Developing a Community: Qualitative Approaches to Understanding the Role of Community Engagement in Gameswork
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Through multiple qualitative approaches, this dissertation contributes to understanding the increased role of addressing, engaging, and managing online communities in gameswork. It pays particular attention to how individual actors – such as game developers, content creators, community managers, and game journalists – collectively react to shifting industry trends that prioritize community engagement and building. It contributes to the literature on games by highlighting the experiences and perspectives of those working within the industry – such as community managers and game developers – as their industry undergoes significant shifts in priorities. In addition, it contributes to media and platform studies by examining the impacts on the production and consumption of media when audiences demand more intimate and direct access to creators. It pays specific attention to the workers who act as the filter between those who produce and those who consume. This dissertation draws together four individual projects with distinct methodologies, research partners, and questions to illustrate the impacts of this shift. Chapter 2 examines critical games journalism to show how a lack of investment in community engagement leads to a breakdown of the community. Chapter 3 uses qualitative interviews and observation of drag content creators to show how they grapple with building their online communities amidst changing platform dynamics. Chapter 4 uses qualitative interviews with game developers to highlight how they choose to or choose not to work with content creators as they adapt to new priorities in their industry. Chapter 5 uses qualitative interviews with community managers to examine how their work has changed, continues to change, and leaves lingering anxieties and questions about the future of their work. These individual projects are tied together through the complementary theme of servitization (Vandermerwe & Rada, 1988; Weststar & Dubois, 2022), which captures the trend of traditionally individually produced, packaged, and consumed products moving to a system of continuous access and consumption. As gameswork produces more products designed as a service for consumers, it changes the needs and expectations of gaming communities. I argue that this increased emphasis on community changes priorities for those working within creative and cultural industries that have implications for developers, community managers, and players. As these priorities change, new concerns arise regarding the working conditions, career, and educational pathways for those in community-focused roles.
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Matthew Perks (2023). Developing a Community: Qualitative Approaches to Understanding the Role of Community Engagement in Gameswork. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/19315