Negotiating the Right Way to Play Video Games




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Video game players have often debate “the right way to play” video games. Given new online communication channels, such debates become more accessible. For example, players use online forums and social media to negotiate to construct the “right way” within their gaming communities. Players create guidelines in both text and video formats and disseminate this produced knowledge with other players on the internet. Either in a single-player or multiplayer video game, players encounter the “right ways” that encourage specific player actions and intentions. The purpose of this dissertation is to understand the social, economic, and cultural implications of the notion of the right way to play video games in contemporary gaming communities. To do so, I investigate the ways in which players constitute and use the notion of the right way to play video games in order to explore the underlying ideologies that shape the “right ways.” At the intersection of game studies and fan studies, I investigate how players regulate playing video games by creating categories around desired and unwanted players. I use the discourse analysis method in three case studies, which are team-based competitive video game communities, a massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft communities, and a sandbox game Minecraft communities, respectively. By paying attention to the tension between categories that are defined by players such as tryhards and unskilled players, creative players and boring players, and guild members and solo players, I argue that the dominant discourses of the right way select quantifiable outcomes that are used as rubrics to define success. As a result, I unearth an overarching pattern among these three types of gaming communities: the players who pursue success prioritize outcomes over gameplay to maximize the economic value generation within and around video games. Consequently, players minimize the time spent in the game in order to increase the rate of achieving the preferred quantifiable outcomes. In addition, I show that playing video games without aiming towards the success defined within the “right ways” are considered as failures. By looking at three case studies from the queer lens that Jack Halberstam (2011) uses in The Queer Art of Failure, I criticize the logics of success because I understand losing a competitive game, doing boring things in a sandbox game, and solo playing a massively multiplayer game as a success against the disciplinary neoliberalism that inform the right ways to play. In its entirety, my dissertation speaks to scholars, game developers, and players with the aim of raising awareness on systems oppression centralized around patriarchy, white supremacy, and neoliberalism and highlight non-normative possibilities to promote social justice in gaming communities



Video games, eSports (Contests)