Preface

This blog post serves as my academic essay’s depth of analysis for understanding the proposed question of: How can game developers can use social media integration to contribute to emergent play? The purpose of this research is to examine the broader context of marketing games through social media, with an in-depth analysis into these social media sites as performance spaces, examining the effects and potential of social media integration within games.

Scope

Here we will be examining Elena Pérez’s The expansion of theatrical space and the role of the spectator, as this relates to video games and their relationship with social media as performance spaces. The social media sites examined will be ones which have been used primarily in the marketing of games, namely Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Twitch. Furthermore, I will not be looking at social media games, that is games played through social media as their primary platform, but rather games played on PC and console platforms which employ social media integration.

What is a performance space?

Pérez’s 2007 article The expansion of theatrical space and the role of the spectator forms the critical depth of my research paper’s key argument. By the broadest possible definition, a performance space is any arena, theatre or network which regulates the relationship between the audience and the performer. In her paper, Pérez usually refers to this as theatrical space,  “The expansion of theatrical space here refers to the ways in which new spaces can be incorporated into the existing theatrical space through technology.” Pérez compares traditional theatrical performance spaces and describes how these spaces have been “expanded” through the application of technology and its artefacts. Here we examine the ways in which Pérez explores the relationship between the performer and the audience and, more importantly, how this relationship becomes as important as the message conveyed in the performance. The goal of this section of my research is to identify how these principles can be applied to games and why they may be applicable to inform future marketing trends in gaming.

To start, Pérez’s paper begins by identifying a more traditional stance on theatrical spaces, examining what we expect from these traditional spaces and how they are changed with the addition of technology. “Multimedia performance generally refers to any performance that employs film, video or computer-generated imagery alongside a live performance.” In multimedia performance, the audience watch without participating in the performance. Here, there is very little relationship between the performer and the audience. In this type of performance, the only thing that technology provides is an addition to the delivery of the performance – it still remains the job of the audience to understand the meaning of the performance themselves without involvement from the performer. The relationship between the audience and performer is very limited and they exist in different spaces.

Next, Pérez examines how communications networks start to change the spaces in which performance happens. “Telematic performance uses telecommunication networks to establish links between remote spaces, using the Internet to transmit images and sound between two or more sites to create a shared performance event.” Telematic performance expands our theatrical space by using two or more different platforms for the performance to take place. With this kind of performance, we start to see technology affect the relationship between the audience and the performer, especially with the anonymity online performance spaces can provide. We see the audience becoming more confident to actively participate in the performance and bolder in its interaction with the performer, thus opening the performance up to potential ludic activity.

Finally, Pérez examines the ways in which these different kinds of performance spaces work in combination with each other and how this changes the performer-audience relationship. “Pervasive performance is a hybrid emergent phenomenon that seeks to engage participants in collaborative events through a combination of gameplay, media and performance.” This phenomenon occurred as soon as we were no longer bound by the limits of physical spaces. As soon as these spaces extended to mobile platforms, audiences were able to actively take part in online, telematic performances. Theatrical space has been thus expanded by technology in a very literal sense. In pervasive performance, the relationship between the audiences and the performer are now blurred, with the audience able to take agency and interact with the performer. It can also become unclear who the performer in the space would be. In this instance, the relationship between the performer and the audience becomes more important and we start to experience emergent, more ludic activities.

 

How does it relate to games

In order for us to understand this research in relation to games, we will need to extrapolate from this and bring our own interpretation to create definitions more suited to gaming and its relationship with social media. In this case, we consider technology as social media and as part of the performer-audience relationship.

Direct performance

A direct performance is a more traditional player-game relationship where the game is the performer and the player is the viewer. If we compare this to multimedia performance, we could consider the game itself as the performer, but there still needs to be some kind of active involvement from the player in order for the performance to take place. But much like multimedia performance, the relationship between the audience and performer is very limited and they exist in different spaces. However, the key difference, with our definition of direct performance, is that the technology exists as a method of delivering the performance that players still need to interact with. If we consider this in the marketing of game, previously there was very little way for games or developers to have an open dialogue with their audiences, it was very much a case of the developer’s game as the performance and the players as merely the viewer (Slaven, 2002.). There was no audience involvement in the performance other than the playing of a game and controlling when the performance proceeded.

Extended performance

In our definition of extended performance, the game is still the primary performance and the players act as an extension of this through different kinds of play. Comparing this to telematic performance, we see similarities, like players becoming more confident to actively participate in the performance. The performance in this case takes place both live and online. As far as games go, this is what happens when players start to share the game’s performance on online platforms. When players can share the game’s performance, the performance becomes more than just the game itself. Social media was designed for this very purpose, not for sharing games, but sharing the performances of our daily lives – which extends to gaming. It makes sense why this would become such a huge outlet for changing the landscape of the performance spaces of video games. With the extended performance in the agency of the player, we start to see a change in the relationship of the performer and audience. Playing a game was once a binary state, where the game was the sole performance and the player merely the driver behind the performance. However, in this case, the performance is made by both the game and by the player through the act of sharing and expanding the performance space to other platforms and other viewers. Here, the audience is using the original game performance to make and share their own content, therefore transforming the play and their experience into a performance of their own.

Emergent Performance

An emergent performance is one where the game and the player become the performance. Very similar to pervasive performance, the relationship between the audiences and the performer are now blurred, with the audience able to take agency and interact with the performer. This relationship, the interaction between the audience and the performer, is paramount and has become nearly as important as the play itself. The audience in this case doesn’t just view the game’s performance, or just extend the game’s performance, they themselves become both the player and the performer. Emergent performance integrates online technology and social media spaces into the game’s performance, thus letting the audience interact with the performance. In instances such as this, we can see how the play performance might be changed based on different audience interactions, especially uninhibited interactions that we find in online environments. This becomes even more unpredictable when we consider the nature of games as extraordinary reflections of life. It is through this interaction with the performer and other audience members that all players can fully explore the creative world and potential emergent play. Thus opening the game, as the original performance, up to more personal, creative and emergent kinds of play.

 

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Unlike Pérez’s examples, these things are not separate categorizations from one another, but rather one cannot exist without the other. When it comes to games, principles of performer-audience relationships are layered on top of one another. It is through these different levels of involvement and interaction that players are able to become more entwined with emergent play within the game’s performance space.

Bibliography
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