Digital games are part of the fabric of daily life in Canada. Although we often think of children as the primary audience for games, the Entertainment Software Association reports that gamers aged 18 or older represent more than 70 percent of the video game-playing population. In Canada, the average age of a player is now 36 years old, and 49% of those players are female.

Yet even as we know that games are being played regularly by a broad spectrum of people, one domain we know little about is how socio-economic class plays a role in how people play, what they choose to play, and why they might make the choices that they do in terms of platform and game selection. As Deery and Press point out, “for each of us, our class position affects how we will live and how long we will live, how we will be cared for and educated … and what experiences and pleasures are open to us” (Deery & Press, 2017, p. 3). But how – if at all – does differential access make a difference to players of different socio-economic classes? For this project, class, also referred to as socio-economic class, is defined as “based on a combination of economic (income, wealth) and social factors (family background, education, occupation, social prestige)” and is used to explore questions of access, and determining how it is “expressed in lifestyle, values, behavior, manners” (Deery & Press, 2017, p. 6).

This project undertakes to address these issues via four objectives:

  1. Develop the first taxonomy of videogame elements (or tropes) identified as arising from game narratives, visual representations, and the rules of gameplay that are focused on class.

  2. Offer the first cross-class analysis of game players to demonstrate how our socio-economic class system shapes how individuals play and understand games.

  3. Revise and rebuild already established theories of identity related to players, in order to integrate class with previously studied elements including gender, race, and sexuality.

  4. Document and evaluate the evolution of pricing strategies and economic systems in games and across game platforms for their fairness.

 

Class and Videogames’s theoretical frameworks position human activity as responding to and within specific historical, cultural, social and political contexts, and take as a given that media texts including videogames are important artifacts that convey, reinforce, and sometimes challenge contemporary cultural understandings of societies including how race, gender, sexuality, and class are differentially positioned. It asks four research questions:

  1. How is class present in current and past videogames? How does it appear in game narratives and representations, and how is it proceduralized in game rules and systems?

  2. What practices do players of different socio-economic classes engage in? What games do they play, how do they play them, and how does game pricing affect their actions?

  3. In what ways do the game industry’s pricing structures segment player markets? What, if any, differential access results from such practices?

  4. What role, if any, does class play in professional game developers’ career trajectories, beliefs, practices, and game designs?

Class and Videogames uses multiple methods to better understand how class is represented and coded into games as well as how class shapes the experiences of players and game developers and how it plays a role in the monetization and affordability of different types of videogames. These include game and document analysis, in-depth interviews, focus groups, observation analysis, and survey research.

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mia.consalvo [at]

concordia.ca

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