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2020 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

Ecologies of Friends: Boy Masters of Craft, Live-Streaming Jocks, and Pockets of Others

Author: Anne-Marie Schleiner

Published in: Playful Participatory Practices

Publisher: Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden

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Abstract

This article argues that online video knowledge sharing economies centered on challenging  personal computer games like Minecraft are not gender neutral because the performative, social aspect of game building, as well as the time-consuming knowledge acquisition of game skills, are understood as a boys’ and men’s play prerogative. Over the days, months, and years spent playing, boys turn into men, into cadres of boy geeks and live streaming jocks, and these gendered identities have implications beyond games. Paradoxically, while modding and sandbox gaming are more democratic and participatory than unmodifiable commercial games because their content creations are largely player-driven, rather than industry controlled, these are the very games that usually require the largest investment of technical skills, leading to the absence of those who are undemocratically excluded from such geeky pleasures. Gamers rely on disposable leisure time and the help of friends who share game knowledge and immaterial play labor within digital ecologies like YouTube and Twitch. In both ecologies, in ecologies of heuristics, the how-to videos that are shared over YouTube, and in the more fraternal communities of Twitch performers and their subscribers, male friendship and collaboration is key. Although some crafters have fabricated amazing digital gizmos and play worlds, they have done so with knowledge gleaned through Minecraft’s ecology of tutorials, forums, add-ons and mods. I do however also discuss a few exceptions to this pattern such as young girl players’ YouTube videos, and women live-streamers on Twitch.

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Footnotes
1
The lack of public data on the gender make-up of popular games like Fortnite is indicative of the need for more both quantative and qualitative study of these games. It would be interesting to study also the gender demographics of “silent lurkers”, players who view and learn from these gaming video platforms without publishing or streaming videos.
 
2
One type of Twitch streamer I will not address in this essay, even in a later section dedicated to “Trash Talking Lady Streamers”, is the so-called “cam girl”, girls and women whom the incel gamer’s like Trainwreck allege receive unfair attention and subscribers due to their attractive female qualities rather than based on their gaming abilities. Although some of these lady streamers have achieved great notoriety on Twitch, they are relatively few in number, and hard to distinguish from those who may be both gamers and allegedly attractive women. Therefore, I consider it sexist to only judge “attractiveness” when only discussing female gamers, and to not apply similar criteria to evaluating the appearance of other gendered gamers.
 
3
Some players also “cheat” by building more elaborate constructions in create mode and then switching to survival mode.
 
4
Elsewhere I have likened these game map recreations in Minecraft to monuments built to commemorate the months and years spent gaming in industrial entertainment spaces (Schleiner 2017, p. 42).
 
5
Players generate most of their own content for the game and share this content symbiotically with each other. The title owner, Microsoft, both profits “parasitically” from this voluntary player generated labor and content, yet also develops and maintains the game, its crafting, non -player character AI, crafting rules, and its servers for players. These relations between unequal and disparate spheres of reciprocity, between a corporate developer and volunteer players, are further complicated by those more “professional” streaming players who profit from their online video viewers and subscribers.
 
6
For Arendt, philosophy had veered too far down a path which emphasized “solitary contemplative intellect” over collective actions performed in the world. Her space of appearance is a theorization of a more communal and creative type of action (in opposition to how she defines “work”) that incorporates, politics, tale telling, and contests, and other performative types of actions.
 
7
Boluk and LeMieux (2017) recall older game live- streaming player driven “metagaming” practices like speedrunning, racing the clock to finish a game, that layed the groundwork for Twitch (originally an Amazon venture), “Even before Twitch.tv was launched in 2011, streaming services like Justin.tv, Ustream.tv, and even individually encoded Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP) feeds were being used to share speedruns.” (p. 47).
 
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Metadata
Title
Ecologies of Friends: Boy Masters of Craft, Live-Streaming Jocks, and Pockets of Others
Author
Anne-Marie Schleiner
Copyright Year
2020
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-28619-4_5