Gaming rules as normative order
Social activities also abide by rules or norms wherein behaving appropriately means immersion into the community, and thus 'winning' (Gee, 2011). This is a particularly interesting concept within communities of gamers where 'winning' determines one's merit as a gamer. Online multiplayer gaming communities take it upon themselves to enforce game rules; they insist that other players "adhere to the normative order of the game" (Edelmann, 2007, p. 200). Player communities construct their own sanctions and punishments in response to those who break social rules that aren't otherwise enforced or punished by the administrators of the game itself (201). Like any other community, gamer communities construct and implement rules for members to follow in order to 'win'-to even participate in-the 'game' that is a social activity (Gee, 2011). These are among the reasons why I find virtual communities of gamers so interesting to understanding how to approach distance classroom communities.
To ensure that every member is a 'winner,' rules must be outlined, legitimized, and enforced. An essential part of maintaining a community includes constantly defending its belief systems (Clarke, 2009). Clarke referred to four strategies discourse community members use to legitimize and defend their beliefs: Authorization, an appeal to authority; Rationalization, which legitimizes utility to group; Moral Evaluation, where moral and ethical value systems are brought up; and Mythopoesis, or shared narratives (p. 2338-2340). As this community negotiates a new rule, an appeal to authority occurs when one member wrote, "Imagine if the developers of the recent batman game had subtitles like..'2 da b8cave b8man!'" (CraicxXx). His point being that game developers, generally respected by gamers, would not use text-speak. Proper grammar use is rationalized many times, including mention of its utility for significant discussion (cjw101) and comfortable reading (mens_rea). These are frequently accompanied by some moral judgment about a person who would use poor grammar. That individual is accused of apathy, lacking common courtesy, being impatient, and causing others physical pain. The implication is that none of these actions are acceptable from a community member and all are tied to the use of text-speak. Finally, the use of narrative to provide interpretive examples occurs at least twice in the conversation, with a member offering an interesting story about his sister, writing, "My sister is head of English and Media Studies in a London secondary school and has told me stories of text speak being used in homework and even exams. That shows how much of an issue this is becoming" (soulfinger). This example is the "real-world" version of the classroom metaphor. However, here, members are asked to consider the pervasive effects of text-speak as it infects homework and exams. soulfinger does not say how his sister, the head of English and Media Studies, feels about the invasion of text-speak, but in calling it an "issue" he implies that it is problematic. His narrative allows listeners to further legitimize their anti-text-speak rule by recognizing themselves as part of the larger defense against inappropriate grammar in writing and education.
The social ecology of games is one that values interaction and helpfulness, as well as status and competition (Herz, 2002). It's important to note a similarity between a classroom and a game forum: that of shared goals. Herz described this as a kind of inter-dependence: "Regardless of who wins or loses, they are mutually dependent on the shared spaces where gaming occurs" (p. 184). While rivalry exists among members, they are part of a like-minded group who share values. In classrooms as well as cooperative games, a group can only move as fast as its slowest member. Ondrejka (2008) examined the virtual world Second Life, describing the teaching and learning atmosphere as "a culture of educational events in which residents take time to teach others" (p. 241). He described the importance of education in this culture, but notes that it doesn't resemble education in a classroom (241). Similarly, Herz (2002) used the Slashdot forum as an example of such a learning community: "This system rewards people who make verbal contributions valuable to the group, prevents the discourse from being dominated by people who simply like to hear themselves talk, and gives listeners a larger influence and a greater sense of involvement" (p. 181). He is essentially describing how forums users can rate posts, follow other participants, create and answer polls, and be privy to behind-the-scenes information, all while admin diligently remove pointless posts (such as "First post!!" or "bump").