Meatspace in Herbert Park

meatspace herbert4

In what will be a continuing series, NewsFour went to Herbert Park in Ballsbridge to see what use citizens are making of this most precious amenity.

We looked for clubs or groups that meet there, but thought we would focus on the smaller groups, rather than the well established bowls, tennis and football clubs that are regular features in the park.

One such small group we found, sitting in the shade on a scalding hot Sunday afternoon, meet randomly during the summer months and refer to Herbert Park as meatspace, a term the Urban Dictionary describes as originating from cyberpunk fiction and culture, referring to the real (that is, not virtual) world, the world of flesh and blood; the opposite of cyberspace. Yes, they met on the internet, through the online version of the popular video game Call of Duty Modern Warfare, in which people play solo or team up to play in battlefield scenarios.

For years, gaming was, by its very nature, a solitary affair. With the advent of high-speed internet connections, a whole new world has opened up around video games. The five people we met that day are part of a much larger group scattered around Ireland and the world. They don’t see themselves as mere video gamers, they are the more evolved social gamers, meaning they seek out and enjoy co-operation and social contact through the games they play online.

They first found each other on recruitment forums on the internet, becoming first clan members then friends. One member, who is 22 and originally from Iran, prefers that we not publish his real name, but instead use his nickname hahahaji. “I suppose if you’re working or doing anything around other people, you get to know them and make connections,” he told NewsFour.

“We started chatting more and more outside of the game, in forums, and from there to Facebook and that. We’d be in regular enough contact so I thought we should meet up, for real. That was the summer of 2012; here we still are.”

Conor Harnett, 42, of Rathfarnham, the elder of the group, told us he is a recent convert to social gaming. “I work from home a lot so obviously an Xbox is an essential piece of kit. I’d never even heard of Call of Duty until last year; my girlfriend’s kid gave me a lend and within the first few minutes of trying it I was hooked. I wouldn’t enjoy it as much if I didn’t have the lads to buzz off though. We have mad craic and get along great. We’re sitting here talking about the game but other stuff too, like TV and things,” he told us. “Since I joined them, we’ve become an effective military force; we’re tight and the team dynamic is so good we know what each other will do before they do it. It’s something I try to take into my real life. It’s given me the confidence I never had to deal decisively with situations. I’m more of a leader now.”

As for why they choose Herbert Park to meet, Harnett had the last word. “It’s a safe park, there’s no gangs sitting around locked drunk, and it’s huge. In other parks you’re always sitting near people but here feels more private”.

By Steve Kingston