Methodological Principles and Practice
Edited By Michael Grenfell and Frédéric Lebaron
Playing Styles: The Differentiation of Practices in Online Video Games
Our collaborative work started as a reaction to some of the core assumptions of the newly developed discipline of ‘Game Studies’. That body of literature, akin to cultural studies, is taking root in academia. It makes the assumption that video games are a new medium that needs to be studied using new ways of investigation. This difference is believed to be best studied by analysing the rules of the games. Most of the time, the study of games as mere formal systems of rules does not document what players actually do while playing. The studies which do so, in precise, thorough ethnographies (Taylor 2006; Pearce 2009), depict a particular way of playing, but rarely the diversity of play styles.
Video games ask for a form of cultural consumption distinct from that of television, books or music. Since they are intrinsically interactive, what matters is what people do with games rather than what they think about them. We thus use the expression play styles to designate ways players interact with video games. The purpose of our research is to describe those styles (Boutet 2012a), trace them back to their origins (Coavoux 2010b; Berry 2009), and study their relations, i.e. how each takes place in a social space (Bourdieu 1991d), where they are linked by ties of power and conflict (Coavoux 2010a). The intention of this chapter is to demonstrate that no one style can by itself characterize what it is ‘to play the game’....
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