Authored by: Carly A. Kocurek

The Routledge Companion to Video Game Studies

Print publication date:  December  2013
Online publication date:  January  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415533324
eBook ISBN: 9780203114261
Adobe ISBN: 9781136290510


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Players of video games are frequently subject to accusations of antisocial behavior. As early as the 1970s, video games were a source of concern for moral guardians who worried about video games’ potential effects on young people. In the wake of concerns that ranged from the encouragement of adolescent truancy to games’ violent thematic content and even to accusations of criminal ties in the gaming industry, numerous communities attempted to curtail the spread of video gaming through zoning ordinances and other local measures. In the most extreme cases, video games are blamed for contributing to horrifying acts of violence, such as the 1999 Columbine High School shooting. However, the accusation that gamers are loners or antisocial exists alongside a lively history of community formation around and through video gaming. Even early coin-operated video games enabled various types of community-oriented play: PONG (Atari, 1972) was intended for two players, and beginning with Starfire (Exidy, 1979), many games incorporated scoreboards, encouraging players to compete and recognizing player achievement. Communities formed by players, game designers, and others with a stake in the medium have a strong influence on gaming culture and shape gaming practice at multiple levels. For example, players develop communities around beloved games just as game companies work to cultivate player loyalty by developing games that require social engagement and supporting communities in and around their games. Indeed, most players will, at some point, engage in some social interaction around video gaming, whether through individual conversations about game strategy, through participation in a social game of some kind, or even through participation in a formal organization or event for gamers. Much of the study of gaming, then, is necessarily a study of community formation and practices. To critically engage with issues of community in video gaming is to carefully examine not only gaming’s affect on existing communities, but also the extent to which gaming can inspire and facilitate the formation of new communities around shared texts and experiences.

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