Surviving Millionaire City: Class Consciousness, Vertigo, and Empire in Browser Based Games

Jessica Crowell, Aaron Trammell, Sean Leavey and Camille Reyes


Games, more than any other medium, can produce social change. Therefore, it is important to consider the interpretive strategies that players take when playing games that contain messages that run contrary to their social conditions and political beliefs. How does one situate oneself as a subject when taking part in a game that is overtly political? In order to address this question, this paper will investigate the rationale of casual Tiny Tower and Millionaire City players, drawing on ethnographic fieldwork obtained during a two year Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) funded study in Philadelphia. This paper will explore issues of class consciousness, the digital divide, and the pervasiveness of neoliberal ideals in casual games, it will also consider Caillois' idea of vertigo in play, providing evidence to the ways in which players understand and negotiate their social conditions, and political being.