BEYOND THE GAMEPSPACE

Various Goon-related swag, which include stickers, t-shirts, and engraved lighters,demonstrating the group's impulse to extend identity beyond EVE Online and into real life. One player's ironic graphical mashup of memes: the GoonSwarm Bee iconography with the My Little Pony "Bronies" phenomenon.

Post from the Sleeper Hit gaming blog, "Vs.: Why do we Meta-Game?" that outlines a brief history of and rationale for extending play beyond the confines of gamespaces.

Creating a cohesive sense of community among MMO players often involves reaching outside of the game proper and into other virtual (and in some cases, actual) spaces. As described in the book Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media,

Particularly when it comes to massively multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs), the intensive engagement associated with geeking out as a genre of participation extends beyond participation within the boundaries of the game world and to the para-texts that support and extend the game. Paratexts take many forms, varying from gaming magazines and official guides published by game manufacturers, to player-generated guides and tutorials, to materials more recognizable as fan texts such as fan fiction and fan art. (69)

In this regard, GoonSwarm is no exception: the community has an active forum site, a regularly updated wiki that catalogs the alliance's history and offers advice for n00bs, a large collection of digital video, graphic, and audio artists creating fan art of various sorts, T-shirts featuring the group's logo or cartoon bee icons, real-life meetups, conferences, and other similar outlets for GoonSwarm expression. These activities lend fairly dramatic support to Deanna McGaughey-Summers and Russel Summers' assertion that gaming is associated within "a larger constellation of literacy practices" (124). Collectively, these "paratexts" create a media ecology far larger than the EVE Online gamespace within which alliance members can forge a common identity.

This extension of the gamespace doesn't exist simply to extend the feel-good, fraternal, towel-snapping camaraderie among its members, however. Certainly, such spaces have the effect of reinforcing identification among members, allowing them to crack jokes, share art, and engage in other communication practices that shape the group's rather raucous mindset. But more than that, such spaces serve a practical purpose directly pertaining to gameplay itself: strategizing, spreading propaganda in order to shape morale (both within and outside of the alliance), conducting intelligence operations, and so on. As McKenzie Wark reminds us in Gamer Theory, gamespaces are always entangled with the real, an endlessly recursive chain of spaces nested inside of spaces, all of them driven by algorithms based on a hidden logic of agon with uncertain ratios of risk to reward (sections 018 - 019). In order to be a member of GoonSwarm—in order to play the game properly—one must necessarily be a goon beyond the confines of EVE Online, a degree of commitment not typically seen among other in-game alliances. Generally speaking, this structure reflects real-life situations wherein we all construct, reinforce, and renegotiate our identities within complex networks of overlapping and intersecting social spheres, each with its own ideological structure and symbol system: someone could identify variously as academic, amateur chef, doting father, and avid gamer, for example. With GoonSwarm, it is no different; identity transcends the game into spaces where it gets reconfigured according to the immediate context. How we think of ourselves, and how we project that identity to others, is a central part of rhetorical understanding.

 

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