tisdag 9 januari 2018

On the Sportification of Computer Games (paper)

A long trip is getting closer to its end. I started to work with (then-recently accepted ph.d. student) Daniel Svensson on a project/paper about esports back in 2012 - I wrote a blog post, "Sportification of cross country skiing & competitive programming" after having attended a seminar at the Department of Science, History and Environment back in March 2012:

"Daniel Svensson, who has apparently been a Ph.D. student only since the beginning of this year presented his Ph.D. project at the seminar. The title of the seminar (which is also the preliminary title for his thesis) was " 'Rationell träning': Vetenskapliggörandet av träning för längdskidåkning" ['Rational training': The Making of a science of training cross country skiing]."

This chance encounter resulted in a low-level cooperation between us. In March 2013 we submitted a (Swedish-language) abstract, "From movement to sport and to sports without movement" to the Advanced Cultural Studies Institute of Sweden's (ACSIS) annual cultural studies conference (The conference theme was "On the move"). We wrote and later presented a paper, "21st century sports: movements without movements" at the conference (June 2013).

Back in August 2014 I attended what I at the time believed would be my last computer games conference ever (we'll see about that). Nothing much happened after that and Daniel Svensson had to concentrate on getting his thesis together. He presented his ph.d. thesis, "Scientizing performance in endurance sports: The emergence of ‘rational training’ in cross-country skiing, 1930-1980" at the end of 2016 and he nowadays works at Chalmers, in Gothenburg.

We then, in February 2017 saw an invitation to a special issue about "eSports and professional game play" in the International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations (IJGCMS). I had never heard of the journal, but it is apparently "OK" according to "the Norwegian list" (which has info about these things). That didn't mean they were professional though and things fell apart due to sparse, contradictory, delayed or non-existant information from the journal's (very junior) editor-in-chief. I was pretty pissed off at the time and I certainly hope other special issues are handled more professionally - but that rejection later turned out to be a blessing, because...

We later, in May 2017, came across another call for a special issue, this time on "The emergence of e-sports: Challenges and Opportunities" in the journal "Sport, Ethics, and Philosophy". It now made more sense for Daniel Svensson to take on the main responsibility for the text (he's the sports studies person), so he became the first author and we submitted a slightly reworked version of our paper, "21st century sports", back in September 2017.

The two reviewers were positive but they had various suggestions for how the article could (actually should) be rewritten. We have since, based on those suggestions, worked with the article and have made major changes both in terms of content but especially in terms of how our results and the whole article is framed. We also took the opportunity to change the title of the article before it was handed in (on January 8) and the revised version we submitted now has the title "On the Sportification of Computer Games: Esports at the Nexus of Modernity and Postmodernity".

I feel pretty sure this article will be published. They did like the previous version and we both think the new-and-improved version is just so much better. I guess we'll find out one or a few months. In the meantime, here's the abstract of our just-submitted article:

On the Sportification of Computer Games: Esports at the Nexus of Modernity and Postmodernity

Daniel Svensson, Division of Science, Technology and Society, Dept. of Technology Management and Economics, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden

Daniel Pargman, Media Technology and Interaction Design, School of Computer Science and Communication, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden

Modern sports have gone through a historical process of sportification, becoming progressively more managed and regulated. Computer games have followed a similar trajectory and have gone from being a leisure activity to a competitive activity, “esports”, with international competitions and professional players. We argue that there is a tight connection between the sportification of traditional sports and modernity, but that it is also possible to see the emergence of esports as an example of how information and communication technologies (ICT) have shaped the post-industrial postmodern society. In this article we explore similarities and differences between traditional sports (e.g. cross-country skiing) and postmodern sports such as esports through the lens of sportification theory. We also argue that in order to understand current sports developments, additional criteria should be added to the sportification framework, namely medialization, commercialization and “dromofication”. Speed is significant in esports and dromofication addresses the constant increase of speed in both modern and postmodern sports. The dromology (Virilio 2006) of esports is further underlined by the dependence on fast internet and communication technologies (ICT). Postmodern sports represent the expansion of sportification into skills and activities deemed important in our societies and computers play a crucial role in this development.

Keywords: Sports, computer games, esports, sportification, training, cross-country skiing, modernity, postmodernity, dromology, dromofication

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