Playermaking: the institutional production of digital game players

Boyer, Steven Andrew (2014) Playermaking: the institutional production of digital game players. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis investigates how the digital games industry conceptualises its audiences in both
the United States and the United Kingdom. Drawing upon research focused on other media
industries, it argues in favour of a constructionist view of the audience that emphasises its
discursive form and institutional uses. The term “player” is institutionally constructed in
the same way, not referring to the actual people playing games, but to an imagined entity
utilised to guide industrial decisions. Using both desk research and information gathered
from expert interviews with digital game development professionals, this thesis looks at
how ideas about players are formed and held by individual workers, transformed to
become relevant for game production, and embedded into broader institutional conceptions
that are shared and negotiated across a variety of institutional stakeholders.

Adapting the term “audiencemaking” from mass communication research, this thesis
identifies three key phases of the “playermaking” process in the digital games industry.
First, information about players is gathered through both informal means and highly
technologised audience measurement systems. Institutional stakeholders then translate this
information into player, product and platform images that can be utilised during
production. The remainder of the thesis looks at the more broad third phase in which these
images are negotiated amongst a variety of institutional stakeholders as determined by
power relations. These negotiations happen between individual workers who hold differing
views of the player during development, companies and organisations struggling over
position and value across the production chain, and the actual people playing games who
strive to gain more influence over the creation of the images meant to represent their
interests. These negotiations also reflect national policy contexts within a highly
competitive global production network, visible in the comparison between the US
neoliberal definition of both the industry and players as primarily market entities and the
UK creative industries approach struggling to balance cultural concerns while safeguarding
domestic production and inward investment. Ultimately, this thesis argues that conceptions
of players are a central force structuring the shape and operation of a digital games
industry in the midst of rapid technological, industrial, political and sociocultural change.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: digital games, computer games, video games, players, audience, audiencemaking, media industries, institutions, cultural policy, national policy, measurement, audience image, constructionist, discourse, media work, global production network, national industries, national audience, negotiations
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1990 Broadcasting
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Supervisor's Name: Boyle, Professor Raymond
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: Steven Boyer
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-4925
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2014 16:53
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2014 16:55

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