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The Videogame Industry Does Not Exist

Started by droqen, April 19, 2023, 10:39:06 PM

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Notes from the conclusion

P211- Paul Bowers: "For videogames I don't know if there is yet that obvious distinction between [mainstream and art house] which comes about from a very long canon." . . . Videogames, however, lack any distinction between mainstream and art house.

P212- . . . commercial positions in the field have [somehow?] limited the legitimate positions of the field to their own products and practices.

P213- . . . videogames are culturally significant because people care about them and because people use them to communicate with each other, to express ideas, and to understand their world. [and not because of the billions in revenue they generate each year.]

P215- The videogame industry [is] entangled with and dependent on the skills, communities, and innovations of a broader field of cultural production.

P215-216- . . . social and cultural capital are generated by and circulated within a semiautonomous field in complex, dynamic relationships with economic capital.

P216-217- [There exist roles which] Bourdieu (1993, 41) calls "cultural intermediaries," who are responsible for translating the productions and values of an autonomous field to "the logic of the economy." Publishers, curators, critics, journalists, livestreamers, investors, and event organizers all have crucial and complex roles to play in the field that have not been considered here. . .

P218- The contexts in which videogames are made, the reasons for which they are made, and the audiences for whom they are made are no less diverse than they are for films, paintings, or music.

P218- The videogame industry doesn't exist--at least not without an entire cultural field of videogame production to support it.

// oof, kinda a cop-out on the whole titular topic there.


P161- . . . these powerful companies extract their capital from. . . the multitude of gamemakers around the world. . .

This single sentence, or, sentence fragmented together, drew everything in this book into focus. There exists the "broader field of cultural production" and larger companies' "extractive power" refers to the power they obtain by exploiting such a field economically -- making it less rich to make themselves more rich.


I took a hard copy of this book out from the library and it's now slightly overdue and I cannot renew it because someone in Toronto wants it. I'm going to spend a bit of time this morning reading the book before I return it. (The library is not yet open anyway.)

I'm remorseful that my actions have kept this book out of someone else's hands, but happy that someone else has a hold on the material. Maybe I should write a little note for them in the book? No, that'd be rude...


Chapter 1 is a fascinating application of Pierre Bourdieu's 'field', a concept "developed over a series of essays" "compiled together in The Field of Cultural Production" (I tried to take this book out of this library. The library does not have it, alas) to videogame makers.

There are many parallels and I really enjoy this fitting of a previously unknown-to-me concept to a known-to-me part of the world.


First, capital. The below text quoted by Keogh from Bourdieu's essay "The Forms of Capital" (1986, p 243)

Quote. . . economic capital . . . directly convertible into money . . . may be institutionalized in the form of property rights

. . . cultural capital . . . convertible, in certain conditions, into economic capital . . . may be institutionalized in the form of educational qualifications

. . . social capital, made up of social obligations ("connections") . . . convertible, in certain conditions, into economic capital . . . may be institutionalized in the form of a title of nobility.

Keogh describes the idea of a cultural field of videogame production multiple times in slightly different ways over the next few pages, and I love a collection of slightly different variant definitions.

QuoteA field is the structured space of social relationships where . . . agents compete for access to the different forms of capital (22)

Quote. . . to speak of a field in the Bourdieusian sense is to denote an ambiguous, contested, yet shared arena of common principles and . . . markers of success. (22)

QuoteFor Bourdieu, the most all-encompassing field is the field of class relations in which all members of a society are constituents. . . a field becomes more or less recognizable as a field . . . as it develops a limited autonomy from the broader field of class relations, where success and capital within that field may be measured by different metrics than that of economic value or political power. (22-23)

QuoteA field of cultural production, then, is a semiautonomous space of relationships between creators that compete to accrue the forms of cultural capital recognized within the field as legitimate. (23)

QuoteA cultural field becomes autonomous as a field as it more successfully "consecrates" . . . its own markers of legitimacy and value (such as awards, review scores, recognition by other producers in the field) separate from those external markers of economic and political profit (such as sale figures, popularity, sponsorship deals). (23)

I'm thinking about this a lot. How do I feel about these things? Thinking less about whole fields and thinking more about tiny circles is valuable; consider a friend group, or even a relationship with one person. In these contexts we may very easily be able to escape 'external markers of economic and political profit'. However this is in contrast to what Keogh says here:

QuoteFields are thus homologous to the field of class relations in that they inherit a similar structure between dominant and dominated positions, and a similar logic based on the exchange of symbolic values, but the specific structures and recognized forms of capital themselves differ. (23)

Would the most autonomous field not be that which consecrates a wholly different structure? That may not be possible -- it may be human nature which causes any field to ultimately collapse into a fungible appeal to the comparative and quantitative (e.g. "economic capital"). It seems that part of the problem is the willingness to measure, to see such an exchange in terms of what can be measured.

That is, in Bourdieu's essay quoted at the start of this post, he writes that cultural and social capital are both "convertible, in certain conditions, into economic capital." Surely this is an incomplete picture that places economic capital, and money, at the end of a great alchemy. There is no talk of how money becomes economic capital, or how economic capital becomes cultural and social capital...

Quote. . . a field of cultural production is . . . a continuous struggle to define the field---a struggle played out between those already recognized as existing in the field (who have a stake in ensuring the current shape of the field persists) and those striving to be recognized as existing within the field (who have a stake in upending the current shape of the field). (23)

QuoteThus, we could say the videogame field is the site in which creators take positions and compete to determine whose positions are the most authentic videogame maker positions (i.e. generative of the most symbolic* capital recognized within the field. . .) . . . (23-24)

*symbolic capital is both economic capital and social capital

There is a great fight happening! I'm kinda into it, this boiling social field. It certainly exists and can be described as taking the shape given here, so long as Keogh and Bourdieu don't make any tree-like claims about everything stemming from some part of this field theory, I'm on board. Oops, nope, there we go

QuoteDispositions and position-takings matter because cultural fields always exist within the broader field of class relations. (25)

Like, things can have relationships within belonging within one another. It's annoying. ~ A CITY IS NOT A TREE, damn it