SCT #8: What’s social about social games?

Episode 8 of Social Change Technology explores the social aspects of so-called social games with Dr Mia Consalvo of Concordia University and Ron Miners of Electronic Arts.

In the episode Ren, Mia, and Ron talk about what we mean by ’social games’ and the social conventions and norms that are emerging from them. For example the common practice of gift giving has been adopted by main games as a key part of the play mechanic. However, in some social games this voluntary action has morphed into a social obligation on our socially-networked co-players; a process which in turn has been automated to such a degree that it has almost lost touch with the notion of gift giving that inspired it.

The podcast also covers the relationship between our social / family identity, as expressed in Facebook, and our our gamer identity. Do our social relations constrain our game actions? Do our game actions re-construct our social world? For example, in games that have ‘relationship’ options, are people prepared to have an in-game partner who is not an out-of-game partner, are people prepared to play a different gender or sexuality – all to achieve game play goals?

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Featuring: Dr Mia Consalvo

Mia is Canada  Research Chair in Games Studies and Design at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. She was a Visiting Associate Professor in the Comparative Media Studies program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and before that an Associate Professor at Ohio University in the School of Media Arts and Studies. She is the author of Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames, and is currently writing a book about Japan’s influence on the videogame industry and game culture. She has published in Critical Studies in Media Communication, Games & Culture, Game Studies, and Convergence, and she was previously the President of the Association of Internet Researchers.
Cheating: Gaining Advantage in VideogamesIn Cheating, Mia Consalvo investigates how players choose to play games, and what happens when they can’t always play the way they’d like. She explores a broad range of player behavior, including cheating (alone and in groups), examines the varying ways that players and industry define cheating, describes how the game industry itself has helped systematize cheating, and studies online cheating in context in an online ethnography of Final Fantasy XI. She develops the concept of “gaming capital” as a key way to understand individuals’ interaction with games, information about games, the game industry, and other players.Consalvo provides a cultural history of cheating in videogames, looking at how the packaging and selling of such cheat-enablers as cheat books, GameSharks, and mod chips created a cheat industry.
Featuring: Ron Meiners

Ron is Director of Community at Electronic Arts for The Sims. He has been in community management and building for over fifteen years working on everything from Myst to Burning Man. Ron is a specialist in understanding how cultural dynamics influence the online social experience, how memes propagate, and how to create exciting and positive communities. Ron also runs the blog Virtual Cultures with academic Celia Pearce.

Show Links

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Rita J. King and the Robots
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Federal Consortium For Virtual Worlds 2012

Podcast music: “For the Horde” kindly provided by 100 Robots.

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