DiGRA COMETH

The schedule for the 2014 Digital Games Research Association conference is live and the line up is looking great. I am particularly excited about two things: 1) the gender and sexuality panel and 2) a panel starring ME... and the amazing Florence Chee, Christopher Paul and Kelly Bergstrom. The panel is called "Hey look at the weirdos: a panel discussion on deviance and acceptance in the strange space". 

ABSTRACT 

This panel discusses the notions of deviance and acceptance in and around virtual communities of practice. While there has been marked progress regarding how gamers are regarded in mainstream discourse due to the recent prominence of games research that explains the finer nuances associated with communication and community, there are still dark pools where respectability politics still deter much academic discussion and where researchers are likely to fear treading.

We are bringing a set of scholars who are pushing at these discursive margins to shed light upon communities of practice that go beyond “Vanilla WoW,” and after discussing their research projects, invite the audience to participate in a dialogue regarding the numerous and varied constraints and silences occur in and around the creation of the conversation in games research. This is a collection of papers about topics that usually get passed over for the more well worn game studies paths.

Included in the range of projects to be discussed in this panel:

1. EVE Online is a game with a reputation of being difficult for a new player to break into the community. But even with its tight knit community, the game has its vocal critics -- even among its current players. Drawing upon survey and interview data from EVE players, focusing specifically on a subset who vocally express their hatred of the game and yet they continue to play. I argue that much like Huizinga’s spoil sport, these players have no vested interest in maintaining the commonly shared narrative that EVE is a game only for a particular sort of player. Therefore, it is through these players’ narratives that we can better identify the barriers to participation in this particular game. MMOGs, like all games, are a voluntary leisure activity and for many, gameplay is a leisure activity because it a pleasurable activity. But what can we make of players who actively express their dislike of a game they currently play? Drawing on the colloquial term “hatewatching”, continually tuning into a television show week after week that one dislikes but feels like they can’t turn away, I investigate the phenomena of “hate-playing” EVE Online.

2. The Gorean communities of practice in and around Second Life. Based on novels written by American John Norman in 1966, the series combines philosophy, erotica, and science fiction. Part of the practices depicted in the series concerns the relationships between dominant men and submissive women. As such, the lore, along with their lifestyle adherents, have been also criticized and reified. Now technologically mediated through Second Life, there are even more opportunities for misunderstanding, panic, and rigorous but nonetheless theoretically convenient representations of community members.

3. Distinguishing between three forms of deviancy which have historically been confused and/or conflated: 1) kusoge (shit games), 2) kuso culture online (Little Fatty, lolcats, participatory culture parodies etc.), and 3) egao (kuso-like 2.0 phenomena in China). Kuso internet culture is a set of practices identifiable by a shared scatological attitude, present in videogame culture as Mario and Zelda YouTube Poops, The Angry Video Game Nerd content and the legend of its origins. The rise of a niche fan community celebrating kusoge has been deeply associated with the emergence of kuso culture, however they share little in terms of that defining attitude. Using kuso culture as a point of departure this discussion will demonstrate that kusoge fandom is, in fact, a combination of camp and avant-garde practice, while Chinese egao is a form of activism.

4. A key piece of how games are made to mean is the interaction between game design and player culture. As payment frameworks for games move from the straightforward purchase of a product to the in app purchases that can typify free-to-play games, game culture produces a new kind of deviance: the player who pays. Perhaps originating in massively multiplayer online games where players could purchase currency outside of the terms of service, contemporary free-to-play game typically produce communities where those who invest massive amounts of time are venerated and those who pay are deemed whales by developers and are constructed as lesser skilled players by gamers. This production of deviance is instructive in studying how game culture produced particular norms for play and rules for engagement and how those factors frame how game players and academics are likely to engage the study of games.