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Über dieses Buch

This book analyses gaming magazines published in Britain in the 1980s to provide the first serious history of the bedroom coding culture that produced some of the most important video games ever played.




This chapter provides an overview of the book, sets out its rationale and identifies the main arguments that will feature in the text.
Graeme Kirkpatrick

1. Approaching Video Game History

This chapter describes the theoretical ideas that inform the work. The approach taken emphasizes the social and cultural mediation of computer games. We have the games we have because people have understood games played on computers in culturally specific ways. The formation of gaming culture in the 1980s was a process through which a discrete class of objects were singled out and made into the locus of a new cultural practice with its own meanings. This in turn opened a range of possible identity positions, including that of the ‘computer gamer’; one who is invested in gaming as a cultural field in which they may excel and secure recognition from their peers.
Graeme Kirkpatrick

2. Studying the Magazines

The rationale is presented for focusing on UK gaming magazines published in the 1980s and first half of the 1990s. The chapter describes the background to the magazines and asserts their pioneering role in focusing on game programs. The magazines are both participants in shaping the nascent culture of gaming and indexical for its development since they constitute a record of its main turning points and achievements. The study uses two methods to analyse them: discourse analysis focused on three analytic themes (game appraisal; the normalizing effects of gaming discourse and, finally, its gendered articulation) and a more quantitative content analysis that is intended to support, complement and, where necessary, temper the claims of the discourse analysis.
Graeme Kirkpatrick

3. Getting a Feel for the Games

This chapter describes the formation of a new language of game appraisal over the course of the 1980s. Central to this is the emergence of game-specific terminology, particularly the notion of ‘gameplay’, and new ways of talking about games that present them as soliciting ‘deep’ engagement and providing pleasures unique to them and appreciated by gamers. This involves two points of departure: first, games played in arcades, home computers and TV gaming centres begin to be viewed as sources of the same kind of experience, to be assessed in essentially similar ways. Second, there is a structural break in the middle of the 1980s, after which the logic of game evaluation shifts, reflecting gaming’s autonomy as a cultural practice, especially its separation from hobbyist computing.
Graeme Kirkpatrick

4. Game Addicted Freaks

This chapter examines the struggle gaming waged to win its independence and validity as a cultural activity, in the face of opposition from constituencies who viewed the rise of video games as a threat. The main focus is on the idea of normality and especially the ambivalence of gaming discourse on the issue of the normalcy of gaming as an activity and gamers as participants. This was in question from the outset of home computing, when computers were routinely described as ‘addictive’. The chapter shows that the main strategy pursued by gaming in the mid-1980s was to embrace the stigma applied to excessive computing and turn it into a joke shared by gamers, who were encouraged to revel in their status as ‘addicted freaks’.
Graeme Kirkpatrick

5. Wimps, YOBs and Game Busters

In the first few years of gaming journalism the issue of how to make computing and gaming more gender inclusive activities was discussed in all the magazines. From 1986–7, however, this changed and the magazines all developed a more sexist, less-reflective tone. This chapter argues that this gendered articulation of gaming discourse reflects its entwinement with the changing economic conditions of games production, which are increasingly dominated by larger commercial interests from the end of 1986. Corporate game producers had an interest in homogenizing their markets to reduce risks, which grew as the cost of making games increased due to technical changes. Their preferred strategy was to narrow the focus of games marketing on to young males.
Graeme Kirkpatrick

Conclusion: Gaming Culture and Game Studies

This chapter suggests that underpinning the developments described in the book is a cultural field that, for a time, held gaming together as a field of cultural practice. This field was reflexive in that participants believed gaming to be important and meaningful and these beliefs were the basis of their participation, which ensured that it became meaningful. At the same time, gaming’s field was uniquely stymied in its bid for full autonomy: gaming never quite succeeded in escaping technology, becoming a ‘grown up’ art form, or an entirely accepted, normal activity.
Graeme Kirkpatrick


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