Fans Influence Video Games, But It Mainly Benefits the Gaming Industry » FINCHANNEL

The FINANCIAL – Many online video game fans create their own content, inspired by their favorite game: from self-invented scenarios to new characters. While this gives fans some influence over the video game production process, it is primarily the video game industry that benefits. This is the conclusion of Argyrios Emmanouloudis in his doctoral thesis which he will defend on September 9th.

The video game industry has developed enormously in recent years; during the coronavirus shutdowns in particular, people have turned to video games in droves for entertainment. All sorts of online fan communities emerge around these games, says media expert Argyrios Emmanouloudis. “It’s amazing how many of these fan communities there are. People come together online in their shared enthusiasm for a particular game. It’s a wonderful thing because it gives people a sense of belonging and it allows them to express themselves.

Fans offer free promotion

Emmanouloudis, himself a video game enthusiast, looked at the balance of power between these fan communities and the video game industry. Inspired by online games, many fans create their own content: from alternate stories (fan fiction) and self-invented characters to art and game expansions. Fans post this content on blogs, for example, and on social media. “In general, the companies that make the games are very happy about it,” says the doctoral student, “because for them it’s free promotion of their product.”

The gaming industry is primarily looking for ways to profit from fan efforts.
Additionally, companies get insights through fan-created content about what fans care about, like which characters are most loved or how new storylines are received. A sort of market study, says Emmanouloudis. “The industry can then respond to that; sometimes, for example, fans protest against the ending of a game’s story, and the creators then add an alternate ending to the game.’

Empowerment or exploitation?
From time to time, fans come up with some really nice content that gets the attention of the industry. In exceptional cases, companies buy the content created by these fans or offer a contract to the creator. Emmanouloudis: “The latter case happened, for example, in the case of the game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, whose creator was himself originally a fan of games; he gained attention through the fan content he created and was later hired.

We are playful beings; playing is an important part of our existence.
Fans have therefore influenced the video game production process in various ways, and sometimes even become part of it themselves. Is this a sign of fan power, Emmanouloudis wonders, or is it more of a form of exploitation? In order to find an answer to this question, he looked at different fan communities around online video games and related media. He spoke to prominent figures, researched the evolution of communities and mapped their current position in relation to the video game industry.

Market rules
Based on his data, the doctoral student concluded that fans are ultimately a way for the video game industry to make more profit. “I started this research with the idea that fans had a lot of power. However, although the communities I studied are often held up as examples of their empowerment, it ultimately turns out that the The game itself pulls the strings. The industry seeks above all to profit from the efforts of the fans: based on the content made by them, the companies know better what the fans want and can therefore sell more games. “In other words: the market rules. I think it’s important for fans to be aware of that and to think critically about how it works.

Emmanouloudis was already interested in research on video games years ago. “For a long time, people looked down on games; they were seen as something not worth studying. However, this is unfair: we are playful beings; playing is an important part of our existence. Fortunately, this awareness has grown and the field of study is now growing rapidly.


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Carolyn M. Daniel