RMN GETS POM GETS WI-FI

An audience analysis on community and reception.

  • Leigh
  • 03/31/2015 01:49 AM
  • 7727 views
Update- this paper was graded 93/100

This essay was written for my COMS 471 class (audience studies) at the University of Calgary. The task of the essay was to write about an 'online community' and the audience practices existing there. Here, I've examined the 2013 game, 'Pom Gets Wi-Fi' developed by Me-Patra and RMN's reception to this media. I just realized, the title of my essay is almost EXACTLY the same as the title of calunio's review. Anyways, I hope you'll find this essay interesting. I didn't directly quote anyone (by username), and I've tried my best to be honest and objective! Even if just Me-Patra reads this, I think it's cool to know that someone has written a university paper about their game

RMN Gets Pom Gets Wi-Fi
Anna Aldridge


Introduction – Pom Gets Wi-Fi was completed on August 11, 2013 and was released as a freeware game designed with the video game design engine, RPG Maker 2003. The game was hosted by rpgmaker.net (RMN) and eventually became the most downloaded RPG Maker game in the website’s history. Pom Gets Wi-Fi continues to hold this position today, with over 150,000 downloads on RMN. The game was developed by RMN user ‘Me-Patra’ as her first attempt at designing a game with RPG Maker. It tells the story of an internet-addicted Pomeranian dog named Pom and her quest to find a Wi-Fi connection in doggy heaven. The game was promoted by Me-Patra on tumblr.com and gained substantial attention when it was featured in Let’s Play videos by PewDiePie on YouTube. To put this into context, PewDiePie currently holds the spot of most subscribed user on YouTube. Reception to the popularity of Pom Gets Wi-Fi was mixed on RMN, with many users surprised or even confused with the game’s success. The ‘hype’ surrounding Pom Gets Wi-Fi was met by online community of RMN with resistance. Their negotiated reception reveals the active nature of an new audience in an online space.

The purpose of this analysis is to determine how a particular site constitutes an online audience space with an examination of the audience practices existing there. In The people formerly known as audience (2012), Jay Rosen notes how “online, we tend to form user communities around our favourite spaces” (pg.15). Users have formed a community on rpgmaker.net due to a shared passion and interest in RPG Maker games. The idea of RMN as a ‘community’ is the first section that I will discuss in my analysis. This will be guided mainly through reflecting on the work of Stanley Fish, who wrote on the ‘authority’ of interpretive communities. Second, I plan to explore what kind of work the active audience on RMN is engaged in, and how this audience work is informed. Michel De Certeau (1984) talked about a kind of work that is “free, creative, and precisely not directed towards profit” (pg.105), which can be incorporated into a framework for audience studies. Work can also be divided into that which is for use and that which is for exchange, which is what Michael Hills (2002) has written on more recently. In the final section of my analysis I will argue that RMN is one of several new audience communities, guided by the ideas of Jay Rosen and Sonia Livingstone, where there are “new possibilities for action, interaction, and participation” (Livingstone, 2013, pg.25).

Community – RMN is an audience community insofar as the users of rpgmaker.net demonstrate shared readings of media texts. From reviewing the comments directed towards Pom Gets Wi-Fi on RMN, most of the reception towards the game was not aimed at the game’s actual content, but rather what was happening to the game within the audience space of RMN and outside of it. A distinction was made in the comments and reviews for Pom Gets Wi-Fi between the RMN regulars or (as a metaphor) “the local boys at the old timers club” and the RMN outsiders, such that another user commented how the “comments page looks like it starting to turn into veterans vs. the people who only came here {for PewDiePie}.” What should be noted here is how a common reading of a media text exists because those who hold this reading belong to an particular community. Anyone can ‘become a member’ of RMN. However, to gain recognition from other community members, users must to be involved; downloading, commenting, subscribing, testing and reviewing games. This is, “how a game dev-oriented site {like RMN} operates” – with common practices and a shared understanding of RPG games.

How might the RMN community be categorized? It is an active audience existing under the assumption that it is indeed, also a community. RMN has worked to define what a good game should be, so that “RPG Maker games should stand on their own content” rather than some arbitrary definition. According to the interpretive community theory, “members of the same community will necessarily agree because they will see everything in relation to that community’s assumed purposes and goals” (Fish, 1980, pg. 15). To an extent, RMN’s reception of Pom Gets Wi-Fi was guided by a shared sense of what should constitute a good game, as well as the proper way to receive any game, described here: “persons feel the need to pick it to pieces, inspecting every facet of its origin and success, arguing over its merits and demerits, comparing it and contrasting it with other victims of their undesired appraisals.” RMN is a site of debate where users agree that games should be critiqued. Furthermore, it is a site that has built ‘standards’ of what RPG Maker games have the capacity to be. Some of the critical reception of Pom Gets Wi-Fi came from the fact that this game was, in fact, a first-time amateur game. Me-Patra seemed to acknowledge this idea of game-standards, commenting that Pom Gets Wi-Fi has “more downloads than Middens (a community favourite) and that doesn't seem right.”

Stanley Fish, in his work on interpretive communities, argues that “the act of recognizing literature is not constrained by something in the text . . . it proceeds from a collective decision as to what will count as literature, a decision that will be in force only so long as a community of readers or believers continues to abide by it” (Fish, 1980, pg.11). Commenting on the place of the individual in determining the meaning and value of a text, it would seem that individual interpretation is far less significant that community consensus. Fish is careful in responding to this, claiming that “the free and autonomous subject is not eliminated but granted the considerable power of determining the beliefs that determine his world” (Fish, 1980, pg. 11). Thus, individuals situate themselves in community settings that fit with their existing values. The purpose of RMN is to develop RPG Maker games. From this ‘vantage point’ successful games are hardly immune to critique. However, building a standard of what games should be does have a negative implication, where some say that certain games are prone to being ‘attacked’ for being too successful while standing apart from the ‘standards’ for what makes a good game; what the community values. In his more recent work, Jay Rosen adds to this idea, claiming that “if you want to attract a community around you, you must offer them something original and of a quality that they can react to and incorporate in their creative work” (Rosen, 2012, pg.15)

Several members of the RMN community accused Pom Gets Wi-Fi of gaining popularity through the phenomenon of hype – “as a lover of RPGs lifelong,” commented one user “I can't see what makes this game all that popular . . . can someone list the pros and cons of this game?” Clearly, within RMN, there is a strong desire for some objective measure of what makes RPG Maker games successful. Hype, in part fuelled by attention gained through PewDiePie, seemed to be deconstructing a carefully-build ‘dialectic’ of RMN community values. Some members sympathized with Me-Patra for attention that seemed hype-based, with the understanding that “critique itself isn't the enemy here, but the people getting lost in the hype and forgetting there's a game behind it.” As a product of a close-knit community Pom Gets Wi-Fi was ‘treated with care’ and respect, with many users feeling that the game was intrinsically deserving of its success. A few members also praised the game for bringing more attention to the community in general.

Work
– Active audiences are doing something with media. RPG Maker games, (as video games) constitute a type of media that demands interaction. By choosing to download and play a game on RMN, users are ‘doing’ audience-work. Michel De Certeau (1984) proposed that audiences engage in work with media through a process called consumption: “an entirely different kind of production” (pg.109). When De Certeau wrote that “the dividing line no longer falls between work and leisure” (pg. 107) he was signalling towards the fact that we do creative and ultimately self-fulfilling ‘work’ of a kind in our leisure time. Being part of an active audience community requires work, and this work creates space. Through their engagement with Pom Gets Wi-Fi on RMN, users worked to ‘assimilate’ the game into the website’s environment, a place that they understood as belonging to them, causing them to resist things outside of it; practices that seemed threatening. Work on RMN was done with Pom Gets Wi-Fi for the purpose of maintaining space – “there's nothing wrong with hosting on RMN . . . the actual function is the reason you go. The function of RMN is pretty unique . . . compared to other sites.” RMN is a community site for “talking about the game {and} if all you want is for people to comment without all that discourse getting in the way there are much better options.”

A few users commenting on Pom Gets Wi-Fi (doing audience work) criticized “the . . . politically motivated reviewing process of websites such as RMN.” These users should be aware that the review process on RMN is motivated by ideas of ‘game-standards’ - setting it apart from other online spaces where independent games might be promoted. De Certeau argued that it is important to consider what consumers make of images; of media. Consumers, “realizing no profit, and often at a loss, they take something from the order of knowledge in order to inscribe artistic achievements onto it” (De Certeau, 1984, pg.107). What does profit look like in an online space where games are distributed freely, by individuals and not profit-seeking corporations? I feel that in the context of rpgmaker.net, profit would be anything antithetical to established community values of why games are distributed on RMN. The authority of meaning making rests in critique and evaluation from the community. This is ‘making use’ of media, as De Certeau writes, an “art of using” (pg.109) where the function of media products belongs to the audience.

An important task for audiences is resistance. The RMN community is a ‘fandom’ directing its attention towards RPG Maker games; this is their chosen genre of media. Michael Hills proposes that fandoms are generally anti-consumerist, that there is “an expressed hostility in fandoms towards commercialisation and commodification” (Hills, 2002, pg.28). He connects his work on fandoms to the writing of De Certeau, suggesting that audience resistance constitutes an “imagination of a better life . . . {a} temporary deviation from the ‘expected’ or ‘anticipated’ use of a cultural object” (Hills, 2002, pg. 33). The expected use of video games in general is that consumers should play them, allowing those who produce them to make a profit. Within RMN, there is an important distinction between games being ‘produced’ and those that are ‘developed.’ Using the terms developed/developer imply more of a creative process behind the release of games on the RMN community. One user, in attempting to explain the popularity of Pom Gets Wi-Fi commented that “a lot of regulars here on RMN are attracted to cute screenshots and are influenced by a game's popularity.” Being influenced by popularity could mean being seduced by hype, the already-established enemy of what RMN stands for. The aim of RMN is not to make cute games (while aesthetics are important) – the aim is to ‘develop’ quality games.

The currency of RMN is downloads. Pom Gets Wi-Fi went from “600 downloads in a matter of hours” to “9,400+ downloads in a day” leading some users to believe that the download count was “being manipulated.” PewDiePie was mentioned many times when users were arguing over what could have made a first-time game like Pom Gets Wi-Fi so popular and unlike anything the community had ever witnessed, with some saying outright – “the reason why this game has so many downloads is because PewDiePie played it.” Hills’ main argument is that “use value and exchange value cannot ever be fully separated” (Hills, 2002, pg.34). The controversy over Pom Gets Wi-Fi proves that community members are aware of exchange-value, even if this value is secondary to use-values such as sharing, creativity and critical feedback. Audiences are both “inside and outside processes of commodification, experiencing and intensely personal use-value in relation to their object of fandom and then being re-positioned within more general and systemic processes of exchange value” (Hills ,2002, pg. 44)

New Audience
– RMN shares several characteristics with what recent communications scholars have been calling the new audience. New audiences want control and a degree of power over media; to shape and to use media how they wish. Audience power exists in De Certeau’s ‘consumption’ where audiences “want control over their media, instead of being controlled by it” (Rosen, 2012, pg.15). Patterns of reception have been rapidly changing over recent years, such that “old-style, one-way, top-down media consumption” (Rosen, 2012, pg.14) no longer works like it used to. Audiences now acknowledge forces that would prefer see them as passive, malleable and easily manipulated by media. This whole analysis of Pom Gets Wi-Fi has focussed very little on the game’s actual content and messages (its story, characters, setting, themes) but more on the structures working external to the game; those that the community accepts, negotiates or altogether rejects. RMN represents an active audience that wants to “take part, debate, create, communicate, share” (Rosen, 2012, pg.15). Users feel that a comment like- “this is just one of those types of games that you can tell that it’s going to be awesome without actually needing to find out for yourself that it’s awesome” is a kind of value-reducing rhetoric that RMN should be critical towards. The new audience, “(the people formerly known as the audience) are . . . realer, less fictional, more able, less predictable” (Rosen, 2012, pg.15).

According to Sonia Livingstone, in The participation paradigm in audience research (2013) “today’s media environment is reshaping the opportunity structures by which people (as audiences and as mediated publics) can participate” (pg.24). RMN is an online community where members are both producers and consumers. Pom Gets Wi-Fi has 150 K downloads, but it also has even more profile views, 81 subscribers, 20 pages of comments and 15 reviews. RMN makes it possible for users to ‘do something’ with the games they receive. The site is built around participation, and community members want to be involved with the release and development of RPG Maker games. A game that may have only existed for the audience of RMN soon spread to “the entire foundation of the internet” causing a panic that an amateur game would become “the main spokesperson for everything that is RPG Maker.” Livingstone suggests that looking into the lives of audiences constitutes important audience research, as within the everyday lives of audiences, audiences “can surprise, resist or contradict expectations” (Livingstone, 2013, pg.27).

The popularity of Pom Gets Wi-Fi was received in a particular way on RMN, in contrast with how it might have been received outside of the community (for example, subscribers of PewDiePie). A case study of the RMN community’s response to Pom Gets Wi-Fi reveals the how context impacts how media is received. RMN decidedly choose to treat Pom Gets Wi-Fi like any other game on rpgmaker.net, as a game deserving of critique that should be defended from hype. Due to “audiences {having} a collective social reality of significance” (Livingstone, 2013, pg. 27) they may respond negatively to media that does not fit within their code of values. New audiences A) have and demand power over controlling media, and B) have new ways of dealing with media and ‘participating’ with what is given to them. Some would consider this change the death of the audience, however, this rests on assumptions that audiences are traditionally inactive, that ‘meaning-making’ and creative processes do not belong to them as passive consumers.

Conclusion – In this essay I have discussed the online community on rpgmaker.net through their response to the RPG Maker game Pom Gets Wi-Fi. RMN is a ‘interpretive community’ doing active audience work in a new audience landscape, with new opportunities for participation and control over media. The RMN community is one with a unique and specialized understanding of particular media, making them a fandom directed towards RPG Maker games. A game should be good – compared with established standards, but all games deserve respect and criticism. Through the work of Stanley Fish, we see how RMN is its own interpretive community. Furthermore, De Certeau and Hills write about kinds of audience work, such as resistance, that online audiences can engage with. We are left with a building framework for categorizing audiences, as something new from what they used to be, where audiences demand control through new mediums. RMN is just one of many spaces where audiences and ‘audiencing’ exists. The fictional dog Pom gets her Wi-Fi, and RMN ‘gets’ Pom Gets Wi-Fi.

References

De Certeau, M. (1984) The practice of everyday life. In Booker W., & Jermyn D. (Eds.) The audience studies reader (pp. 105-111). London. Routledge.

Fish, S. (1980). Is there a text in this class? The authority of interpretive communities. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Hills, M. (2002) Fan cultures between ‘consumerism’ and ‘resistance.’ Fan Cultures. (pp. 27-35). London: Routledge.

Livingstone, S. (2013) The participation paradigm in audience research. The Communication Review, 25(4/5), 21-30

Rosen, J. (2012) The people formerly known as the audience. (pp. 13-16) The Social Media Reader. New York: New York University Press.



Posts

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A very interesting essay, examining a very interesting social phenomenon. Thanks for sharing this. :)
slash
APATHY IS FOR COWARDS
4008
Hahaha, this is pretty neat, and well-written. The idea of the RMN community being both creator and consumer has always been a weird and interesting quirk of this place, and I can see why Pom Gets Wi-Fi's popularity might be a scary thing to people, if it brought a lot of change or became a spokesgame for RM (whether it was true or not).

Anyway, cool essay!
CashmereCat
Self-proclaimed Puzzle Snob
10826
Wow. This is an exceptionally accurate article, I was expecting less insight into how RMN worked but even as a regular I learned new things about the nature of this community when reading this. It's funny how download count was measured as currency in the community because it sometimes feels like that. Except high scoring reviews would probably also serve as currency, for some people even more so than download counts. All in all, I'm very impressed by this and I'm sure after reading this that people can better recognize their role and stance towards games like this.
author=CashmereCat
Wow. This is an exceptionally accurate article, I was expecting less insight into how RMN worked but even as a regular I learned new things about the nature of this community when reading this. It's funny how download count was measured as currency in the community because it sometimes feels like that. Except high scoring reviews would probably also serve as currency, for some people even more so than download counts. All in all, I'm very impressed by this and I'm sure after reading this that people can better recognize their role and stance towards games like this.

I'm glad you think so, and thanks for commenting! I was concerned what the RMN 'regulars' might think, cause I haven't been on the site all that long. It was a super interesting analysis. I think I might have quoted you once or twice, actually ^^

author=slash
Hahaha, this is pretty neat, and well-written. The idea of the RMN community being both creator and consumer has always been a weird and interesting quirk of this place, and I can see why Pom Gets Wi-Fi's popularity might be a scary thing to people, if it brought a lot of change or became a spokesgame for RM (whether it was true or not).

Anyway, cool essay!

Thanks! This is like, my bone-dry university writing, but it was fun to write. Yes, the 'new audience' is both consumer and producer

author=LordBlueRouge
A very interesting essay, examining a very interesting social phenomenon. Thanks for sharing this. :)

Appreciate the comment/feedback <3 well, of course, I wanted the community to be able to read it!
Cap_H
DIGITAL IDENTITY CRISIS
6615
Is Calgary a cool place to study in?

Interesting read, Leigh. I think that you caught a process in its development, wchi is always a good thing. There is nothing I can disagree with in your work. I would like to know how you compare RMN with other communities some more. For example What do you think about forum-only sites (majority of RPG maker focused communities) or on the other hand of uncontrolled masses of content such as Moddb is.
I've noticed this self-differentiation of RMN since I've joined here. It connects your usual community forums with something more out oriented, but not so wholly and clearly as it seems to be at the first sight (first time I visited RMN was to download Legionwood. The site confused hell out of me with its tutorial and resources sections. I couldn't understand why it is here. The truth is that RMN changes as you get more insight)...

And what I really wanted to say is that I enjoyed your essay and don't bother with my stream of consciousness or what it is.

MLA aside, it was pretty darned good! I'm... actually about to play the thing now. I watched Cupquake lay it and she got ALL the bad endings.
After reading this you realize more than ever that it's true that this is a site/community that consumes what it creates, and that outer consumers come as intimidating, because it's not common. :D

This was a great essay! ^w^
Leigh, please don't multipost. It's against site rules. Instead, it is possible to quote different texts into one post. And the handy Edit button at the bottom of your post lets you add more after the fact.


That said, it's an interesting read. Thanks for sharing!
kentona
I am tired of Earth. These people. I am tired of being caught in the tangle of their lives.
21227
Cool read. Though I felt that it didn't go into any great depths over the many points it touches upon. You dug into several interesting subjects, but I wanted more! More analysis!

I am interested to know what the distinction is between a collective audience, versus a collection of individuals who share several common values, and whether the distinction even matters in an analysis like this. I am only talking at a high level here, but there is a tendency to think in terms of "RMN thinks or does this" as if RMN is a single entity, and then something happens that seems to contradict the way "RMN does things", when it is really just different individuals with different values or goals acting their own way. (And do communities tend to homogenize over time, as those contrarians leave? And does groupthink and "us vs. the outside" mentality take over?)

Interesting work, like I said. Maybe I should seek out some of the other papers you referenced... I ought to learn more about this as I am out of my depth in the subject.
author=Cap_H
Is Calgary a cool place to study in?

Interesting read, Leigh. I think that you caught a process in its development, wchi is always a good thing. There is nothing I can disagree with in your work. I would like to know how you compare RMN with other communities some more. For example What do you think about forum-only sites (majority of RPG maker focused communities) or on the other hand of uncontrolled masses of content such as Moddb is.
I've noticed this self-differentiation of RMN since I've joined here. It connects your usual community forums with something more out oriented, but not so wholly and clearly as it seems to be at the first sight (first time I visited RMN was to download Legionwood. The site confused hell out of me with its tutorial and resources sections. I couldn't understand why it is here. The truth is that RMN changes as you get more insight)...

And what I really wanted to say is that I enjoyed your essay and don't bother with my stream of consciousness or what it is.


I really appreciate the feedback, it means a lot that the community is responding to what I've written :) I think there's a lot of variety in forum sites, and not be biased but I think RMN is one of the more 'educated' ones, or maybe the focus is more critical/serious than some sites. I'm also pretty sure that the content of RMN is much more regulated and filtered. Oh, U of C is a great university, I'm graduating on April 15. Calgary is all around a great city

author=Iron-Croc
MLA aside, it was pretty darned good! I'm... actually about to play the thing now. I watched Cupquake lay it and she got ALL the bad endings.

I used APA! (jokes, I have no idea what that meant, but thanks~)

author=Chivi-chivik
After reading this you realize more than ever that it's true that this is a site/community that consumes what it creates, and that outer consumers come as intimidating, because it's not common. :D

This was a great essay! ^w^

thanks for the compliment :) that's what makes RMN so interesting, we aren't just consumers, so we hold each other to standards and focus on 'developing' not producing

author=Liberty
Leigh, please don't multipost. It's against site rules. Instead, it is possible to quote different texts into one post. And the handy Edit button at the bottom of your post lets you add more after the fact.That said, it's an interesting read. Thanks for sharing!

thanks for letting me know, also thanks for reading

author=kentona
Cool read. Though I felt that it didn't go into any great depths over the many points it touches upon. You dug into several interesting subjects, but I wanted more! More analysis!

I am interested to know what the distinction is between a collective audience, versus a collection of individuals who share several common values, and whether the distinction even matters in an analysis like this. I am only talking at a high level here, but there is a tendency to think in terms of "RMN thinks or does this" as if RMN is a single entity, and then something happens that seems to contradict the way "RMN does things", when it is really just different individuals with different values or goals acting their own way. (And do communities tend to homogenize over time, as those contrarians leave? And does groupthink and "us vs. the outside" mentality take over?)

Interesting work, like I said. Maybe I should seek out some of the other papers you referenced... I ought to learn more about this as I am out of my depth in the subject.

thanks for the comment <3 this is informed by audience theory, which can be somewhat one-sided. Fish's theory of interpretive communities says that individuals basically have 0% responsibility, that it's all in the group they align with. Most new communications research is focusing on the community, but there's the work of Michel Foucault and Stuart Hall that looks at the active individual. This paper had a word limit, but I see the opportunity to develop it into a bigger project, for sure
Very interesting read! Great job and thanks for sharing.

I'd really like to read a more in depth analysis focused on the active individual... RMN as a collection of individuals as kentona puts it.

One thing I would disagree with is that hype is the enemy of the community.
When a game's quality is perceived to be low, hype can be blamed for the game's popularity, as we've seen in this case.
However, hype also brings more attention to a game, and with it more varied opinions and valid critique, which is an undeniably positive consequence.

I don't think Pom was ever hyped in the sense of being aggressively marketed, but it definitely benefited from the large audience of a popular youtube personality.
author=Avee
Very interesting read! Great job and thanks for sharing.

I'd really like to read a more in depth analysis focused on the active individual... RMN as a collection of individuals as kentona puts it.

One thing I would disagree with is that hype is the enemy of the community.
When a game's quality is perceived to be low, hype can be blamed for the game's popularity, as we've seen in this case.
However, hype also brings more attention to a game, and with it more varied opinions and valid critique, which is an undeniably positive consequence.

I don't think Pom was ever hyped in the sense of being aggressively marketed, but it definitely benefited from the large audience of a popular youtube personality.


Thanks for the read! I'm very happy to share :)
Hype, I'm thinking is more when people play a game 'just because it's famous/just because of its downloads' and not really for the sake of the game
The feedback is great, it is a short essay but I can see where I could take things further
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