoethnography: An Overview – so this preliminary review will be based on a few observations and questions I had through the initial viewing of yesterday’s text.

Prior to this viewing, the only experience I’d had with Godzilla was 18 years ago. I was (probably) an adorable 7 year old, who at the time absolutely loved anything to do with science and nature. I’d seen the trailers for the movie on TV and begged my dad to take me. Needless to say, I came out of the theatre absolutely terrified. To this day I still have nightmares where I feel like I am being hunted by the 1998 Godzilla. Looking back over the scene highlights, the movie was terrible. But for a 7 year old, the feeling of not being able to run away from something so large that just wanted to kill you was pretty damn scary.

One of the trailers which had delivered great expectations to a nerdier mini-me.

The 1954 Godzilla/Gojira was quite different to the Hollywood reboot. I feel like we need to put a ban on Hollywood rebooting cult classic films. I’m looking at you, King Kong – whatever happened to if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? Profits are why we can’t have nice things. I feel the only correct course of action to cleanse myself now would be to go through this list and watch every single original film in order to purge the filth my eyes have been contaminated with. I’m glad to have started with Godzilla in particular, I feel the burden lifting as I think about it. By this point in the blog entry I feel like my anecdote quota has been surpassed; so let’s talk about my experience with the real deal.

If for a moment we forget the politically charged motivations behind the film, I would have to say that for it’s time, the film is still pretty damn cool – and by that I mean I enjoyed watching it. As a student who has heavily studied the processes behind making films, it was somewhat of a delight to think about the technical effects of the film. While the practical effects were quite telling for a modern viewer, it doesn’t make the methods used any less ingenious.

As an animation enthusiast, I have a soft spot for mind-blowing CGI visuals; however, they are only as good as the most powerful computer at the time can produce. So for early CGI adopters, 20 years into the future, the effects look dated and even cringe-worthy. I did not find this was the case with the 1954 film as the effects were practical. They were used only when needed, which was a refreshing and welcome change from being bombarded with mindless action.

For instance, the miniature landscapes which had great attention to detail in order to make them seem passable as full-sized landscapes. On the contrary to that, however – the model of Godzilla himself, I felt, left a little to be desired. In a black and white film it was a little hard to distinguish a clear image of him; however that may simply be due to my predisposition to the fancy CGI renderings of the monsterous giant. Call me silly all you like, I still feel like it can be hard to take Gojira seriously with such an adorably creepy goofball grin.

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D’awww. It’s so cute when it’s causing mayhem.

Now to jump straight back into the message of the film (because elaborate segueways are for people who are good at journalistic writing).

Holy politics, Batman!

Yes, there was quite a strong political undertone to this film. It was released 9 years after the US had dropped the Atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and they are not shy about incorporating messages about the fallout and environmental impact into their media; books, TV shows, radio, manga and films such as Godzilla made sure the messages were being heard loud and clear.

The basic gist is as follows. There have been Hydrogen bomb tests off the coast of Japan which have disturbed a now irradiated ancient giant sea monster, hell bent on destruction after being woken up from his very long nap. A major theme of this film is the residual effect of the radiation from the H-bomb tests, as well as scientific advancement, responsibilities, and dilemmas (for example – whether or not to play God).

So Godzilla, this radioactive ancient sea monster, is not a morning person. He wakes up and wreaks havoc first upon the (fictional) tiny fishing island of Edo, and unable to get back to sleep, decides to get revenge upon Tokyo. Scenes of terror and mass destruction take place, many people die. There is a definite parallel to be drawn between these scenes, and those of the destruction that the atomic bombs brought about in 1945. Where the Americans seem to glorify this kind of violence and trivialise the issue (Man of Steel, anyone?), the Japanese highlight the seriousness of them as a direct effect of being the victims of it in the past.


Related: What Godzilla would look like if he were a whale. Music appropriately by band Gojira.

Meanwhile, the protagonists just happen the be conveniently linked enough to all be involved in the plot. Emiko, the main female, is the daughter of a respected paleontologist (Dr. Kyohei Yamahei) who is involved in the emergency meetings about how they are to deal with the Godzilla threat. She also happens to be involved in a love-triangle of sorts with her partner, Hideto, who is a captain for the Nankai Sea Company, who were the first to be affected as the monster sank their ships. And then there is Daisuke; a secretive scientist who has eyes for Emiko, but has essentially been brother-zoned. This is all very convenient, but it does make the plot rather easy to follow. In my opinion, the story here is way better than the senseless Hollywood action that was the remake (shudder).

There were 2 things that piqued my curiosity about formality in Japan itself. First of all, I had noticed that the map was sideways, which I thought was interesting. I couldn’t really find any reason as to why that was, but I would hypothesize that it would be efficiency based; by flipping the map on it’s side, you could fit it on the wall at effectively double the size. I am unsure if this is something they actually did or whether it was just for the film. It would be interesting to find out, purely as an anecdote if nothing else. Secondly, I was taken aback by how formal everyone was. I know that the Japanese are very formal regardless, but I found myself somewhat taken aback with how formal the scientific briefings were. I know that if a scientist had started spouting facts to a committee that were unwilling to believe them in let’s say, Australian parliament, they would not be receiving a polite and uniformed applause at the end of their presentation – much less the actual civilised discussion to follow. I digress.

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I’m not lying, promise.

The film ends with Daisuke sacrificing himself to ensure his reclusively developed Oxygen Destroyer (essentially a WMD) plans are never revealed to fall into the wrong hands, as he believes that he has played God enough and would rather not have it trouble anybody else; but not before giving Emiko what is essentially a T-800 thumbs up and letting her know that he approves of her (poorly kept secret of a) relationship with Hideto.


Daisuke sacrifices himself while a devastated Emiko and Hideto look on.

While this goes on, Dr. Kyohei Yamahei watches on, crying internally for the lost opportunity that was to study Godzilla. You know, for science.

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All he wanted was the study opportunity of a lifetime, and you had to go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like “Godzilla must die”.

This is just a tribute.

(Try to imagine this inaugural blog post with the tune of a gentle guitar campfire ditty in the background.)

This is a short tale about the introduction of this semester’s shower-thoughts… in blog-form.

I am notoriously terrible at writing blog posts;  well perhaps not so much notoriously (yet), but I do have trouble striking a balance of objectivity and subjectivity. Some of the blog posts to follow may be good, some may be terrible and lacking any kind of substance. Some may be ramblings of incoherent thoughts I may have had throughout the day clumsily lumped together as the words leave my fingertips.

HOWEVER!

This may yet work out in my favour, at least for this semester. For this shall be a journey of autoethnography; which as I understand it, makes it a good thing that if nothing else, my ramblings will be subjective. The perspective my own. Not having to trawl through heavy academic texts that study the early manifestos of a now irrelevant and defunct artistic movement of a century ago.

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An image taken 3 years ago, purely because it was a pretty setting; with barely an indication of the context of it’s surroundings. ” A E S T H E T I C S “

Now, I have very limited knowledge on Asian culture. That isn’t to say that what little I am exposed to I do not appreciate. I once tried origami in primary school for a good hour and have since forgotten the elaborate instructions. I have been to the friendship gardens in Sydney and taken some rather aesthetic pictures. I did very well in year 7 Japanese language studies, getting a perfect score in memorising the numbers and hiragana alphabet. Indulging in llaksa and watching Fairy Tail at the same time was probably my most ‘authentic’ experience of Asian culture despite the fact that it was a conglomeration of two very different cultures in the most inappropriate setting (bed).

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In my defense, this was over 2 years ago. That makes it excusable, right? ‘Straya.

However, despite all that, I feel I have a slight unique advantage given to me. My lack of exposure to all of Asia’s subcultures means that I go into this auto-ethnographic study with a blank canvas (rather, an empty head). My experiences over the semester will replace my pre-written and rather misguided knowledge on such subjects and will give me an opportunity to take a deeper look into specific aspects of Asia in a digital context that were previously dictated in my mind by stereotypical points of view that I have picked up over my somewhat uncultured 25 years of life.

If you have managed to get to this point on my blog, you will have realised by now that I wasn’t lying when I said that I tend to ramble on. There’s nothing more to see here. It can, unfortunately, be a bit of a challenge to write a blog post about digital cybercultures in Asia when you have Tenacious D playing on repeat in your mind.

This is not the greatest blog post introduction in the world. This is just a tribute.