The enriching and hilarious video game research experience

It is amazing how data-collection experiences and processes can be so enriching, stressful and hilarious at the same time. This opening story is from 1 of 3 focus group discussions (FDGs) we undertook in a qualitative research on video game regulation in immigrant family contexts in Norway. We had already received feedback from youths (13-19 yrs) on the subject and now it was the parents’ turn to share and socially engage on the topic of video game regulation in their homes. Everything was set for the FDG: Date – check. Time – check. Semi-structured interview guide – check. Venue – check. Recorder – phone battery, charged.

As the researchers, we had arrived on time from our respective regions. The FG convener had assured us that all the parents were ready to share their experiences and struggles on video game regulation. A prize of 1000kr had been announced for 1 lucky winner. The pizza and drinks for the expected 5-7 informants had arrived.

It was time, and to the convener’s anguish, only 2 parents had shown up. ‘Lets wait for 10 more minutes!’ I suggested, worried for my heavily pregnant co-researcher who also had to catch her flight back home. I could manage, I thought. Home was just a 4 hour train ride away. 

We started after 10 minutes – we had planned for a 45 minutes to 1 hour long discussion. 25 minutes later, a timid knock on the door was followed by a stream of about 8 cheerful women strolling in and spreading out noisily onto the chairs we had set up earlier in a circle. One woman had volunteered an excuse: “I had to run errands and then had to wait for my friend, who also had to wait for her friend – and ooops, before we knew it, time had flown. Sorry’. The lady said with a big smile.

‘Alright! You are all welcome’ I chipped in, cancelling the concerns for a) the expected challenge of moderating 10 people in a short period of time and b) the enormous task of transcribing the conversations that lay ahead. But the promise of a bounty of rich data was extremely exciting. We needed stratifying data at the onset, so I asked for it after informing them all about research ethics and informant rights that we are obligated to do by the Norwegian Centre for Research Data (NSD). This alone was so enriching – for instance, only 1 of the informants was a father – a statistic also reflected in the overall sample (2 fathers out of 16 informants). The vast majority were single mothers – one of whom had 6 kids of video-gaming age. This particular mother’s copying strategies were mesmerizing. Another lady had no kids – but why was she here? She was here to “see what happens in such research meetings, and perhaps support her friend” who fit the target group profile. Well then. The different ages, nationalities, educational levels, employment, marital status, religion – said a lot – and we would take this up later in the rigorous cross examination.

So the discussions ensured – unraveling what it means to be a digital migrant parent raising digital native children partaking in a global gaming culture in a foreign country. As a researcher moderating this process, it was rewarding to steer and witness the collective and social construction and organization of the knowledge between and among the diverse informants. Making sense of and connections between who says what and why was enlightening. We enjoyed diverse views: for instance from a cheerful, loud and confident hijab wearing mother who epitomized why FDGs are popular methodologies, not just in feminist studies given the comfort in numbers, but also because the methods, if well steered in friendly environment, mirror normal interactions in social life. But we also had the typical shy one who only spoke when coaxed and when she spoke, she unleashed jewels of information pleasing to the researcher. Generally, we had mothers, some of whom were illiterate, who understood neither English nor Norwegian and therefore had to have interpreters. We heard honest self-reflections on conflicts that drove husband and wife to the brink of divorce because they shared different values. We had a mix of authoritarian parents, hands-off parents, dialogue-loving parents and some who employed doses of all the above mechanisms. We learned how parents in big cities actually preferred that their kids played video games as much as they did, instead of going out to crime and drugs-infested city-streets. And how, through social control, some parents found it hard to talk with peers in their circles for fear of being percieved as bad or weak parents. The data was bountiful, the atmosphere was conducive and relatable – perhaps because we (the researchers) were also of immigrant background – that when the time was really up, some 2 hours later, there was no doubt that the FDG(s) were a success.

In short, the benefits from our FGD experiences outweighed the few stress factors. We were able to not only save time through accessing several parents from diverse backgrounds but also gain varied and generously articulated insights into what socio-cultural struggles diasporic digital migrant parents face when it comes to raising their digitally innate and tech-savvy children – this knowledge that enabled us to later develop, test and implement a wide range of tailored resources freely – that can be found here Project website.

A big thank you to the Norwegian Media Authority and Competence Center for Gaming Research, University of Bergen for funding the Project, my fellow researchers; Håkon Repstad (MA), Hilde Corneliussen (PhD) and Gilda Seddighi (PhD) and our partners from the Civil Society Organisations MiR, VI, Spillavhengighet Norge and especially NOMKUS for the amazing work in developing, testing and translating into various Languages. John Cei Douglas for the cartoon illustrations of our work. And of course last but not least the parents and youth who took part.

Interesting reading

Bryman Allan (2016) Social Research Methods. Oxforf University Press. Oxford.

Hennink, M. M. (2013). Focus group discussions. Oxford University Press.

Colucci, E. (2007). “Focus groups can be fun”: The use of activity-oriented questions in focus group discussions. Qualitative health research, 17(10), 1422-1433.


Carol Azungi Dralega

NLA University College Kristiansand Norway