Global gaming networks are heterogenous collectives of localized practices, not unified commercial products. Shifting the analysis of digital games to local specificities that build and perform the global and general, Gaming Rhythms employs ethnographic work conducted in Venezuela and Australia to account for the material experiences of actual game players.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Gaming Subcultures

While it is relatively common for scholars to claim gamers are a subculture, I am yet to see any work that constructively locates this subculture within the area of scholarship know as Subcultures Study. It's not a huge area, the key work is Subculture and the Meaning of Style by Dick Hebdige and has been for the past 30 years.

Contemporary work on subcultures is summarised in the Subcultures Reader (1997) edited by Ken Gelder and Sara Thornton, Dr Ken Gelder will be publishing a second edition of the Subcultures Reader shortly, until then check out his Global Popular Fiction Project an excellent resource for scholars of genre fiction.

(note: the Subculture Reader link sends you to a site where you are required to nominate which country you are in, then you can see the chapter listing for the book).

The notion of gaming as a specific subculture has existed since the early days of videogame scholarship, in Mind At Play: The Psychology of Video Games (1983) Loftus and Loftus devote one chapter to this topic.

Within the culture studies discipline the much maligned John Fiske put forward a rather interesting reading of computer game subcultures in chapter four of Reading the Popular (1989), supplemented by various interesting but dispersed interjections in Understanding Popular Culture (1989). While on one hand Fiske's work has been largely ignored in the USA (Jenkins makes remarkably similar arguments regarding USA pop culture, and essentially occupies the same academic space), on the other hand he has been widely criticised by British (and implicitly Australian) Cultural studies, in particular David Morley as he is regarded as taking the notion of the active audience too far, at the cost of ignoring ideological content. Recently P. David Marshall made an interesting argument to reclaim the validity of Fiske's position in New Media Cultures.

In the past decade of game scholarship several scholarly trope have emrged regarding games subcultures. Some investigate and/or critique the notion of gaming as a masculine activity. Exemplar amoung these works are Alloway & Gilbert (1998). 'Video Game Culture: Playing with Maculinity, Violence and Pleasure.' In S. Howard (Ed.), Wired Up: Young People and the Electronic Media, Cunningham (2000). Moral Kombat and Computer Game Girls. In J. T. Caldwell (Ed.), Theories of the New Media : a Historical Perspective. makes a particularily valuable contribution with her work connecting the relation of women/girls vis-a-vis games to McRobbies discussion of women in subculture in general. Schott & Horrell (2000). Girl Gamers and Their Relationship to Gaming Culture. Convergence, 6(4), note that while women gamers exist, they lack the strong social networks that exist among male gamers. Consalvo, M. (2004). The Monsters Next Door: Media Construction of Boys and Masculinity. Feminist Media Studies,3(1) talks about th media construction of the game subculture.

Another trope locates games within children's culture: see Sonia Livingstone Young People and New Media,
Buckingham & Sefton-Green (2003). Gotta Catch em all: Structure, Agency and Pedagogy in Childrens Media Culture. Media, Culture & Society, 25(3) and Fromme (2003). Computer Games as a Part of Children's Culture. Game Studies, 3(1).

Other scholars focus on the productive activities of subcultures: Consalvo (2003). 'Zelda 64 and Video Game Fans: A Walkthrough of Games, Intertextuality, and Narrative'. Television & New Media, 4(3), 'Heavy hero or digital dummy? Multimodal player–avatar relations in Final Fantasy 7' (2004) Burn & Schott, Visual Communication 3(2), Schleiner (1999). Parasitic Interventions: Game Patches and Hacker Art.

Other work focuses on online anthropologies of games and/or gamers, the contrubutions of Sue Morris in this regard are remarkable: 'First-Person Shooters - A Game Apparatus'. In G. King & T. Kryzwinska (Eds.), ScreenPlay: Cinema/Videogames/Interfaces (2002). 'Shoot First, Ask Questions Later: Ethnographic Research in an Online Computer Gaming Community.' (2004) Media International Australia(110). ' Co-Creative Media: Online Multiplayer Computer Game Culture'. Scan: Journal of Media Arts and Culture, 1(1). 'Make New Friends and Kill Them: Online Multiplayer Computer Game Culture'. In G. Goggin (Ed.), Virtual Nation: The Internet in Australia. Also noteworthy are Jakobsson & Taylor (2003). 'The Sopranos Meets EverQuest: Social Networking in Massively Multiplayer Online Games', Tosca (2002). 'The Everquest Speech Community' and Swalwell (2003). 'Multi-Player Computer Gaming: 'Better than playing (PC Games) with yourself''. Reconstruction, 3(4).

Finally James Newman has been involved in ongoing research about the notion of the computer games audience, a summary of his excellent contribution to the field can be found in Newman, J. (2004). Videogames. New York; London: Routledge.

I hope that this will be of help to anyone who is thinking about gamers as a subculture.


Richard said...

This is totally invaluable as a starting point. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Extremely well referenced and incredibly well ranged. You've prepared an excellent working literature review. Fair play.

Anonymous said...

I concur with the others. This is an excellent overview of the literature.

Tom said...

Thanks but a great deal of work needs to be done to cover the major publications from the last 5 years of game scholarship.

About Me

This blog started as a PhD blog, for my project 'Global Rhythms: Video games and the Transformation of Play'. It finally become a book. This is a "historic" record of the trials a tribulations.