The Sociality of Gaming : A mixed methods approach to understanding digital gaming as a social leisure activity

Abstract: This dissertation is an exploration of the practice of social digital gaming, using a mixed methods approach with complementary data and analytical methods. The main themes are the prevalence and meaning of gamers’ experiences of social gaming and the underlying structures limiting or assisting social gaming, both material and social. Applying an everyday perspective, focus is on gamers’ day-to-day practices and experiences. Studies I and II enquire into relational aspects of social gaming based on interviews and survey data. Study III investigates the relationship between game design and gamer agency and its importance for social interaction with strangers, using in-game participant observation. Lastly in Study IV, building on interviews, female gamers come to the fore as their gender construction in an online game is examined with the aim of understanding the connection between online and offline.The main result concerns how social gaming takes place in various social relations. How gaming comes to be―what it means―is dependent on the relations between gamers, be they family members, real life friends, Internet friends or strangers. In these interactions, gender and sexual identity are realized; in the relations between gamers, physical proximate or online. Finally, virtuality is shown to be a social accomplishment of the people engaging in games rather than a property of the games themselves.Focus on the relational unveils how gaming comes to be in the process of interaction, a process at the same time dependent on underlying structures, i.e. games as designed platforms with certain affordances for social behaviour. We are able, thus, to reconcile the social constructivist position that (social) gaming is created in the relations between gamers engaging in games with the more formalist approach that games are rule based structures. Games create a foundation for interaction that can further develop into the creation/maintenance of relationships and identity.

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