onsdag 8. oktober 2008

Fans and gaming

One of the main issues that makes studying games and gaming culture so fascinating, is that the basics are still not quite there. In other words: What is a gamer? The individual gamer is easy enough to identify: its someone who plays computergames and has computergames as an interest. However, if you think of a gamer as apart of a gamer community it becomes harder. How are we to understand gaming communities? What framework can we give gamers to gound their practices? How are gamers different to others?

One angle I have been working lately is through looking at fandom.

Henry Jenkins became the spokesperson for fanculture with his book "Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture" (1992). He described fans as poachers who takes text (in this case tv-shows) and makes them their own through their readings and rewritings. Fans bring out subtexts and make them explicit, as the (largely female) writer uses the characters to fulfill own curiosities and needs.

Going by this early conceptualizing of fandom, how can fandom help us understand gaming? Are gamers fans?
Several acitivites within the gaming community are almost identical to those of fans. Take the many webcomics or machinima that is made, creating new and exiting stories in a already existing world. On forums debates flurish with rumours of future patches or new releases, and there are speculations of what these would be. Collecting information and making databases are also practices that resonnates with fanculture. In many cases fandom helps explain the massive cultural work that happens outside the game. By reworking and rewriting the text at hand, fans find new types of enjoyment and involvement. Just cause gamers dont write slash about Super Mario and Luigi (I am sure it exist, but you wont convince me its common practice) or create work of fiction, doesnt mean that what they do are not a form of rewriting. Showing "l33t skillZ" (tm) in a short videoclip is not going to get you a job as Spielbergs' assistant (not that you would want to be his assistant..), but it is a way of using the existing text to create something grounded in yourself - a personal reading of the story.

So, are gamers fans? I dont know. So much of what gamers do seem similar to that of fans, however where is the battle of the gamer fans? What subtexts are we highlighting? Especially early fandom was largely written by and for a female audience. Slashfiction brough homosexuality into a heteronormative text. What issues are we raising? Are we raising any at all?

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