Dr Esther MacCallum-Stewart is a Research Fellow at the Digital Cultures Research Centre, The University of West England and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Surrey. Her work examines the ways in which players interpret gaming narratives, and has recently turned to more specific views of sex and sexuality in and around gaming, and the importance of player created content via webcasting and the Indie Games scene. Online Games, Social Narratives and Love in Games: a Game Love Collection, will both be published in September this year.
From Moonquest to Goat Simulator without Starving. How Webcasting is Changing Gaming Cultures
In the past few years, player generated content has become a huge part of gaming culture. Developing quickly from machinima and podcasting, fan-produced webcasts now dominate the reviews side of gaming, with many companies courting an increasingly corporate core group of webcasters through groups such as Twitch TV and the Polaris Network – which was bought out by Disney in March this year. Google have estimated that over 90% of gamers regularly consume webcasts about gaming, with all of these viewers commenting that they watch previews or playthroughs by popualr webcasters before deciding to buy games. As a result, player generated content has developed into a lively, vocal part of gaming culture, and increasingly dominates purchasing decisions by players.
This development also means that gaming is at the forefront of integrating fan produced texts into the gaming industry. Most webcasters operate independently of the games they decide to play and thus are perceived by viewers to offer a neutral ‘warts and all’ perspective. The ways that webcasters choose to interpret or present these texts is also important, since it offers a pluralistic narrative to the viewer, whereby gamers watch the game being enacted by another player, and set to their own interpretive framework. Finally, the placement of webcasters allows us to make interesting arguments for the passivity of the player, who watches, rather than plays the webcast text. This paper aims to interrogate these ideas, and asks questions about the role of spectatorship and production in player generated texts.