From Pong to Planet Quake: Post-Industrial Transitions from Leisure to Work

Publication Type  Journal Article
Year of Publication  2003
Authors  Postigo, H.
Journal Title  Information, Communication and Society
Volume  6
Pagination  593-607
Key Words  Unwaged work; mods; modders; modifications; hackers

In the closing weeks of 2002, video games were featured in various popular American news publications and media outlets such as Wired, Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek and Time Magazine. It is becoming increasingly apparent that video games are no longer child's play, but rather that they are poised to become a major entertainment form for the twenty-first century. Social analysts and media scholars must begin to formulate an understanding of this emerging mass-consumer phenomenon because it will increasingly impact social and economic structures of post-industrial societies. Part of the tremendous value generated by the American video-game industry is tied into broad global economic shifts that have created a space where services and ephemeral products, such as software, can be created and cheaply distributed. The predominance of " high-tech' production, the rise of the Internet, and the cultural capital associated with computerization all have contributed to the rise of hobbyist software developers that currently tinker with commercial video games and freely add to them increasing levels of sophistication. This paper sees video-game programmer hobbyists as a source of some of the significant value that the video-game industry generates, and understands the role of the programmer hobbyists through the lens of theories on post-industrial work. My analysis situates the work of hobbyists on the Internet within the context of post-Fordism and explores some of the motivations for this unwaged work. In the sections that follow, I will analyse the potential value of the work hobbyist do as well as analyse its transition to paid work as some commercial software developers experiment with incorporating these fan bases into the game design process.


Introduction to special edition of 'Information, Communication and Society' on digital games.



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