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  • Anthony R. Ramirez and joey lopez, phd

Critical Cultural Exploration of Video Game Stores Within Tejanx Communities

Updated: Feb 26

Anthony R. Ramirez, Ph.D. Candidate - Texas A&M University joey lopez, ph.d., Professor of the Practice - Texas A&M University




Introduction This paper started out as a thought exercise like many so many abstracts do. Anthony Ramirez and joey lopez thought: “What does it mean to be TejanX/LatinX in terms of gaming culture and the industry in general?”


We decided to focus on our hometowns of El Paso and San Antonio, Texas. Both cities are predominantly Hispanic/Latinx as San Antonio has a population of 1,434,625 with 64.2% of that being Hispanic/Latinx. El Paso’s population is smaller with 679,546 but has a larger Hispanic/Latinx population at 83%.


First author of the paper, Anthony Ramirez is a Ph.D. Candidate at Texas A&M where his dissertation focuses on LatinX representations, U.S.-Mexico borderlands, and their presence in comics. As a native of El Paso, Anthony grew up a fan of popular culture, one aspect in particular that he was a fan of was gaming and gaming culture. As a child, much of his socialization with friends and family revolved around gaming, whether on consoles, going to tournaments or arcades, Anthony was immersed in the gaming scene in El Paso at a young age. To this day, Anthony still is a fan of video games and uses gaming to communicate and keep in touch with his best friends.

Image: An old photo of Anthony with a group of his best friends at a gaming contest for Gears of War 3.


Second author, joey lopez is an Associate Professor of the Practice and director of the Gaming & Media Lab at Texas A&M in the department of Communication. His research spans multiple disciplines from tech start ups to Chicana Feminism to online and offline automotive culture in central Texas. His passion for gaming started at a very young age, having been exposed to video gaming at the age of 4 years old when his father purchased a PC jr and later obtained an original Nintendo. Much like Anthony, his youth involved gaming with his friends and going to arcades. In addition to his own experiences as a youth, he also worked at IC^2 at UT Austin as a graduate student where he worked on a poly hierarchy gaming lexicon with researchers. In the tech scene he has worked with and met many game developers and was immersed in the independent video gaming scene in Austin during the mid two thousands to twenty teens. Lastly in the mid twenty teens he worked with Christian Rios, now his business partner of Dreamonoid’s HiFi to help Rios develop and open an Arcade called Dreamonoid’s, which was opened on the Westside of San Antonio down the street from the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center.


Image: Dreamonoids Hi-Fi Shop


So when Anthony and joey were made aware of the The Hispanic and Latin American Video Gaming Experience: Imagery, Industry & Audience conference at Texas Tech we were compelled to submit an abstract bridging our past passions with our current research in popular culture and LatinX representation and our interest in the gaming industry. What you will experience below is a result of multiple “jam sessions,” where Anthony and joey worked through ideas, concepts and questions about what it means to examine LatinX culture and the gaming industry. While we have formed many ideas throughout this exercise, we have also developed many questions we hope other academics will help us answer.


Research Question(s)

As we met to work on this paper we constantly questioned our qualifications to write about LatinX representations in gaming and quickly came to realize it is part of our own imposter syndrome at LatinX’s in academia. That said, we also came to delineate some of our ideas through this process. Here are some of the research questions that would come to drive our informal research (meaning non-IRB, anecdotal).

  • What are the lived realities Latinx gamers, game developers and gaming culture enthusiasts in Texas, geographically and generationally?

  • What are some of the cultural signifiers of these Latinx gaming spaces (shops, arcades, gaming studios) that showcase Latinidad?

  • LatinX community Vs. LatinX content - Can we identify LatinX gaming communities in Texas as well as LatinX themed gaming content and popular cultural artifact creators in Texas?

Literature Review

When thinking of texts that influenced our initial questions and exploration of TejanX and LatinX representations in the gaming industry Anthony and joey would jam on theorists that influenced their lens in research in general and narrowed down key influences to:

Theoretical Approaches:

Because Anthony and joey’s work on this paper was so limited in time, the scope of theoretical approaches employed are minimal sticking with a grounded theory approach. This approach allowed Anthony and joey to have “ideation zoom sessions” where they would discuss general ideas, themes and experiences without an “agenda” as much as a workshopping of the general landscape, both physically and culturally.


Methods

As mentioned in the theoretical approaches, because the turn around time was limited from acceptance to presentation, methods consist of general textual analysis, physical visiting of locations and space and semiotic analysis of cultural and social signifiers. Anthony and joey decided these methods lent themselves to the timeline of production of the paper.


Analysis

As mentioned above due to time constraints our research worked around a couple of core elements. Over one month Anthony and joey meet through zoom 1-3 times a week to discuss gaming and game culture. They then organized a trip to San Antonio to visit multiple shops. Unfortunately, due to time and travel constraints, along with the pandemic, they could not travel to El Paso in person. We searched online for video game shops within El Paso and used images from the stores social media pages and google profiles.


Online geographic analysis:

This included looking at San Antonio’s and El Paso as geographical landscapes where TejanX’s reside. We then searched google maps for video gaming shops, arcades and general comic stores with video gaming themed inventory.


We found out that most of these shops were located in lower to lower-middle class income neighborhoods in LatinX communities. Here are images showing our findings.

Slideshow Images: Images of the locations and surrounding areas found through Google Maps.


Onsite visits:

On February 6th we visited 7 stores in San Antonio. No formal interviews took place due to a lack of time to establish IRB approval. Instead we focused on the physical spaces and artifacts.

Slideshow Images: Various stores we visited while in San Antonio.

Locations:

As mentioned earlier, we wanted to use our hometowns as the locations of this research project as they are predominantly LatinX cities. We originally started with gaming stores, but as we continued our research, it led us to explore further spaces with Tejanx gaming spaces both physical and digital.

  • El Paso

  • Physical Spaces

  • One More Level Retro Gaming Store

  • Game Vault: Game Store & Cafe

  • EP Games

  • Media Exchange

  • Glitch Gaming Center

  • Digital Spaces

  • Gamer development meetup - chat application

  • San Antonio

  • Physical Spaces

  • Game Over Videogames

  • Multiverse Games

  • Knight Watch Games

  • Propaganda Palace

  • Flashback Video Games

  • Ironside Gaming

  • Elite Gaming

  • GamingPLUS

  • D Pad

  • Nacogdoches Village

  • Otaku Cafe - Anime Arcade

  • Game Lot

  • Movie Exchange

  • Tanuki Toys & Collectibles

  • Digital Spaces

  • Greater Gaming Society of San Antonio - Discord

  • Greater Gaming Society Con - Gaming Jam - Twitch

Some examples of these spaces include:

  • Gaming Stores

  • Gaming Arcades

  • Gaming Conventions (Digital and Physical)

  • Social Platform/Forums (Discord/Meetup)

  • Gaming Development

  • Gaming Cafes

  • Swap Meets/Flea Markets/Mercado

Most of these stores were in shopping mall like buildings with other stores next to them. Two of the stores, one from El Paso and another from San Antonio were in actual malls. All the stores sold used and older games and gaming counsels. Most of the shops also sold other popular culture and gaming merchandise like Pokémon cards, anime related merchandise, or figurines.

Cultural Signifiers

Slideshow Images: various images from joey's collection.

  • Visual - Gamers Appearance In both cities, it is evident that Latinx individuals shop at these gamer stores.

  • Language Most of the shops in El Paso were bilingual (English/Spanish). In San Antonio, we did not notice if the shops were bilingual or not, but we assume that most of the stores do speak both languages due to the locations of the stores.

  • Family - Familismo Shops in both locations are family friendly spaces and families would go and purchase games or various popular culture merchandise. Gaming has become generational for families as parents who are current or former gamers are now buying consoles/games for their kids.

  • Food/Cafe Some shops featured Cafes or areas with Latinx snacks such as Hot Cheetos, Takis, and Papas Locas. These shops also featured Latinx centered drinks flavors like Tres Leches and Arroz con Leche. We also found plenty of Mexican candy/snacks as well. It is also important to note that we also found Asian candy/snacks within most of these locations as well. While Asian candy and snacks are not directly related to Latinx culture, we felt this was important to mention as they were found in plenty of these stores.

Slideshow images: Food and various collectibles we found inside the San Antonio Stores

Discussion/Limitations/Further Review:

Through our research we began to find limitations within our study that led us to think of ways we could improve and expand our research for the future.

  • Time constraints were a major limitation for our study, as we did not have enough time to travel to all the locations we wanted to, including stores/spaces in El Paso to collect further data. Additionally, COVID and the pandemic was a major issue for the lack of traveling.

  • As we began ideating how we could collect data, we thought we could possibly interview various gamers from these communities. Unfortunately, time became an issue as we felt it was too late to process the documentation for IRB approval.

  • IRB

  • Data Collection

  • Travel (to El Paso) because of time and COVID

Future Opportunities

Even though we found plenty of gaps and limitations within our research, we left the project optimistic as this study opens doors for further and future research on Latinx/Tejanx gaming communities. Many of which are the topics our colleagues of this conference are presenting on. For example,

  • Cosplay

  • Interviewing Latinx/Tejanx gamers

  • Gamer apparel/branding

  • Big Gaming Events/Tournaments/Conventions/Store Events

  • Adult Entertainment - Video Game/Pinball Bars

  • Latinx Gaming Art

  • Latinx Gaming Cosplay

  • Latinx Streamers/Content Creators of Gaming on Twitch/Youtube/TikTok

  • Latinx representation in E-Sports

  • Latinx representation in Game Development (Both Independent and AAA)

  • Latinx representation in gaming platforms (Sony - Playstation, Microsoft - Xbox, Nintendo, etc.)

  • Latinx representation in mobile gaming

  • Influencers of LatinX Gaming

Images: Anthony and joey with Samus from Metroid. Other images include fan art and collectibles.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we were able to discover various LatinX culture signifiers within the shops we had a chance to visit. By visiting we could identify that these shops were in LatinX communities and had various identifiers/signifiers that showcased Latinidad. Unfortunately due to time constraints, we were unable to explore other aspects of LatinX gaming communities including fandom and personal experiences/lived realities of LatinX gamers. With that being said, we hope to continue this discussion and research in some capacity moving forward as we feel that there is still so much to dive into.


But, wait… There is more!

Image: Anthony and joey on their way to the conference before finding out it was moved to an online format.

On Thursday, February 24, 2022, we decided to brave the cold Texas weather and attempt traveling about 7-8 hours (including stops) to Lubbock to attend The Hispanic and Latin American Video Gaming Experience: Imagery, Industry & Audience at Texas Tech. We saw this as an opportunity to network and establish connections to later collaborate with in the future. An hour into our drive, we find out that the conference is no longer going to be in-person due to the horrible cold Texas weather. While we were looking forward to traveling and building rapport, we did realize that this was definitely the best option for everyone. Safety is of the utmost importance. In the end, we presented on February, 25th online to over 40 participants and had an amazing discussion after our panel.

Anthony was excited to see his friend and collaborator, Arthur D. Soto-Vásquez from Texas A&M University International. The two met one another at a conference called Global Fusion in 2019. Arthur and Anthony later found out they were both from El Paso, and this led to a further discussion of collaborating with one another down the line. Anthony, Arthur, and Casey Walker ended up publishing “Crossing Over: The Migrant “Other” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” which is now available to read.

Image: joey and Anthony about to present their research at the conference.

As previously mentioned, we had a wonderful Q&A and discussion after our panel that led Anthony and Joey to reflect even further on their own agency within this conference. We knew coming into this conference that we were outsiders approaching something new, but little did we know that our fellow panelists felt the same way. As most of the panelists were not gaming scholars, including us. Yet, we felt welcomed within the wonderful community of Latinx gaming scholars and even reassured ourselves and those at our presentation that this work is valuable and important. We felt that this was the beginning of something special and dialogue, community, and inspiring research was being shared by a group of intersectional identities. It was powerful and inspiring. We are grateful and thankful for such a wonderful experience.


Anthony and joey would like to thank Texas Tech University, Thomas Jay Harris Institute for Hispanic & International Communication (HIHIC), the conference organizers including Dr. Nick Bowman and Dr. Kent Wilkinson, and our fellow panelists. We also would like to thank those who attended the conference and who were engaged within the larger discussion of the panel. We really appreciate your engagement and interest in our project. Finally, thank you to all our families, friends, and colleagues for their support and encouragement throughout the process of this project.


Image: Anthony and joey in front of Dreamonoids

If you are interested in collaborating with either of us or would like to further discuss this project, feel free to contact us. Here is our contact information: Anthony:

E: arramirez@tamu.edu

W: https://www.arramirez.com/

W: https://www.re-socialmedia.com/

IG: https://www.instagram.com/ar_ramirez/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/arramirez


joey lopez, phd: E: jtlopez123@tamu.edu

IG: https://www.instagram.com/joeyhifi/

YT: https://m.youtube.com/user/dayojtl333

W: http://www.thecmcollective.org/

W: http://www.mygeekylife.com/

W: http://dissertation.jtlopez.com/

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