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Tactical Gaming: The Book

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  • Tactical Gaming: The Book

    After ten years with the TG community I have finally embarked on putting into words my study of TG and military multiplayer gaming. The book's working title is:

    Tactical Gaming:
    Virtual Warfare in the Context of Empire and Capitalism

    Unlike most ethnographic studies of virtual environments I intend to make the draft of the text fully available online as I write it. To get things rolling I have included the draft introductory text at the end of this post

    I expect that this process of transparency and immediacy will itself have a significant impact on the study itself.

    I'll announce updates to the text in this thread.

    Some of my related writing leading up to this project:

    Virtual Video Ethnography: Towards a New Field of Internet Cultural Studies

    Squad and Platoon Management in Virtual Environments

    Thank you in advance for any feedback,

    Dr. Strangelove
    University of Ottawa
    aka E-Male


    Perhaps more than anything else the dawn of the 21st century has been defined by the rise of virtual environments – social spaces mediated by digital networked consumer technologies. We shop online, socialize via smartphones, protest by clicking, train and learn through virtual classrooms, and even exchange nude photographs of ourselves, engage in mutual masturbation while sitting in front of Internet-connected screens, and have virtual marriages and adulterous online affairs. The Internet-connected landscape of everyday life is consuming a significant and growing percentage of our attention. The following is an exploration of one small slice of this emerging virtual world – multiplayer military gaming – herein referred to as virtual warfare. The analysis of virtual warfare provides insight into a wide variety of aspects of the virtualization of leisure, work, education, community, identity, gender, misogyny, homophobia, and of course warfare itself. Tactical gaming also raises questions about the relationship between online gaming, gun culture, the computer game industry and the ubiquitous contexts of capitalism, the American empire, and permanent warfare. This wide spectrum of issues and contexts provide lines of inquiry that will be perused herein.

    For more than ten years I have been participating in and closely observing a community of military online gamers – (TG). Over this time I gradually developed the idea of writing an account of the TG community and an academic analysis of online gaming. Tactical Gaming is a unique experiment in creating a text that is a combination of scholarly analysis, amateur ethnography, and collective writing that captures the voice of myself as Dr. Strangelove, my avatar (in-game character), E-Male, and various members of the TG community that provided extensive input into this text.

    Tactical Gaming itself is the product of an experiment in Internet-based writing. As an experiment in writing anthropology, this manuscript will be drafted in full view of the object of its study – the TG community – in what is known as the collaborative ethnography, an approach that

    “deliberately and explicitly emphasizes collaboration at every point in the ethnographic process, without veiling it — from project conceptualization, to fieldwork, and, especially, through the writing process. Collaborative ethnography invites commentary from our consultants and seeks to make that commentary overtly part of the ethnographic text as it develops. In turn, this negotiation is reintegrated back into the fieldwork process itself.”
    Tactical Gaming is also an experimental text as it combines my position as a media scholar and an amateur ethnography. This study pursues a research agenda that has one foot inside the domain of scholarly research and the other pursuing what I call an anti-method methodology, one that will violate many of the norms of ethnography detailed in texts such as Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method (2012), a matter to which I will return in detail later on in this text.

    At present this is a work-in-progress. With every minor change the draft of this text will be uploaded to the Internet and made available to the TG community so as to enable a significant degree of feedback, collaborative theorizing on the subjects and community members addressed herein, and create an ongoing meta-dialogue about the process of constructing this analysis itself. When the text has attained the state of a first draft I will approach my editor at the University of Toronto Press and see if there is interest in publishing (usually I write under contract with UTP. Here I have departed from this contractual relation so as to free this project from the constraints of deadlines and so as to create a more experimental writing process.) The final product will exist in two forms, this online text (possibly dynamic and subject to continual revision over the years to come) and a peer-reviewed, published manuscript which will undergo trimming down and the usual editing process that characterizes academic works.

    Out of this process I hope to arrive at a negotiated understanding of the culture of TG, the qualities of its members and community, and the implications of virtual warfare. What I am proposing to the TG members who read this draft text and participate in the project has been described by ethnographers as co-theorization – the coproduction of theory and knowledge between the researcher and community members. My own position in this process is similar to what is known as “citizen-researchers.” I am part of the social reality that I am studying and I have a deep sense of membership in the community that I am studying. To a modest degree, I have even participated in constructing, publicizing, enriching, financially supporting, and policing the TG community. The virtual community that I analyze in the following chapters is a place I can call home – my community. Perhaps this would lead anthropologists to label what follows as a form of indigenous autoethnography.

    Writing ethnography of a virtual community can change the relationship of the ethnographer with the community. This was the experience of Celia Pearce in her study of the Uru online community. I will return to this matter in the following pages. In the meantime it is necessary to address the TG community directly and reassure them that Tactical Gaming is not a tell-all book (not that I have any deep community secrets to reveal). In rare instances where I will be discussing negative encounters with members of the TG community the TGer's identity will be soundly concealed from readers. I am known among the TG community as one of the more proliferate creators of in-game video recordings of our play together and in the hundreds of such videos that I have made not once do I use them as an opportunity to embarrass an individual. Similar care will be taken herein to respect the privacy and integrity of TGers. If there is any bias in my analysis (and there certainly is bias in all ethnography and academic work) it is the bias of love. TG is a community I have devoted thousands of hours to, contains members I have come to regard as friends and evokes strong emotional responses from myself. My bias herein is the bias of love.

    The following study takes its place alongside a growing body of scholarly literature on Internet-based gaming. Most of these studies involve rather brief encounters with virtual gaming communities, such as Celia Pearce’s ethnography of the Uru community during a 18 month period. In comparison, the following study arises out of deep-time, over 120 months with the TG community and more than 5,000 hours of in-game time. Some of my earliest written records of activity with the TG community dating from 2006 are captured herein. Between 2006 to 2015 I wrote over 4,000 e-mail messages within TG discussion forums and between 2011 and 2014 created more than 325 in-game videos along with a few dozen videos dating back to 2007. This provides a rich multimedia record of my participation in the TG community and a solid foundation for an autoethnographic exploration of virtual warfare.
    Last edited by E-Male; 02-14-2015, 08:54 PM.

  • #2
    Re: Tactical Gaming: The Book

    Great stuff, and good luck... Feel free to use my article from 10 years ago as a guide of ideas, mainly screens, maybe videos if a eBook.

    Using Real World Tactics | SimHQ

    The first article I ever wrote, that started a 10 year job at SimHQ. ;)
    Magnum |TG-18th|

    We stand between chaos and order, evil and good, despair and hope - we are the Thin Blue Line, and we will never be broken.


    • #3
      Re: Tactical Gaming: The Book

      This looks fascinating E-Male, looking forward to watching it evolve and develop. I also appreciate that you have gone to some lengths to reassure the community as to how they will be represented, that will work well for all parties I think. Best of luck with your work!


      • #4
        Re: Tactical Gaming: The Book

        Good luck and I look forward to having my TG brain picked, feel free to ama.


        • #5
          Re: Tactical Gaming: The Book

          I had stopped playing BF4 multiplayer because I just didn't enjoy it. I finally opened it back up and found TG. I played it for a little bit and ended up in a squad with you as SL. I was hooked. I really enjoy the game now and play almost every night (and many mornings I wake up asking why I was on so late only to do the same thing over and over). I liked how you handled the squad and it opened up what BF4 (more specifically the TG server) could offer.

          I'm fairly quiet in chat (save the occasional "he's under the tower" shouts) but I'm doing a lot of listening and watching how good SL handle things. I've found it very interesting and I;m looking forward to reading what you put together here!


          • #6
            Re: Tactical Gaming: The Book

            E-Male, I will always remember the early days in DayZ when the 1st was setting up the base up in the hills near the southern island.

            Interested in listening to guitar playing and a good conversation, look for me on TS.

            "Hope is for the weak. I hope for nothing. I work for things. That is the only way for events to unfold." -Cleverbot




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