T. L. Taylor

T. L. Taylor is Associate Professor in Comparative Media Studies at MIT. She is the author of Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture (MIT Press).

  • Raising the Stakes

    Raising the Stakes

    E-Sports and the Professionalization of Computer Gaming

    T. L. Taylor

    How a form of play becomes a sport: players, agents, referees, leagues, tournaments, sponsorships, and spectators, and the culture of professional computer game play.

    Competitive video and computer game play is nothing new: the documentary King of Kong memorably portrays a Donkey Kong player's attempts to achieve the all-time highest score; the television show Starcade (1982–1984) featured competitions among arcade game players; and first-person shooter games of the 1990s became multiplayer through network play. A new development in the world of digital gaming, however, is the emergence of professional computer game play, complete with star players, team owners, tournaments, sponsorships, and spectators. In Raising the Stakes, T. L. Taylor explores the emerging scene of professional computer gaming and the accompanying efforts to make a sport out of this form of play.

    In the course of her explorations, Taylor travels to tournaments, including the World Cyber Games Grand Finals (which considers itself the computer gaming equivalent of the Olympics), and interviews participants from players to broadcasters. She examines pro-gaming, with its highly paid players, play-by-play broadcasts, and mass audience; discusses whether or not e-sports should even be considered sports; traces the player's path from amateur to professional (and how a hobby becomes work); and describes the importance of leagues, teams, owners, organizers, referees, sponsors, and fans in shaping the structure and culture of pro-gaming.

    Taylor connects professional computer gaming to broader issues: our notions of play, work, and sport; the nature of spectatorship; the influence of money on sports. And she examines the ongoing struggle over the gendered construction of play through the lens of male-dominated pro-gaming. Ultimately, the evolution of professional computer gaming illuminates the contemporary struggle to convert playful passions into serious play.

    • Hardcover $29.95 £20.95
    • Paperback $17.95 £13.99
  • Play Between Worlds

    Play Between Worlds

    Exploring Online Game Culture

    T. L. Taylor

    A study of Everquest that provides a snapshot of multiplayer gaming culture, questions the truism that computer games are isolating and alienating, and offers insights into broader issues of work and play, gender identity, technology, and commercial culture.

    In Play Between Worlds, T. L. Taylor examines multiplayer gaming life as it is lived on the borders, in the gaps—as players slip in and out of complex social networks that cross online and offline space. Taylor questions the common assumption that playing computer games is an isolating and alienating activity indulged in by solitary teenage boys. Massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), in which thousands of players participate in a virtual game world in real time, are in fact actively designed for sociability. Games like the popular Everquest, she argues, are fundamentally social spaces.

    Taylor's detailed look at Everquest offers a snapshot of multiplayer culture. Drawing on her own experience as an Everquest player (as a female Gnome Necromancer)—including her attendance at an Everquest Fan Faire, with its blurring of online—and offline life—and extensive research, Taylor not only shows us something about games but raises broader cultural issues. She considers "power gamers," who play in ways that seem closer to work, and examines our underlying notions of what constitutes play—and why play sometimes feels like work and may even be painful, repetitive, and boring. She looks at the women who play Everquest and finds they don't fit the narrow stereotype of women gamers, which may cast into doubt our standardized and preconceived ideas of femininity. And she explores the questions of who owns game space—what happens when emergent player culture confronts the major corporation behind the game.

    • Hardcover $7.75 £6.95
    • Paperback $19.95 £14.99

Contributor

  • Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat

    Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat

    New Perspectives on Gender and Gaming

    Yasmin B. Kafai, Carrie Heeter, Jill Denner, and Jennifer Y. Sun

    Girls and women as game players and game designers in the new digital landscape of massively multiplayer online games, “second lives,” “modding,” serious games, and casual games.

    Ten years after the groundbreaking From Barbie to Mortal Kombat highlighted the ways gender stereotyping and related social and economic issues permeate digital game play, the number of women and girl gamers has risen considerably. Despite this, gender disparities remain in gaming. Women may be warriors in World of Warcraft, but they are also scantily clad “booth babes” whose sex appeal is used to promote games at trade shows. Player-generated content has revolutionized gaming, but few games marketed to girls allow “modding” (game modifications made by players). Gender equity, the contributors to Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat argue, requires more than increasing the overall numbers of female players. Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat brings together new media theorists, game designers, educators, psychologists, and industry professionals, including some of the contributors to the earlier volume, to look at how gender intersects with the broader contexts of digital games today: gaming, game industry and design, and serious games. The contributors discuss the rise of massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) and the experience of girl and women players in gaming communities; the still male-dominated gaming industry and the need for different perspectives in game design; and gender concerns related to emerging serious games (games meant not only to entertain but also to educate, persuade, or change behavior). In today's game-packed digital landscape, there is an even greater need for games that offer motivating, challenging, and enriching contexts for play to a more diverse population of players.

    Contributors Cornelia Brunner, Shannon Campe, Justine Cassell, Mia Consalvo, Jill Denner, Mary Flanagan, Janine Fron, Tracy Fullerton, Elisabeth Hayes, Carrie Heeter, Kristin Hughes, Mimi Ito, Henry Jenkins III, Yasmin B. Kafai, Caitlin Kelleher, Brenda Laurel, Nicole Lazzaro, Holin Lin, Jacki Morie, Helen Nissenbaum, Celia Pearce, Caroline Pelletier, Jennifer Y. Sun, T. L. Taylor, Brian Winn, Nick YeeInterviews with Nichol Bradford, Brenda Braithwaite, Megan Gaiser, Sheri Graner Ray, Morgan Romine

    • Hardcover $19.75 £14.99
    • Paperback $30.00 £24.00
  • Digital Culture, Play, and Identity

    Digital Culture, Play, and Identity

    A World of Warcraft® Reader

    Hilde G. Corneliussen and Jill Walker Rettberg

    Exploring World of Warcraft as both cultural phenomenon and game, with contributions by writers and researchers who have immersed themselves in the WoW gameworld.

    World of Warcraft is the world's most popular massively multiplayer online game (MMOG), with (as of March 2007) more than eight million active subscribers across Europe, North America, Asia, and Australia, who play the game an astonishing average of twenty hours a week. This book examines the complexity of World of Warcraft from a variety of perspectives, exploring the cultural and social implications of the proliferation of ever more complex digital gameworlds. The contributors have immersed themselves in the World of Warcraft universe, spending hundreds of hours as players (leading guilds and raids, exploring moneymaking possibilities in the in-game auction house, playing different factions, races, and classes), conducting interviews, and studying the game design—as created by Blizzard Entertainment, the game's developer, and as modified by player-created user interfaces. The analyses they offer are based on both the firsthand experience of being a resident of Azeroth and the data they have gathered and interpreted. The contributors examine the ways that gameworlds reflect the real world—exploring such topics as World of Warcraft as a "capitalist fairytale" and the game's construction of gender; the cohesiveness of the gameworld in terms of geography, mythology, narrative, and the treatment of death as a temporary state; aspects of play, including "deviant strategies" perhaps not in line with the intentions of the designers; and character—both players' identification with their characters and the game's culture of naming characters. The varied perspectives of the contributors—who come from such fields as game studies, textual analysis, gender studies, and postcolonial studies—reflect the breadth and vitality of current interest in MMOGs.

    • Hardcover $31.95 £23.95
    • Paperback $21.95 £16.99