R.A. Mora, S. Castaño, T.S. Orrego, M. Hernandez, D. Ramírez

Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (COLOMBIA)
In today’s language ecologies (Mora, 2014), the physical and virtual weave in very creative ways. In the case of videogames, there is a growing interest in their contributions to literacy development (Beavis, 2015; Cogburn & Silcox, 2009; Gee, 2003; Hawisher & Selfe, 2007). Today’s videogames are more complex than they used to be, involving more intricate processes to master them and thrive in them. Due to the influence of English in diverse social and cultural spaces, digital environments find common ground with mainstream language.

This presentation will share the findings of a study that seeks to understand, from the vantage point of gaming community members, how gamers use English, as a matter of language practices that make part of their success in the gaming experience. For this purpose, we proposed the following research questions: a) What social, cultural, and contextual factors are most influential in English language appropriation in the context of gaming and gaming communities? b) What roles does English play as a factor of success or failure in gaming performances in the case of second language users?

Our conceptual framework features two main notions. First, we rely on the idea of “city as literacy” (Mora, 2015) as support. We have built this notion from the New Literacy Studies tradition, in conjunction with four additional concepts that account for the new language configurations in physical and virtual spaces:
(a) multimodality (Kress, 2010; Mejía-Vélez & Salazar Patiño, 2014),
(b) polylanguaging (Chiquito & Rojas, 2014; Jørgensen, et al, 2011),
(c) metrolingualism (Peláez & M Castaño, 2015; Pennycook & Otsuji, 2015), and
(d) superdiversities (Blommaert & Rampton, 2011; Giraldo & S Castaño, 2014).

These concepts, in the realm of videogames, become very useful as they have enabled us, on the one hand, to understand gaming communities as something that, because it belongs to the virtual, transcends geography to locate participants in global communities. On the other, this framework opens spaces to understand gaming literacies (Jaramillo Villegas, 2014) as a multidimensional affair where multiple communicative, semiotic, and spatial resources come into play.

The second notion that informs our work is our idea of “Language-as-Victory” (Castaño & Orrego, 2015; Hernandez & Castaño, 2015; Mora, S Castaño, Hernandez, & Orrego, 2015), understood as the necessity to improve one’s second-language competence in order to succeed and thrive in the games and gaming communities.

This project draws from digital ethnography (Firat & Kabakci Turdakul, 2011; Wittel, 2000), which values the immersion in the field to explore and recognizes the particular needs of virtual community observation. Our data sources include autoethnographic accounts of the co-researchers’ engagement in their gaming communities, as well as participant observation, field notes, photographs, and interviews drawn from other gamers and key informants in gaming communities.

Our findings show how English emerges as a fundamental feature of participation in gaming communities both as a need for appropriation of the language and a communicative resource to achieve victory. Each genre, we argue, calls for very diverse codes, lingo, and key phrases, without which failure is a very realistic option. In addition to our findings, this presentation will outline some key issues and directions for literacy research and second language learning and teaching.