Mothers, play and everyday life: Ethnology meets game studies

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The socio-cultural practice of gaming has taken a giant leap out of the cultural closet. Gaming is becoming a mainstream activity in many Scandinavian homes with a player base that is growing in size and diversity. Contemporary living-room and everyday culture is changing and developing; the new LCD or plasma-TV that many families bought for last Christmas will be used as much for console gaming as for watching DVD or blu-ray movies. Simultaneously, public discourses on media-use adjust to reflect the currents of transformation. The view of gaming as leading to addiction and violent behavior is slowly, but gradually becoming nuanced 1 and the formerly dominant image of the computer-game player as a boy has changed to include the whole family, with "Mom" being the most recent addition.

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... Most research on gendered gameplay, however, has been limited to teenagers and young women, and their ways of dealing – or not dealing – with the medium of videogames. Apart from some notable exceptions such as the qualitative study by Royse et al (2007) and Mosberg Iverson (2013), the audience of adult female gamers is still a largely neglected group in research (Enevold and Hagstrom 2009).With the current study we hope to add useful insights to the fields of leisure studies and game studies , by reporting on the practices of adult female gamers who play the first videogame title that managed to attract a group of female gamers of all ages: The Sims. This game was first published in 2000 by Maxis/ElectronicArts, and has been followed up by The Sims online, ...
... I'd like to have a house like that Mirjam Vosmeer Jeroen Jansz Liesbet van Zoonen documented how male members of a household have a tendency to claim first access to game consoles and computers in the house and often take the role of expert in this area, undermining the desires , skills and knowledge of female family members (Van Zoonen 2002). As Enevold and Hagstrom have put it, " a mother who plays computer games challenges cultural norms, claiming time for an unproductive activity only for her, and acts in contradiction to what the concept of 'mother' implies " (Enevold and Hagstrom 2009, 7). Research into more traditional female pleasures such reading women's magazines (Hermes 1995), or romance novels (Radway 1984) and watching soap operas (Gray 1992) showed that -given that the home is a place of domestic and 'care' work for women (Martinson and Schwartz 2002) -their leisure time has to be explicitly marked from the claims of family members. ...
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This qualitative interview study explores the practices of adult female gamers who play the videogame The Sims, focusing on the motivations they have for playing and how playing a video game might influence their digital competence. We address the wider context of leisure and the household, investigating to what extent playing videogames has become domesticated in the daily life of the family. It is found that female gamers play The Sims because they enjoy the particular way it allows them to take control, fantasize, and be challenged. For some, it is clear that playing this video game has increased their digital skills. We notice that there is an interesting similarity between the pleasures of playing this videogame and more traditional ways of female media engagement such as reading women’s magazines or romance novels and watching soap operas. Our gamers similarly enjoy The Sims as leisurely moments for themselves, clearly and intentionally separated from domestic and family duties. We conclude that playing a videogame can be seen as a highly modern and liberating practice, as both playing in general and using ICT have traditionally not been a part of the female leisure domain.
... The results echo existing literature that shows how gaming is inextricably situated in players' lives (e.g. Apperley, 2010;Enevold and Hagström, 2009;Pargman and Jakobsson, 2008): as everyday life changed, so did gaming. ...
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This qualitative study examines how the spring 2020 COVID-19 restriction measures impacted adults' gaming in Finland. The study draws on a thematic analysis of qualitative data (N = 201) collected in April 2020, which is explored through the lens of Apperley's (2010) theory of gaming rhythms. The results illuminate the ways in which gaming was situated in everyday life both during and before the COVID-19 restrictions, and how the pandemic and its associated restrictions disrupted, reinforced, and reconfigured the everyday rhythms of gaming. The situation impacted individuals and families differently, being beneficial to some and detrimental to others, contingent on other aspects of respondents' lives. The results underline how an individual's gaming does not happen in isolation, but takes place in the confines of everyday life, shaped by factors outside the individual's control. Developing Apperley's theory, the results show that gaming can be a very resilient activity, given the right circumstances.
... It is undeniable that the players at the cafés are almost exclusively teenage boys, and that they therefore, in this sense, constitute a specialized subset of those who play games (see Juul, 2009). In studies of games and gamer culture, issues of differences in gaming preferences and the exclusion of particular groups (older players, female players) from gaming has been a frequent topic (Crawford & Gosling, 2005;Enevold & Hagström, 2009;Fron, Fullerton, Morie, & Pearce, 2007;Jenkins & Cassel, 1999;Kafai, Heeter, Denner, & Sun, 2008;Schott & Horrell, 2000;Wakeford, 1999). To what extent the special social characteristics of particular players are relevant to the analysis of their gaming interaction is, however, a different question. ...
... Applying this to video games, ―would imply not only attending to videogame consumption (or the practice of playing games), but also to how the gaming practice is related to other media practices and how it is socially organized‖ (Roig, San Cornelio, Ardevol, Alsina, & Pages, 2009, p. 91). It also entails looking at games in terms of everyday life, as Enevold and Hagstrom (2009) do in their ongoing study of mothers and gaming in Sweden. ...
ABSTRACT IDENTITY, IDENTIFICATION AND MEDIA REPRESENTATION IN VIDEO GAME PLAY: AN AUDIENCE RECEPTION STUDY Adrienne Shaw Supervisor: Dr. Katherine Sender Research on minority representation in video games usually asserts: 1. the industry excludes certain audiences by not representing them; 2. everyone should be provided with characters they can identify with; and 3. media representation has knowable effects. In contrast, this dissertation engages with audiences’ relationship to gamer identity, how players interact with game texts (identification and interaction), and their thoughts about media representation. This dissertation uses interviews and participant observation to investigate why, when and how representation is important to individuals who are members of marginalized groups, focusing on sexuality, gender and race, in the U.S. The data demonstrate that video games may offer players the chance to create representations of people “like them” (pluralism), but games do not necessarily force players to engage with texts that offer representation of marginalized groups (diversity), with some rare and problematic exceptions. The focus on identity-based marketing and audience demand, as well as over-simplistic conceptualizations of identification with media characters, as the basis of arguments for minority media representation encourage pluralism. Representation is available, but only to those who seek it out. Diversity, however, is necessary for the political and educative goals of representation. It requires that players are actively confronted with diverse content. Diversity is not the result of demand by audiences, but is rather the social responsibility of media producers. Media producers, however, can take advantage of the fact that identities are complex, that identification does not only require shared identifiers, and that diversity in a non-tokenistic sense can appeal to a much wider audience than pluralistic, niche marketing. In sum, diversity can address both the market logic and educative goals of media representation. I conclude by offering three suggestions bred from this analysis. First, researchers should be critical of this emphasis on pluralism rather than diversity. Second, rather than argue video games should include more diversity because it matters, producers should include it precisely because representation does not matter in many games. Finally, those invested in diversity in games should not be to prove the importance of representation in games, but rather argue for it without dismissing playfulness.
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This empirical study investigates social digital gaming habits through a national survey of Swedes aged 12–100. The enquiry concerns patterns of gaming and compares playing with different co-players in order to map out this growing practice among the general population. Logistic regression models are used to analyse the data. Results show support for the importance of separating different social gaming contexts according to the relational status of co-players: whom people play games with – family, friends or strangers – affects how players engage with games. Social gamers were younger, had higher achieved education, were more dedicated and spent more time on gaming. Furthermore, contrary to expectations, male gamers are more social than female gamers. Results show how digital gaming adapts to life rather than the other way around. Finally, digital gaming is shown to be situated in a complex weave of interactions and structures that go over and beyond the gaming itself.
How do gender and sexuality come to matter in online game cultures? Why is it important to explore "straight" versus "queer" contexts of play? And what does it mean to play together with others over time, as co-players and researchers? Gender and Sexuality in Online Game Cultures is a book about female players and their passionate encounters with the online game World of Warcraft and its player cultures. It takes seriously women's passions in games, and as such draws attention to questions of pleasure in and desire for technology. The authors use a unique approach of what they term a "twin ethnography" that develops two parallel stories. Sveningsson studies "straight" game culture, and makes explicit that which is of the norm by exploring the experiences of female gamers in a male-dominated gaming context. Sundén investigates "queer" game culture through the queer potentials of mainstream World of Warcraft culture, as well as through the case of a guild explicitly defined as LGBT. Academic research on game culture is flourishing, yet feminist accounts of gender and sexuality in games are still in the making. Drawing on feminist notions of performance, performativity and positionality, as well as the recent turn to affect and phenomenology within cultural theory, the authors develop queer, feminist studies of online player cultures in ways that are situated and embodied.
This article argues for the use of expert players as coresearchers when studying game systems and game design choices. As emergent systems that may react differently to different playstyles, games need to be studied from a variety of gameplay perspectives. Combining approaches from game studies with usability testing, interpretative phenomenological analysis, and reader-response theory, this article suggests a method for game research that is relevant for the study of games as both artifacts and playgrounds.
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This dissertation is an exploration of the practice of social digital gaming, using a mixed methods approach with complementary data and analytical methods. The main themes are the prevalence and meaning of gamers’ experiences of social gaming and the underlying structures limiting or assisting social gaming, both material and social. Applying an everyday perspective, focus is on gamers’ day-to-day practices and experiences. Studies I and II enquire into relational aspects of social gaming based on interviews and survey data. Study III investigates the relationship between game design and gamer agency and its importance for social interaction with strangers, using in-game participant observation. Lastly in Study IV, building on interviews, female gamers come to the fore as their gender construction in an online game is examined with the aim of understanding the connection between online and offline. The main result concerns how social gaming takes place in various social relations. How gaming comes to be―what it means―is dependent on the relations between gamers, be they family members, real life friends, Internet friends or strangers. In these interactions, gender and sexual identity are realized; in the relations between gamers, physical proximate or online. Finally, virtuality is shown to be a social accomplishment of the people engaging in games rather than a property of the games themselves. Focus on the relational unveils how gaming comes to be in the process of interaction, a process at the same time dependent on underlying structures, i.e. games as designed platforms with certain affordances for social behaviour. We are able, thus, to reconcile the social constructivist position that (social) gaming is created in the relations between gamers engaging in games with the more formalist approach that games are rule based structures. Games create a foundation for interaction that can further develop into the creation/maintenance of relationships and identity.
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Since 1999 blogs have become a significant feature of online culture. They have been heralded as the new guardians of democracy, a revolutionary form of bottom-up news production and a new way of constructing self and doing community in late-modern times. In this article I highlight the significance of the 'blogosphere' as a new addition to the qualitative researcher's toolkit and some of the practical, theoretical and methodological issues that arise from this. Some of the key ethical issues involved in blog data collection are also considered. The research context is a project on everyday understandings and experiences of morality.
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In this article we review ethnographic research on the Internet and computer-mediated communication. The technologically mediated environment prevents researchers from directly observing research participants and often makes the interaction anonymous. In addition, in the online environment direct interaction with participants is replaced by computer-screen data that are largely textual, but may include combinations of textual, visual, aural, and kinetic components. We show how the online environment requires adjustments in how ethnographers define the setting of their research, conduct participant observation and interviews, obtain access to settings and research subjects, and deal with the ethical dilemmas posed by the medium.
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Huizinga's concept of a 'magic circle' has been used to depict computer games and gaming activities as something separate from ordinary life. In this view, games are special (magical) and they only come to life within temporal and spatial borders that are enacted and performed by the participants. This article discusses the concept of a 'magic circle' and finds that it lacks specificity. Attempts to use the concept of a magic circle create a number of anomalies that are problematic. This is not, as has been suggested earlier, primarily a matter of the genre of the game, or a discussion of what an appropriate definition of a 'game' might be. Rather, in this study with hardcore gamers, playing computer games is a routine and mundane activity, making the boundary between play and non-play tenuous to say the least. This article presents an alternative theoretical framework which should be explored further.
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In this introduction, game studies is argued to be a force of innovation for cultural studies. While game studies, as is has developed over the last 10 years, fits well within cultural studies' methodology and theory, it does more than benefit from cultural studies as a 'mother discipline'. Game studies proves itself to be a strong force, especially in its productive use of political economy to analyse games and gaming as a (new) cultural form. Building on a descriptive taxonomy of games and gaming by both genre and 'platform', this is an introduction to games and gaming for those with a cultural studies background. While ideally, game studies will develop also as cultural critique, this is a far cry from dominant practice in the gamer community. Gamers tend to be 'hand-in-glove' with the industry. It is high time for game studies to turn a critical eye on itself.
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The market for adult computer gamers is growing considerably. However, there are nearly no empirical works that are primarily focusing this age group. Therefore, there is an urgent need for explorative studies on these gamers. In a qualitative in-depth interview study with 21 gamers aged between 35 and 73 years, this article describes their gaming careers, the integration of gaming into their everyday life, and aspects of social interaction within real and virtual life. Overall, the findings of this study sketch a lively picture of adult players. Many of the interviewees show a very strong interest in the social aspects of gaming. However, gaming can put some strain on their family life, and many older gamers feel that their partners and peers regard their hobby as being inappropriate for their age. Still, most of the interview partners successfully manage to combine occupational and private duties with their gaming activities.
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The study of video game effects has been marked by two very different approaches. The first approach is rep- resented by social scientists, who, with some exceptions, seek to understand the effects of games on users. The second approach is favored by humanists, who seek to understand the meaning and context of games. To date, these two groups have largely talked past one another due to their different goals and their different methodologies. Yet, for the advancement of science and understanding, both sets of scholarship are impor- tant and relevant. Each has contributions to make. However, unless these two groups come to possess at least a cursory understanding of the other's methodology, there will be little synthesis. This is a missed opportu- nity for scholars of every stripe, and ways are suggested to bridge these gaps.
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In order to understand what a game is and how to design good games, we need to understand the players as well as the act and the experience of playing. However, the players are not typically very much involved in game design processes, especially in their early stages. To develop and evaluate methods of player research and ways to integrate them into game design processes, we conducted a study with self-documentation sets. To bring playful elements into design of games the tasks were presented in the form of a game. The game box included several different tasks designed to encourage participants to reflect on their relation to games and gaming from various and also unexpected viewpoints. In this paper we focus on the methodological issues, but also present findings on some of the tasks in order to demonstrate what kind of results can be obtained using this kind of approach.
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This paper describes an investigation conducted into the current accessibility and allure of gaming platforms for females. In order to investigate one of the most developed areas of new media, a traditional feminist approach of explaining factors that exclude females from new media technologies was avoided in favour of a focus upon the experiences and attitudes of females who already view themselves as 'gamers'. Synonymous with 'grrl gamer' and 'game girlz' this paper uses the term 'girl gamer' to describe females who possess an aptitude for the games that currently define the contours of the gaming culture. In-depth interviews and ethnographic game-play observations conducted with a small sample revealed that 'girl gamers' possess an alternative playing orientation, style of play, the importance of cultural competency in game preference, as well as knowledge on the ways gaming is embedded in household dynamics.
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L'estudi de l'estetica dels jocs es una practica recent que abasta menys de dues decades. A diferencia de les teories de jocs en matematiques o ciencies socials, que son molt mes antigues, els jocs es van convertir en objecte d'estudi per a les humanitats nomes quan els videojocs i jocs d'ordinador es van tornar populars. Aquesta falta d'interes continuada pot semblar estranya, pero nomes si considerem que els jocs tradicionals i els jocs d'ordinador son intrinsecament similars, la qual cosa no es aixi. Podem intentar explicar aquesta manca assenyalant que les elits estetiques i teoriques que conreen l'analisi d'objectes artistics dels mitjans (literatura, arts visuals, teatre, musica) solen considerar els jocs com una cosa trivial i popular. Pero aixo no explica el fet que els estudis estetics sobre jocs siguin possibles en l'actualitat, i fins i tot en alguns entorns academics, s'estimulin i rebin suport amb beques. Que ha passat per provocar aquest canvi? Text complet (PDF) Node complet (PDF)
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Several hypotheses regarding the importance of gender and relationships were tested by combining a large survey dataset with unobtrusive behavioral data from 1 year of play. Consistent with expectations, males played for achievement-oriented reasons and were more aggressive, especially within romantic relationships where both partners played. Female players in such relationships had higher general happiness than their male counterparts. Contrary to stereotypes and current hypotheses, it was the female players who played the most. Female players were also healthier than male players or females in the general population. The findings have implications for gender theory and communication-oriented methods in games and online research-most notably for the use of self-reported time spent, which was systematically incorrect and different by gender.
In this chapter, we take a fresh look at gender and digital gameplay. Rather than repeat the stereotypes of who plays what, how, and why, we show how our own preconceptions about gender keep surprises at bay, reinforcing, instead, oft-cited ideologies. As researchers, we are entitled to be surprised by our findings. Serious interpretive work, in conjunction with alternative methodologies, promise very different findings from the expected, and accepted, assumptions about women and girls and their involvement in gameplay.
Although the study of digital games is steadily increasing, there has been little or no effort to develop a method for the qualitative, critical analysis of games as "texts" (broadly defined). This paper creates a template for such analyses by developing and explaining four areas that game researchers should consider when studying a game: Object Inventory, Interface Study, Interaction Map, and Gameplay Log. Through the use of an extended example (The Sims and three of its expansion packs: Livin' Large, House Party and Hot Date) as well as examples from different styles and genres of games, the case is made for employing these four areas or components as a (developing) methodology for the critical analysis of one or many digital games.
This study examines how individual differences in the consumption of computer games intersect with gender and how games and gender mutually constitute each other.The study focused on adult women with particular attention to differences in level of play, as well as genre preferences.Three levels of game consumption were identified. For power gamers, technology and gender are most highly integrated.These women enjoy multiple pleasures from the gaming experience, including mastery of game-based skills and competition. Moderate gamers play games in order to cope with their real lives.These women reported taking pleasure in controlling the gaming environment, or alternately that games provide a needed distraction from the pressures of their daily lives. Finally, the non-gamers who participated in the study expressed strong criticisms about game-playing and gaming culture. For these women, games are a
Virtual environments present researchers with a range of methodological considerations, both new and old. With the advent of embodied online worlds, experiences with distributed presence, anonymity and multiple modes of engagement increasingly become the norm. Avatars and their textual counterparts lead us to critically encounter how research can be most meaningfully handled given a terrain in which users are actually embodying themselves digitally, and often in multivalent ways. This article discusses some of the theoretical issues at stake in this form of research, as well as providing several grounded practices to help methodologically negotiate virtual worlds.
The information age has, under our noses, become the gaming age. It appears likely that gaming and its associated notion of play may become a master metaphor for a range of human social relations, with the potential for new freedoms and new creativity as well as new oppressions and inequality. Although no methodological or theoretical approach can represent a cure-all for any discipline, in this article the author discusses how anthropological approaches can contribute significantly to a game studies nimble enough to respond to the unanticipated, conjunctural, and above all rapidly changing cyberworlds through which everyone in some way is now in the process of redefining the human project.
This article describes a study conducted in the summer of 2006 aimed at exploring the play patterns and lifestyles of gamers who fall into the loose demographic of “Baby Boomers,” typically defined as people born between 1946 and 1964. This independent study, including more than 300 participants, combined quantitative and qualitative techniques to paint a multifaceted picture of the gaming lifestyles and tastes of this understudied population. The study findings show that Baby Boomers comprise a vibrant video game audience, that they are devoted players, and that they have distinct needs and interests that have gone ignored by both the mainstream game industry and the game press. They also provide some detailed data about their play styles and gaming interests, the role of gaming in their larger media mix, as well as specific case studies that paint a nuanced portrait of this understudied and underserved audience.
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In this paper, we describe a method to analyse computer games. The analysis method is based on computer games in particular and not some kind of transfer from other fi eld or studies - even though of course it is inspired from other kinds of analysis methods from varying fi elds of studies. The method is based on seven different layers of the computer game: hardware, program code, functionality, game play, meaning, referentiality, and socio-culture. Each of these layers may be analysed individually, but an entire analysis of any computer game must be analysed from every angle. Thereby we are analysing both technical, aesthetic and socio-cultural perspectives.
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