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3. Neoliberal Masculinity: The Government of Play and Masculinity in E-Sports

Thomas P Oates Indiana University Press ePub

Gerald Voorhees

We’re at a point where only about forty people in the U.S. can make a living playing video games. I’d like to get it to a hundred. I think we’re a year or two away from that.

SUNDANCE DIGIOVANNI, quoted in Richard Nieva,
“Video Gaming on the Pro Tour for Glory but Little
Gold,” New York Times, November 28, 2012

While scholars have begun to investigate the professionalization of gaming, I take it on only to the extent that it is an exemplary site for thinking about the sportification of digital games, a broader sociocultural phenomenon that emerges at the juncture of neoliberal rationality and distinct – often competing – constructions of masculinity circulating in contemporary Western culture. Indeed, the sportification of digital games has led to the creation of national leagues, international tournaments, and corporate-sponsored teams of professional cyberathletes, but it is not rooted in these institutions or in the professionalization of players; rather, they are both effects of the hegemony of the sportive mentality. The games are objective things defined by protocological affordances and constrains, but their status as sport and the practices constituting the process of sportification are a result of the meaning attributed to them by player and fan communities.1 In this chapter I examine the cultural implications of the figuration of digital games as sports, often called e-sports, focusing on the production of an intelligible subject position at the nexus of neoliberalism and masculinity.

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2. Madden Men: Masculinity, Race, and the Marketing of a Video Game Franchise

Thomas P Oates Indiana University Press ePub

Thomas P. Oates

IN AUGUST 2012, AS THE RELEASE OF EA SPORTSMADDEN NFL 13 video game approached, a months-long marketing blitz peaked with a series of advertisements featuring actor Paul Rudd and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. In the campaign, the two are presented as close, lifelong friends, whose bond is cemented by periodic Madden NFL marathons. The ads are clearly presented with tongue firmly in cheek. The friendship between Rudd and Lewis is offered as a whimsical premise. Rudd is a recognizable film and television actor, best known for roles playing middle-class white professionals. While appearing to be reasonably fit, he would never be mistaken for an NFL player, and though his movies are frequently about masculine themes (see, for example, I Love You, Man; The 40-Year Old Virgin; and Forgetting Sarah Marshall), he has never played the role of an action hero. Lewis, meanwhile, is black, was raised in poverty by a single mother in Lakeland, Florida, and was a major NFL star at the time, and hence a visible representative of hegemonic masculinity. The joke turns on the premise that despite the seemingly unbridgeable gaps separating affluence from poverty, white from black, icons of masculinity from the average guy, Rudd and Lewis are improbably buddies. Their friendship goes back to the cradle, as Rudd explains in the first ad in the series: “Oh, man, Ray and I have known each other our whole lives. We grew up together. Best friends!” The rest of the campaign shows the two friends playing the video game, engaging in verbal dueling, boasting, and performing other acts that characterize a certain kind of friendly masculine competition.

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6. Avastars: The Encoding of Fame within Sport Digital Games

Thomas P Oates Indiana University Press ePub

Steven Conway

LIONEL MESSI HAS DEVELOPED WELL DURING HIS TIME AS Surreal Madrid’s star striker. He has an overall rating of 98, with an attack and shot accuracy of 99, dribble accuracy and dribble speed of 98, and explosive power of 97. Allied to this are eleven special abilities, such as “incisive run,” “long-range drive,” and “roulette skills” (this refers not to the casino game, but to the skill of pirouetting over a soccer ball to avoid an opponent’s incoming challenge). He has evolved into the definitive “game changer,” as we say in common managerial parlance. My other striker, the 1961 iteration of Brazil’s Pelé, has a host of attributes in the high ’90s with eighteen special abilities. The latest boot technology from Adidas’s Predator range accentuates my strikers’ already extraordinary proficiency; I chose the Predator for its high shot power and swerve ratings over the adiZero’s high acceleration and top speed. After much careful tinkering with my squad’s formation and tactics, I take to the pitch, prematch nerves building in the tunnel. Following a sublime performance, we have annihilated FC Barcelona 4–0 in the semifinal of the Champions League. The intense rivalry between the clubs is well documented by the press, and I am informed postmatch that Surreal Madrid’s loyal fan base is distinctly pleased with the result; we are now an S (super) grade in popularity. This is particularly gratifying news for my scouts, who know that this rating may finally be the key to attracting Cristiano Ronaldo to put pen to paper for Surreal Madrid.

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Can you identify this inspirational isle?

Andrew Vietze Down East Books ePub

With a single glance you can understand the romantic appeal of this place: a lovely Victorian house on a tiny windswept isle, lorded over by highlands, surrounded by the Atlantic. This beauty is what attracted a virtual parade of writers to this island on the Down East coast. If ever there has been a lighthouse that was home to more authors, poets, and playwrights than the one pictured — suffice to say, we can’t find it. The first scribe to land here was likely Bernice Richmond, who bought the island after the Coast Guard deactivated this light, used to protect a chilly harbor, in the 1930s. Next up in the 1950s was children’s book author René Prud’hommeaux, author of Hidden Lights, The Port of Missing Men, and The Sunken Forest. She was followed by playwright Gerald Kean. And most recently it was owned by William C. Holden III, a retired banker who wrote several novels while living here. In Our Island Lighthouse, Bernice Richmond describes the allure: “It is hard for people living on the mainland to understand the contentment found on an island… I couldn’t put into words… how terribly important it was to sleep on the island with sea sounds encircling me. I couldn’t explain how I looked forward each morning to that first rush of salty air through my kitchen door.… ” If you can identify this inspirational isle turn to page 100.

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Have you ever hopped the ferry to this island?

Andrew Vietze Down East Books ePub

Ah, the holidays on Long Island. That’s the former name of this lengthy isle in the middle of the state’s coast, and it couldn’t be any more apt — the skinny island splits one of Maine’s largest bays in half, stretching for ten miles. The ferry taking islanders three miles across the water to the mainland looks cold this time of year, even under the sunniest of skies. The village not far from this landing has been home to an exclusive summer colony since it was “discovered” by Jeffrey Brackett, a trend-setting Bostonian, in 1889. He was followed by the likes of J.P. Morgan and some of the biggest names in American industry. In more recent years Hollywood has found it. You don’t have to be one of the Hardy Boys to figure out what Cheers the rich and famous about the place: She’s So Lovely. The year-round residents (who number six hundred, according to the most recent census) tend to go about their business and leave the celebrities alone, building boats, working carpentry, or commuting to jobs on the mainland, boarding the ferry in the shadow of this square brick tower. The lighthouse was ordered built by President Franklin Pierce in 1851, and it was redone under command of Ulysses S. Grant in 1874, which was about the time the largest shipping fleet in the bay was working out of the island’s harbors. At the lightkeeper’s house is a small museum where you can learn about this sort of thing — in the summertime, of course. For now you’ll just have to content yourself with the views. To learn more about this festive island, turn to page 99.

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