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Video game culture – Rae Moors

Rae Moors talks about public perspectives of games, activism, and how esports may bridge the gap between gamers and the public.
<v ->Hello.</v> And welcome back to the teach-out on E-sports. I’m joined by Ray Morris, PhD candidate in Communication and Media at the University of Michigan. Ray is currently researching the cultural landscape around the video game industry. Let’s press start. So first Ray, can you give us a high-level overview of your research in the space? <v ->Sure thing James.</v> So, like you noted, I research gaming culture and the landscape of culture around the gaming industry especially. What that means is I’m really interested in the sorts of, communities, and cultures, and practices in meaning-making practices especially, that form around video games. And I’m especially interested in the way the industry facilitates those communities and facilitates those relationships.
I’m especially interested in emergent technologies that come out and are become taken up by the industry, and take it up by players, or watchers, or fans of video games I’m really, when you boil it down, I’m really interested in how people use games to make meaning and community in their lives. <v ->Yeah, that’s really cool.</v> And I think some of the people that we’re looking to highlight in this teach-out are gonna have a lot to say about this topic. Can you tell me a little bit more about gamer culture in general? <v ->Yeah, actually one</v> of the first things we do in the classes that I teach on video games and culture is we problematize the term gamer culture itself.
One of our first ( indistinct) actually something that asks us to really think about what we mean when we say gamer culture. A lot of times you’ll hear me refer to it as gaming culture, or some way to sort of sidestep the stereotypes that get invoked. when you say the word gamer. Because basically for the entirety, for as long as video games have existed as a form of media, there have always been different cultures and practices, and groups of people who engage with video games. It’s never been monolithic. And when you say the term gamer culture, we tend to think of a very monolithic, stereotypical thing.
And so, like I said, one of the first things we do in the class is we say, well, that doesn’t really capture everyone who gains, right? Sort of like the term gamer itself, doesn’t really capture everyone who interacts with video games. Not everyone is going to call themselves a gamer for various reasons. Maybe people think that they’re not a big enough fans to be called a gamer.
Maybe people think that they’re not good enough at video games to be called a gamer, but they still liked games and games can figure into our lives in so many ways from like very mundane, casual mobile games to competitive professional gaming that using the term I, when I say the term gaming culture, I also often curvy it out, with it could be gaming cultures, because it just means that games are a facet of lives we already have and games configure into communities that we already have formed in relationships we already have. So that’s how I encourage us to think about gaming culture at the beginning of my classes.
And that’s something that I think could, especially be useful when thinking about E-sports culture as well.
<v ->That’s really interesting</v> that you brought up that it can be, gaming can be used to sort of, both engender yourself within a culture, or community, or as a way to like bolster an existing culture or community. I’m curious if in your research you’ve seen any of the cultural divides that we’re seeing in our everyday lives, interact with the gaming industry, or in gaming in any ways? <v ->So, especially when you get over…</v> So actually there are two answers to this question.
So let me take one of them first, which is, that yes, as soon as you start talking about different groups of people and cultures that already exist, you’re absolutely going to see in various aspects of gaming culture, replication of divides that already exist in our lives, fair amount of the readings and work that I do is very, very cognizant of the ways that gender plays into the sorts of groups, and practices, and norms that sort of come to signify and really make gaming what it is. A lot of my research also deals very closely with race, ethnicity, and how that figures into how we understand games, and how we make sense of games.
So you’ll see all those aspects come up on, You’ll see how identity and representation matters not only within games, but within gaming communities. That’s one thing we really try to highlight too. So it’s not just about what is going on on the screen with games, but also about how people talk to each other when they’re playing games, that really matters. And then you’ll see the different, like different groups, have different practices and different norms about what it’s okay to say. What’s expected of players when they play with each other.
But the other part of this that I think is really important, cause you said that, that industry word, so I’m going to go back to that, is that the industry has, one of the reasons I’m so interested in the industry is because the industry has for so long, tried to sell a certain vision of what gaming is, and who gaming is for. And while that’s expanded in the past decade plus, especially since the turn of the 21st century. You still see a lot of, you still see a lot of stereotypes and tropes being played to from the industry. You see certain types of games that get a lot of funding.
You see a certain types of games that get really popular, and get lots of marketing. And so, I think it’s really important, especially as we talk about E-sports to remember that the industry is a very, very key player 7 in how cultures form around gaming, and how communities form. It is not determinant. I would never argue that the industry holds complete control over how gaming sort of gets absorbed into culture, but it is a very important factor that we can’t ignore because at the end of the day, they’re the ones making a lot of the games, especially the big E-sports games. They’re the ones controlling a lot of the marketing.
They’re the ones who at the end of the day, our balancing the checkbooks and it’s not always the thing you want to think about, but it is something important to think about. <v ->Yeah, I’m glad you brought</v> that up because it is sort of a complex relationship between both the professional E-sports player and teams, and the companies that make the games that they play.
As we’ve explored it can be somewhat fraught that, that relationship between these two groups, I want not, I want to come back to the industry’s response because in late we’ve seen a lot of unrest from employees or players of various different developers and publishers in the game industry, as well as some outspoken political statements made by competitors across the world. But specifically in China. Yeah am curious what your thoughts are about activism in the gaming space and sort of how players, professionally and fans can sort of reconcile with what’s going on at the industry level, but also at their professional gaming level?
<v ->Yeah, that’s a big question for sure.</v> But it is an important one, especially as we’ve seen sort of the fallout of the very reason, Activision Blizzard, sort of a controversy, not even the right word for it. Fiasco. I don’t know what to call it. But yeah, so you’ve got these big companies and you’ve got proprietary control over the sports that people are playing, which is really interesting. So if you think about the weight, the E-sports are owned by people that’s so different than football or baseball, right? So nobody owns baseball, but somebody owns league of legends, and somebody owns Overwatch.
And so, like you said, you’ve got these conflicting parties here that are vying for varying levels of authority and control, not only over money, but over what a game is culturally, what people think about when you think of Overwatch. And so I think that, especially as these companies have sort of, allowed E-sports to blossom, one of the things that’s going on here is the companies are to some extent, they’re not just allowing people to play their games competitively, but they’re really benefiting from people playing their games competitively. E-sports has a lot of money behind it when you look at valuations, they’re very, very high and they’re growing. So the company is, are allow not only allowing,
but in some ways they’re starting to depend might be a strong word, but they’re starting to assume that there’s going to be an E-sport scene around their games. And that, what that means is that they’re offloading a little bit of power to the people who are playing these games. They’re offloading a little bit of power to fans. And that means that yes, it is become a space where as soon as fans, and watchers, and players have that sort of power, you can use it in order to highlight causes that are very important to you, including issues with the company that gave you that power in the first place. So I think it’s a really exciting thing to think about.
And to me again, because I’m so interested in the industry side of things, is looking at how, if the industry doesn’t want that to happen, there in, if they don’t want those like difficult, problematic things to be highlighted, they’re in a little bit of trouble because now they have given that power to those people by attempting to, you know, monetize their professional play competitions, et cetera. <v ->Ray, as we’re wrapping up, any final notes</v> or advice you would give to players, or people who are interested in getting into this industry or understanding more about the culture of gamers or gaming.
<v ->Yeah sort of following</v> on that last question and how I’ve responded to it as well as how I started this off as there are so many different cultures out there, if you’re interested in getting into E-sports in any capacity, whether that means just as a fan or as sometimes, eventually a professional, any level of that spectrum, you don’t have to abide by someone else’s rules necessarily. You, E-sports is expansive, just like gaming is expansive. There are so many types of games out there, that from the smallest single player, indie titles to the most massive competitive online games, the same can be true of E-sports cultures.
I think it’s what I would say, so if you don’t find yourself drawn to necessarily the biggest game, or you don’t like the way that a lead you’ve joined or tried to start is working, you have power, you are a person with who wants to make meaning out of these things. You’re engaging with them because you like them. You’re not being forced to play E-sports in really any capacity. So if it’s not doing something for you, you should be able to find another community, find, change some cultural practices within your own community, especially as E-sports is still kind of in that like NASA emergent period, where it’s very, very big, but again, very expansive. There is potential.
You have, there’s potential for it to be what you need it to be. <v ->Thank you so much for sharing your insight with us.</v> We really appreciate this conversation. <v ->Thanks James. Happy to be here.</v>

In this video, Rae Moors, PhD Candidate in Communication and Media at the University of Michigan, talks about their research on video game culture.

They touch on public perspectives of games, activism in the video game industry, and how esports may bridge the gap between gamers and the general population.

Discussion: Take a moment to reflect on your perception of gamer culture prior to this discussion. Were you surprised by anything discussed in the segment? What questions do you still have about video game culture?

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