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Inside the Huddle: The Phenomenology and Sociology of Team Play in Networked Computer Games

Research output: Book / Anthology / Report / Ph.D. thesisPh.D. thesisResearch

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As any sports sociologist would say, sports are contested terrains. They are dynamic in practice and historically specific: They are shaped by institutions, politics, and local standards as well as formed throughout everyday actions by the range of performers on any given playing field. But what of computer games? What does it mean when these types of games are suggested to be
“found” securely in the software? What and where else is the game in action? And how are these games oriented by the many things engaged in their configuration? Taking a qualitative approach, this study explores such concerns looking at the players, organizations, and technologies involved in producing networked team play from the sites World of Warcraft Arena tournament high
performance competitions.
Throughout three years of multi‐sited fieldwork, this study has probed at how networked team play is lived and produced, asking: What are the practices of networked team play(ers)? How are such practices shaping team play culture(s)? And how do those involved make sense of their engagements? The exploration draws on events which took place between 2008 and 2012 using
qualitative research, including ad‐hoc and in‐depth interviews with players, administrators, organizers and spectators, as well as observations and field notes. I take the perspective of phenomenological sociology coupled with a decidedly Actor‐network theory approach, which assists in exploring the connections and translations made between embodiment, game cultures,
and the associations between designers, software and technologies. From this exploration, the players emphasize that the game extends beyond the packaged product, and the product of their high performance team work relates to more than hand‐eye coordination and time spent in front of the machine. Though more importantly, networked team play is rendered by players as a sensuous and intimate engagement; this is an engagement that is described by nuanced connections between the pressures of many things at play, humans and nonhumans, which coconstruct the experience. This research ultimately conveys that experiences produced in high performance networked team play come from an attunement and reflection of the many things in action, emphasizing that the active meaning‐making of players makes them principal “designers” of
their gaming engagements.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherIT-Universitetet i København
Number of pages241
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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