As mentioned last week, I have been using a GoPro Hero camera to record events during the club. For the first half of this week’s club the camera remained undisturbed, as usual, on a desk where had I positioned it to film a small group of players. However, approximately half an hour into the session, the camera itself became the focus of the activity for a group of children as they took charge of the filming process.
The focus on the camera began as one boy, turning away from his computer, waved and stared into the lens. He called across to another boy, who immediately left his seat and picked up the camera. At this point I made a conscious decision to allow them to continue – my alternative response would have been to insist that they put the camera back where I had placed it. However, my early conceptualisation of Minecraft Club as being driven by the children – defined by ongoing unfolding events rather than being purely the product of my design – has encouraged me to take a back seat more often and let things happen.
During the early stages of this project, I occasionally found myself slightly stressed and uptight when technical problems arose or things didn’t go quite ‘to plan’, worrying that these detours were keeping me from ‘researching’ the club. However, my realisation that these were as much a part of the lived experience of the club as the gameplay itself encouraged me to take the view that the club is whatever happens during the weekly allotted 75 minutes. Often this involves children seated in front of their computers playing Minecraft but, just as importantly, sometimes it does not.
Once in the hands of the children (or, more specifically, a small group of boys) the camera is used in a number of ways:
- They filmed their screens during play, positioning the camera next to their laptop keyboard, at times also providing audio commentary.
- One child used the camera’s headstrap to enable him to wear the camera and to film his gameplay and discussions with others from his perspective.
- They introduced other members of the class, carrying the camera around the room.
- They pulled silly faces into the lens.
- They conduct conversations with the camera:
Sam: (pointing the camera at Ben) ‘Is your name Ben?’
Ben: (to camera) ‘Yes it is, GoPro!… What’s your name, GoPro?’
- They held it at arms length and sing and dance to the camera:
Thomas: (singing) ‘I’m on a GoPro / I’m on a GoPro’.
Ben and Thomas: (singing and dancing) ‘We’re on a GoPro / We’re on a GoPro’
They are then joined by three other boys, who form a procession, dancing and singing the same song.
Eventually, as I had forgotten to fully charge the battery, the camera turned itself off, much to the children’s disappointment. But in this relatively short space of time, they had managed to film the club from multiple perspectives.
Although I had already toyed with the idea of giving the children some control of the camera in future weeks, I had not intended that this would happen in such an unplanned and unpolished way. Nevertheless, watching the footage back was both entertaining and enlightening, providing an interesting example of how the process of research can unexpectedly become enmeshed with the clubs events. It also serves to illustrate how Minecraft club is not always just about playing Minecraft but is also driven by the events that occur aside from the gameplay when children are away from their keyboard (AFK), framing their gameplay in a specific context.
The presence of the camera clearly prompted much of the performance element, explained in part by the excitement of having access to relatively novel piece of equipment in the classroom, particularly given the GoPro’s reputation of being an camera used to film adventurous pursuits rather than classroom practice. It is now for me to decide which, if any, of these child-led filming methods I choose to employ in future weeks. Perhaps this is what I meant when I stated my intention to take into account Law’s (2004) call for ‘a broader or more generous sense of method’ at the outset of my research.
LAW, John (2004). After method: Mess in social science research. London, Routledge.