Tin Hat Games – Producing, Funding, and Consuming an Independent Role-Playing Game in the Age of the Interactive Spectacle
Chapter from the book: Briziarelli M. & Armano E. 2017. The Spectacle 2.0: Reading Debord in the Context of Digital Capitalism.
The ambivalence of platform capitalism, in which the participation of knowledge workers to value creation is embedded in processes organized around creativity and self-activation, is visible in the transformations of cultural industries. Such transformations involve, for example, funding mechanisms, e.g. crowdfunding, and the way social relations are maintained through the quantification by reputation systems, that merge with the pre-existing forms of production and distribution, like professional networks and fairs. To discuss this intertwinement, we focus on the case of the design, production, and distribution of an independent role-play game, #Urban Heroes, and on the work of the members of the association that produces it, Tin Hat Games. We studied them ethnographically, observing the game production, its financing through a crowdfunding platform, its presentation (and Tin Hat Games' self-presentation) on social media as well as physical gatherings. We will present the empirical results of this study, showing how the processes of production and distribution of the game through these different social contexts translate and perform different forms of being, having, and representing.
In conclusion, the article discusses how images-mediated social relations (the Spectacle in Debord’s definition) are at play in the process of recuperation of the critical stances of #UrbanHeroes and independent production (détournement in Debord's terms). In particular, we will show how the considered case could be framed in terms of gamified capitalism, in which the playful experience of subjects is entrenched in quantification devices that boost productivity among the producers.