Category: Papers and Essays

Another paper that’s gaming-related that I’m posting here. Fortunately, I did well with a 96% on it, considering it was the final paper for the semester. Even better, some SMYNjas helped with this! If you want to read about how gamers customize their own visual experience in a video game context, using Uncharted 2: Among Thieves as an example, there’s 26 pages of it here. Below is the paper’s introduction, followed by a link to the full paper.

It may be called a toy at times, but video games have clearly become a media force to be reckoned with. With every passing year, games become a bigger part of the worldwide media culture. While the industry hits its high points in the cultural landscape during the holiday shopping frenzy, followed by the Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show in June, video games are a year-round money-generating phenomenon. Games may have similarities in their business structure to the film industry, yet the game industry has amassed nearly $25 billion of revenue in 2011, which is no small feat (“The entertainment software,” 2012). This type of expansion is likely due to the different approaches that game consoles and mobile phones now use when it comes to redefining and expanding what it means to be a video game player. Games can now be anything from an epic adventure that takes one hundred hours to complete or a small concept that kills time with its rewarding, repetitive nature. Regardless of the game type, players are taking in a wide variety of media-driven experiences every day, which translates into an industry that is making billions of dollars and continues to strive for greater cultural relevance.

This type of unprecedented success helps communication scholars, particularly those in the media studies discipline, legitimize the study of games through research. Video games, when compared to other traditional media forms, are still in the early, formative years of their media existence. One of the earliest examples of a video game that reached mass awareness was Pong, which blipped its way back and forth across home television screens in the early 1970s. Since then, games have added narrative structures, the latest computer-rendered graphics, and more, all for the sake of a game’s core concept of play. The progressions appear similar to the first films of the Lumiere Brothers and the changes in the medium by the time film began to feature sound.

In the video game industry, higher production values compared to years past allow for a wider range of titles and experiences. Because the gaming medium is one that relies heavily on player agency and interactivity, studying how a player experiences a video game has great potential. After defining the current state of video games and their markets, this literature review will consider multiple aspects regarding how players experience games differently. First, audiences will be defined, to look at who plays video games. Second, the characteristics that make the video gaming medium unique must be noted. Third and finally, game qualities such as world design, controls, and film-like cut-scenes will be highlighted from a production perspective. After considering all of these, a research question will be posed regarding how to look at video game audiences and how they customize their own experience in the medium.


[i]A short paper I wrote and got a 96% A on this semester for my grad school class. Considering it’s about SMYN, the Brawl community, and The Dojo, it might be of interest to some of you…[/i]

An audience’s passion for a work of media takes shape in many different forms. Some viewers show their devotion by taking in everything the work has to offer or creating their own works, based off of that text. In addition, it is also entirely common for these viewers to dress up as their favorite characters, while attending conventions where other fans meet up. Simply stated, fandom knows no limits. While the recent readings for class have echoed these sentiments, these analyses were primarily considered in a context based in television. My own personal media experience offers a unique insight, in that these types of fan practices extend to video games as well. The degree and duration in which I was ingrained in the Super Smash Bros. community allowed me to directly experience online fan practices for this type of interactive medium.


As part of my Qualitative Research Methods course in my graduate school experience, I finished a five-page paper this week on a topic that some SMYNjas may be interested in – my initial exposure in studying the My Little Pony fandom. The original concept of the assignment was to spend about an hour in an environment that was “outside our comfort zone” and write about it. So I figured, why not do something online, as opposed to the awkwardness of an in-person situation? I think I may have gone a bit above and beyond the instruction, as there is a lot crammed in the five page limit. Below is the introduction, as the rest of the paper continues after the jump. Any thoughts are welcome.

Many who hear the term “Brony” have a difficult time attempting to define it. This is not surprising, seeing as how the word has only gained relevancy over the last two years. At the same time, the rate of growth of “Bronies” in digital culture has been staggering during this period. A “Brony” is the self-identified term for a fan of the television program My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. This remake of the My Little Pony series from the 1980s is still targeted towards a young, female demographic, yet “Bronies” came into being because of the surprisingly high number of teenaged and older male viewers. Despite being an avid consumer of internet culture, I have never really understood the Brony phenomenon, even as friends and acquaintances jumped on the pony-pulled bandwagon. Therefore, for a social description of an environment that put me out of my comfort zone, I researched media portrayals of Bronies, watched the pilot episodes of the series, and studied online forum interactions. This analysis led me to appreciate the fandom, even if I did not see myself engaging further with it.


I had a writing assignment for school recently that, while it may not seem like something that is intended for a Thanksgiving post, I think you’ll see its relevance. Thank you all for being the best friends I could ask for, even if some of you are geographically so far away.

Source: Baym, Nancy. Personal Connections in the Digital Age. Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2010.

Moral panics exist about technology for a reason. These fears about how the latest communication methods will ruin the youth of the nation are typically conjectured by those who have very little experience with the technology. When this is studied further, new experiences help shape new opinions which may eventually become the norm over time. Internet communication is currently perceived as being dangerous because of its potential for diminishing social skills, increasing addiction, and separating parental control. However, the biggest moral panic still lies in the possible dishonesty that has occurred online, especially when trying to meet new friends. As Nancy Baym found out, however, “reduced social cues make it easier to lie, but separation, time lags, and sparse cues also remove social pressures that make lying seem like a good idea” (2010, p. 116). My own personal experiences validate this, as the friendships I’ve made online have been based on mutual interests and have led to in-person meet-ups.

Over the past several years, I have been involved in producing several online projects, giving off a “my life is an open book” mentality that is true to my actual personality. As a result, I have made a point not to hide behind some sort of “wall of production,” so I make myself very open to fan interaction and communication. This kind of openness has a great deal of production benefits, as I get to learn how to improve what I am working on through honest fan feedback. Meanwhile, the fans feel a greater sense of loyalty to a show whose host does production differently than most. With the progression of time, though, the acquaintances have grown into actual friendships that I hold very dearly. Some of these friends live in Michigan, Utah, Kentucky, and many other states, but thinking about the United States would be too limited of a scope. These interpersonal bonds stretch to a worldwide scale due to the very nature of the Internet, which is special compared to the traditional sense of friendship circles. I have made very dear friends from England, had conversations with folks from Australia, and my go-to colleague for graphic design help lives in Croatia. These are experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything and they help illustrate what makes online communication so unique and special.

Baym also suggests that people “may manipulate their self-presentations strategically and, at times, not entirely honestly” (2010, p. 121). This makes me consider the situation in which people may bend this honesty. Fears of predator stories are warranted, but are mostly the result of twisted individuals using the technology to their own means, instead of what the technology naturally allows these people to do. In my experiences, however, most friendships that originate online are the result of communities that are formed based off of a particular interest. I met these close friends of mine because of the passion we all share for video games and my podcast was what brought them all together. We get together often on Skype for group chats and occasionally conference calls, but we do so to communicate with those that would not be able to meet without the Internet. For the past couple years even, those that have been able to travel out to Detroit meet up with me at an anime convention that takes place in early November. When it comes to these kinds of in-person meetings, thoughts about honesty and dishonesty have been forgotten long ago. Meeting people online in these interest-based situations can lead to important interpersonal relationships, as long as you keep an open mind about it. Long story short, the key is to not morally panic about it.

Yep, another homework assignment turned into a blog post. But this one’s pretty interesting!
Date: October 31, 2011

Hartmann, T., Toz, E., & Brandon, M. (2010). Just a game? Unjustified virtual violence produces guilt in empathetic players. Media Psychology, 13, 339-363.

When one studies communities that are forged as a result of competitive video games, the content of those games are an important variable. Not only that, but a critical portion of how those communities are structured is the way the game affects the player and his interpersonal relationships is. Hartmann, Toz, and Brandon analyze how a game may do this in their article “Just a Game? Unjustified Virtual Violence Produces Guilt in Empathetic Players” (2010). Since most competitive video games today employ an inherent level of violence, the factor of guilt can prove to be essential in affecting the player and those around him.

In their literature review, the researchers used past studies of how players relate with video games, highlighting how players use senses of immersion and relation. Most avid game players claim to be able to distinguish that their in-game actions are completely virtual and have no real life appropriation. A common metaphor that the article uses to relate to this concept is how these players see violent video game acts as comparable to playing chess. Movements in chess are not seen as violent or relatable in any way, but are rather a means to an end to accomplish the desired goal. However, as the article reveals, this concept of video games being unable to trigger any emotional reaction is challenged by recent examples. Most notably, Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009) features a scene where the player assumes the role of an undercover CIA agent attempting to infiltrate terrorist ranks. However, in the process of doing so, the now-infamous “No Russian” level involves the player and the terrorist shooting and killing a large number of civilians in an airport takeover. Unsurprisingly, most players feel disturbed while this event occurs and the media latches onto it to criticize video games as a whole.

The “No Russian” example supports theories that media has the ability to portray social situations that have the potential to be very engaging. This is because as the technology develops, digital characters become more human-like in appearance and personality, and as a result, players invest more immersion to achieve a more entertaining experience. With the theories established, the authors proposed two experiments to test three hypotheses. The first experiment would test whether or not players experienced more guilt while engaging in unjustified violence, when compared to justified violence. The second experiment would examine if players felt more guilt if they knew more background information about their opponent. Finally, each experiment would investigate if a player’s trait empathy had a positive relationship with the feeling of guilt caused by virtual violence.

The methods involved acquiring random samples of forty-nine and eighty college students for the two experiments, respectively. Each experiment used first-person shooter video games with modified code to set up particular scenarios. The first examined a hostile prison camp, with subjects split into two roles – United Nations soldiers killing the criminals running the camp (justified violence) or criminals running the camp killing U.N. soldiers to continue their evil deeds (unjustified violence). This tested the experiences players had the particular role they assumed in the game. The second experiment put the player in the position of a secret agent with a specific target to kill. Subjects were split regarding how much information about the target they were given. Both groups knew the target’s face and that she was a secretary, but only one group was given extended, background information on the target. This was meant to test the significance that information on the opponent had in creating guilt in the player. After each game play session, subjects completed a questionnaire to measure their experiences with specific questions.

For those that have played video games before, the results were not too surprising. Empathetic players seemed to feel guiltier committing virtual acts of violence than non-empathic ones. Additionally, there were higher measured levels of guilt for those committing unjustified acts of violence in the first experiment involving the U.N. soldiers and the prison camp. Finally, players who knew more background information about the targeted secretary felt guiltier killing her than those who only knew her face and occupation. Essentially, each hypothesis was proven to be true – trait empathy, justifiability, and opponent knowledge seemed to play a role in a player’s experienced guilt while playing a video game. The authors came to the conclusion that violent video games were indeed capable of inducing personal dilemmas and choices regarding morality, which reflected previous theories. If the video game had no such impact, the measured guilt levels would have had no measurable difference between the two scenarios in each experiment. In this circumstance, the scenario in a video game reflected the appropriate reactions from its real-life counterpart.

While I believe the premise, application, and conclusion of the experiments are valid as a whole, there exist some potential flaws that could create some unreliability. Even though the sample was randomly selected, the sample size was remarkably low. If the number of the subjects reached triple digits, the argument’s strength would have been greatly improved. An observation that the researchers themselves made was rather remarkable. They showed concern for the potential of how poorly disguised their questionnaire may have been. This is a significant problem with most survey approaches, because if the subject discovers what the dependent variable is, and thus the researcher’s intent, their behavior may change in a variety of ways. For this event, also known as the Hawthorne effect, to occur, the experiment’s results could likely be seen as invalid. However, I had an issue with the decision to design and modify specific games to test particular variables. While it does give the researchers more control over what the player experiences, such a limitation is not fully reflective of what video game players experience in today’s market. Such games go through rigorous testing and content checks, so to freely construct a game for this specific research purpose makes the experiments feel slanted. If I were in charge of the research project, I would have used sections of recent video games on store shelves, which would help with the generalization of the conclusion. The experiment appears to be replicable and the tested concept is logical, but there are significant improvements that could be made before this could become a widely accepted and valid theory.

(from September 22nd)
Week 4: Copyright in an Archive

Every individual who reliably uses the internet has something intriguing happen to them at one point or another. When someone loses hours of time, jumping from one video to another on YouTube, they can attest to the allure of the wide variety of content that exists in this massive video database. In all of those video tangents, however, it is likely that we all have encountered a video that has been removed or regionally blocked at some point. With the sense of vast archival footage that YouTube possesses, it was rather disappointing to see how little this week’s articles discussed the copyright claims that occur and the controversy that surrounds it. From false reporting to the bizarre interpretations of what “fair use” is, YouTube frequently suffers from negative public opinion, in order to protect itself against any possible legal action.

It is understandable why YouTube has the preventative measures that they do have in place. Especially since they are now owned by Google, YouTube does not wish to have any legal charges filed against it for hosting copyright-infringing content. However, if it is true that “ten hours of video material are uploaded to YouTube every minute” (Snickars 303), then there should be some employees that are responsible for personally viewing all of the claims that they receive and judging them. It appears that more often than not, when YouTube receives a copyright claim from a company, they lock down the video immediately without review, so they do not incur any future wrath from the same company. This is troubling because, as an ardent viewer and publisher myself, I come across too many instances where good, honest work is punished, while videos that are clearly in copyright violation are allowed to roam free. Even in the work that I do in my spare time, twenty-eight episodes of a video series that I produce currently run on YouTube without any problems. Unfortunately, one episode out of all those is shut down from a supposed copyright claim, even though it is fundamentally no different than the other twenty-eight. One cannot help but wonder how the claim process can be improved.

It is a smart idea to make use of such a large viewing audience, in that anyone can flag and report potentially offending videos. Yet, as Kessler and Schaefer point out, “While making such an option available to users may originally have been inspired by the idea that this might help the efficient and rapid removal of pornographic, racist or otherwise extremist content from the site, it can also lead to various forms of censorship when people declare that they feel ‘offended’ by a clip, for whatever reason” (284). These kinds of “whatever reasons” cause problems and exploit YouTube’s lack of claim review because while it helps for viewers to point out potentially offensive videos, honesty and several other variables can also be called into question. Videos of the “abridging” phenomenon often suffer as a result of this, even though their work consists of taking animation footage, re-editing the video, and providing their own original audio to create a new narrative arc for the work. Even when a friend of mine created his own animations in a video game engine based on the popular cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, he found his video locked and his account banned based on a copyright claim from “Habsro.” Only after a long and tedious complaint process to YouTube, the video and account were both reinstated, because the company Hasbro owns those rights, instead of a user who thought they were clever by switching two letters. All of this happens while television episodes are uploaded and run unedited and unharmed. Yet, these instances only involve video copyright, while the audio side of things is a whole other beast. If copyright rules were clearer and YouTube actually reviewed the claims they received before making a judgment, instead of making a legally-protected snap decision, the vast video archive would be a much cleaner place.

Frank Kessler and Mirko Tobias Schaefer. “Navigating YouTube: Constituting a Hybrid Information System.” In Pelle Snickers and Patrick Vonderau, eds. The YouTube Reader. National Library of Sweden, 2009
Pelle Snickers. “The Archival Cloud.” In Pelle Snickers and Patrick Vonderau, eds. The YouTube Reader. National Library of Sweden, 2009

(from September 15)
Week 3: Cyberspace in Cartoons

It is difficult for a child to comprehend what the Internet truly is and how it really functions, even in today’s modern, web-driven world. So when the media that surrounds them tries to explain the concept, the process has to be basic and all sorts of jargon have to be removed. After all, it would be too complicated to tell a child that “When a packet comes in on a link, the router very quickly looks at the destination IP address, decides which outgoing link to use based on a limited Internet ‘map’ it holds, and sends the packet on its way” (Abelson 306). With a description like that, the packet-transferring system that is in place in reality has little effect on a child’s imagination. Therefore, it is easier to tell a child to imagine a world like ours, but only in a realm within the computer, where computer data moves from place to place. While films like Tron (1982) and The Matrix (1999) portray the concept of “cyberspace” differently, one of the more intriguing examples for children comes from a 1997 episode of the wildly popular children’s cartoon Pokémon.

In theory, the episode titled “Denno Senshi Porygon,” also known as “Electric Soldier Porygon,” has a rather harmless premise to it. A transfer system for monster balls has been malfunctioning, so the creator of the transfer program believes there is a virus causing the problem. When the creator realizes that the show’s antagonists are the ones inside the program blocking the flow of the monster balls, he sends the show’s protagonists inside the program as well to fix the issue. What the heroes experience inside the computer world is very much the widely accepted definition of cyberspace, that is, “A land without frontiers where all the world’s people can be interconnected as though they were residents of the same small town” (Abelson 13). Everyone retains their same bodies, they encounter the villains, and a battle takes place as if it were the real world. However, the landscape is digitized, with lights representing data consistently passing by, and real-world barricades act as metaphors for the act that has stopped the monster ball transportation process. Only by physically moving aside said barricades do the heroes solve the problem, signifying the use of rudimentary approach to fix a far more complicated issue, which is easier for children to accept. However, this episode is infamous because of what happens when the protagonists leave this concoction of “cyberspace.” A vaccine considers the heroes to be the source of the vaccine, so it attempts to destroy them. The clash between the two results in rapidly flashing red and blue lights, causing many children who first watched the episode on television in 1997 to have epileptic seizures. The Japanese government banned the episode, never releasing it outside the country, and has since added a warning for children to sit back from the TV in a well-lit room to every animation episode they produce. All of this happened because of one children’s cartoon’s portrayal of cyberspace.

Even though this cartoon episode never made its way to the United States, the fact is it was going to before the controversy occurred. Many other forms of media targeted for a younger audience elaborate on the concept of cyberspace, whether characters go inside a computer or are transported to an entirely digital world. It just so happens that the Pokémon example is so fascinating because of the massive popularity the franchise had at the time with that young demographic. Despite all that, with all the forms of media that portray it, the false concept of “cyberspace” remains ingrained in our digitally-cultured society. If only such an idea could be deleted, as if it were bits of data.

Abelson, Hal, Ken Leeden, and Harry Lewis. Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness After the Digital Explosion. Addison Wesley Professional (Pearson), 2008.
“Denno Senshi Porygon.” Pokémon. TV Tokyo: 16 Dec 1997. Television.

I’m taking a digital cultures course this semester where one of our ongoing assignments requires us to reflect on our readings by providing real-life applications in the form of short, two-page papers. So here you go, more blog content!

(from September 8)
Week 2: Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy

When we discussed the domestication of technology and the social shaping that goes along with it during the last class, the concept struck a particular chord with me. For one, a technology’s domestication is an idea that is widely understood, when explained as a phenomenon that occurs when technology which “once seemed marvelous and strange, capable of creating greatness and horror, is now so ordinary as to be invisible” (Baym 45). Many individuals can understand how machines in this day in age quickly reach a point where they lose their sense of wonderment. When it starts to reach that point of invisibility, however, there is a striking amount of people who completely forget what the technology actually accomplishes on a fundamental level. This kind of reaction, that often appears when observed as if we are spoiled, shows not only how people are socially shaped by this technology, but how these same individuals place certain expectations on the now-widely accepted technology as well. As far as media examples of social shaping and domestication of technology go, I am reminded of how this public observation of how modern man accepts domesticated technology made one comedian’s appearance on a late-night talk show go viral very quickly a few years ago.

When comedian Louis CK appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien back in October 2008, one of his topics of discussion resonated very strongly with many viewers, in what became known online as “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy” (YouTube). CK’s opinions and anecdotes were especially poignant because of the then-recent economic collapse, reminding people of how lucky we are to live in a world with such splendid devices and technologies. When noting how people complain regarding how slowly their iPhones can retrieve information at times, he blasts “It’s going to space – can you give it a second to get back from space?” While many of us constantly carry around cell phones as if it were attached to us, we do not often stop and consider how the information is actually transmitted and received. However, most amusing in CK’s analysis of how technology spoils us is when he reflects on how technology used to be and its social effects back then. When it comes to the rotary dial telephone, he remembers how “You actually would hate people with zeroes in their numbers, because it was more…(mimics dialing).” That comment in particular drew strong mental ties to the Marvin reading, particularly regarding how those telephone practices become domesticated for its time. In what is rarely and tersely used in hotels in this time period, to think that there used to be “hello girls [who] often acted as personal alarm clocks […with] friendly, bordering on suggestive, relations exclusively between the telephone girl and her male customers” (Marvin 84) is astounding. Just like how people used to think evil thoughts of others with specific phone numbers, men used to have ties with women that acted as their alarm clock – actions that both appear bizarre in retrospect, but were totally acceptable and domesticated for that time.

Whether it’s Baym, Marvin, or even Louis CK, every one grows up with technology of some sort for their time period. Similarly, every one can understand the phenomenon of technological domestication. It is often a good practice to remember what the technology we live with actually accomplishes, so that we are not socially shaped into individuals who don’t appreciate such things. This is quite the tough task, however, as the comedian puts it, “we live in an amazing, amazing world and it’s wasted on the crappiest generation of just spoiled idiots that don’t care.”

Baym, Nancy. Personal Connections in the Digital Age. Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2010.
“Everythings Amazing & Nobodys Happy.” Video. YouTube. checkoutmytrip. 2009. Web. 8 Sep 2011.
Marvin, Carolyn. When Old Technologies Were New. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.

The last paper I will ever scholastically write, and it happens to be about a crazy-heady topic like God’s place in TIME ITSELF. Not for the faint of mind.

The majority of the world believes in a power or a being greater than themselves and yet nobody really knows what the figure commonly known as God is really capable of. While most believers in the divine can agree on the properties that define God, they all seem to disagree on how those properties affect the acts humans make on Earth. This creates a nasty dilemma of fatalism following from the existence a temporal God and escaping fatalism with the existence of an atemporal God. Even though most theists refuse to accept it, the existence of both fatalism and a God that exists in time is the more feasible option in this disagreement because of the drastic changes in traditional modes of faith that an atemporal God brings about.


Another paper of mine for the amazing college courses I take – this one is a final paper for my Internet and Popular Culture class and centers on podcasting. Maybe you’ll learn something.

It can give you fame, it can make you a leader, and it can even get you a job. The term “podcasting” can be defined as “the distribution of discrete audio (and now video) programs over the Internet” (Huntsberger). These days, not only do people hold their favorite music on their portable music players, but their favorite programs just also might be readily on cue. Consumers generally watch or view these podcasts for free, but a lot of time and effort is involved behind the show’s producers, be they professional or amateur at what they do. As shown through Show Me Your News and other similar programs, the burgeoning practice known as podcasting is an underrated example when it comes to achieving peer acclaim, building a virtual community, and growing commerce potential.

Time and again, when podcast hosts are interviewed about their show’s humble beginnings, the same sentiment is declared. Wonder is typically present, as something along the lines of “I had no idea it would be this successful” or “I can’t believe it has come this far” is usually uttered. As a technology that has only recently surfaced in the past decade, the art of podcasting takes different forms regarding the reasons people have for creating their first show. To elaborate, as this study’s main podcast example, Show Me Your News was created in July 2007 by a 19-year-old video game enthusiast with the online handle of Youko. As an aspiring musician and sound engineer, Youko had worked with varieties of audio before, but podcasting was a field he had yet to venture into. With a high-quality studio microphone at his disposal and a few years of public speaking experience behind him, the podcast which documented the hype before the release of the popular game Super Smash Bros. Brawl was born. It is only natural to assume that each aspiring podcaster must face the immense difficulty in the show’s creation of finding the proper topic and purpose for discussion. However, while discovering a podcast’s topic may seem like the most imperative issue, it is actually a show’s niche audience that will ultimately drive the overall success of the podcast. For Show Me Your News, it was fans of a game that eventually sold 1.4 million copies in its first week of release (Nintendo). Whether it is something as broad as people who enjoy amusing web videos, or “a handful of people [who] might want to brush up on their bonjours and au revoirs,” determining a podcast’s eventual fanbase is actually of the utmost importance (Park). As a broadcaster, knowledge of your target audience and their likes, as well as their dislikes, allows you to speak on a more personal level with them. People appreciate when personal connections are made in real life, and when one hosts an internet show such as a podcast, an even bigger gap must be bridged between producer and listener to achieve the same, one-on-one result. After all, if the host is not reaching his target audience optimally, then all the work he has put into the show is for nothing.

Once the target audience has been identified, the goal then becomes how to produce and distribute the podcast. On the content front, there are different formats that have proven to be successful for podcast producers. Like how Show Me Your News began, most amateurs take the approach of having themselves act as the only host of the show. In fact, they usually are the ones in charge of the entire operation, which may seem like a lot of work, but the personal reward is worth it if the show reaches even the slightest level of popularity. However, some hosts take approaches of having a steady co-host week-to-week, asking different people to co-host as guests, or even running call-in shows just like talk radio. Regardless of the format, structure is vital when it comes to maintaining a listener’s attention. If the speakers are randomly spouting nonsense that has nothing to do with the show’s topic, most people will simply not care to listen. In order for fans to actually pay attention on what is being said, voices must be clearly audible, which takes some technical know-how. “The [number one] mistake most podcasters make is they have the audio levels wrong,” which can be fatal in terms of the staying power of a show (Park). Because of Youko’s background experience in sound engineering, he was able to make his voice at the appropriate volume with ideal sound quality, which set him way above other amateur podcasters and created a high point of praise for Show Me Your News in the process. As for getting the show out for those to listen to, the most common way for podcasters to do so is to find a way to host their MP3 files online and then upload their show to iTunes. This way, listeners from across the world can find and download the podcast for free, which helps in the distribution. The home-based show that is put up on iTunes is the most common type of podcast that can be found on the Internet, which usually references childhood practices of making one’s own radio show on a tape recorder. Digital technology combined with Internet distribution has now allowed anyone to put their voice out in the new public sphere free of charge. However, only those with true devotion to this craft can make a name for themselves. Doing so generally involves venturing into the realm of interacting with your fans in a centralized virtual community.

For some podcast producers, simply having their work on iTunes suffices all expectations that they had for their show. Their voice is on the World Wide Web for anybody to download for free, so a fanbase is sure to grow somehow. However, those who aspire for more results out of their effort head to virtual communities where they can attract potential listeners. For Youko, the ideal place to pitch and advertise Show Me Your News was at Smash World Forums, the largest Super Smash Bros. community on the Internet. Looking for listeners by adding another podcast to the vast pool of shows that exist on iTunes, hoping that fans stumble across the show through a search is a passive way of looking for success. However, actively promoting the podcast to fans that would be directly interested in the subject matter is an ideal strategy. Not only does the fanbase for the podcast immediately begin to grow, but there are individuals who become so interested in the show, that they become a sort of “braintrust” for fan feedback. It is this sort of interpersonal interaction that makes a virtual community paramount for a podcast’s extended success. Not only do listeners get to discuss what works and what does not work for the podcast in an open forum, but the host gets to read this feedback and make improvements, optimizing the show’s content. However, it is essential that the feedback is for the most part positive. If a host is swamped with negative comments, it can be very disheartening, leaving him to question if all the effort he is putting into the podcast is really worth it. As certain individuals contribute more often to the podcast’s success, the host will make web-based friendships with them, taking their advice closer to heart compared to others. Once again, this was the case with Youko’s podcast in its beginning days. After asking for contributions from fans to have their voices directly heard on the show, he received an impressive entry from an individual named SamuraiPanda. After communications between the two, Youko and SamuraiPanda realized that they attended the same university, and after meeting face-to-face, they decided on changing the podcast’s format for the better. With this, SamuraiPanda became Youko’s co-host and the format changed from being scripted to being outlined in a roundtable style. Fans responded positively, but it was only because of the virtual community of Smash World Forums that the hosts of Show Me Your News were able to gauge this reaction.

As soon as the podcast has reached notability on one virtual community, its scope begins to branch out as other communities become aware of its existence through word of mouth. Not only do fans start to tell their friends about the latest thing hitting the web, but these individuals start to “develop the infrastructure for supporting critical dialogue, [produce] annotated program guides, [provide] regular production updates, and [create] original fan stories and artwork” (Jenkins 142). In this way, podcasts are no different to television programs when it comes to fan culture. In order for a podcast to be successful and for it to be fairly comparable to a television show, reliability is essential. When a listener’s favorite web-based show delivers on a consistent, scheduled basis, trust is established between the viewer and the show. Also, since production studios do not control podcasts like they do television programs, podcast hosts are freer to whatever they want to do with their show. However, since hosts generally do not earn any money for all their work, fans appreciate this unrewarded effort far more, especially if the host interacts with his fans in the virtual community. This gratitude can be shown in several ways – fans of podcasts have been known to draw artwork of their favorite show moments or even make YouTube videos of their top ten favorite instances in the podcast’s history. Not only were these fan gestures appropriated on Show Me Your News’ behalf, but hosts Youko and SamuraiPanda were rewarded with leadership positions in the Super Smash Bros. Brawl community at Smash World Forums for the names they had made for themselves. The administrators at this virtual community were looking for leaders to become moderators for their forums, and with these promotions, Youko and SamuraiPanda were the biggest names in the largest Smash Bros. community on the Internet, all because of a podcast. Becoming moderators helped Show Me Your News’ notability, in addition to furthering the forum-wide reputation that Youko and SamuraiPanda were devoted leaders with fascinating things to say, since they had a way to spread their voices. As a single podcast dominated one virtual community and started to spread to others, the next step was to wonder if this was the limit of what podcasting could achieve.

In today’s media society, expansion is always a key phrase. Movies and television programs do not get much consideration unless there are different tie-in products that can be produced in conjunction with the original media. So, what is it that makes an internet show like a podcast popular? In an economy where hits mean everything, “with online distribution and retail, we are entering a world of abundance. And the differences are profound” (Anderson 8). This means that with so many podcasts that are online, the distinguishing difference between the successful and the start-up is the diversification of how the show is presented online. Especially when its hosts are on a college budget, the best kind of free advertising to do is to have different websites that support the podcast. Four different varieties of websites drive a theoretical podcast dispersion model, in order to accrue the maximum amount of hits. First of all, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are essentials in this web-driven era. These allow the hosts to stay in touch with fans by giving status updates regarding production notes. Success can be quantified with these websites through numbers of friends or followers, and links to media produced by the podcast can easily be dispersed to everyone connected to these social networking pages. The second type of website is that of the live broadcast service, such as Stickam, UStream, and JustInTV. These are similar to the social networking sites in terms of measuring achievement through number of friends and views, but the purpose is entirely different. Live broadcast sites can allow podcast hosts to not only video chat with fans, but broadcast episodes of their show as they are being recorded live. Speaking of video sites, it is almost essential in this day in age for podcasts to have a YouTube account to store their media for streaming purposes. This contributes to the idea of cultural memory, as YouTube can “offer new and remediating relationships to texts that indicate changes and acceleration of spectatorial consumption” (Hildebrand 49). Show Me Your News has recently taken full advantage of this, as they have shifted to a video podcast, which allows for a greater connection with fans. The ease of video stream allows for the analysis of facial inflections and other video cues, instead of purely audio episodes, where many things had to be inferred. Finally, it is extremely important for each podcast to have a home website, which allows for media downloads and other information. This homepage can used on every other website for viewers to learn more about the podcast itself, but a cookie-cutter homepage made by free services might not suffice if the show becomes popular. “Your Net provider likely gives you space you could use, but if your podcast catches fire, it might strain the bandwidth and get you in trouble,” which could result in shelling out a lot of money (Park). With social networking sites, a live broadcast site, a YouTube page, and a home website, a lot of ground is covered in terms of getting a podcast’s name out there for minimal cost. Yet, there is still expansion and potential that can occur beyond this step, which can involve money and the corporate level.

As it has been expressed so far, most podcasts are a labor of love, since most hosts do not get paid for the hard work that they do. So at what point in the podcast’s history is it fair to discuss cold, hard cash? The unfortunate truth is that most original shows will not be successful enough to earn any money. Many of the most downloaded podcasts on iTunes usually involve an audio or an abridged version of established television programs, such as ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption and G4’s Web Soup. It is easy to see that these programs have already had their start in a medium where money was already being made before venturing into the online realm. Continuing to use Show Me Your News as a podcast example, for the two years they have been podcasting, Youko and SamuraiPanda have only earned $150 apiece, which was for their efforts as moderators for Smash World Forums. Currently, they are trying to make contact with the company Major League Gaming, in hopes that their show can be picked up and sponsored. However, this is a hope and a prayer, which only further demonstrates the labor of love that is involved in podcasting. If anything, podcasters can take the skills that they have learned from the production process and use them in future work careers. Traits such as public speaking, fan/customer interaction, web media distribution, and more on a distinct time schedule can come in handy when in the job market. Above all, the devotion to something that does not produce a material reward can be seen as admirable, as it shows the power behind doing something one enjoys. As it stands today, podcasting is still a new technology, but there are those who are trying to push this type of web material as something more than pure entertainment. University of Oregon professor Alan Stavitsky is known for being one of the first individuals to create a podcast called AI Pod for his class and then document its advantages and disadvantages in a learning environment. The results that followed from the professor’s post-podcast survey were rather intriguing – 89% of the students listened to the podcast at least once and students were favorable of its convenience, both in terms of time flexibility and textbook material coordination (Huntsberger). If podcasts are becoming more mainstream, especially in learning environments, great things are possible for the technology’s future, which might include taking the web-based medium seriously in the job market. Anything is possible, as long as there is the ease of Internet downloads at the world’s disposal.

In the past decade in which they have been possible due to high-speed internet connections, podcasts have been shown to be very relevant in a networked world. The selfless efforts that amateur podcasters put into their shows can make one a person of note on the internet, make them a leader in virtual communities, and give them skills that help in the workforce. Show Me Your News is just one example of an audio program that has extended beyond the realms of simply being on iTunes, but it certainly took a lot of effort to have it do so. In fact, through writing an autobiographical research paper on the topic, one could even say they have learned a lot through self-reflection.


Anderson, Chris. “The Long Tail.” Change This. 14 Dec 2004. 18 Aug 2009 .

Hilderbrand, Lucas. “YouTube: Where Cultural Memory and Copyright Converge.” Film Quarterly, Vol. 61, No. 1, September 2007, pp. 48-57.

Huntsberger, Michael. “The New “Podagogy”: Incorporating Podcasting into Journalism Education.” Journalism & Mass Communication Educator 61(2007): 397-411.

Jenkins, Henry. “Interactive Audiences? The Collective Intelligence of Media Fans,” in Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers. New York: New York University Press, 2006, pp. 134-151.

Park, Andrew. “So You Want To Be An Internet Star.” Business Week 28 Nov 2005: 124.

Spezia, Peter. Show Me Your News. 08 July 2007. Smash World Forums. Podcast. 18 Aug 2009.

“Super Smash Bros. Brawl Smashes Nintendo Sales Records.” Nintendo. 17 Mar 2008. 18 Aug 2009.