Infrastructures of Play: Labor, Materiality, and Videogame Education

Jeff Watson


Preparing students for the job market is not the limit of our responsibilities as videogame educators. We must also prepare them to be ethical actors within the industries they may join. This paper argues for augmenting player-centric videogame design education and game studies pedagogies with approaches that situate videogames in context as operational components of extractivist business models and the political and financial economies that support them. This approach entails teaching videogames as technical systems with complex and expansive upstream and downstream supports and impacts. These supports and impacts have real and frequently detrimental effects on the environment, communities, and individual human lives, and yet are relatively rarely discussed in the literature, especially in comparison to discussions that focus on representation and rhetoric. By looking beyond the frame of the individual videogame as an expressive artifact, educators can help learners to apprehend issues such as the growing material and environmental costs of computer-based entertainment and the many tiers of labor exploitation involved in producing videogames and the computing machinery that makes them possible, among other concerns. The paper concludes by suggesting that students equipped with these kinds of understandings will be able to make more informed ethical assessments, and thus wiser choices, as they percolate into the videogames industries and, in some cases, into positions of leadership.


Environmentalism; ethics; labor; materiality; platforms; videogames

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Published by the Digital Games Research Association.