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Waiting to play: The labour of background games

Keogh, B. and Richardson, I. (2018) Waiting to play: The labour of background games. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 21 (1). pp. 13-25.

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Mobile smartphone devices have seen the rise and proliferation of a variety of new modes of digital play. In particular, the short and sporadic modes of engagement that define mobile screen practices have seen the smartphone become home to a range of ‘casual’ game genres that promote quick and flexible engagements, in stark contrast to the enduring and committed engagements demanded by home consoles and desktop computer games. People frequently play mobile games while doing other things – waiting at the bus stop, lying in bed and watching television. This has seen the increasing popularity of a new genre of videogame play almost exclusive to mobile platforms: the background game. As we define them, background games require the player to set up a series of tasks which are then completed over a duration of actual hours while the player goes about their day. In this way, such games can be considered ‘ambient’, as they become seamlessly embedded into players’ everyday lives. Drawing from interviews conducted with mobile game players in Brisbane and Perth, this article works to articulate how background games are engaged with within existing practices of mobile and social play to interrogate and complicate existing understandings of ‘play’ and ‘labour’ around digital games.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Publisher: Sage Publications
Copyright: © 2018 by SAGE Publications
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