They [arrival stories] play the crucial role of anchoring that description in the intense and authority-giving personal experience of fieldwork … Always they are responsible for setting up the initial positionings of the subjects of the ethnographic text: the ethnographer, the native, and the reader. (Pratt 1986, cited in Hine 2000 p45)
She arrived at night, unintentionally – but perhaps that was a good thing. The journey was long, and involved many transitions, connections and re-connections. Upon arriving, Hiro felt strange, this place was familiar – yet new. She didn’t know where to start, or if starting would be possible. The place was frankly deserted. But she needed help, answers – she couldn’t do this alone.
She checked into an anonymous inn, nothing flashy – palaces and throne halls were a world away, another lifetime. She was a scholarly creature of universities now – at least she hoped she was. She washed and changed out of her travel stained clothes before making her way to the common area. A few sad looking strangers stared into their tankards or picked miserably at the plain food before them. No one she recognized, but yet – would she even recognize them if she saw them? Who was she expecting to be here? The Keeper? Prophet? Innomi? She suspected they were long dead.
Shaking off panic and the urge to return to her room and get some rest before beginning, she ordered a glass of the local ale and bowl of indifferent looking broth that bubbled on the stove and sat in a corner, making notes in her note book as she ate, as she waited for someone to arrive.
I didn’t want to intrude on the role-play game that was to be the main focus of my ethnography, the Forest of the Moon as that was long established and it seemed impolite to jump in just for the sake of research. However as I was using Hine (2000) as the framework of my explorations I felt participation was important.
The definition of ethnography as participation given by Hammersley and Atkinson (1995: 2) highlights the interactive aspect of ethnographic research. The researcher does not just observe at close quarters, but interacts with the researched to ask questions and gain the insights into life that come from doing as well as seeing. (Hine 2000, p. 47)
So I asked the FoTM players to join me in a little experiment called “Hirondelle helps out” where I blew the dust off an old character of mine (Hirondelle the Goddess of the Underworld, who many pf the players knew well) and set her up as an ethnographic scholar in a random imaginary world – in this case an inn, a common enough scene for an RPG happening. This enabled me to (re)familiarise myself with the process – I had forgotten how hard it is, notice the big oops where I forgot to introduce myself and the FoTM GM gives me a gentle nudge in the right direction. It also meant that I felt a little more authentic and less of a ‘mere traveller’ in an exotic land. My arrival story was the first post, for a glimpse of the rest of this mini ethnographic RPG please visit us here.
Hine, C, (2000) “The virtual objects of ethnography” from Hine, C, Virtual Ethnography pp.41-66, London: Sage