Whitson, Jennifer R, Simon, Bart, & Parker Felan. (in submission). “Rethinking Cultural Production: Entrepreneurship, Relational Labour and Sustainability”. European Journal of Cultural Studies. Review version
This paper draws on over 60 interviews and 120 surveys with indie game developers to illustrate relational labour and entrepreneurship practices in cultural industries and their relationship to ‘good work’. We first outline the changing organization of games work, the shift towards so-called indie production, and the associated rejection of creatively constrained, hierarchically managed production models. In the move towards small-scale games making, indies jettisoned producers because producers represented industry modes of work, values, and creative constraints. But indies are now struggling to manage production processes without producers. We use developer narratives to highlight how this ‘missing producer’ work is redistributed in the form of cultural entrepreneurship, cultural intermediation, and relational labour. This relational labour simultaneously supports and undermines sustainable production practices, as developers take on impossible workloads associated with networking and connecting with others. We next illustrate how the inherent valorization of growth and expansion in cultural entrepreneurship discourses may force developers to mimic industry practices and organization in order to find funding, but these practices inherently conflict with their desire to focus on making games as small, sustainable, creatively autonomous teams. Ultimately, we want to demonstrate how interviews and time spent with indie developers help us account for otherwise invisible and ambiguous cultural labour practices and discourses, thus allowing us to make sense of the larger context of cultural production and its possible futures.
Parker, Felan, Whitson, Jennifer R, and Simon, Bart. (2018) “Megabooth: The cultural intermediation of indie games”. New Media and Society: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1461444817711403
This article considers the history, practices and impact of the Indie Megabooth and its founders in terms of their role as a ‘cultural intermediary’ in promoting and supporting independent or ‘indie’ game development. The Megabooth is a crucial broker, gatekeeper and orchestrator of not only perceptions of and markets for indie games but also the socio-material possibility of indie game making itself. In its highly publicized outward-facing role, the Megabooth ascribes legitimacy and value to specific games and developers, but its behind-the-scenes logistical and brokerage activities are of equal if not greater importance. The Megabooth mediates between a diverse set of actors and stakeholders with multiple (often conflicting) needs and goals and in doing so helps constitute the field of production, distribution, reception and consumption for indie games. ‘Indie-ness’ and independence are actively performed in and through intermediaries such as the Megabooth.