Digital Games and Digital Labor: building new worlds, no costs involved

Authors: Daniela Albini Pinheiro, Associate Researcher and Ph.D. in Science and Technology Policy, University of Campinas – UNICAMP, Marina Fontolan, Associate Researcher and Ph.D. in Science and Technology Policy, University of Campinas – UNICAMP, Manuela Rocha*, M.A. in Science and Technology Policy, University of Campinas – UNICAMP
Topics: Social Geography
Keywords: Digital games, worldbuilding games, in-game labor
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 34
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This study aims at creating an overview of a specific kind of labor in digital games. In it, players are responsible for creating new levels, challenges or even decoration sets for the game. Games such as Mario Maker (Nintendo, 2015), Planet Coaster (Frontier, 2016) and The Sims 4 (EA Games, 2014) are some examples of this kind of games. In them, players build the virtual space and share them with other players through digital workshops. Building and sharing is part of both one of the goals and an important aspect of fun of the game. The labor - however - is unpaid, done freely and evaluated by the player base. To develop this, we present an overview on digital games’ industry and labor, including some dynamics in game development. We bring some of the latest issues on digital games’ industry labor, characterize in-game labor and understand how it is intertwined with wider phenomena (such as crowdsourcing, platformization, and labor precarization). We argue that in-game labor represents ways to extract labor disguised as play and fun and creates a tension among digital games’ workers. With this study, we contribute to discussions on precarization of digital labor and point new paths for research and developments in this theme.

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