Mini-Ethnography on Gamer Culture

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"Man, Fragged by the LPB Sniper again!!!" That may sound like nonsense to the average person but to the seasoned Counterstrike veteran it speaks volumes. Today, millions of people of all ages are coming together on the Internet to compete against each other in a variety of online games. The most popular of which is an online modification of the game Half-life entitled Counterstrike.

Counterstrike itself is comprised of players broken up in to two teams, terrorists and counter terrorists, who then compete against each other to achieve a range of goals in a variety of levels. People from anyplace in the world can log in to one of the hundreds of Counterstrike servers running on the Internet and team up with and play against anybody anywhere. To play the game players manipulate their characters movements inside the simulated scenario they see on their monitor. They do so by using the keyboard and mouse in tandem to move around the level, find opposing players and then "frag" or kill them with whatever weapon they currently have, there by eliminating them for the remainder of the round. However, in most cases the teams' goals are more complex than just eliminating the other team. For instance, in one level one player assumes the role of the V.I.P. and his counter terrorist teammates try to escort him to a helicopter on the other side of the level. The terrorist teams objective is to find and assassinate the V.I.P. before he is able to escape. This and other missions like it create an exciting and adrenaline filled environment that are part of the reason gamers just can not quit.

For the most part people team up with and compete against people they haven't met and probably never will meet in a face-to-face manner. This yields some very interesting results. I was able to observe two peers of mine playing Counterstrike online in the same room on their separate computers on several occasions for extended periods. Also, I installed Counterstrike on my computer here in my dorm room and played online myself a number of times. The first thing that I noted and the first I am going to talk about is the player's ability to create and maintain their own online identity.

Every player in an online game of Counterstrike or any other game for that matter has his or her own handle or call sign. They are nicknames that the players come up with themselves and adopt as names while in the games. Player's names tend to be either intimidating or humorous in their nature. They could be likened to the call signs that fighter pilots in the armed services employ. After playing for a while players being to recognize others in the servers that they have played with previously by their handles and often choose to chat outside of the game environment where they can only communicate by short text messages. They refrain from actual discussions inside the game because it is viewed a rude thing to do in front of all the people in the server. The main program they use for chatting is ICQ, which is currently the most downloaded file in history. An interesting fact is that when players communicate outside of the game environment using instant messengers such as ICQ they usually continue to call each other by their handles. Nobody even thinks to ask for real names. They usually just chat about the latest game, computers and computing or life in general.

Many gamers forge many online friendships with people they meet playing games that often they value more than their "real" friendships. This social aspect is main reason gamers enjoy playing, you can meet people from all over the world that you have things in common with and not have to deal with any physical barriers like appearance that you may feel causes people to prejudge you. The gamer is able to have complete control over what others think of their online identity, that power is comforting to many who feel that in real life they are outsiders or castaways. ...
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