Playing the Game
Performance in Digital Game Audiences
Garry Crawford and Jason Rutter
Research into audiences and their engagement with cultural texts has often followed a trajectory established by Morley (1980), Hobson (1982), Radway (1984), Ang (1985), and Hermes (1995), namely, an emphasis on the consumption of routine—if not mundane—texts in everyday, often domestic, environments. Its sizable contribution to cultural studies has, in no small part, been the means by which this emphasis has opened up the study of the rich variety of practices, knowledge, and discourses that audience members bring to their involvement with everyday cultural texts. Conversely, the research trope that appears to be developing around much of the study of digital games has emphasized the spectacular (e.g. King & Krzywinska 2002), the out-of-the-ordinary (e.g. Kennedy 2002), the place of digital games in a canon of “art” (e.g. Jenkins 2005a), or possible links to aggressive and violent behavior (see Bryce & Rutter 2006).
This chapter explores the validity of such assumptions by situating digital gaming within a broader socially situated context. We provide a brief introduction to the consideration of digital gaming and gamers as an audience and argue that the literature on media audiences and fans provides useful theoretical tools for understanding the use of digital gaming in patterns of everyday life. In particular it is argued that the concept of “performance” allows parallels to be drawn between the literatures on gaming and on fans/audiences, which allows for an understanding of how game-related performances and interactions can extend beyond the game interface. Furthermore, we suggest that the inclusion of gaming within