A Saga about flapping: Real games, developer pedigrees, race, class and capital

Mia Consalvo and Christopher Paul


Discourse shapes the way we see the world. In game design and game studies, discourse shapes the games we make, the games we play, and how we think about and study games in general. In prior work we investigated a key discursive construction in contemporary game culture that functions to portray some games as ‘real’ or ‘authentic,’ rendering others as fake or lesser, taking social games as a point of departure (Consalvo & Paul, 2013). In that project we analyzed the discourse of real games by focusing on four key discursive constructions that prop up notions of real games: developer pedigree, game mechanics, the celebration of depth and complexity, and the payment structure for games. Using the framework of constitutive rhetoric as developed by Charland (1987) we argued that these appeals also construct a category of real gamers that has a substantial impact on what games are available and how we think about them. We also pointed out how games studies as a field has worked to privilege certain types of games as ‘real’ through structuralist frameworks that position some artifacts as fitting definitions of ‘games’ while others are ‘not games’ and not legitimate for study. We believe such discourses limit what game studies scholars conceptualize as valid objects of analysis, producing overly restrictive boundaries for investigating games and game culture.

For this project we extend the work to more recent discussions in the game industry with a particular focus on the concept of ‘developer pedigree’ -- game developers and how they position themselves as well as how they are situated by others relative to their credibility in the industry and their history of making ‘real’ games. More specifically we will concentrate on and juxtapose the actions and discourses related to two sets of developers: the social network gaming giant King.com and developer Runsome Apps, creator of CandySwipe; as well as Flappy Bird’s Vietnamese indie developer Dong Nguyen and Super Hexagon creator Terry Cavanagh.