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DISCOURSE AND AFFECT IN YOUTH ESPORTS: THE ROLE OF AGONISTIC CONFLICT IN PRODUCING PROSOCIAL CULTURE ONLINE
McGill University, Canada
Does organized, competitive videogame play, or Esports, contribute positively to adolescents’ learning and prosocial development? During participation in Esports, do social interactions online differ from social interactions in person toward adolescents’ learning and prosocial development? How do affectively intense moments of Esports competition produce potentials for prosocial development across adolescents’ digital-physical interactions? To address these questions, this study analyzed adolescents’ experiences learning to play Esports and to form and promote an Esports team based physically in an urban community center and also distributed digitally across related internet livestreaming and chat platforms. Analysis focused on agonistic conflict that arose across adolescents’ participation in Esports and Esports-related activity across this community center’s adult-mentored digital-physical learning ecology. The study defined agonistic conflict as affectively intense moments of conflict and/or disagreement where affect is mobilized, or not, toward prosocial activity. Through co-educational design alongside community center staff, and discourse analysis of moments of Esports-related agonism, this study will opens new understandings of adolescents’ prosocial development through learning experiences with videogames and collaborative new media production. Implications extend toward mentoring youth in productive participation in democratic society and toward more prosocial interactions online and during Esports and other videogame-based learning and play.
4:20pm - 4:40pm
The Situated Hinterlands of Online Gaming Practices
David Cumming, Melissa Jane Rogerson
The University of Melbourne, Australia
Previous work has established the existence and research interest of a “digital hinterland” (Rogerson, Gibbs & Smith, 2017) – online practices that support and frame people’s engagement with a hobby. In this paper, we extend the notion of the hinterland from digital-only practices to consider how online-gaming practices are framed by engagement in activities held in material spaces. Looking at the esports bar spectatorship experience, we describe how attendance substantiates and supports fans’ relationship with their fandom and with other fans. We draw on existing literature about esports experiences, practices of offline gaming hobbyists, and sports and media tourism, to show that shared time and place, attendance, and their contribution to an individual’s gaming capital (Consalvo, 2007; Walsh & Apperley, 2009) are important elements of this situated hinterland.
4:40pm - 5:00pm
Videogame Engines and the Politics of 'Democratised' Software Development
Queensland University of Technology, Australia
A videogame engine is a software tool that enables interactive digital content to be built, and a code framework that enables that content to run on different platforms, including consoles, smartphones, and virtual reality devices. Today, game engines form the backbone of videogame development and, increasingly, software development more broadly. The Unity engine — a key player in this industry, and the main case study of this paper — aims to ‘democratise game development’ through an accessible editing interface, a flexible licensing structure, and a toolset that is interoperable with a range of different design tools, middleware software, programming languages, and production workflows. This paper evaluates the core claim made by and about Unity — that it is has democratised game development — through a framework that analyses the engine’s ‘articulations’ in multiple areas of software culture: design, workflow, education, identity, political economy, and governance. These contexts form a 'circuit of cultural software' wherein the discourse of democratisation functions as a governing logic. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with 24 Australian developers, students, and educators, as well as participant observation and ethnographic fieldwork, this paper argues that people feel empowered by Unity not only because of the tools it provides, but also because of its capacity to create what Angela McRobbie (2016) calls a ‘creativity dispositif’ — an affective space where developers are granted a degree of social security to explore possibilities for self-entrepreneurship in what would otherwise be a career path fraught with risk and uncertainty.
5:00pm - 5:20pm
Videogame analytics, surveillance capitalism, and the retentional economy of play
University of Sydney, Australia
Data analytics tools are increasingly prevalent in videogames and are reliant on the surveillant capture and relay of user data. In this paper I present some conceptual work and preliminary analysis of the analytics tool ‘DotaPlus’ used in Dota 2. Through my analysis, I frame DotaPlus as a site of ‘surveillance capitalism’, using data derived from various modes of surveillance to generate potentials for commercially desirable gameplay experience.