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.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Burda: Research Proposal

Here is a copy of the research proposal I sent the Burda Centre, it was pretty rushed so it isn't as tight as I would have liked it to be.

Independent Videogame Production: Creative Industries, Local Content and Global Markets

Project Overview

The videogame industry is dominated by large media concerns like Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. Focused in Japan and North America the dominance of these companies effectively prevents the smaller developed, and developing, countries from either sustaining a local industry or entering the global market. Consequently, the majority of videogame play outside these dominant nations involves the use of imported content; with a subsequent loss of creative talent, and a lack of local content in this important and growing media stream. This project will examine the potential sustainable industry models that independent videogame development can provide for videogame production within the creative industries, and the production of local content for both the domestic and global market.


Literature Review

Recent writing on videogames has emphasised the transformation that the growing importance of videogames has effected on both the cultural landscape and the traditional media industries (Ruggill et. al., 2004;). While the growth of the videogame industry has disrupted the typical dominance of the US as content producers, due to the prominent role played by Japanese companies (Kinder, 1991; Kline et. al., 2003; Wark 1994), it has remained difficult for other nations to enter into the industry on the global stage (Kerr and Boyle, 2003; Lugo et. al., 2002). While opportunities for game developers to flourish outside of the mass global market do exist (Zimmerman, 2003), research has focused on how these companies survive by taking creative approaches to content generation (Banks, 2003).

Videogames are situated as a key part of participatory culture (Marshall, 2004; Cover, 2005). Participatory culture is characterised by a level of engagement with the media that shifts from consumption – whether configured as passive or active – to production (Jenkins, 2006). This phenomenon is closely associated with the increasing availability of digital media (Lister et. al., 2003). Studies focusing on the benefit to the videogames industry of content generated through videogame player’s production have determined that its contribution is worth hundreds of million dollars annually (Castronova, 2003 & 2006; Yee 2006).

This practice has been seized upon by the proponents of the creative industries as being the key to the development of videogames industries in smaller economies (Hartley, 2005; Jenkins, 2005). For example, in 2003 the Australia Council’s New Media Arts Board funded a project that involved making a ‘mod’ (the term for a computer file designed to modify certain aspects of a videogame) for the videogame Half-Life: Counter-Strike (Valve Software, 2003), the game while controversial was able to sustain Australian-based designers and generate Australian-themed content, that can be distributed freely at a global level, for a game that is popular on a global scale, without violating and property right of the original games developers’.

Another area where it is possible for smaller players to enter the game development industry is by developing games for mobile phones (Finn 2004, Kerr 2006). Games designed for mobile phones need to take into account the new context of consumption that the devices engender. As gaming becomes mobile it becomes more temporally bound as the practice must fit into small periods of time; also the visual design demands a simple approach due to the small size of the screens. This means that games for mobile phones can be both short and have simple graphics and still be successful. The use of JavaScript for mobile phone interfaces means that there is no problem of compatibility between different platforms and brands. This combined with the ease of distribution through digital networks suggests a model of game design that has a considerably lower capital threshold than the typical industry model.


Based on contemporary scholarship on videogames in the field of Media and Communications there are four main approaches to the study of videogames: Industry studies (Kerr, 2006; Kline et. al. 2003); Textual Analysis (Bogost, 2006; Jull, 2005; King & Kryzwinska, 2006); Ethnographic studies (Castronova, 2006; Taylor, 2006); and Pedagogical studies (Gee, 2003). The concern of this project is with industry; however, in order to examine how participation in the industry may be distributed more evenly I will also be scrutinizing the practices of audiences (ethnography), and using textual analysis to see if there are particular genres of videogames that are more appropriate for alternative models of design and distribution. Kline et. al. (2003) remark that any study made of the videogame industry is incomplete without and understanding of the practices of play – that is the practices of the audience of videogames – and the objects that the industry produces, as texts. However, on the last point, the textual analysis of videogames, it is important to note that the current thinking in the field has moved away from regarding games as another kind of media text (e.g. Murray, 1997); and shifted to a notion of understanding gameplay (the interaction of game and player) as a dynamic operation (Galloway, 2006; Myers, 2003; Newman, 2004).

Proposed Research

This research will focus exploring alternative models for videogame development. This will focus on three main areas: the impact that new developments in technology are having on the industry; the role that new genres of videogames are having on the diversifying the market; and the practices of the audiences which can be harnessed by smaller companies. This will involve a three-pronged approach to research.

In the case of the technological developments in the industry, as well as conducting research from industry documents, I will make online interviews with game designers and distributors that are utilizing these new technologies. For this I hope to be able to take advantage of relations that I have developed with Paradox Interactive a Swedish game design company that has recently launched its own online game publishing and distribution system, and CipSoft GmbH, a German company that has been an innovative an popular producer of Massive Multiplayer Online Games and mobile phone games.

New genres of games which are diversifying the videogame market include newsgames, serious games, advergames and alternate reality games. I will make a survey of industry reports to gauge the impact of each of these genres on the videogame market, and make interviews with designers from the Uruguayan company Newsgaming, pioneers of the use of videogames for political advertising.

The final thread of the investigation centres on the practices of players. Here I will be examining general trends in the industry as they have responded to player demand, as well as the innovative practices of the audiences themselves. Here I will focus on content creation, the growing incorporation of players into technical roles in the game design process, and the use of gamers to maintain and organise ongoing gaming communities. By interviewing with twenty players from around the world involved in the industry at these levels I hope to demonstrate the key importance that these groups play in sustaining the industry now, and suggest how alternative models of production and distribution may ensure and constructively manage their contributions.

Contribution to Research

The key contribution of this research will be to explore how the power dynamics created by an uneven distribution of content creation may be overcome by looking at alternative practices in the margins of the game industry which can be nurtured at a local level but still have a global impact. This approach is also innovative because it combines industry analysis, with analysis of games and game genres, in the context of the practices of the audiences.

Research Plan




Research on gaming technology; Conduct interviews with staff of Paradox Interactive


Research on gaming technology; Conduct Interviews with staff of CipSoft GmbH


Research on gaming technology; Progress report to Burda Centre


Research on Gaming Audiences; Conduct Interviews in Hong Kong and China; Present Work at Edutainment 2007 Conference in Hong Kong;


Research on Gaming Audiences; Conduct Interviews Online; write Report on Edutainment 2007


Research on Gaming Audiences; Conduct Interviews Online; Progress report to Burda


Research on new game genres; Present Work at DiGRA 2007 Conference in Tokoyo; Fieldwork in Uruguay: Interviews and Research at Newsgaming


Research on new game genres; Prepare Publication; write Report on DiGRA 2007


Research on new game genres; Final Report to Burda; Submit Publication




Materials (Tapes, photocopying, games)


Return Flight Melbourne-Hong Kong


Return Flight Melbourne-Tokoyo


Return Flight Melbourne-Montevideo


Per diem allowance (accommodation, transport and food)

2400 (16 days)



Delivery of Research Outcomes

The aim of this project is to produce useful information for policymakers regarding the funding and support of the videogames industry. In this regarding I will submit a final report on my research to the Burda centre in November 2007. Prior to this I will submit two short progress reports in May and August 2007. This final report will be approximately 60-80 pages in length, and I would enjoy the chance to come a present these findings in seminar form at the Burda Centre, if possible.

In June and September 2007, I will travel to Asia to attend the Edutainment 2007 conference in Hong Kong and the DiGRA (Digital Games Research) 2007 conference in Tokoyo. I will present at both conferences work from the project under development with the Burda centre, with the aim of soliciting feedback from international academics in the field of games research. Each conference also publishes its full proceedings online, and I would write a brief report of the conferences to be published in a prominent Media and Communications journal.

Finally, I will use the material from the project for an article to be published in a prestigious interdisciplinary Media and Communications journal (e.g. Media, Culture, and Society), to be submitted in November 2007.

1 comment:

Research Proposal said...

Nice post, i appreciate your efforts which you have done to share information with others.

Dissertation Proposal

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.