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Studying the Racial Stories We Tell Ourselves While Playing Games: The Value of Narrative Analysis in Cultural Sociology

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By: Published: 2018 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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Abstract

Between 2007 and 2009, video game journalists, critics, and fans engaged in a heated debate over whether Resident Evil 5, a video game, contained racially problematic imagery. At the time, I was a grad student interested in developing a research project to explore video games’ social significance. This episode seemed like it was the perfect candidate to examine how video games can stimulate public discussion of broader sociopolitical issues. To explore this possibility, I designed a research project to examine how fans engaged with this topic in a popular online video game forum. This case study describes my experience designing and conducting a research project to explore this episode. In particular, this case study focuses on how I used narrative analysis, a particular form of qualitative analysis, to identify and examine the broader stories about race and racial inequality that fans construct while engaging in this debate. I provide an introduction to the theoretical underpinnings of narrative analysis as well as the basic steps necessary to implement it. I use my own research to identify and describe some of the challenges to successfully conducting a narrative analysis, while also providing some practical advice for how researchers new to this method of qualitative analysis in general can mitigate these issues.

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