Update (22.03.2023): The Open Peer Review for this submission has been completed. Based on the Open Peer Review, the article has been approved for publication in the Journal for Media Linguistics and is available at: https://doi.org/10.21248/jfml.2021.35.
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This submission is a contribution to the special issue “Co-constructing presence between players and non-players in videogame interactions”.
Co-Constructing Tele-Presence by Embodying Avatars: Evidence from Let’s Play Videos
by Axel Schmidt & Konstanze Marx
Our data comes from so-called Let’s Plays which are supposed to present and comment computer gaming on the internet and which are one of the most successful YouTube-genres. Let’s Plays can be done in a single player mode (one person is playing and commenting) or in a multiplayer mode (several people are playing and commenting together).
Video games are attractive because they are highly immersive and interactive (Freyermuth 2015). Exactly these characteristics get lost as soon as Let’s Plays are produced as videos. Recipients do not have the chance to intervene into the game anymore. They can only watch others while playing a game. Thus, the reception situation is comparable to watching a show on TV (Ackermann 2016). We assume that the accompanying moderation of Let’s Plays is crucial to make a computer game ‘watchable’ (Schmidt/Marx 2020). That is, Let’s Players are constantly engaged in embodying their avatars by formulating and explaining their actions in the game and by producing so called response cries (Goffman 1981) in reaction to game events. By that, they make their experiences during the game more transparent for spectators. Thereby they construct a specific kind of (tele-)presence.
Following an ethnomethodological conversation analytical approach, our paper will focus on practices of making computer games ‘watchable’. One possibility to do that is to exploit the computer game specific participation framework composed of at least players and avatars which are connected with one another in several ways (Baldauf- Quilliatre/Colón de Carvajal 2015; Mondada 2012; Keating/Sunakawa 2010). The presentation mode of Let’s Plays usually consists of game activities on a large screen and the simultaneous mimic activities of the players on a small screen (transmitted by a facecam). Obviously, the embodied activities of the players are used to enhance the pleasure of merely watching the game. We are interested in how players use their voices and the facecam to either interact with avatars resp. non-play characters (mainly in the single player mode) or to animate avatars (frequently in the multiplayer mode). Both practices are readable as attempts to ‘embody’ avatars in order to ‘bring them to life’ and to make (watching) the game more lively.
Ackermann, Judith (2016) (Ed.): Phänomen Let’s play-Video: Entstehung, Ästhetik, Aneignung und Faszination aufgezeichneten Computerhandelns. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.
Baldauf-Quilliatre, Heike/Colón de Carvajal, Isabel (2015). Is the avatar considered as a participant by the players? A conversational analysis of multi-player videogames interactions. In: PsychNology Journal, 13, 2-3, 127-147.
Freyermuth, Gundolf S. (2015): Games, game design, game studies: eine Einführung. Bielefeld: transcript.
Goffman, Erving (1981): Response Cries. In Goffman, Erving (Ed.): Forms of Talk. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 78-122.
Mondada, Lorenza (2012): Coordinating action and talk-in-interaction in and out of video games. In Ayaß, Ruth/Gerhardt, Cornelia (Ed.): The appropriation of media in everyday life. Philadelphia: Benjamins, 231-270.
Keating, Elizabeth/Sunakawa, Chiho (2010): Participation cues: Coordinating activity and collaboration in complex online gaming worlds. In: Language in Society, 39, S. 331-356.
Schmidt, Axel/Marx, Konstanze (2020): Making Let’s Plays watchable: An interactional approach to multimodality. In Crispin Thurlow/Christa Dürscheid/Diémoz, Federica (Eds.): Visualizing (in) the New Media. London: John Benjamins, 131-150.