Mark R Johnson

Mark R Johnson
The University of Sydney · Department of Media and Communication

PhD, Science and Technology Studies, University of York

About

36
Publications
66,517
Reads
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723
Citations
Introduction
I'm a Lecturer in the Department of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney, where I study live streaming and Twitch.tv, esports, gamification and gamblification, digital game culture, game design, and playbour.
Additional affiliations
October 2019 - July 2020
The University of Sydney
Position
  • Lecturer
Description
  • Live streaming, gamification, gamblification, game design - also teaching new media audiences (postgrad) and media research methods (undergrad).
September 2017 - September 2019
University of Alberta
Position
  • PostDoc Position
Description
  • Working on live streaming, gamification, loot boxes, and indigenous video game play.
April 2017 - October 2017
Goldsmiths, University of London
Position
  • PostDoc Position
Description
  • Project studying paper puzzle games (such as crosswords, sudoku, etc) and the potential creation, development, and eventual dissemination of a new paper game.
Education
September 2011 - May 2015
The University of York
Field of study
  • Science and Technology Studies
September 2008 - September 2011
The University of York
Field of study
  • Politics and Sociology

Publications

Publications (36)
Article
Full-text available
This paper explores the lives and careers of video game live broadcasters, especially those who gain their primary real-world income through this practice. We introduce the dominant market leader – the platform Twitch.tv – and outline its immensely rapid growth and the communities of millions of broadcasters, and tens of millions of viewers, it now...
Article
Full-text available
‘Gamification’ is understood as the application of game systems – competition, rewards, quantifying player/user behaviour – into non-game domains, such as work, productivity and fitness. Such practices are deeply problematic as they represent the capture of ‘play’ in the pursuit of neoliberal rationalization and the managerial optimization of worki...
Article
Full-text available
In this paper I explore economic and inclusion opportunities for people with disabilities and mental health issues afforded by ‘live streaming’ ‒ the live broadcast of one’s activities over the internet to a globally dispersed audience. In both 2016 and 2017, the leading live streaming platform Twitch.tv broadcast over 500,000 years of video, which...
Article
Full-text available
This article explores the growing importance of live streaming, specifically on website and platform Twitch.tv, to the games industry. We focus not on live streaming as a form of media production and consumption, but instead explore its newly central role in the contemporary political economy of the whole video games ecosystem. We explore three cas...
Article
Full-text available
This article explores affective and immaterial labor on the leading live-streaming platform, Twitch.tv, which boasts over one hundred million regular viewers and two million regular broadcasters. This labor involves digitally mediated outward countenance, including being friendly to viewers, soliciting donations, building parasocial intimacy with s...
Article
Esports contests at the highest levels frequently involve millions of dollars in prize money and spectatorship numbers in six or seven figures. Given these opportunities for financial success and public visibility, players have found ways to cheat in esports competitions. We draw on over one thousand qualitative survey responses from esports viewer...
Chapter
Full-text available
The video game FIFA (Electronic Arts) is an annually released title with a very profitable “FIFA Ultimate Team” (FUT) game mode played by a large community of gamers. This has led to the emergence of celebrity FUT content creators on Twitch and on YouTube, yet also tensions between these individuals, the “average” player, and the game’s developers....
Article
Full-text available
In this exploratory paper, we consider the phenomenon of gameplay live streaming by nonhumans. The live streaming of games, exemplified by the platform Twitch.tv, has emerged in recent years as a major and growing component of gaming culture. Although previous research has addressed some agential dimensions of streaming, scholarship has yet to exam...
Article
A Critical Gambling Studies blog entry: “Gaming Addiction” and the Politics of Pathologies
Article
In this article, we develop a theory of gameplay labour, acknowledging the paradigm of political economy yet grounded in game design and play, called ‘cultivation play’. In most understandings of game work, theorists traditionally explain digital labour in games as inherently difficult or manipulative. Instead, we propose a theory that explains how...
Article
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This article repurposes Campbell’s (2005) concept of ‘the craft consumer’ to generate a new theory of video game consumption, which proposes that we identify the material practices typically associated with craft labour within acts of digital play. We draw on case studies from popular and community-driven video game titles including Dark Souls and...
Article
Professionalised competitive digital gaming or ‘esports’ has grown to a point where millions of dollars are being awarded in competitions watched globally by tens of millions of viewers. Previous analyses of the phenomenon have examined the role(s) of labour in esports performed by various actors – players, tournament organisers, sponsors, game dev...
Article
This study investigates the strategies video game streamers with disabilities employ to navigate their identity as gamers as it relates to their subject positions as persons with disabilities. Through an analysis of online videos featuring eight streamers with disabilities, this study reveals four themes around how streamers establish their identit...
Article
The live streaming of digital and analogue gaming has emerged as a major new topic in games research. One element involves understanding the labour of streaming: studies to date have focused on examining the ‘on-camera’ labour of streamers, but what has yet to be examined is their ‘off-camera’ labour. This includes developing stream aesthetics, net...
Article
Full-text available
This article examines how ‘gambling’ secured a central economic and cultural position in the development of modern digital games. We first trace how developers have monetized ‘games’ and ‘play’, from slot machines to PC, console and mobile platforms, before considering the recent controversy over ‘loot boxes’ as an emblematic case study of the ongo...
Article
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This paper examines the ongoing gamblification of engagement mechanisms on the live streaming website Twitch.tv (Twitch). Twitch is the market-leading platform for live broadcast of digital games and digital gambling, with two million content creators reaching around one hundred and fifty million viewers per month. Streamers use a variety of moneti...
Article
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This article explores how video game players talk about the technological hardware they use to play games. The games industry is known for deploying often confusing and unclear ‘tech-speak’ terminology to convey the supposed value of new gaming hardware, drawing on tropes of numerical objectivity, ‘upgrade culture’ and the implicit obsolescence of...
Article
Full-text available
This article examines cultural and economic behavior on live streaming platform Twitch.tv, and the monetization of live streamers’ content production. Twitch is approximately the 13th most-viewed website in the world, with over 150 million spectators, and 2 million individuals around the world regularly broadcasting. Although less well-known than F...
Article
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This article examines depictions of ‘deep play’ – play with outcomes substantial enough to affect life outside the game – and ‘dark play’ – play that is non-consensual – in contemporary cinema, and their relationship to the ideological trappings of late capitalism. The article analyses numerous films with such themes and notes a clear commonality i...
Article
Full-text available
Twitch.tv is one of the most successful online live streaming platforms in the world, with 200 million viewers, 2 million regular “streamers,” and a market value of over $1billion. In this paper, we offer a first conceptualization of streamers as social media influencers, and how effectively they can perform strategic communication for sponsors. We...
Article
Full-text available
In this paper we examine the pursuit of celebrity through the live broadcast (‘streaming’) of video games as an expression of an emerging moral economy of contemporary digital capitalism. Live streaming is a novel form overwhelmingly found amongst young people disproportionately harmed by the economic crisis, and we propose that the contraction of...
Chapter
Full-text available
In the Black Mirror (2011–) episode “Fifteen Million Merits”, we see a reality where life’s commodities (and pleasures) are purchased through “merits”. This is a digital currency earned through drudgery made palatable via trivial interactive games that reframe, in pleasant and light-hearted ways, the monotonous labour. This makes the episode a valu...
Article
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This article examines consumer perspectives on match-fixing in esports – professionalized competitive video game play – and the implications of these perspectives for understanding game and gambling integrity. The relationship between match-fixing, game integrity and gambling is a close one, as gambling markets are reliant on strong game integrity,...
Article
Full-text available
This article examines “paper puzzle games”—crosswords, Sudoku, Kakuro, word searches, and so forth—in order to historicize and contextualize “casual games,” complicate our notions of “casual” play, and open up paper puzzle games to game studies consideration for the first time. The article begins by identifying the dearth of literature on paper puz...
Article
Full-text available
Previous literature on cheating has focused on defining the concept, assigning responsibility to individual players, collaborative social processes, or technical faults in a game's rules. By contrast, this paper applies an actor-network perspective to understanding 'cheating' in games, and explores how the concept is rhetorically effective in socio...
Chapter
Full-text available
In this chapter I look over the many different futuristic economies that games have portrayed, the structures and architectures that emerged from them and what they show us about the potential of the computer game – as opposed to the film, the novel, and so forth – not just to present visions of the future but to make those visions playable and ope...
Article
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In this paper, we argue that EVE Online is a fruitful site for exploring how the representational and political-economic elements of science fiction intersect to exert a sociocultural and political-economic force on the shape and nature of the future-present. EVE has been oft heralded for its economic and sociocultural complexity, and for employing...
Article
Full-text available
In most writing on video games, whether within or beyond the academy, the availability of gaming media is implicitly taken for granted. However, we propose that the act of video game purchase should be seen as an important aspect of the player–video game relationship. Drawing on original interview data, this work explores two types of video game pu...
Chapter
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This chapter examines video games which have thus far attempted to visually represent cyberspace, organizing its focus around the delineation and ordering of space, color, and shape: the grid-based visuals which help players perceive distance, and sometimes infinity, in an environment otherwise stark and devoid of distance markers (“space”); the ne...
Chapter
Full-text available
Book chapter examining the differences, overlap, and potential combinations of level design that is procedurally-generated, hand-made, or somewhere in the middle. I examine a range of case studies from both contexts, develop a typology for different kinds of procedural-handmade integration, consider examples where these have been combined, and conc...
Article
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This paper examines the varied cultural meanings of computer game play in competitive and professional computer gaming and live-streaming. To do so it riffs off Andrew Feenberg’s 1994 work exploring the changing meanings of the ancient board game of Go in mid-century Japan. We argue that whereas Go saw a de-aestheticization with the growth of newsp...
Chapter
Full-text available
Johnson examines “bullet hell” or “danmaku” games and unpicks their relationships to Eastern and Western gaming cultures and competitive and non-competitive gamers. He first traces the genre’s history and its subsequent spread from Japan into the West, before focusing on the extraordinarily high levels of reflex and eyesight required to play them a...
Article
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This article explores the semiotics of the “roguelike” genre. Most roguelikes reject contemporary advances in graphical technology and instead present their worlds, items, and creatures as American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) characters. This article first considers why this unusual graphical style has endured over time and ar...

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