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Labor or Play? Understanding Productive Activities in Digital Games
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Informatics and Media, Media and Communication Studies.
2015 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

For a long time, playing games was considered as the opposite of being productive. However, in the digital age, millions of players produce economic value in the game worlds. This new phenomenon challenges the previous dichotomy of labor and play. To understand this new phenomenon, theoretical innovations are required.

This thesis aims to give a better understanding of in-game productive activities from a theoretical perspective. Based on previous academic studies, I develop a new theoretical framework upon the concept “playbor.” This framework is an attempt of combining two theoretical traditions, namely the Ludology tradition and the Marxism tradition. It is a framework from a ludological starting point toward a critical direction.

In this framework, I firstly analyze how play has been transformed to playbor. This process is shown as a transition model by the shifts of characteristics. Based on the transition model, a taxonomy of playbor is introduced. In the taxonomy, I identify three types of playbors: unintentional playbor, autonomous playbor and obligational playbor. Thereafter, problems related to playbors are examined. Problems from which traditional labor suffers, such as division of labor, alienation and exploitation, can also be observed in the game worlds. Apart from these problems, I identify a new problem which threatens all forms of playbors, namely the vulnerability of data.

This thesis is based on my theoretical research from January to May 2015. The main research method is literature review. Data from news reports and participant observations have also been used to support arguments.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. , 93 p.
Keyword [en]
playbor, labor, play, ludology, critical theory, game studies, digital games
National Category
Media and Communications
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-254800OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-254800DiVA: diva2:819751
Subject / course
Digital Media
Educational program
Master Programme in Social Sciences
Available from: 2015-06-17 Created: 2015-06-11 Last updated: 2015-06-22Bibliographically approved

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