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Platform, culture, identities: exploring young people's game-making

de Paula, Bruno Henrique; (2019) Platform, culture, identities: exploring young people's game-making. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Digital games are an important component in the contemporary media landscape. They are cultural artefacts and, as such, are subjected to specific conventions. These conventions shape our imaginary about games, defining, for example, what a game is, who can play them and where. Different research has been developed to understand and challenge these conventions, and one of the strategies often adopted is fostering game-making among “gaming minorities”. By popularising games and their means of production, critical skills towards these objects could be developed, these conventions could be fought, and our perceptions of those artefacts could be transformed. Nevertheless, digital games, as obvious as it sounds, are also digital: they depend on technology to exist and are subjected to different technologies’ affordances and constraints. Technologies, however, are not neutral and objective, but are also cultural: they too are influenced by values and conventions. This means that, even if the means of production of digital games are distributed among more diverse groups, we should not ignore the role played by technology in this process of shaping our imaginary about games. Cultural and technical aspects of digital media are not, therefore, as conflicting as it might seem, finding themselves entangled in digital games. They are also equally influential in our understanding and our cultural uses of these artefacts; but how influential are they? How easy can one go against cultural and technical conventions when producing a game as a non-professional? Can anyone make any kind of game? In this research, I explore young people’s game-making practices in non-professional contexts to understand how repertoires, gaming conventions and platform affordances and constraints can be influential in this creative process. I organised two different game-making clubs for young people in London/UK (one at a community-led centre for Latin American migrants and other at a comprehensive primary school). The clubs consisted in a series of workshops offered in a weekly basis, totalling a minimum of 12 hours of instruction/production at each research site. The participants were aged between 11 and 18 and produced a total of 11 games across these two sites with MissionMaker, a software that facilitates the creation of 3D games by non-specialists through ready-made 3D assets, custom audio and image files, and a simplified drop-down-list-based scripting language. Three games and their production teams were selected as case studies and investigated through qualitative methods and under a descriptive-interpretive approach. Throughout the game-making clubs, short surveys, observations, unstructured and semi-structured interviews and a game archive (with week-by-week saves of participants’ games) were employed to generate data that was then analysed through a Multimodal Sociosemiotics framework to explore how cultural and technical conventions were appropriated by participants during this experience. Discourses, gaming conventions and MissionMaker’s affordances and constraints were appropriated in different ways by participants in the process of game production, culminating in the realisation of different discourses and the construction of diverse identities. These results are relevant since they restate the value of a more holistic approach – one that looks at both culture and technology – to critical videogame production within non-professional contexts. These results are also useful to the mapping of the influence of repertoires, conventions and platforms in non-professional game-making contexts, highlighting how these elements are influential but at the same time not prescriptive to the games produced, and how game development processes within these contexts are better understood as dialogical.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Platform, culture, identities: exploring young people's game-making
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2019. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Culture, Communication and Media
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10085984
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