Gaming capital: Rethinking literacy

Year: 2008

Author: Walsh, Christopher, Apperely, Thomas

Type of paper: Refereed paper

In rethinking literacy education in light of unprecedented technological change, this paper reports on adolescent gamers and their accumulation of gaming capital. This is in opposition to more pervasive assumptions about gaming as mindless entertainment, learning simulations, ideological tools and interactive mediums for the masses. We see the need to research the medium of games in their entirety, exploring their uniqueness as a medium-while at the same time-making connections to a wider media ecology (Fuller, 2005) that includes more than the games themselves. This media ecology of videogames is demonstrated in part by the 'paratextual' (Consalvo, 2007) industries that support game play, production and design. The 'paratext' is central to gaming capital in creating individual and group systems of distinction within gaming culture. Because we understand videogames as actions across social fields enacted through the actions of players or 'operators' on software, we also deem it necessary to understand both the operator and machines' diegetic and non-diegetic actions (Galloway, 2006). This distinction allows us to think about games as more than texts, literacy practices and narratives, which highlights games' significance in technoclture as systems (Salen, 2008), procedures (Bogost, 2007), algorithms (Galloway, 2006; Wark, 2007), configurations and code (Lessig, 1999; Manovich, 2001). In conclusion we provide a series of interview questions developed to uncover adolescents' gaming capital. We also propose a heuristic to map a players' total volume of gaming capital to better understand how gaming capital establishes trajectories of exchange between cultural and economic capitals and its implications for literacy education.