Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Book Review Summary - Play Between Worlds (T. L. Taylor)

Play Between Worlds examines video game culture through a four year experience playing EverQuest. Taylor describes culture creation in virtual worlds and the overlap of real world and gaming cultures. This is both a case study and a first-step discussion; it addresses many topics but does not fully flesh out many.

Taylor breaks her chapters into considerations of virtual worlds; high-intensity gaming; women gamers; and ownership of game culture. Throughout, she incorporates ideas on gaming economics, games in mass media and games in the legal system. She argues that game research needs a non-dichotomous framework for considering in- and out-of-game space to fully understand games and technology in society. She is right – unfortunately, her work did not really reflect this proposed frame.

She asks numerous questions about how serious gamers are altering definitions of work, play and fun; how women gamers experience gender identity through gaming; and how developers (and gamers) consider demographics in creating games. Taylor does not, however, follow her argument through to any real life impact of these considerations, leaving gamer social relations and organization separate from the rest of lived experience.

Taylor broadens the focus in considering ownership in a collectively created culture. While corporations assert legal rights to brand and identity, gamers increasingly demand spin-off and ownership rights to characters, avatars and virtual worlds. Taylor passes on specific legal questions of intellectual property and free speech, asking instead if culture is something that can (or should) be regulated.

Play Between Worlds was fun and interesting, but Taylor seems hesitant to make any strong argument and asks an infuriating number of rhetorical questions. While she is concerned solely with culture studies, I would like to expand a few of her topics to address how video games, as an integrated piece of society, are and will shape our understand and negotiation of life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From Taylor's book and/or the materials you viewed from Greg's other class, and along the lines of women gamers and demographics, I was wondering what kind of scholarship there might be on gaming and class?