Digital game culture has clearly been influenced by numerous cultural and social factors, social and cultural playing traditions, non-digital games, and existing media forms. All the while, digital games are constantly evolving and have become hybrid and transmedial. Considering how diverse digital games and game platforms have become, examining theoretical perspectives in chapters five and six of the book New Media by Flew Smith provides relevant insights. These insights can help us develop an informed understanding on the concepts of social production, participatory culture and social capital.The book describes participating in digital games play as taking a step into a magical circle. This is a circle where participants agree to the rules and conditions of play in order to participate. The book illustrates its findings through studies designed to investigate how digital game players become part of these circles. Findings suggest that the gaming circles are often made up of partners, friends, and family (Terry and Smith, 54). This brings out the premise that people participating in these circles have a common relationship or connection. This brings out the distinctive characteristic of social interaction within the game. Primarily, members of this groups share their interest in gaming through the internet, and a large part of their interaction is mediated technologically. Shared goals and values are what build a common understanding on such groups.
In this regard, the characteristic of social interactions in digital games can be used to explain the concept of participatory culture. Passing time with video games has currently become a common habit among the youth and adults alike. Most people in the world now have access to digital games owing to the development in technology, awareness, reduced purchasing costs, and convenience. This allows people with a common relationship or connection to come together in a gaming circle. Hence, this leads to the creation of a participatory culture. In other cases, video games allow users to incorporate say, for example, their own adventure creatures, and upload them for sharing with other participants to the game (Terry and Smith, 56). This is referred to as distant participatory culture where players play the game online using the internet. In this case, the participatory culture in digital games is built through online social networks.
From another perspective, the two chapters switch their attention to the rapid development of electronic social media. This involves an examination of how people are using it for the production of social capital and maintenance of group identity. Digital games in this case represent a new entertainment form. Furthermore, digital games and the people who participate in them are usually portrayed negatively in popular news media. The chapters in this case have separated the gaming community into two, adults and the youth. We are made to understand that the youth are the main group that influences social capital when digital games are put into consideration.
The youth should be considered to be after what the rest of society want; that is community, respect, solidarity, opportunity, success, and affiliation. Whether these needs are achieved through participating in gangs, church, schools, sports, or digital gaming is up to the youth. The nature of social capital made available to the youth influences their way of learning, whether they commit crimes, not, commit suicide, or attend college depends on the social interaction and game texts of digital games. The aspect of social capital in this case is, therefore, dependent on the form of relationship involved in the gaming groups and the type of game played. Participating in a group with negative values and motives or playing games depicted violence or explicit materials consequently fosters the development of a youth will ill motives in the society. The youth capital in this case will seem have little value or to have been wasted. Youth of such character normally end up behind bars or dead. Rather, this untapped young people would have benefited the society in its development.
In terms of social production, Flew Smith in chapter six explains how digital games have a similar effect as that applied in social capital. In this case, Flew and Smith considers social production as the collective function of individuals centered towards the development and wellbeing of the society. According to Smith, digital games pose both positive and negative influences on social production. Even though digital games are considered good ways of passing time for many people, it is crucial to understand that they are also addictive. Participation in this social activity requires laying out a time program to avoid misuse ((Terry and Smith, 57). In case of addiction or misuse, the participants usually find themselves spending valuable time playing games rather than engaging in other beneficial activities such as community work. In conclusion, Flew and Smith in chapter five and six of his book has endeavored to illustrate how digital games can be used to explain various social elements including social production, participatory culture and social capital. Smith achieves his objective by using well-structured analyses and relevant examples.
Flew, Terry, and Richard K. Smith. New Media: An Introduction. Don Mills, Ont: OUP Press, 2011. Print.