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The labor of colonization

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The extended version of my presentation for Video Games Fandoms seminar in Krakow. The seminar took place on February 26, 2017, at Jagiellonian University.

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The labor of colonization

  1. 1. The Labor of Colonization: Fan Art and Casual Free-To-Play Games Alesja Serada BA in Oriental Philology & Undergraduate student of Media & Communication European Humanities University, 2016
  2. 2. LITERATURE REVIEW “The practice of being a fan does not merely consist of passive consumption. Rather, fans are also producers…” Mel Stanfill, Megan Condis Fandom and/as labor. In: Transformative Works and Cultures Volume 15, 2014 “The pervasiveness of such production questions the legitimacy of a fixed distinction between production and consumption, labor and culture”. Tiziana Terranova about internet labor Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy In: Social Text, Volume 18, Issue 2-63 Fan work generates value
  3. 3. Jenkins, H. Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture Fandom: “Rich and complex participatory culture” But… aren’t fans of casual free-to-play games passive consumers, manipulated into the game by developers?
  4. 4. Is There Space For Fan Art In Commercial F2P Games? Jenkins: fans need ‘gaps' to participate creatively. OUR QUESTION Traditional fan art genres are easily found in free-to-play marketing strategies: 1. Enchanting visuals of Clash of Clans ads - see Clash of Clans Comes to Life (fans made a movie out of it) 2. Unnecessary lore of quests in farming games, etc.
  5. 5. Also: How Much Transmedia Are Commercial F2P Games?* “A transmedia text does not simply disperse information: it provides a set of roles and goals which readers can assume as they enact aspects of the story through their everyday life”. “Transmedia Storytelling 101” What color is YOUR Angry Bird plushie? *As much as their budget goes.
  6. 6. Case 1. “Happy Street” “Happy Street” is a casual mobile free-to-play game in a city builder genre (currently in the ‘sunsetting’ stage).
  7. 7. Unlike the majority of mobile free-to-play games, fans of “Happy Street” used to create a lot of fan art. This fan art was mostly centered around game characters – Billy, his girlfriend Zoe and their friends – and it was mostly romantic and ‘furry’. The game itself was a typical commercial free-to-play city builder that required extensive grinding, sending out various invitations and requests and daily visits to ‘happy streets’ of players’ Facebook friends. The game is not developed much further now, even though fans used to love it.
  8. 8. Case 2. Ovipets Ovipets is an old school free-to-play browser game in the ‘breeding’ genre (genetics). Developers allow modifications to players’ profile and pets in the game. Active peer-to-peer virtual economy developed around user-generated content in the game. Amateur art is commissioned, sold and even stolen. Interestingly, some of commissioned concept artists of the game are also on DeviantArt, aside with thousands of amateur artists who play the game and try sell their art for in-game money. Also, the game attracted a significant share of active members of various fandoms (MLP, Doctor Who, Sherlock, Tolkien’s universe, a number of anime fandoms etc) and became a stage for role playing.
  9. 9. ‘Transfandom’
  10. 10. «Fandom is a form of free labor» Why developers of commercial casual free-to-play games do not exploit this kind of labor? (They are professional exploiters, after all...) Abigail De Kosnik. Fandom as Free Labor. BACK TO THEORY From the perspective of producers, fan art is not ‘free labor’… …Unlike simply playing the game!
  11. 11. ‘The Labor of Colonization’ With fan art, fans fill the gaps that developers leave open. Fan art is ‘bleeding’ outside the margins set by game developers and marketers. Where possible, it crosses the boundaries of media and 'colonizes' new territories. When fan art moves between media forms, it expands into areas that most likely could not be filled by the original media or traditional forms of marketing. 'Colonization' is not a paid job – it's risky and resource- demanding (who would send a man to the Moon today?). "Digital colonists" take the colonized territories as reward. Marketers may follow them and reclaim their work, as in the case of Ovipets or MLP. BUT, as long as it is between fans and not between fans and developers, this labor is easily converted into other types of capital. SUMMARY
  12. 12. “From the perspective of dominant taste, fans appear to be frighteningly out of control, undisciplined and unrepentant, rogue readers”. When fan art denies ‘good taste’ in a Bourdiesian sense, it cannot be easily converted into certain types of capital. Fandom rejects capitalist logic? DISCUSSION
  13. 13. Selected Bibliography 1. Andrejevic, M. Estrangement 2.0. In: World Picture Journal, Issue 6, 2011. 2. De Kosnik, A. Fandom as Free Labor. In: Digital Labor. The Internet as Playground and Factory. New York: Routledge, 2013, 272 p. Pp. 98–111. 3. De Kosnik, A. Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture. New York: New York University Press. 4. Fiske, J. The Cultural Economy of Fandom. In: The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media, edited by Lisa A. Lewis, 30–49. New York: Routledge, 1992. 5. Hills, M., Greco, C. Fandom as an Object and the Objects of Fandom. In: Matrizes. Volume 9, issue 1, 2015. P. 147-162. 6. Jenkins, H. Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. New York: Routledge, 1992. 7. Sandvoss, C. Fans: The Mirror of Consumption, Oxford: Polity, 2005. 8. Stanfill M., Condis M. Fandom and/as Labor. In: Transformative Works and Cultures. Volume 15, 2014. Available Online: 9. Terranova T. Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy. In: Social Text, Volume 18, Issue 2-63, pp. 33-58.
  14. 14. Supplement 1: Happy Street Fan Art Happy Street by A3DP http://sheyff.deviantart.com/art/going-to-the-happy-street-394298163
  15. 15. going to the happy street by Sheyff http://sheyff.deviantart.com/art/going-to-the-happy-street-394298163
  16. 16. Happy Street by ohprocrastinator http://ohprocrastinator.deviantart.com/art/Happy-Street-346622702
  17. 17. Billy! by yuraka http://yuraka.deviantart.com/art/billy-324299517
  18. 18. Dusk at Happy Street by Kampidh http://kampidh.deviantart.com/art/Dusk-at-Happy-Street-367044226
  19. 19. Billy by Asu-chan96 http://asu-chan96.deviantart.com/art/Billy-358364310
  20. 20. Dahlia and Zoe by PaulinaChinea http://paulinachinea.deviantart.com/art/Dahlia-and-Zoe-370640272
  21. 21. Happy Street Fans Of Hunter by lilyracoon http://www.deviantart.com/art/Happy-Street-Fans-Of-Hunter-527475726/
  22. 22. Zoe by Bueplub http://bueplub.deviantart.com/art/Zoe-393091700
  23. 23. Follow me alesja.serada@gmail.com twitter.com/snavidna Facebook.com/snavidna

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