As a Sociologist, I see a social group on Discord; I see one big social group that is the entirety of Discord, but the extent of my involvement is around 1200 members.
I happily came to this understanding of how big my particular group is, in its full extension, by way of meeting a young lady who is the head of the Engagement Team of the Vornair gaming community– so for the price of some data entry tasks, I was enlighted, thank you @hinata1711!
To put it into perspective, our Discord server (social group) is relatively small and it is somewhat racially and economically homogeneous (although there is some racial diversity that is worth noting and I will spend a significant of time on the subject of race in the future).
Although I had theorized that this group was homogeneous in this way, I am happy to have had the assistance of the server owners at Ruins of the Storm and Song of Sword and Sorcery to post and advertise a 10 question demographic survey that I put together in order to verify my hypothesis. At this point, February 24, 2019, I have 18 responses from the survey and the result represent and verify my initial thoughts.
Fortunately, I’ll be able to get some more data soon because the server owner of the new Ruins Unchained server, which is a reboot of the Ruins of the Storm server, has agreed to post the link to my survey in his Discord channel. If all goes well, I should have between 36 and 40 survey entries by the end of March. 40 entries will give me a better picture of what the community of 1200 looks like, although I will continue to add survey data as it comes in.
And I continue to look at the demographics of the entire group because I think it says something about who we are in our leisure time and what we’re doing on the frontier of an immersive digital, digitized community that is in the adolescent stage of life.
Adolescence is a tricky time of life, but I think that the analogy fits.
One of the many people that I’ve had discourse with pointed out that it is this adolescent age that contributes to a lot of the interpersonal problems that we face as we go about doing community inside the net of digitized imagination play, on Discord and in the games we play.
In other words, digital community is sometimes intolerable.
But not always, and not even often, and that’s why we can return to the gaming over and over again, even as we are dealing with the natural confusion and anxiety associated with experiencing a new way of being in community.
And then there’s what’s happening in the games vs. what’s happening in the Discord. Those things are intertwined and inextricable no matter how many rules we write to keep them separated from each other.
The content of the role-playing in the game and the content that is appearing in Discord are bound to each other. In fact the whole operation is structured in such a way that is almost impossible to separate oneself from the taboo, and forbidden “ooc drama”. “OOC Drama” naturally spills over from the game into rl interactions that are far from real. I point this out not as a critic, but as a biased observer of what is happening in our community.
Emoji are not real expressions of emotions and text is not enough to convey word meaning. So we compensate when we really need to communicate, and we get on voice chat.
But when I voice chat I have a sort of transient, disconnected feeling that I can’t imagine as being unique to only me since we are all trained, from birth, to communicate face-to-face– or least those of us who are 50 and older were. 😉
So another sociological observation is perhaps generational. I can feel the difference between a digital native and a digital immigrant when interacting on Discord. But until now I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the literature around digital natives versus digital immigrants. I will be diving into that literature very soon…
Another sociological observation that I make over and over again is how the power structures drive the narrative in our fiction. I was introduced to this concept in a sociological work entitled Shared Fantasy, Role-Playing Games as Social Worlds. In this volume, Cary Allan Fine describes a consistent phenomenon: player-characters who sit close to the DM enjoy the game more than those who sit further away, and that is to be expected. Unless of course the Dungeon Master is sophisticated and goes out of their way to look at their own unconscious biases.
And my final observation from for this post is more situated in the media than some my more general observations. What I observed, over and over again, is that inasmuch as the Discord group has some solidarity and functions as a social group in a supportive way, it does so through the repetition of derivative media imagery.
In other words, support in our community most often comes in the form of conversations about superheroes, movies, videogame and the characters we create– characters who are all kinds of wondrous beautiful people who have wondrous, beautiful powers. This content sharing ritual is cerebral, optimistic, fun… and we support each other through the use of it.
Thank you for reading this far. And if you dare, I am available for RP on Song of Sword and Sorcery Conan Exiles, Ruins of the Storm Unchained Conan Exiles and Ruins of the Storm Atlas.