Rationalizing Play: A Critical Theory of Digital Gaming by Sara M. Grimes and Andrew Feenberg

In an article by two authors, Grimes and Feenberg take a look at the hugely profitable industry of digital gaming. Although not entirely clear, it is somewhat understandable why video games have done so well financially since the “Second Generation” of gaming. The authors propose that the concept of massively multiplayer online (MMO) gaming is worthy of further scrutiny, however, as it entails unique social aspects found only in online gaming, and is also one of the biggest sources of revenue for the industry. Like institutions such as the law and the marketplace in real life, gaming imposes a set of rules on people, what they call a form of “institutional order”. This order is the basis of any civilized society, and as such, these MMO games extend beyond merely entertainment into entities with rules, culture, politics, and a way for social interaction to occur beyond the traditional mediums. The biggest and most obvious example of these phenomena can be seen in the biggest MMO of them all; World of Warcraft. The authors conclude that further literature is required to fully understand the social rationality that results in games like WoW, and that since these games are continually being released and updated afterwards, study must continue to be updated throughout the years as well.

This study, although obviously interesting, does not affect my life, as I do not play MMOs. However, I do play Super Street Fighter IV at tournaments, and in the tournament scene, I have seen a number of things like culture, politics, and rules emerge. Although definitely in a different context than WoW, it is likely that any game that involves the interaction of other players will evolve to contain social rationalization, whether on a large WoW scale or a small SSFIV scale.


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