This week I have chosen to explore a reading linked to the culture of gaming. As I am not a gamer myself, I feel this is one area within the broad realm of ‘popular culture’ in which I am lacking knowledge and information. As I am well aware of the popularity of gaming among youth today and having also been aware of games being used as a successful educational tool, I have chosen to explore this area further through a book chapter titled ‘Gaming in the 21st Century’. This reading looks at the emergence of gaming as one of the most ubiquitous forms of global popular culture and the chapter outlines how gaming has evolved by detailing a number of key trends in the 21st century.
The reading firstly explores the disruption of ‘hardcore’ and ‘casual’ categories of gaming. Devices such as the iPhone and Wii as well as online games linked to social networking sites has made gaming much more user-friendly, which has consequently altered the gaming demographic by making it accessible to a greater number of people. While gaming may have previously been the domain of male youth, contemporary gaming has significantly widened the demographic to include both the young and the old from mixed social, cultural and educational backgrounds. The abundance of games associated with social networking sites has also seen gaming infiltrate the age of participatory media. In this way, gaming is no longer an anti-social pastime, but is now a medium that connects people.
Furthermore, the type of engagement and commitment demanded of players in this new gaming climate has transformed, and participation in gaming has evolved from being a completely solitary form of immersion to a state of ‘distracted immersion’ (Hjorth 2011, p.130). The reading points out how mobile phone users, for example, are likely to play casual games at bus stops or while waiting for friends and that they negotiate a state of ‘in-between or semi-engaged attentiveness’ (Hjorth 2011, p.130). This ‘in-between’ state is exemplified through the example of the online game ‘Happy Farm,’ with one feature of this game involving stealing produce or assets from other players. This can encourage players to be online all day, flicking back and forth between work and leisure, to ensure they keep a watchful eye on their produce so it does not get stolen. Thus by maintaining a semi-engaged presence, players are engaged in a form of ‘distracted immersion’ that could be defined as ‘hardcore’ in so much as the game takes up so much of their time and energy.
The reading goes on to detail how play labour (referred to as ‘playbour’) is greatly shifting the boundaries between players and gamemakers, and has consequently seen the emergence of ancillary gaming cultures, such as cosplay and eSports. It is suggested that cosplay (or costume play), which involves participants dressing up as game characters or roleplaying a game character offline, allows players to become ‘produsers’ of games which can then lead to players becoming game makers themselves.
As Hjorth (2011) points out:
‘Cosplayers are a key example of the fan as a co-producer in interpreting and adapting game characters into the offline world. Cosplay highlights the boundaries between fans, players and those in creative roles such as designers and producers, which are transforming as a result of media cultures’ participatory character’ (p.137)
Gaming in this way can be seen to contribute to the power and agency of players and all of this signals the continued popularity of gaming within mainstream culture.
You can view some amazing forms of Cosplay in the following You Tube clip:
While this reading has broadened my knowledge of the gaming culture and how it has been transformed by mobile media and social networking sites, I am interested to further explore how games can be used practically and specifically in an educational context. This is one area I will continue to explore through my blog posts and the resources I source.
Hjorth, L. (2010). Chapter 8: Gaming in the 21st Century. In ‘Games and Gaming: An Introduction to New Media’. Bloomsbury Publishing: Oxford. 127-147.