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The Discourse of Digital Dispossession: Paid Modifications and Community Crisis on Steam

Joseph, Daniel James (2018) The Discourse of Digital Dispossession: Paid Modifications and Community Crisis on Steam. Games and Culture, 13 (7). pp. 690-707. ISSN 1555-4120

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Abstract

This article is a chronicle and analysis of a community crisis in digital space that took place on Valve Corporation’s digital distribution platform, Steam. When Valve and Bethesda (publisher and developer of Skyrim) decided to allow mods to be sold by mod makers themselves, there ensued a community revolt against the commodification of leisure and play. I put this crisis of play and work in dialogue with Harvey’s concept of “accumulation by dispossession,” firmly placing it within a longer history of disruptive capital accumulation strategies. I then conduct a discourse analysis of community members on reddit, as they make sense of and come to terms with this process of dispossession. Arising in the discourse was not class consciousness per se, but instead a pervasive feeling of helplessness and frustration as games, play, and leisure began to feel like work.

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