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Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
RS01_05: Work, Labour and the Politics of Video Game Making and Playing
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Mark R Johnson, University of Alberta
Location: GM.328
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Geoffrey Manton, Third Floor 4 Rosamond Street West Off Oxford Road

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Marx At The Arcade: Videogames, Work, And Organising

Jamie Woodcock

University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Over the past year, the videogames industry has become a site of worker organising. Following GDC in 2018, local chapters of Game Workers Unite (GWU) have sprung up across the world. There are clear grievances for workers in the videogames industry, for example, crunch and long working hours, lower pay compared to similar roles outside games, lack of diversity, as well as precarity and project-based employment. The UK branch has been the first join a trade union – although the SJTV existed previously in France. This paper will reflect on the experience of these previously unorganised workers in the UK. Drawing on ethnographic and interview data from the beginning of GWU in the UK, the paper will put these processes into conversation with Marxist theory, applying a critical analysis inspired by workers’ inquiry and class composition. Through this conversation, broader questions are drawn out about the role of academic research, the state of the videogames industry, as well as a reflection on the role of work and play in contemporary society. The paper concludes by imagining what futures in the videogames industry could now look like.

Rejecting Neoliberalism In Video Games

Christopher Edward McMahon

University of Liverpool, United Kingdom

My doctoral thesis looks at the influence of neoliberalism within AAA video games. Whilst giving a talk on my work I was asked “what would a Marxist game look like?” I wasn’t sure at the time but it got me thinking what a radical AAA video game would be and if there already is one.

The purpose of this paper is to highlight how neoliberalism reinforces itself as an ideology within AAA video games and attempt to theorise how video games can resist neoliberalism. This will be done by looking at the Grand Theft Auto series and Mark Fisher’s work on Capitalist Realism. A series like Grand Theft Auto presents us with a representation of our world in which inequality, segregation, gang violence, and the possibility of entrepreneurial success (legal or otherwise) are inevitable parts of reality. Not only this, but these parts of reality are there to be enjoyed. Through the exploration of the city, violence, and player appearance and stat progression we can chart the pervasive influence of neoliberalism in play and how it captures the radical potential within that play.

From here the paper will explore possible ways in which AAA video games could reject neoliberalism within the way players are allowed to play by looking at game-play mechanics like permadeath.

Spatial Reasoning: Re-coding spaces for inclusive game making

Aphra Kerr, Joshua D. Savage

Maynooth University, Ireland

Research on gamejams have presented them as an informal education space to encourage creativity (Ryan et al. 2015). Others have argued that all female gamejams and incubators are effective interventions to improve diversity in games (Kennedy, H. 2018). This paper presents the findings of a three-year research project which sought to identify strategies for reducing barriers to inclusion in informal game making events. This project firstly surveyed and observed three gamejams in three different cities. We found that these events created a welcoming culture for young male programmers. We identified a range of barriers to others in the design and culture of these events. The project then organised six ‘female friendly’ game making workshops in two different locations. Our workshops were largely successful in attracting women and men. However, as the attendees diversified we identified virtual and physical barriers that clashed with our game making pedagogy. In this paper we explore how what Kitchin and Dodge (2011) define as coded spaces and code/spaces influence inclusion initiatives. We use these theoretical concepts to explore the boundaries and barriers to inclusive game making futures and to question post-feminist diversity projects.

Harvey, A., & Stephanie Fisher. 2014. "“Everyone Can Make Games!”: The post-feminist context of women in digital game production." Feminist Media Studies 15 (4):576-592

Locke, Ryan, et al.. 2015. "The Game Jam Movement: Disruption, Performance and Artwork." Proceedings of the 10th Int. Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games.

Kennedy, Helen W. 2018. "Game Jam as Feminist Methodology: The Affective Labors of Intervention in the Ludic Economy." Games and Culture.

Kitchin, R., and M. Dodge. 2011. Code/space: Software and everyday life: The MIT Press.

‘Unspeakable Inequalities’ in a Post-socialist Videogame Industry – Investigating Polish Game Workers’ Perspectives on Gender Inequalities

Anna Maria Ozimek

Tallinn University, Estonia

Drawing on 41 semi-structured interviews with Polish videogame workers, this contribution investigates those workers’ understandings of gender inequality in the videogame industry. This paper engages with the theme of the research stream in two regards. Firstly, in this presentation I investigate the experiences of videogame workers outside ‘core’ videogame production regions – North America and Asia-Pacific. Secondly, this paper discusses the workers’ ‘common’ sense understandings of persistent inequalities within the videogame industry which are also defined by the socio-cultural boundaries of who does and does not belong in the industry. I position the interviewees’ understandings of gender inequality in a broader discussion about ‘postfeminist sensibility’, understood as an analytically useful tool in investigating cultural producers’ often-times contradictory ideas about gender inequality in contemporary workplaces (Gill et al. 2017). I argue that the interviewees’ attitudes toward gender inequality need to be understood in relation to the construction of new entrepreneurial subjectivities and embedded in a post-socialist socio-cultural context. This presentation discusses three characteristics of postfeminist sensibility identified in the interviewees’ narratives: expression of gender fatigue; emphasis on women as the advantageous sex; and a focus on self-surveillance. The interviewees discussed instances of gender inequality and discrimination in the videogame industry but repudiated such instances and discussed them as singular events, acknowledging inequality as being persistent in other industries or in Polish culture as a whole by simultaneously discussing the progressive nature of the videogame industry. 


Gill, R. et al. 2017. A postfeminist sensibility at work. Gender, Work and Organization. 24(3), pp.226-244. 

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