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Charming work: An ethnography of an indie game studio

Pelletier, C; (2022) Charming work: An ethnography of an indie game studio. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 10.1177/13548565211072636. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Based on data generated from an ethnography in a video game studio, this article contributes to research on gender and game work by presenting an analysis of the studio’s ethos and aesthetics. The studio’s employees described the company and the games it made in terms of their charm, and related this explicitly to its ‘diverse’ hiring practices and the company’s identity as ‘indie’. I explore how the notion of charm was applied to a game, a game company, and game developer or employee, by tracing continuities and discontinuities across three types of data: field memos written whilst visiting the studio; conversations with employees; and a game diary based on a play through of one of the studio’s games under development during fieldwork. Drawing on Sontag’s notes on camp, Ngai’s work on cute aesthetics and Born’s research on the institutionalization of aesthetic discourse, I analyse ‘charming’ as a distinct sensibility within contemporary game culture which is symptomatic of the breakdown of straightforward gender binaries and the commercialization of ‘amateur’ or independent game-making. The article builds on existing research about the social significance of aesthetic genres in game culture, notably retrogrames and the appeal of nostalgia in indie games. It also locates games within debates about contemporary aesthetic experiences shaped and sustained by global digital media and their associated production cultures.

Type: Article
Title: Charming work: An ethnography of an indie game studio
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/13548565211072636
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F13548565211072636
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
Keywords: Social Sciences, Communication, Aesthetics, cute studies, digital games, ethnography, gender, media institutions, subjectivity, production culture, studio studies, VIDEO GAMES
UCL classification: 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
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10146832
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