Game culture is sometimes described as a contested space. As games have matured as a medium, more games are addressing political and value-oriented topics. As game culture become a more diverse space, discussions about whose what games are and who belongs to the culture are often debated. While videogame culture may well look like a political contentious space from the outside, we know little about how this situation is understood by videogame players, or to what degree the situation affects the way players interact with each other and the way they discuss videogames.
In this new project, GTA project leader Kristine Jørgensen will investigate the experiences of videogame players of game culture as a political arena. The project will be an introductory mapping of player experiences of the political aspects of games. When investigating player experiences of game culture as political in this project, we are using a broad understanding of “politics” that goes beyond political processes and the concerns of the government. In this project we are interested in how ideological and political impulses in society at large find their ways into games and game culture, and will investigate how such impulses are experienced by players, what role they have in the way players interact with each other and discuss videogames, and how they interact with established ludic values of game culture.
State of the art:
Previous research addressing issues concerned with the relationship between games and politics have scrutinized the implicit values of videogames relating to gender, race, global inequalities, and military interests; how videogames may promote values through their game mechanics; on the use of videogames for political and rhetorical purposes; and on the use of games to promote political and social engagement. Some research has also looked at political influences on viral campaigns such as the Gamergate controversy; how extremists use game culture as a recruitment arena; and how they appropriate game content for their own purposes. However, there is little research that has investigated whether players experience game culture as a political arena.
The focus on player experiences is central to this project. First, as the “owners” of game culture, players have an insider perspective that cannot be gained simply by analyzing what can be observed from the outside, or from scrutinizing underlying structures in texts or in the social interaction between players. If we want to understand why game culture is contested, and to what degree the diversity of values and ideologies affects game culture negatively, we must understand how the players themselves experience the situation.
At the same time, investigating player experience of game culture as a potentially political arena is also challenging. What counts as “political” may be unclear and it is for this reason important to secure that the questions that are asked correspond to players’ understanding of what counts as political. Also, talking about the political may also be a sensitive area that many find it difficult to talk about. It is also a challenge that the rhetoric and language of game culture often are characterized by irony, trolling, jokes and a general playful attitude, and that it sometimes may be difficult to assess whether what is said in an interview is sincere or not. To grasp this situation, in this project will use phenomenologically oriented methods that highlight the players’ own experiences and emotions of how they perceive the social and material world around them, and through which the participants use their own articulations to describe their subjective opinions of game culture as a potentially political arena, including their understandings of political topics in games and the diversity of values in game culture.