Play As Craftsmanship in Computer Game Consumption: Towards a Sociology of Gaming As Craft Labour

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Dachgeschoss (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Tom BROCK, Manchester Metropolitan University, United Kingdom
Explanations of computer game consumption have tended towards a focus on the relationship between play, narrative and its context to explain consumer behaviour. The dominant narrative that underwrites these explanations is that play, through gaming, is often undertaken to escape reality and that games are consumed to help people actualise desires and fantasies that are otherwise unattainable in their everyday lives. Thus, it has been argued that games offer a variety of ‘imaginative escapes’ from routine life, such as the collection of in-game items or achievements, which are seen to provide players with a sense of ‘progress’ that is otherwise lacking from their work lives (Molesworth, 2009; Molesworth and Watkins, 2014). In this article, it will be argued that what is missing from these accounts is a discussion of what Richard Sennett (2009) calls ‘the craft of play’ - where play inaugurates the material practices of repetition, modulation, and consistency that are constitutive of craft labour. This paper intends to explore the relevance of Sennett’s thesis to a sociological analysis of gaming, and uses ethnographic research into the computer game Destiny to unpack the ways that making an online avatar might be considered an example of craft labour. The study reveals that players get great satisfaction from negotiating the relationship between pleasure and rigorous practice in Destiny and identifies that, for some, it has become a vocation that has called into question their pre-existing relationships to work and employment. The paper concludes by suggesting that gaming is not simply an escape from reality, but rather a way of understanding how reality is being re-appropriated through play as craftsmanship.