I am disruptive by nature, but not by instinct. Women around the world are demanding that industries let us in; into CEO positions and STEM, into video games as something other than oversexualized caricatures. As a video game designer, and as a black woman, I have to make my own space in this industry because no one will make it for me. I will make my space in this industry by being a knowledge worker in a knowledge economy.
Becoming an expert in communication in the field of video games gives me an edge that competitors won’t be aware of. To become a knowledge worker, I must first understand both the knowledge economy and how it affects me in my field of work. It is the economy we are in today, as it differs vastly from our previous economies; such as the agricultural economy and industrial economy. However, what all these economies have in common was some sort of resource that citizens used to succeed (Houghton and Sheehan 1).
The Knowledge Worker feeds this sort of economy by gaining expertise in their field, understand the importance of working on a team while being able to do deep work on their own. “Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task..” ( samuelthomasdavies.com). It is the skill of deep work that will set me apart from others in the video game industry. It was through deep work that weightless transactions in video games came about, a disruptive innovation that made the industry millions of dollars. These weightless transactions are often called in-game purchases for things like loot boxes and unlockable content (sciencedaily.com). It was this innovation that made video games so easily transferrable to different mediums for multi-use purposes.
Contrary to popular belief, Video games are so much more than games. They have helped shape our society in a multitude of ways, be it positive or negative. Most of the conversation around video games seems to harp on the negative, blaming violent first-person shooter games on the rise of mass shootings (Granic 69). However, video games have several practical uses in many different areas. Video games are a perfect example of abundant convergence as they are a medium that expands as the technology around it does.
Educators and scholars are now having a difficult time denying the benefits of incorporating video games in education. In ‘ Video Games and Learning: Teaching and Participatory Culture in the Digital Age,’ Kurt Squire says, “…educators see video games as powerfully motivating digital environments and study video games to determine how motivational components of popular video games might be integrated into instructional design.” The motivational nature of video games can lead to long-lasting educational success (Granic 71).
More than education, Video games have proven to help in the sales of real estate successfully. Using VR, real estate agents have been able to assist a future home buyer picture what their home would look like in what is called Virtual Staging (rubygarage.org). 77% of real estate agents say that virtual staging was able to ‘ help buyers associate a property with their future home’ (rubygarage.org). The first home VR headset was the Oculus Rift, created by 22-year-old Palmer Luckey (vanityfair.com). “ Right now, convergence culture is getting defined top-down by decisions being made in corporate boardrooms,” says Henry Jenkins, a prolific and respected researcher of the term convergence, “and bottom-up by decisions made in teenagers’ bedrooms.” At just 22, Luckey was able to create a disruptive innovation. The Oculus Rift was a disruptive innovation in the way that space, time, and technology have been combined into an interactive experience. Digitalization allows convergence, which in turn feeds innovation.
I certainly can say that there is no other industry that creates game-changing innovations as quickly as the video game industry. With most gaming consoles releasing a new generation every 6–8 years, it beats a lot of computer generation updates. I believe this is because of the diffusion of innovation through different regions of the video game industry. In ‘Diffusion of Innovations’, Everett Rogers said: “Diffusion is the process in which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among members of a social system” (Rodgers 1). Meaning that innovations diffuse through a process in which ideas are communicated through different channels over time in a given social system.
A lot of the video game industry currently resides in Japan as it is the 3rd largest gaming market in the world. It is no surprise that Japan has had a tremendous influence on gaming cultures in other parts of the world. This influence is through heterophily of the industry between Japan and other places. For example, Japanese horror games are trendy in the U.S; This led to the creation of The Evil Within, an American game drawing from many elements of traditional Japanese horror. It is the diffusion of innovations in the video game industry that make up a lot of the technoculture surrounding it.
Some would say that the culture around the videogame industry is pretty toxic, and I would have to agree. It is filled to the brim with misogyny, racism, and homophobia. But who is at fault? Is it the innovators of these games and consoles? Or the consumers, trolling people on in-game chatrooms, doxxing users? Could it be that the technology itself is spurring these nasty thoughts, giving the people platforms to speak this way in the first place? I believe that the definition of technoculture would hold all parties responsible.
Technoculture refers to the relationship between culture, politics, and technology. The technoculture surrounding video game culture makes it impossible to isolate these aspects of the industry. With the rise of social cooling, where we “self-censor or second guess what we do online for fear of
repercussions” (abc.net.au), you would think that consumers in the videogame industry would think twice about the negativity. But a lot of the technoculture in gaming has a level of anonymity, created by innovators. A lot of online games, especially MMORPGs, require avatars or characters, usually distinguished by usernames. Often, the consumer is urged never to use their real name, leaving no visible online trace to this person. If someone’s identity hidden on a platform, they are less likely to have restraint with the things that they say (networkconference.netstudies.org). Though there are relatively toxic aspects of the video game industry, I believe that through technological determinism, we could reverse it moving forward.
To make any change, we as people must understand what it is we need to make a change, and why change is necessary in the first place. As a socioculturalist, I believe that video games have impacted our society but that without people, there wouldn’t have been an impact, because there would not be any video games. However, technophiles would argue that without videogames, our society would not be as advanced as it now, regardless of any human interference. It must be taken into consideration, however, that technophiles are often uncritical of the way technology affects society, and tend to be in a ‘euphoric state’ of new technological advancements.
As innovators see the technoculture they have fostered become so sinister towards minorities, a few have made strides to ban offensive language with the feature of reporting offending users to admins. Overwatch, a popular MMORPG has one of the worst platforms for hate speech, with Jewish players getting harassed with threats of gas or African-American players being told they sound ‘black’ (usatoday.com). Blizzard, the design team behind Overwatch and many other MMORPGs, responded by cracking down on hate speech by claiming to moderate servers more often (usatoday.com). However, what we need are more inclusive video games to negate these sorts of attitudes towards players. If video games drive change, people have to be in the front seat by creating games that leave no one excluded by creating a positive and diverse space, free of stereotypes.
As a video game designer, I plan on driving that change because I believe that as people grow, so does technology. If this industry prides itself on fast innovation and non-stop convergence, it isn’t very smart to harbor outdated and merely wrong stereotypes of cultures and people.
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