Paying to Be #Winning: WHAT THE KARDASHIANS CAN TEACH US ABOUT THE FUTURE OF GAMES

A talk by Dr Alison Harvey, University of Leicester

The world of digital games has been marked by growing controversy over the increasing monetization of game formats, particularly ‘loot boxes’.  The Belgian Gaming Commission, for instance, has sought to investigate whether games like Battlefront II should be regulated as a form of gambling. In this talk, Dr Alison Harvey of the University of Leicester historicizes this controversy and challenges the dominant discourses related to value and legitimacy in gaming with a focus on the highly acclaimed and simultaneously vilified mobile celebrity game Kim Kardashian: Hollywood (KK:H).

Through its form and functioning, this game reveals the intensities of women’s work in low status activities, across play and celebrity culture, and through this, challenges their devaluation. It is via this simulation of invisible labour that KK:H represents an exemplar of what new ludic economies and features such as ‘pay to win’ strategies in games might suggest about the future of digital play.

Dr Alison Harvey is a Lecturer in the School of Media, Communication, and Sociology at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. Her research focuses on issues of inclusivity and accessibility in digital culture, with an emphasis on games.

Her work has appeared in a range of interdisciplinary journals, including International Journal of Cultural Studies, Social Media & Society, Feminist Media Studies, Studies in Social Justice, and Information, Communication & Society. Her book, Gender, Age, and Digital Games in the Domestic Context, was published by Routledge in 2015 and was the first North American domestication study of digital games.

Her next book, Feminist Media Studies, to be published by Polity Press in 2019, represents an intervention in the field focusing on the challenges and opportunities raised by digital media, including platform politics, online (anti)sociality, and networked activism. In addition, Alison has (co)-edited two forthcoming special journal issues on inequality and ideology in games and digital culture, “Ludic Economies” for Games and Culture and “Networked (In)Justice” for Information, Communication, and Society.

She is co-investigator on the 5-year Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada partnership grant “Re-Figuring Innovation in Games”, and co-leads the Formal Education research strand.

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