Exploring the “Inner Game” of Video-Game Enthusiasts
Operant Subjectivity , Volume 35 - Issue 3 p. 129- 158
According to recent estimates, human beings across the planet currently devote some three billion hours a week to playing what have been collectively termed “video games.” Commercially, there can be little doubt that the manufacture and sale of these games has enjoyed phenomenal success; even in a fragile macro-economic environment, the video-gaming industry has become a huge growth stock, sustained by rapidly expanding cohorts of young consumers in every corner of the world ready and willing to shell out the sixty-plus dollars for the latest game or the hundreds for the latest game-playing hardware. Accompanying the vast expansion in the scale of the video-games industry and the youthful customer base that supports it, not surprisingly, is a host of commentary— much, but not all, of it skeptical—about the pro-social or potentially educational effects of protracted involvement with the vast array of variations within the video-gaming universe. Given the dearth of research exploring the meaning to gamers themselves of their gaming experiences, much of the literature on gaming as a whole has taken on a “dialogue of the deaf” cast, with pro-gaming advocates, convinced of the positive derivatives of gaming, advance enthusiastic claims while the critics worry about the massive opportunity costs incurred by a generation less interested in reading or drawn to the self-enhancing forms of play that call upon and are catalyzed by one’s own imagination. In this research, we sample from the often-polemical concourse on video gaming and its personal and social effects and discover four distinct versions of the “inner game” of gaming as experienced by college students who designate themselves as “serious gamers.” All four factors demonstrate consonance with play theory as outlined by Huizinga and amended by Stephenson. A concluding discussion is aimed in part at accounting for the relative paucity of empirical research on subjective play.