University of Calgary

Level Up with Aiden Buckland

Submitted by alumni on Wed, 11/02/2016 - 23:02.

Level Up with Aiden Buckland

If 59 per cent of Canadians play video games — is that worth studying? Aiden Buckland, a.k.a. jvj24601, thinks so which is why his PhD research is evaluating what people do in that space.
By Doug Ferguson

Canada recently bumped the United Kingdom to dominate third spot in terms of employment in the video-gaming field — after Japan and the United States — with 16,000 employees, 348 companies and an economic impact of $2 billion.

According to the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, about 59 per cent of Canadians play video games. With numbers like these, an increasing number of universities are providing an academic channel for ongoing discussions on games and gaming — precisely the field that 36-year-old scholar Aiden Buckland is pursuing at UCalgary.

No trippy moniker like BoomBoom or ClydeBot, Buckland goes by jvj24601 and admits his gaming time has shrunk to about five hours a week as he now divides his time between his PhD research and teaching in the Department of Communication, Media and Film in the faculty of arts.

What is your area of research?

I am doing an ethnography — a study of people and cultures from their point of view — on the gamers in the university’s League of Legends (LoL) Club, an online eSports game.

Why does studying video games matter?

The amount of time people are investing in gaming is substantial and understanding what people are doing in that space is an important part of evaluating this emerging hobby. According to UCalgary’s LoL Facebook page, there are more than 300 players, but I’ve only ever seen a few dozen in the same place at the same time.

What attracts the gamers to the LoL Club?

The gamers I’ve spoken to seem to gravitate toward the level of competition they find in LoL. One of the impacts of having a professional sphere within video gaming is that it provides a model for how one can approach their game. Although none of my participants thought they could become professional players, they look to the play of these professionals as something to aspire to.

“The amount of time and effort people are investing in gaming is substantial...”

Is there a darker side to online culture?

Yes, and we’re seeing it pop up in more prominent places, such as the legitimization of the alt right by Donald Trump. We are now living in such a fragmented world that people who feel left out can find each other online and pool together. They can really make their outsider views more appealing to more people than they could in the past.

Let’s go back to the dark side — tell us about the survey you conducted at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo in 2015 that was targeted by Gamergate?

Gamergate are anonymous opponents of feminism and political correctness in video game culture. They often use social media to harass women associated with gaming and we wanted to find out where they got their information. We distributed a print version of the survey at the expo and we also created an online version with a QR code. This was partly retweeted by Breibart News tech journalist Milo Yiannopoulos, the guy who was recently excommunicated from Twitter for inciting a hateful campaign against comedian Leslie Jones after the release of Ghostbusters. The mere mention of the hashtag was enough to incite his followers to follow the link and fill it out — in 12 hours, some 1,400 people completed the survey. Those from Gamergate got their information from YouTube, Twitch, Reddit and 4chan. Those from the expo got theirs from traditional media and traditional online gaming outlets.

Who’s your top gaming hero/heroine?

I have to confess the Master Chief and Cortana (as a tandem) from the Bungie/ 343’s Halo series keep me coming back. I haven’t played Halo 5 yet, but once my dissertation is submitted, I might have to pick it up as a reward. U

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