Player Agency, Team Responsibility, and Self-Initiated Change: An Apprentice's Learning Trajectory and Peer Mentoring in Esports

Player Agency, Team Responsibility, and Self-Initiated Change: An Apprentice's Learning Trajectory and Peer Mentoring in Esports

Fredrik Rusk, Matilda Ståhl, Kenneth Silseth
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7069-2.ch007
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An important aspect of what constitutes beginning gamers' learning trajectories is guidance from experienced players. However, there is little educational research on these processes within a competitive gaming scene. In this chapter, the authors analyse the mentor-apprentice relationship in a team in the multiplayer FPS CS:GO within an esports and educational context. By assuming a dialogic approach to agency and meaning making, they analyse how the team orients towards the apprentice's agency and how the apprentice responds to these orientations. The other players' orientations towards the apprentice's decisions indicate that support diminishes, and responsibility and expectations grow over time. Communication and collaboration appear to be an inherent part of functioning as a team and teaching others in the team, and all players are expected to develop agency and reach a level of independence. In the chapter, they show and discuss how this happens.
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Becoming a competent esports player of online multiplayer games involves complex social processes and networks of online and offline life where the player is socialised into social norms and expectations (Gilje & Silseth, 2019). In-and-through this socialisation process, “novice” players have been shown to rely on guidance from more experienced “expert” players (Rambusch, Jakobsson & Pargman, 2007; N. Taylor, 2016). In other words, an important aspect of what constitutes players’ learning trajectories is guidance from experienced players. This connects to the value of communication and collaboration skills, which appears to be important for esports players to learn when the games, as part of the esports scene, become more competitive (Rambusch et al., 2007). Nevertheless, the research on novice and expert relationships often focuses on an idealised version of an ‘expert’ gamer and the experts’ actions and decisions as the norm for how the game is supposed to be played. In addition, there is also a tendency, when studying how novices learn, to focus more on the agency of the ‘experts’ or on how ‘experts’ facilitate the learning and teaching of novices (Kirschner & Williams, 2013).

Scholars have suggested that games have motivational effects and provide opportunities for active engagement with knowledge, which prepares players for future learning (Gee, 2003). Therefore, in educational research there has been considerable interest in the implementation of games in instructional designs (Arnseth, Hanghøj & Silseth, 2018; de Freitas, 2018; Gros, 2007; Shaffer, 2006; Squire & Barab, 2004; Wouters & van Oostendorp, 2013). However, there is a need to better understand commercial games from an educational perspective (Barr, 2019). Commercial games have also been shown to be a social learning platform, which may improve collaboration skills and other advanced competences (e.g., Barr, 2018; 2019; Gee, 2017; Steinkuehler, 2006). Nevertheless, there is little educational research on how these competences are cultivated and employed within the competitive esports gaming scene (N. Taylor, 2016).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Descriptive Ethno-Case Study: A qualitative case study informed by ethnography. The distinction between ethnography and a case study can be somewhat blurry. However, in ethnography, more emphasis is put on extended periods of time in the field, whereas a case study can be more limited in terms of time and researcher immersion into the field.

Agency: A complex, and partly contradictory, concept on humans’ capacity to impact and transform life circumstances and the social practices they are engaged in. Agency is both an individual and collective process as well as a product of said process(es).

Participant’s Perspective: A focus on how participants orient to and make relevant actions and activities in their situated interaction, instead of using ready-made definitions and categories. First-hand experiences in relevant settings, often in combination with interviews, informs the ethnographer to access an insider’s perspective, including online contexts.

Collaboration: In this chapter, collaboration is the process of a team working together to achieve the goal of playing and winning matches in CS:GO.

CS:GO: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a popular esports video game. It is a team-based multiplayer first-person shooter developed by Valve and Hidden Path Entertainment.

Esports: A form of sport competition using video games. It often consists of organised, multiplayer video game competitions between (professional) players, individually or as teams.

Dialogic: To explore the meaning of something with an understanding that each utterance represents a position of the speaker and an orientation towards a recipient. The meaning of an utterance lies in an understanding of both perspectives.

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