[NetBehaviour] Call for Papers: Surveillance, Games, and Play

netbehaviour netbehaviour at furtherfield.org
Thu Apr 4 12:41:32 CEST 2013

Call for Papers: Surveillance, Games, and Play


Theme Issue of Surveillance & Society

Call for Papers: Surveillance, Games, and Play

edited by: Jennifer R. Whitson and Bart Simon


The games we play on our computers, iPads, and video game consoles are 
watching us. They track our every online move and send data on who we 
are, how we play, and whom we play with back to game and virtual world 
publishers such as Sony and Microsoft. Two events in the summer of 2011 
exemplify the need to study surveillance in games: a hacker attack 
against Sony's Playstation Network compromised over 77 million user 
accounts including credit card numbers, while iPhone users discovered 
hidden code in their devices that tracked their movements and secretly 
sent this data back to Apple. This form of consumer surveillance that 
targets players has eluded critical appraisal in both the games studies 
and surveillance literature. The games we play are not only watching us, 
but are leveraging surveillance to mold us into better students, 
workers, and consumers, as evidenced by the growth of gamification 
applications that combine playful design and feedback mechanisms from 
games with users' social profiles (e.g. Facebook, twitter, and LinkedIn) 
in non-game applications explicitly geared to drive behavioural change. 
Accordingly, traditional surveillance activities are transformed through 
their combination with playful frames of reference and game-like elements.

Yet, as argued by Anders Albrechtslund and Lynsey Dubbeld in volume 
3(2/3) of this journal, surveillance is fun. It is an essential 
component of many games and virtual worlds. It enables family to find 
each other and play together online, such as when adult children who 
live thousands of miles away challenge their parents to a Words with 
Friends scrabble match over Facebook. Surveillance allows game companies 
to match strangers with similar skill sets and play-styles together in 
multiplayer games, thus increasing the flow of the game and players' 
mutual enjoyment. Surveillance facilitates coordinated teamwork and 
sophisticated game economies, exemplified by informational tools such as 
the damage mods and kill-point monitors created by players for 
massively-multiplayer online games. Surveillance also makes online games 
and virtual worlds safe for children and young adults, restricting both 
the use of inappropriate language and content, as well as prohibiting 
the entry of potentially dangerous adults. Moreover, surveillance is 
pleasurable. As game company Valve found when they forayed into 
biometrics (i.e. measuring galvanic skin response and arousal levels), 
players are more engaged when they can see how they affect their 
opponents' own physiological responses. We, as players, like to watch 
our opponents, anticipating what they will do next. We also use 
surveillance to improve our prowess and extend our moments of victory by 
using recording software and game replay functions

This theme issue is dedicated to balancing two very different sides of 
surveillance: surveillance as a technology of corporate governance and 
surveillance as a technology of pleasure and play.


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