A uniquely critical study of video gaming that blends perspectives from political economy, cultural studies, and communications theory.
Digital Play offers a uniquely critical analysis of interactive media. Inspired by the work of Raymond Williams, the book traces the development of video gaming from its humble origins in hacker circles to its current status as a $20 billion global cultural industry. Stephen Kline, Nick Dyer-Witheford, and Greig de Peuter systematically debunk cyber-guru optimism about globally networked digital communications by analysing the management practices of the corporations that designed and marketed video games to youthful audiences. They reveal that the ascent of this new communications industry has been anything but smooth and inevitable. From Atari to Microsoft, Space Invaders to The Sims, the authors uncover the successive crises that forced game makers, faced with constant instabilities in the global entertainment sector, to become increasingly innovative.
In a marketplace that demands perpetual upgrades, the survival of interactive play ultimately depends on the adroit management of negotiations between game producers and youthful consumers of this new medium. The authors suggest a model of expansion that encompasses technological innovation, game design, and marketing practices. Their case study of video gaming exposes fundamental tensions between the opposing forces of continuity and change in the information economy: between the play culture of gaming and the spectator culture of television, the dynamism of interactive media and the increasingly homogeneous mass-mediated cultural marketplace, and emerging flexible post-Fordist management strategies and the surviving techniques of mass-mediated marketing. Digital Play suggests a future not of democratizing wired capitalism but instead of continuing tensions between "access to" and "enclosure in" technological innovation, between inertia and diversity in popular culture markets, and between commodification and free play in the cultural industries.