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The Culture of Digital Gaming Paper presented to JMU Liverpool School of Media, Critical and Creativ


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Title: The Culture of Digital Gaming Paper presented to JMU Liverpool School of Media, Critical and Creativ

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

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

A Question of Terminology
  • video games and computer games
  • electronic games, interactive games,
    entertainment software and digital games

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
  • 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
  • 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 Segas Master and Genesis systems.

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 worlds 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)

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
  • Frommes (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

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

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.

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
  • 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).

Gaming Pleasures?
Kerr et al. (2004)
  • 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
    Aareths (1997) Cybertext and Janet Murrays
    (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.

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

  • The Matrix and Enter The Matrix
  • Jenkins (2004) transmedia

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

  • Fuller and Jenkins (1995 60) write
  • once immersed in playing, we dont 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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
  • users 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
    Railtons (2003) consideration of The Sims).

  • 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 ones identity
    behind and taking on someone elses identity is
    regarded as a key pleasure in digital games.

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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Mark (male, aged 23, graduate student, UK)
  • It gets very emotional butvery frustrating game
    as well, its crazy. I remember I won...first
    time I won the FA Cup in the digital game
    Championship Manager round my mates at
    midnight. Dont know, I wouldnt usually do, I
    mean his parents were asleep, I woke his dad up I
    got so excited and you know, crazy. Its weird
    like that... it has this hold over you (cited in
    Crawford 2005 256-257)

  • 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

Current Future Research
  • Crawford Gosling (British Academy)
  • Gaming everyday life
  • Riceour and Giddens
  • Narrative Identity

The End
  • 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//
  • (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? Womens marginalization and participation
    as digital gamers, Sociological Review Online,
    10 (1), online available at http//www.socresonlin
  • 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
  • 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//
  • 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
  • Jakobsson and Taylor (2003 89) The Sopranos
    Meets EverQuest Social Networking in Massively
    Multiplayer Online Games, paper presented at
    MelbourneDAC2003 conference, online available at

  • 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
  • Kerr, A., Brereton, P., and Kücklich, J. 2005,
    New Media New Pleasures?, International
    Journal of Cultural Studies, vol.8 no.3,
  • 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,
  • Klevjer, Rune (2001) Computer Game Aesthetics
    and Media Studies, online available at
  • 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
  • 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//
  • 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
  • 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//
  • Turkle, S. (1995) Life and the Screen Identity
    in the Age of the Internet, New York, Simon and
  • 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.