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Ethnographic Essay Example

Updated on April 16, 2014
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Ethnographic Essay


I decided to place this essay online to further help students find success in their English courses. This is an ethnographic essay I had written about a year ago for my English class. Please note that I had made several changes to the names listed. I did receive an A on this particular essay, but, after taking another English class, I do realize there are a few mistakes. One of them is the absence of a "Quote sandwich" (lacking an introduction leading up to a quote as well as following up its importance to the essay).


Cave Dwellers


Have you ever wondered what happens during the afterhours at Logan University? For the majority, school is a place of learning, and achieving a higher education. But for a select few, the school is comprised of alternate realities. These realms range from an exciting world inhabited by Pokémon, to as far as a cut throat western/space theme where even walking across the street can be hazardous to your health.



“Two decades ago, the nation's pocket-protector crowd fell in love with Dungeons & Dragons, the role-playing game that was more than just a board and some game-pieces, but an ongoing sub-story-arc in young people's lives. These days, the game of choice is Magic: The Gathering, a next-generation hybrid of chess developed by Renton, Wash.-based Wizards of the Coast. But unlike D&D, which never flourished much beyond sci-fi/fantasy buffs, Magic has taken a more sophisticated marketing tack. Don't look now, but so-called nerd games are suddenly cool. (Bernhard 20)” The last statement couldn’t be truer for those participating in Logan Universities premier role playing club called Cave Dwellers. This elite club is made up of all individuals. Age, sex, ethnicity, and cultural background vary as the organization appeals to all groups of people. The first thing I had noticed is that most members don’t dress in any extravagant fashion. Nothing separates their individual style from any other student at Logan University. If you, as an individual, are used to wearing name brand clothes, you might stick out within the confines of their society. Terminology will vary based upon which game you wish to attend, although most group members have a thorough understanding of the many different games. Some abbreviations which one can expect to encounter are; DM (Dungeon Master), whose main role is to be responsible for attendance of players, to settle disputes, and the DM has the final call. Story Tellers/ Narrators are responsible for leading the story, or telling the story. An individual may hold a duel billet, for example, a DM can also be a narrator.



Role playing games and magic is a fairly new phenomenon globally. It has grown in popularity within the past decade due to the public’s interest in fantasy as well as an increase in marketing. “A role playing game company called Wizards of the Coast was created in 1990. It is best known for Magic: The Gathering, a best-selling trading card adventure game founded by Peter Adkison (Tyrer 5)”. “In 2002, Wizards of the Coast sales rose 17%. Director of book publishing for Wizards said the publisher has benefited from higher levels of interest in fantasy books that has been created by the success of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings (Jim Milliot 10; Archer 10)”. Harry Potters long running series has attracted a large audience globally. It is no wonder that sales for fantasy based genre has boosted since their release in 1990. “The advertising agency Moffatt/Rosenthal had been selected to handle its $5-10 million dollar add account. Since the game's release in 1993, more than two billion Magic cards have been sold worldwide, prompting a new market genre. Magic: The Gathering has been translated into eight languages (Tyrer 5)”.



I had become aware of the Cave Dwellers through a mere flyer posted on the 3rd floor of Aden Hall located on Logan University campus. The flyer had listed a room number as well as a time that the club meets. The time that was listed was approximately 7:30 p.m. on a Friday night. At a glance, I was skeptical that this group could be more entertaining than anything I could concoct for the first day of my weekend. I had arrived promptly in hopes of achieving some idea of what I was getting myself into. Three others had already occupied the room upon my arrival, but they were reading as they waited. As more people trickled into the room I began to notice several trends such as; magic cards, dice, and the use of terminology I was not accustomed to. A group positioned themselves in a corner pondering several ways to remove permanent marker off of something called a “Battle Mat”. I decided to take this as an opportunity to show off my little known knowledge, and informed them that hand sanitizer could work miracles. This opened up an opportunity to talk to the others in the room; I then found myself in the midst of a conversation. One of the five group officers somehow noticed I was new; she came over to me and began to ask questions related to my game experience. My initial thought was “What experience?” I had then mustered a response, which to her seemed less than adequate; this was because of the skeptical look she had given me in return. She explained that there were different games, sometimes considered “realms” or “alternate realities”. However, if I decided to join a game I would be responsible to adhering to their strict attendance policy (once you join a game, you are responsible for being at every club meeting). I was then tasked with filling out the terms and agreement form. “I am quite wary of signing contracts,” I said. “Perhaps I may be able to watch a game before I decide to join.” She agreed with my response and informed me that games last until midnight. Just then, the first initial meeting began.



The treasurer had taken place at the front of the room in an outfit you would typically see in J.K. Rolling’s Harry Potter. To an untrained eye it would appear to be a high quality robe which comprised of black, grey, and sage. He began to speak about some of the club costs which included; dice, battle mats, and the long waited club t-shirts, which seemed to cause hype in the room. It was wrapped up there; gamers were then dismissed and advised to have fun as they separated to their individual worlds. I decided to sit in on the western space age themed game despite my affection for Pokémon. The players introduced themselves along with their characters in which they individually create. The characters seemed to reflect individual ambitions of the players. It was apparent to me that these characters are what the players would like to be themselves. Realizing this, I made sure to keep my mind open to what I may encounter in this room regardless of how unorthodox it may become. The DM was holding a duel billet, as he was also the narrator. He informed me that he was what he called a “sandbox” narrator, in the sense that he merely guided the story but let the players have wiggle room. He also mentioned that this is a “Role” playing game, not a “Roll” playing game. Dice would only be used when chance would take its toll on the characters’ lives.



The story takes place within an environment similar to that of Louisiana despite it being a space western. I was brought up to speed on the characters’ lives, each one with his or her individual aspects. I had noted that all of their lives are inter-connected, and are affected by one another’s actions, as well as chance. The DM for this game was very lively; he was responsible for much of the dialogue in which he spoke in various accents to portray the many different characters that give depth to the story. It was enjoyable to listen to such a descriptive story created by everyone sitting here in this room. The objective of the game is to complete your characters goals. The players create them upon joining a game and questions such as “Who are my parents” are asked and sought out throughout the game. The ability to complete this will rely heavily on the narrator. As the night came to an end, players said their good-byes and the games were put on hold. It was the end of another great week of gaming, and the beginning phase of preparation for the next.



Overall, my experience with the Cave Dwellers is one that I shall cherish. My view, like many others, had been a negative one. They are often frowned upon in our school districts. Hopefully, after reading this your opinion had changed. If you are looking to create an everlasting bond with someone in our present day reality or an alternate one, Cave Dwellers is right for you. I would highly encourage anyone that is looking for something new, and exciting to try out this elite organization. I warn you that it is not for the faint hearted. Be sure to bring your eagerness, as well as an open mind. This is not an opportunity you will want to overlook.


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