Art and character by me
Grem2 species by MrGremble on DeviantArt
Last semester I coined the term “purified consumerism” to describe some of the buying/selling/trading practices I had noticed in CS communities. “Purified consumerism” refers to an informal agreement between a seller and buyer that the product, in this case a pre-made Grem2 character design, is to be used and appreciated for its intended creative purpose, and not for its perceived value. The role of purified consumerism in the GremCorps community came to mind as I was re-reading chapter 3 of Howard Rheingold’s Net Smart. I came across the portion of the chapter entitled “Footprints and Profiles: How You Look to Others… and Yourself,” particularly this statement on page 139: “One strong link between mindfulness and participation is the two-part question: What impression is my digital participation deliberately giving to others? And what impression is my digital participation unintentionally giving off?” The unofficial code of conduct imposed by purified consumerism can make things complicated when a user decides that they want to sell, trade, or swap a character design in the GremCorps community. Within the community, there is a definite stigma associated with selling or trading one’s Grem2 characters too often; it makes one seem to be breaking the contract of purified consumerism. The rules of conduct for the GremCorps community even state that “Grems obtained via new-owner-only auctions and raffles cannot be traded until a period of 2 weeks has passed since the time of purchase.” Not everyone who wants to trade or sell a character design does so heartlessly, however. So, how do members of this community balance their desire to trade/sell a character design with their desire to not be seen as a greedy or irresponsible?
Animal Rescue Language
Firstly, and emphasizing the purified consumerism mindset, is the use of language commonly associated with animal rescue and adoption. One journal post advertising the sale of two character designs states “This wont be first come first serve as i would prefer these go to loyal homes with people who will care for them!” This particular journal is also notable because of the large amount of money at stake (well over $300). The fact that the seller would take the time and energy to screen their buyers, much like an animal rescue agency screens prospective adopters, is not something one usually encounters in the sale of secondhand items. I know I’ve never seen anything like that in a Treasure Hunt. Another member says in a trading journal that they are “hoping someone out there can give [their Grem2s] the love they deserve.” Several other trading/selling journals use the terms “permanent home” or “forever home” to describe what they would like to provide for traded designs. By using this kind of animal rescue language, members could be trying to communicate the respect they have for the designs and their intended purpose. After all, animal adoption and surrender is a uniquely emotional transaction of property in which money is generally a secondary concern. They could also be trying to distance themselves from business-like language, which might be seen as cold or materialistic within the community.
Explanations Involving the Creative Process
Another way that members of the GremCorps community protect their reputations in trading/selling journals is by providing short narratives involving their creative process surrounding the character design, and why they wish to trade or sell it. One member provides the following explanation narrative in their trading journal: “So this is slightly shameful as this Grem used to be my dreamy and when I got him I was like YAAAS FINALLY. And to be honest I still do love his colors like a LOT, but after having him for a while I’ve realized I really dislike his trait combo and it isn’t very pleasing to draw for me. I’ve thought about/attempted to change his traits to something that I like more, but the way his markings are (especially the neck fur) it just kind of works with what he has now so I feel dirty trying to mess it up.” This explanation acknowledges the negative stigma associated with trading too quickly by saying their desire is “slightly shameful” and letting readers know that they have had the design for “a while.” The explanation also shows that the member did attempt to use the design for its intended purpose while it was in their possession, and that they had a deep appreciation for the design aesthetically and sentimentally.
Explanations Involving Real Life Stressors or Charity
A third way members of the GremCorps community justify trading or selling a design is by explaining real life situations that require such an action. This could include emergencies like medical/dental expenses, veterinary bills, rent, car expenses, or required travel. It could also include charitable situations, like needing money to buy a birthday gift for a friend/family member, or the desire to donate funds to another community member in need. These explanations show respect to other community members by implying that real-life must always come first, something that any responsible member must acknowledge.