Note: Although I try to write these accounts of the club in the past tense, they often slip into present tense – I’m not entirely sure why, or which is best for this purpose. My tendency to take the position of present tense narrator of events makes me think of a reality show and I wonder, therefore, if this derives from my reflections on video data as well as my fieldnotes. Does the presence of video on the screen in front of me make events seem present, or is it the fact that the club is ongoing that makes the present tense feel more natural? Or could my tendency for present tense narration be an attempt to establish the fact that I was (am) there, present in the room alongside the children? Does past tense do this too? At the moment I suppose there’s a sense that any of these events have the potential to continue, to be revisited in a future session. When this year of fieldwork is over, then, will data analysis feel different? Will events be more fixed? And does my preference for tense reflect the way I think about the club?
From the outset of this week, the children made it clear that they had regrouped. Even before the server was running, Rob was telling me that all of the boys had decided to work together on a building project that he had found in the Minecraft annual that he borrowed after last week’s club. He showed me a picture of a simple, multi-storey house that the group intended to build, indicating that their focus was still on creating the domestic space for their community.
As usual, physical location in the classroom space indicated collaboration in the virtual space – where the boys were seated across two tables last week, this week they all joined together around one larger bank of desks. Interestingly, the group of boys who appeared less dominant – in the game and in the room – during previous weeks relocated to join the more dominant group. I asked them how this regrouping occurred, and when – they explain that it began last week but was also consolidated during discussions in the week in between. This makes me wonder how much talk away from the club relates to their gameplay. As last week, the girls were seated separately to the boys. Their gameplay occurred close to the boys in the virtual space, but was definitely separate. At times there was talk about trade between the groups – this type of talk did not occur within the groups, suggesting that all resources owned by individuals were available to pool between the members.
This week, while the children were playing the game, at least 25 minutes of the session involved me discussing some school business (club related and otherwise) with other adults from the school. This does not happen very often as the club usually coincides with staff meetings, so teachers are generally needed elsewhere. As a result of these discussions there was a significant period of time unaccounted for in this week’s fieldnotes and my notes were much shorter. This period, however, was covered by one player – Ben – filming from his perspective, using the GoPro camera attached to his forehead. I intend to look in more detail at this video in future. However, a quick re-watching – involving watching parts at double speed, pausing some bits and skipping over others, gives an interesting insight into the gameplay of one individual.
Even a brief look at the video demonstrated that Ben talked to every single one of the other ten players at some point during the club. This amounted to a significant amount of time spent away from the computer and looking away from the screen. These conversations generally appeared to be related to the game. Although I haven’t listened to every conversation, many of the ones I have heard related to trading resources with others. He can also be seen using other children’s computers, as well as his own. I intend to give the GoPro to one of the girls’ next week – Freya had a brief trial at the end of the session.
I ended the session by asking children to tell me something about their experience:
- Freya told me that she learnt how to chop down wood.
- Thomas explained that he was trying to build another house but Callum accidentally burnt it.
- Joe said, ‘it’s been good!’ When I asked him to elaborate he suggested that he was happy that everyone was working together ‘in one community’ this week.
- Rob told me that he had found a secret passage under the stairs.
- Molly said that her group had built extension to house, with a garden and balcony, and were planning on building a farm next week.