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Playing with Platforms: Game-Making Practices and Labour under Platform Governance
Dale Leorke1, Aleena Chia2, Brendan Keogh3, Benjamin Nicoll3
1Tampere University, Finland; 2University of Jyväskylä, Finland; 3Queensland University of Technology, Australia
The last decade has seen an explosion of different scales, genres, and scenes of game making and distribution. This has happened at the same time as—and indeed as the result of—a narrowing number of dominant platforms through which games are developed and distributed. At the same time, games themselves have become platforms for service provision, co-creative player governance, and value extraction.
Game-making practice is thus pulled between competing logics: hegemonic governance of a few dominant platforms and a diverse multitude of player, hobbyist, and artistic practices that mutually shape and resist the governance mechanisms and economic imperatives of dominant platforms. Where traditions of 'platform studies' (exemplified by Bogost and Montfort's Racing the Beam) have a commonality of starting with infrastructure, this roundtable draws together researchers interested in how game makers are navigating the increasingly platformised political economy of the games industry. It aims to bring together expert commentary from delegates - whose research investigates contextualized practices of specific game maker and hobbyist communities - and facilitate discussion amongst participants following introductory presentations from the organisers. We aim to move beyond a focus on the platform economy’s ‘big players’ to instead identify how strategies used by creators and intermediaries to navigate game development and distribution platforms inform broader internet research debates about platforms and platformatization.
Specifically, the roundtable will address and discuss:
How do game engines (e.g. Unity) shape design processes and work practices of game makers?
How do creators use alternative platforms (e.g. Itch.io, Bitsy and Twine) to counter the hegemony of traditional game distribution platforms?
What methods and models based on co-creation and cooperativism are hobbyists outside the traditional game industry employing, and how can these diversify the current platform economy towards more equitable and democratic outcomes?