With social media becoming an even more prominent factor in our lives, play has evolved from the physical realm to the digital. One such trajectory of play is narrative play. Bakioğlu (2014) attempts to explore how the creation of video blogs (vlogs) fully explores the narrative possibilities of internet technologies. Even though the article chronicles a specific vlog that became one of the first social media franchises on YouTube, the fundamentals of the article hold true for any social media type play.
With the way that social media is set up and utilized, it is easy to achieve an impressive fan base for creative projects. Where the playfulness comes into accordance then is when the fans get invested and begin to take matters into their own hands. As with the case of this specific vlog, it became so popular that fans took the plot line and turned it into an immersive game that blurs the lines between fiction and reality. By being able to connect to large audiences, social media has transformed itself into the perfect platform for initiating non-traditional types of “play.
With digital narratives and gaming lying on one spectrum of the digital playing field, another lies in memes, internet artifacts that spread through imitation or emulation. Shifman describes one such meme of a clip of Hitler in the 2004 movie Downfall. This clip involves Hitler getting angry over his defeat. The meme involves people dubbing over this clip, with “Hitler [being] portrayed as being furious because he has been banned from X-box; becomes distraught when he hears that Michael Jackson cannot perform at his birthday because he is dead; and breaks down when he learns that Ronaldo is to sign for Real Madrid” (Shifman 2012).
These reproductions of the original video add comedic value, and provide a way for a video creator, or user, to “play.”
A study by Shifman explored these memes. She made a distinction between a viral video and a meme; the former of which does not do anything new with the video, while the latter does. She then looked at what makes a good meme, discovering the six aspects that contribute to this: “the focus on ordinary people, flawed masculinity, humor, simplicity, repetitiveness and whimsical content” (Shifman 2012). These aspects contributed to the incompleteness of the video, allowing other users to add on to the meme and make it something new. Memes provide a form of social media “play” by intrinsically allowing users to contribute to the meme, by making their own versions. In attempting to explain the motivation behind making memes, Shifman how making memes gives people a way to express their personality.
Memes are further explored by Silvestri who looks at how a group of people serving in the military attempted to keep up with social media by creating a video that parodies a lip-sync of Carly Rae Jepsen done by the Miami Dolphin Cheerleaders. Silvestri mentioned all the aspects of the video that reflect this. The soldiers incorporated artifacts, such as military vehicles, and ammo belts, that established their culture. They also provided contrast to the other video, by having men do all the feminine actions that the cheerleaders did, and working on a low budget, compared to the other video’s higher budget.
Technology is a powerful tool, and in the right circumstances, can do a lot of good. Because of the circumstances of the marines in the video, they had to be creative and essentially “play” by interaction in order to stay relevant. This results in something new and impactful, because of social media, not despite of it. The key to memes compared to other types of social media activities is that they require more effort than just simply paying attention. One has to think and creatively contribute with the meme they produce.