Do we need permission to play in public? The design of participation for social play video games at play parties and ‘alternative’ games festivals

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Play is a fundamental to being Human. It helps to make sense of the self, to learn, to be creative and to relax. The advent of video games challenged traditional notions of play, introducing a single player experience to what had primarily been a communal social activity. As technology has developed, communal play has found both online and real-world spaces within video games. Online streaming, multiplayer games and built-in spectator modes within games underpin online communal play experiences, whilst ‘alternative’ games festivals, play parties and electronic sports, provide real world spaces for people to meet, play and exchange knowledge relating to both playing and making video games. This article reports the study of social play events which bring people together in the same space to explore video games making and playing. Expert interviews with curators, and event facilitators provides qualitative data from which design processes are formalised into a ‘model of participation’ of social play. Four key areas of balance are proposed as core considerations in supporting participation in event design. The study of these events also suggests that their design and fostering of participation has the potential to evoke cultural change in game making and playing practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-79
Number of pages11
JournalMedia and Communication
Issue number2
Early online date7 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2018


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