Cultural production of video games: conditions of control and resistance

Sian Tomkinson, Tauel Harper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article we consider how much control gamers have over game culture and production, arguing that the monopolistic power of corporations has been challenged in many cases by resistant cultures. In the view of the Frankfurt School’s culture industry, ownership and control of the means of production translates into control over culture. Indeed, the high costs of production and platformisation has extended trends of consolidation and control in the video game industry. However, there is also evidence that this consolidation and control can be resisted by digitally native, active, and organised sub-cultures. Such moments occur, we suggest, in part due to the contingent and digital nature of video games, which allows digitally literate players to utilise tools and communities to resist the cultural control of platform owners. In the face of a general tendency to emphasise the winner-takes-all effects of platform technology, our research suggests that technological literacy and enthusiast communities can play a crucial role in governing game production. Examining the games industry, we show that, generally, cultural production is shaped by concerns around profitability, but under some quite particular conditions, the affordances of versatile digital technology can contribute to more idiosyncratic cultural production. We discuss examples such as the Universal Windows Platform (2019), Minecraft (2011) and Star Wars: Battlefront II (2017) to provide insight into ways that gamers have influence over video game production.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-43
Number of pages43
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2022


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