Chris J. Young
PhD Dissertation

My dissertation examines the emergence of everyday gamemakers and their roles in transforming the cultural norms and practices of the global video game industry. Everyday gamemakers are digital game creators who share multiple professional and leisure-based gamemaking identities, including developers, “indies” or independent standalone creators, “modders” or modifiers of existing games, user-generated content creators, and writers of interactive fiction. Since the Apple App Store opened in 2008, game engines and digital venues have developed and enabled widespread production and distribution of digital games. Game engines such as Unity3D, GameMaker Studio, and Construct 2, which simplify the process of making a digital game using “drag-and-drop” tools and editors, have enabled a range of gamemakers with no programming or artistic experience and training to create digital games. The simultaneous release of digital platforms such as Google Play, Steam, and itch.io, has also streamlined the process of distributing digital games into new and traditional communities of players. These developments have emerged because the video game industry perceives everyday gamemakers to be innovators in diversifying and producing products, creating jobs, and increasing profits. I argue that the inclusion of the everyday gamemaker has also simultaneously enabled local and grassroots norms and practices to transform the production process of digital game creation in the global video game industry. To demonstrate how these gamemakers are changing norms and practices across the industry, I focus on gamemakers’ work and leisure identities as creators of digital games; the cultural activities of the scenes in which they participate; the game engines and tools of production they use to make their games; the working conditions in which they build their games; and the distribution platforms on which they release their games. I argue that gamemakers wear many labour hats within their craft of gamemaking, which not only diversifies the work and leisure contexts of digital game production, but also enables the mixing and transformation of cultural norms and practices within the mainstream industry and the places of leisure more broadly.