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The Culture of Digital Gaming (Paper presented to JMU (Liverpool) School of Media, Critical and Creative Arts, 6th March 2008). Garry Crawford University of Salford g.crawford@salford.ac.uk. The Culture of Digital Gaming. Based upon:

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The Culture of DigitalGaming(Paper presented to JMU (Liverpool) School of Media, Critical and Creative Arts, 6th March 2008)

Garry Crawford

University of Salford

g.crawford@salford.ac.uk


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The Culture of Digital Gaming

Based upon:

Crawford, G (2006) ‘The Cult of Champ Man: The Culture and Pleasures of Championship Manager/Football Manager Gamers’, Information, Communication and Society, 9 (4), 496-514.

Plan:

  • A Question of Terminology

  • Games Matters

  • Who Plays?

  • Gaming as Violent

  • Gamers as ‘mouse potatoes’

  • Game Studies

  • Narrative

    • Intertextuality

    • Play

    • Immersion

    • Control

    • Performance


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A Question of Terminology

  • ‘video games’ and ‘computer games’

  • ‘electronic games’, ‘interactive games’, ‘entertainment software’ and ‘digital games’


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Games Matters

  • 1952 the Cambridge University doctoral student Alexander ‘Sandy’ Douglas programmed as version of ‘noughts and crosses’

  • 1958 William Higinbotham, produced a basic tennis simulation.

  • 1962 a researchers at MIT produced a game called Spacewar, which became the first distributed game (Kirriemuir 2006).

  • The first commercial home video games console, The Magnavox Odyssey, launched in 1972.

  • Pong launched in the mid-1970s by the newly formed Atari company.

  • Atari followed with the Video Computer System (VCS) in 1977.

  • 1978 and 1980: release of now classic games, such as Space Invaders, Pac Man, Asteroids and Battlezone.

  • 1980s and onwards: home computers, such as the Sinclair Spectrum, IBM PCs and the Commodore 64.

  • The continued popularity of gaming consoles, such as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and later Sega’s Master and Genesis systems.


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Gaming Today

  • Global game sales exceed $21bn (ELSPA 2005)

  • In the US alone games sales were worth in excess of $6bn (ESA 2007)

  • 67 percent of Americans heads of households ‘play computer or video games’ (ESA 2007)

  • Following the US and Japan, Britain constitutes the world’s third largest games market, where game sales are worth in excess of $2bn annually

  • Digital game sales now exceeding cinema box office takings (ELSPA 2003)

  • And, today more digital games are sold in the US and UK than books (Bryce and Rutter 2001)


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Who Plays?

  • 69 percent of US video game players are over the age of 18 (ESA 2006)

  • ESA suggest that 38 percent of gamers are female

  • Fromme’s (2003) study of over a thousand German school children suggests almost a third of girls claimed to ‘regularly’ play digital games (and 55.7 percent of boys).

  • While it has been suggested that in Korea women make up to close on 70 percent of gamers (Krotoski 2004).

  • Crawford & Gosling (2005): though some studies suggest that the number of girls playing digital games may be increasing, women remain a lot less likely than men to continue gaming into adult life.


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Toys For Boys?

Why?:

  • Women more restricted in their leisure choices and opportunities than men

  • Women often lack equal access to technology

  • Themes and goals of digital games often do not reflect the interests of many women

  • Games designed for men audiences, and most commonly feature ‘male’ themes, such as violent and sport related contents.

  • Female characters are often portrayed in sexualised or passive roles


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Gaming & Violence

  • Many games are violent

  • ‘Media effects’

  • Some, such as Dill and Dill (1998) and Emes (1997), suggested that video games could potentially be more damaging due to their ‘interactive’ nature

  • But relationship between violent games is far from conclusive:

    • Criticized for its often inconsistent methodologies and small and unrepresentative sample group

    • For overestimating the ability of games to influence attitudes and behaviour

    • And for seeing gamers as passive and vulnerable to representations of violence within games etc.


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‘Mouse Potatoes?’

  • A generation of passive ‘mouse potatoes’ (Kline et al. 2003).

  • No evidence to suggest gamers have less friends (e.g. Colwell and Payne 2000)

  • Interactive Software Federation of Europe (2005) suggests that 55 percent of gamers play with others

  • Mitchell (1985: 134) suggests that digital gaming enhances family interactions and is ‘reminiscent of days of Monopoly, checkers, card games, and jigsaw puzzles’.

  • No relationship between digital games and sports participation rates (Fromme 2003, Crawford 2005).


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Gaming Pleasures?

Kerr et al. (2004)


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Narrative

  • Frasca (2003: 221) main focus of research on games, slowly began to shift away from early ‘do-games-induce-violent-behaviour studies’ towards an analysis of games as media texts.

  • Literary theory and/or film studies (e.g. Espen Aareth’s (1997) Cybertext and Janet Murray’s (1997) Hamlet on the Holodeck)

  • Games as a ‘text’

  • ‘Narrative’: discourse and a story

  • Carr (2006): texts will have an ‘implied author’ and ‘implied reader’ (amongst other possible positions), which are not necessarily a ‘flesh-and-blood’ individuals, but rather ‘a structural entity, and organising principle within the text’ (2006: 37), which appear to privilege one perspective over others.


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Intertextuality (and narrative continued)

  • Intertextuality (loosely) refers to the cross-referencing and interplay between various texts.

  • Intertextuality is particularly apparent in new forms of media

  • As Murray and Jenkins (n.d.) wrote:

    …a high proportion of the digital media on the market are second-order phenomenon, adaptations of texts that gained their popularity through film and television. In a horizontally integrated media industry, characters, plots and images move fluidly across various media, participation in what Marsha Kinder (1991) has called the entertainment supersystem.


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Intertextuality

  • The Matrix and Enter The Matrix

  • Jenkins (2004): ‘transmedia’


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Critiquing Narrative

  • Can digital games can be understood as a ‘text’ in the same way as ‘older’ media forms (such as books, television, radio and cinema)?

  • Games are not set and rigid, but can vary depending on how the player interacts with these.

  • Frasca (2003) suggests that while traditional media (such as films) are ‘representational’ digital games are based around ‘simulation’.

  • But,Jenkins 2004) and suggest that the activities of gamers and audiences of other media forms are not as different as many game theorists would have us believe.

  • For instance, game play is still restricted by the limitations of technology and the intentions of the game designers.

  • Audiences of other media forms are not as passive as many writers in games studies would seem to assume (e.g. see Walter Benjamin, to Stuart Hall and Michel de Certeau etc.)

  • Not all games tell stories. For instance, puzzle games like Tetris have no narrative structure within them.

  • Narratives are secondary to play within games.

  • Kirkpatrick (2004) suggests gaming success most commonly comes from the ‘cynicism’ of the gamer, who recognises games as consisting of a series of tasks and seeks to complete these in a pragmatic way.


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Play

  • Fuller and Jenkins (1995: 60) write:

    once immersed in playing, we don’t care whether we rescue Princess Toadstool or not; all that matters is staying alive long enough to move between levels (cited in Newman 2004: 94).

  • Ludology

  • Johan Huizinga and Roger Caillois

  • ‘Magic Circle’


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Immersion

  • Narrative

  • Strategies

  • Physical dexterity (even ‘flow’?)

  • Murray and Jenkins (n.d.: 2) write:

    immersion is the pleasure of being transported to another place, of losing our sense of reality and extending ourselves into a seemingly limitless, enclosing, other realm…

  • But games are socially located


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Control

  • Kerr et al. (2004: 14): ‘feedback loop’

  • ‘Transfomative play’

  • Marshall (2002: 73) suggests:

    computer-developed games are highly structured entities; however, within those structures, the best games encode ‘tricks’ or ‘cheats’ which allow a myriad of transformations possible for any player’ (cited in Kerr et al. 2004: 15)

  • ‘Moding’ & ‘Hacking’


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Control

  • Numerous authors (such as Gansing 2003, Palmer 2003) highlight the overuse of terms such as ‘interactivity’ and ‘user-control’

  • Palmer (2003: 160): Sony VCR which promised to ‘master time, memory and circumstance’

  • user’s control is restricted by the limitations of technology, and the aims of the designers and manufactures, and the ideologies behind these.

  • Digital games tend to be constructed from the perspective of the ‘male gaze’ (see Yates and Littleton 2001)

  • Or revolve around capitalist values, such as economic accumulation (for instance, see Nutt and Railton’s (2003) consideration of The Sims).


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Performance

Kerr et al. (2004: 15):

New media are seen to possess a performative aspect, insofar as they allow for and foster the users’ experimentation with alternative identities (Turkle 1995). This is true for computer games as well as internet chat rooms etc. The pleasure of leaving one’s identity behind and taking on someone else’s identity is regarded as a key pleasure in digital games.


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Performance

  • Rehak (2003): digital gamers are both participants and spectators in the games they play.

  • For Kerr et al. (2004: 13) a key feature of gaming performativity is derived from ‘…that it [gaming] is separate from everyday life’, and furthermore to support this argument they cite Huizinga (1986: 8) who suggests that play involves a ‘stepping out of “real” life’ (ibid.).

  • However, as suggested earlier, distinctions between a ‘virtual’ gaming world and ‘real’ life are problematic.


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Performance

  • Crawford and Rutter (2007) consider the social aspects of gaming performances

  • Multiplayer games allow in-game performance with other human players

  • Dressing and adapting characters in massively multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs)

  • King and Borland (2003) group of players of Ultima Online set up an acting troupe to perform plays


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Performance

Wright et al. (2002: n.p.):

The meaning of playing Counter-Strike [an online FPS] is not merely embodied in the graphics or even the violent game play, but in the social mediations that go on between players through their talk with each other and by their performance within the game. Participants, then, actively create the meaning of the game through their virtual talk and behavior borrowing heavily from popular and youth culture representations. Players learn rules of social comportment that reproduce codes of behavior and established standards of conduct, while also safely experimenting with the violation of these codes


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Performance

‘Mark’ (male, aged 23, graduate student, UK):

It gets very emotional but…very frustrating game as well, it’s crazy. I remember I won...first time I won the FA Cup [in the digital game Championship Manager] ‘round my mates at midnight. Don’t know, I wouldn’t usually do, I mean his parents were asleep, I woke his dad up I got so excited and you know, crazy. It’s weird like that... it has this hold over you (cited in Crawford 2005: 256-257)


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Performance

‘Shaun’:

Yes I used to love trying to impress my work mates with my knowledge of relatively unknown foreigners [footballers], never letting on that it was all gained from buying them in CM [Championship Manager] (cited in Crawford 2006: 509)


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Current & Future Research:

Crawford & Gosling (British Academy):

  • Gaming & everyday life

  • Riceour and Giddens

    • ‘Narrative Identity’



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References 1

Bryce, J. and Rutter, J. (2001) ‘In the Game —In the Flow: Presence in Public Computer Gaming, poster presented at Computer Games and Digital Textualities, IT University of Copenhagen, March, online available at http://www.digiplay.org.uk

(2003) ‘Gender Dynamics and the Social and Spatial Organization of Computer Gaming’, Leisure Studies, 22, 1-15.

Cassell, J. and Jenkins, H. (2000) ‘Chess of Girls? Feminism and Computer Games’, in J. Cassell and H. Jenkins (eds), From Barbie to Mortal Combat: Gender and Computer Games, London: MIT Press.

Crawford, G (2006) ‘The Cult of Champ Man: The Culture and Pleasures of Championship Manager/Football Manager Gamers’, Information, Communication and Society, 9 (4), 496-514.

Crawford, G. (2005) ‘Digital Gaming, Sport and Gender’, Leisure Studies, 24 (3), 259-270.

Crawford, G. and Gosling V.K. (2005) ‘Toys for Boys? Women’s marginalization and participation as digital gamers’, Sociological Review Online, 10 (1), online available at http://www.socresonline.org.uk/10/1/crawford.html

Crawford, G. and Rutter, J., (2007) ‘Playing the Game: performance in digital game audiences’ in J. Gray, C. Sandvoss, and C. L. Harrington (eds) Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World, NYU, NY.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990) Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, New York: Harper Perennial

DiGRA (no date) Digital Games Research Association, online available at http://www.digra.org

Eskelinen, M. and Tronstad, R. (2003) ‘Video Games and Configurative Performances’, in M.J.P Wolf and B. Perron (eds) The Video Game Theory Reader, London: Routledge.

Frasca, G. (2003) ‘Simulation versus Narrative: Introduction to Ludology’, in M.J.P Wolf and B. Perron (eds) The Video Game Theory Reader, London: Routledge.

Gansing, K. (2003) ‘The Myth of Interactivity? Interactive Films as an Imaginary Genre’, paper presented at MelbourneDAC2003 conference, online available at http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au/dac/papers/Gansing.pdf

Green, E. (2001) ‘Technology, Leisure and Everyday Practices’ in E. Green and A. Adams (eds) Virtual Gender: Technology, Consumption and Identity, London: Routledge.

Hall, S.(1980) ‘Encoding and Decoding’ in S. Hall, D. Hobson, A. Lowe and P. Willis (eds) Culture, Media, Language: Working papers in Cultural studies, 1972-79, London: Hutchinson.

Huizinga, J. (1986 [1938]) Homo Ludens: Versuch einer Bestimmung des Spielelements in der Kultur, Hamburg, Rowohlt.

IDSA (2002) Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Game Industry, Interactive Digital Software Association, online available at http://www.idsa.com/IDSABooklet.pdf

Jakobsson and Taylor (2003: 89) ‘The Sopranos Meets EverQuest: Social Networking in Massively Multiplayer Online Games, paper presented at MelbourneDAC2003 conference, online available at http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au/dac/papers/Jakobsson.pdf


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References 2

Jenkins, H. (2002) ‘Interactive Audiences?’, in D. Harries (ed.) The New Media Book, London: BFI.

Kerr, A., Brereton, P. Kücklich, J. and Flynn, R. (2004) New Media: New Media Pleasures?, STeM Working Paper: Final Research Report of a Pilot Research Project, online available at www.comms.dcu.ie/kerra/source%20files/text/NMP_working%20paper%20final.pdf

Kerr, A., Brereton, P., and Kücklich, J. 2005, ‘New Media — New Pleasures?’, International Journal of Cultural Studies, vol.8 no.3, pp.375-394.

Kinder, M. (1991) Playing with Power in Movies, Television and Video Games: From Muppet Babies to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Berkeley: University of California Press.

Kirkpatrick, Graeme (2004) Critical Technology: A Social Theory of Personal Computing, Aldershot, Ashgate.

Klevjer, Rune (2001) ‘Computer Game Aesthetics and Media Studies’, online available at http://uib.no/people/smkrk/docs/klevjerpaper_2001.htm

Mactavish, A. (2002) ‘Technological Pleasure: The Performance and Narrative of Technology in Half-Life and other High-Tech Computer Games’, in G. King and T. Krzywinska (eds) ScreenPlay: cinema/videogames/interfaces, London: Wallflower Press.

Marshall, P.D. (2002) ‘The New Intertextual Commodity’, in D. Harries (ed.) The New Media Book, London: BFI.

Mitchell, E. (1985) ‘The Dynamics of Family Interaction Around Home Video Games’, Special Issue: Personal Computers and the Family, Marriage and Family Review,8 (1-2), 121-135.

Murray, J. and H. Jenkins (no date) Before the Holodeck: Translating Star Trek into Digital Media, online available at http://web.mit.edu/21fms/wwww/faculty/henry3/holodeck.html

Newman, J. (2004) Videogames, London: Routledge.

Nutt, D and Railton, N. (2003) ‘The Sims: Real Life as Genre’, Information, Communication and Society,6 (4), 577-607.

Palmer, D. (2003) ‘The Paradox of User Control’, paper presented to the Melbourne DAC 2003 conference, 19-25 May, online at http://hypertext.rmit.edu.au/dac/papers/Palmer.pdf

Rehak, B. (2003) ‘Playing at Being: Psychoanalysis and the Avatar’, in M.J.P Wolf and B. Perron (eds) The Video Game Theory Reader, London: Routledge.

Squire, K. (2002) ‘Cultural Framing of Computer/Video Games’, Game Studies, 2 (1), online available at http://www.gamestudies.org/0201/squire/

Turkle, S. (1995) Life and the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, New York, Simon and Schuster.

Yates, S. J. and Littleton, K. L. (2001) ‘Understanding Computer Game Culture: A Situated Approach’ in E. Green and A. Adams (eds) Virtual Gender: Technology, Consumption and Identity, London: Routledge, 103-123.