April 26, 2018
11:00 am–1:00 pm
Alderman Library, Room 421
Metagames to Moneygames: Skin in the Game
In 1987, a pyramid scheme called the “Plane Game” funnelled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the pockets of “passengers,” landing at least six of the game’s “pilots” in jail. In 2018, more ubiquitous moneygames are played with smaller stakes across far wider fields. From the Valve Corporation’s Flatland to grey market gambling with Counter-Strike gun skins, this talk will move from from the Steam Workshop to the Steam Marketplace to series of third-party websites that confuse and conflate gaming and gambling. Although strict distinctions are made between gambling and gaming in both US law as well as 20th century philosophies of games and play, these terms’ etymological roots are tightly wound. In a post-2008 age of precarity, the wage has once again become a wager. In 2012, Alex Galloway proclaimed “we are all goldfarmers,” but gun skins and skin gambling represent an even more complex and complete financialization in that players have moved from one mode in which labour time is exchanged for a clear wage (even if it’s grinding in World of Warcraft) to one in which labour time itself becomes a wager. Ultimately skins are not simply texture files that wrap around the polygonal geometry of virtual weapons. Instead, they are objects of affinity and status, digital cash and casino chips, and a gun skins’ procedurally generated pattern, determined by a 9-digit floating point number selected upon unboxing, is more cryptocurrency than art asset. In this talk we follow the money, the skin, the flow, and the flight of new “plane games” as metagames become moneygames.
There will also be a workshop led by the authors from 2:00 pm -4:00 pm in Alderman, room 421
Stephanie Boluk is an associate professor in the English Department and Cinema and Digital Media Department at the University of California, Davis. She is the co-author of Metagaming: Playing, Competing, Spectating, Cheating, Trading, Making, and Breaking Videogames (https://manifold.umn.edu/project/metagaming) with Patrick LeMieux and co-editor of The Electronic Literature Collection Vol. 3 (http://collection.eliterature.org/3/) with Leonardo Flores, Jacob Garbe, and Anastasia Salter. For more information visit http://stephanieboluk.com.
Patrick LeMieux is an artist, game designer, and assistant professor in the Cinema and Digital Media Department at the University of California, Davis where he co-directs the Alt Ctrl Lab. Recent projects include Metagaming, a co-authored book with Stephanie Boluk (https://manifold.umn.edu/project/metagaming) and Platform Games, a solo exhibition at Babycastles (http://babycastles.com/Platform-Games). For more information visit http://patrick-lemieux.com.