Imagining the Audience: Game developers' negotiation of fan culture

Alison Lamont, Robert Busfield

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


    "Toxic" gamer culture, epitomised by 2014's #Gamergate outburst has received sustained academic interest from areas including fan studies, feminist and women's studies, and media and communication. Research has explored the response of games journalists to #Gamergate (Perreault and Vos, 2016) whilst other research has sought to understand abuse via the lens of "gamer identity" (Salter, 2017). However, less attention has given to how the producers of games manage interaction with the broader gamer culture and manage often inflated expectations (e.g. Hello Games 2016 ‘No Man’s Sky’).

    This study will employ an interactionist framework to understand how game developers anticipate audience response. Using semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of UK game developers, the study will take a fresh look video game culture to include how the producers of games respond to both the pressure of publicity around game development, and to the increasing pressure to engage directly with fans via online platforms.

    The personal, professional and financial risk of mismanaging audience expectation is severe, as the vitriol generated in #Gamergate and the punishing response to No Man's Sky illustrate. Social media has encouraged the personalisation of game development which has in turn led to both the creation of the games ‘auteur’ whilst correspondingly providing a target for criticism (e.g. Sean Murray, but also established figures in the industry like Peter Molyneux). However, games are an interactive medium and, as such, the text is inherently polysemic and co-created (Banks and Potts, 2010). The aim of this research is to examine how developers manage this contradiction and imagine their audience in connection to their game(s).

    Banks, J. and Potts, J. 2010. Co-creating games: a co-evolutionary analysis. New Media and Society, 12(2):253-270
    Perreault, G. P. and Vos, T. P. 2016. The GamerGate controversy and journalistic paradigm maintenance. Journalism, 1- 17 online first.
    Salter, M. 2017. From geek masculinity to Gamergate: the technological rationality of online abuse. Crime Media Culture, 1-18 online first.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusIn preparation - 11 Apr 2018
    EventBSA Annual Conference 2018 : Identity, Community and Social Solidarity. - University of Northumbria, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom
    Duration: 10 Apr 201812 Apr 2018


    ConferenceBSA Annual Conference 2018
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    CityNewcastle Upon Tyne
    Internet address


    • gaming
    • interactionism
    • fan culture

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