Digital Culture & Society (DCS) Laborious Play and Playful Work I
Pablo Abend / Sonia Fizek / Mathias Fuchs / Karin Wenz (eds.) Vol. 5, Issue 2/2019 – Laborious Play and Playful Work I
This double issue of Digital Culture & Society addresses the complex thematic field of the dialectics of play and labour. We will take a closer look at the problem of play and work from two overlapping, albeit not mutually exclusive, perspectives: laborious play and playful work.
The term laborious play points to practices and processes that turn playful activities into hard work. Laborious play happens whenever playfulness turns into work, and may be observed in such activities such as e-sports, excessive play, »goldfarming«, and Twitch gameplay broadcasting, amongst many others.
A complementary phenomenon to that of laborious play is the practice and concept of playful work. The promises of a joyful and rewarding working experience have been promoted as »gamification« while critical voices denounce such attempts as ideology, exploitation or simply »bullshit«.
Gaming Musical Instruments – Music has to be Hard Work!
This article addresses the relationship between labour and learning a popular musical instrument like the guitar in the specific context of a video game. Most gamification theories promise that using a video game makes it easy to learn. Even if this holds true, I argue that this kind of playfulness causes some backlash, which I observed during an experiment in which students played the music video game Rocksmith 2014. Learning and playing the guitar through the medium of a video game comes with diverse experiences as well as expectations that are closely related to the dichotomies between play and work, often discussed in game studies based on the famous texts by Johann Huizinga and Roger Caillois. Learning any traditional music instrument requires much effort in several skill areas, for example, dexterity, hearing, sight-reading, and performance. In other words, it seems to be hard work and not at all playful like a video game. In this article, the various aspects of playful work and labourious play, found in both music education and guitar games, will be discussed against the backdrop of empirical findings including data from online interviews, research diaries and video recordings.