Digital Games: A Canary in the Coal Mine of Capital

LeftStreamed — Recorded in Toronto, 28 February 2019

Digital Games: A Canary in the Coal Mine of Capital

Not everyone plays digital games, but with the rise of casual, mobile-based gaming, we all know someone who does. With global sales revenues that far exceed global Hollywood’s annual box office, the digital games industry is a leading and fast growing sector of digital capitalism, and the logics and mechanics of digital games are spreading through the wider economy at a breakneck pace, with the insurance industry and ride share apps looking toward “gamification” and other forms of psychological nudging to influence the behavior of workers and consumers alike.

In this session of The Capitalism Workshop, Daniel Joseph focuses on two sides of digital games: the commodification of play through new commodity forms bolstered by digital... platforms, and the production of games, which is tied up with highly exploitative labour practices, neoliberal development models, and cultural imperialism. The contradictions and conflicts arising from the intertwining of digital games and capitalism have led over the past year to a massive, and long-overdue, explosion of class consciousness in the games industry. Game Workers Unite has subsequently emerged as an international labour organization dedicated to unionizing workers in an industry historically hostile to labour politics and collective action. The digital games industry is “the canary in the coal mine” of capitalism: it tells us about the dangers coming our way as well as the new forms of class struggle emerging in response.

Daniel Joseph (PhD) is a Post-doctoral fellow and lecturer (Department of Arts, Culture and Media University of Toronto Scarborough), a freelance journalist (published in venues such as Jacobin, Real Life Magazine, and VICE), and is a member of the Toronto chapter of Game Workers Unite. He holds a PhD in Communication and Culture from Ryerson University and York University. His current research focuses on the intersection of labour, play, and digital platforms. He has written extensively about Canadian cultural policy and the digital economy, digital labour, and the political economy of communication in academic publications such as Games and Culture, Triple C, and Loading…. His research investigates the concentration, monopolization, and diversity of app developers, publishers, and platforms.

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