I am worn out when I arrive at the club this week – I have met headwind all the way on my regular uphill cycle to school. Whilst this ethnography clearly doesn’t extend to cover my reflections on my means of transport in (although I’m sure I could come up with enough data for a whole other ethnography based on this – particularly when my chain snaps on the way home) it does serve as a constant reminder that the boundary of the club is permeable, in that it draws the experiences of all participants at times outside of the club’s set beginning and end times. Most notably this week the children are taking part in their Y6 SATs. Some of them have even be entered into the Level 6 tests (tests that are well above the nationally expected level for children of this age – although there is a creeping expectation that schools enter some children for them). This afternoon was spelling, with some children (successfully) spelling words such as ‘recommended’, ‘partial’ and ‘picturesque’.
This blog post is drawn from my fieldnotes. I also left the GoPro with a group of girls and created a short screencast towards the end of the session – I will look more closely at these later (the girls tell me at the end that they’ve done some talking to the camera to explain what they’ve done this week).
One of the dads arrives to pick up his daughter, having forgotten that the club is on (entirely forgiveable as I had to cancel last week’s club at short notice). She bundles him out of the classroom and returns, having persuaded him to let her stay. I’m relieved that all children manage to log in without too much problem and the session runs largely, and unusually, without any technical problems (aside from laptop batteries running out – the children now seem to have made their own rules for the percentage at which they will swap chargers).
Four boys are seated at the back of the class – I choose to focus on their participation for much of the session, and stay out of the game until towards the end (which could explain the lack of technical issues). Tom asks where the girls are located in the game and they refuse to tell him. Game play, this week, is taking place in creative mode – as it ended this way last week. There’s an unusual sense of calm to being with, with everyone seemingly focussed on their screens.
Ed turns to talk to me: ‘Mr B, I’ve made a hidden Jeb door!’ – he shows me a piston door that he has made, using the instructions from the Redstone Handbook that he helped himself to earlier, proceeding to demonstrate the operation of the door on screen.
Ed then turns to Callum and they discuss employing another Jeb door elsewhere in the building they are working on. They discuss a living room that Tom has created ‘under the room of doom’ – ‘it’s so we can chill out‘ he says. I’m pleased to stumble upon this later on in the session. I ask about the purple floor I see on Joe’s computer. He says that was just Tom’s idea – ‘he likes purple’.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Tom asks Ed ‘What’s your favourite kind of tomato? Plum, Cherry…?’ Ed chooses cherry, as do most of the rest of the class who join in answering the question. Tom nods approvingly – ‘It’s gotta be cherry every time!’.
Across the room there’s a lot of chat happening. Freya’s screen in turned away from her and she’s clearly not playing the game at this point, engrossed in conversation. I catch snatches of discussion about their older brothers and sisters, texting, their dad’s cars (Adam remembers Mia’s dad ‘rocking up in a Mercedes’ – clearly impressed), swimming (Freya reminisces about the time she fell off the baby slide at the local leisure centre, Matt jumps in at this point with a competing story about hurting himself at a swimming pool and suggests that ‘Freya -I think that was the origin of your bad luck!’ ), a proposed Skype call when they get home (presumably to continue these conversations). There’s also an extended discussion, relating to their roles in Christmas plays further down the school. They laugh at having to play each other’s family members (sample quotes: Freya (laughing): ‘I had to be his wife AND sister!’, ‘In Santa’s on Strike – YOU (points to Ben) were my dad!’, Tom: ‘We were the kids with the wooden gameboys!’) As discussion trails off, Freya returns to the game and turns the screen to face her. Throughout this discussion, Mia (next to Sophie) has contributed whilst still engaged with the game.
Even in its absence in this part of the room, the GoPro camera is influencing events – Tom starts singing the recurring GoPro song, changing the words to ‘We’re NOT on a GoPro’. This song soon morphs into a rap – Tom tells me it’s this:
… an imagined Rap Battle between the main characters from ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘The Walking Dead’ (two 18 rated American TV shows). He gives what sounds like a word perfect rendition of a short section. (Later, watching this video I wasn’t previously aware of, I’m struck by the adult language and the reference to drugs and killing and how different this is to the content of the reading Sats paper that they completed earlier in the week, recalling a discussion with C. about this very thing)
There appears to be some mischief happening. Someone has spawned and abandoned a herd of horses. Tom’s got his mind set on using TNT. He suggests that he has ‘a sick trick to play on central plaza’ – outlining his intention to link a daylight sensor to some TNT. Soon he’s asking the girls if it’s ok if he blows up a section of land. He warns the rest of the group ‘get ready for the boom’ but it seems not to work and, when it does, the impact of his explosion is minor. Meanwhile, Callum is clearing away the horses by setting fire to them. This is accompanied by a slightly unsettling noise coming from his computer, although he’s keen to point out that this is the quickest way of clearing them and sees them as an obstacle rather than a representation of any kind of real animal.
Jo seems to be working really carefully in his room. I enter the game (and start the screencast) and join him in the room. I’m initially invisible to them, until we realise that I have ‘spectate mode’ turned on. Joe has filled a large chest with ender pills. Callum soon joins us and leads my Avatar off elsewhere, where he gives me a virtual present – ‘jeffery the amazing red block’. He reminds me not to place it anywhere as it will lose its name, so I keep it in my inventory.