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Gaming culture, motivation, and cathartic experience: an ethnographic study of tabletop roleplaying streamers




Sagstetter, Seth, author
Snodgrass, Jeffrey G., advisor
Cohen, Adrienne J., committee member
Diffrient, David Scott, committee member

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With the rise of online, streamed entertainment and the resurgence of tabletop roleplaying games in popular media, it has become essential to examine participation motivations in the tabletop streaming space. To investigate play and community participation motivations I have drawn from my own decade long experiences in the tabletop space and initial observations of tabletop roleplay streams to inform interviews of seventeen active streamers. Interviews were further enhanced by both participating in a tabletop stream and observing streams online over the live streaming platform Twitch. Player relations to character and a desire to engage in game play emerged as motivations to initially participate in streaming roleplaying games. Once engaged in the broader tabletop community, players found themselves better able to express their ideal selves and, building upon psychological anthropological theories on cultural norm congruence, better fit into a community with new, alternative cultural norms that more closely aligned with players of marginalized identity. Player character relationship and the safety brought about by alternative cultural norms also allowed for the emergence of therapeutic benefits of play, through cathartic experience. The safety to express ideal selves, the comfort brought on by more closely aligning with the community's norms, and the relief of emergent cathartic experiences best explain player motivations to return to online streaming groups.


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