The Engine Is the Message: Videogame Infrastructure and the Future of Digital Platforms

Chia, Aleena; Malazita, James; Young, Chris J.; Nieborg, David B.; Joseph, Daniel J. and Gantt, Matthew D.. 2023. 'The Engine Is the Message: Videogame Infrastructure and the Future of Digital Platforms'. In: AoIR2022: The 23rd Annual Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers. Dublin, Ireland 2 - 5 November 2022. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

On January 18, Microsoft revealed its $68.7 billion deal to acquire videogame publisher Activision Blizzard. The acquisition was pitched as an investment towards “metaverse platforms” that gaming would play a key role in developing. Journalists speculated about the increasing consolidation of the videogame industry and whether blockbuster franchises would be locked into Microsoft’s platforms and subscription services. Commentary on the metaverse weighed in on how toxicity and harassment in game industry workplaces such as Activision Blizzard might relate to issues of trust and safety in virtual worlds such as Meta’s Horizon Worlds. Seemingly above the fray of platform strategy, market speculation, and corporate scandal, New Yorker writer Kyle Chayka (2022) tweeted as a matter of fact: “video game infrastructure and tools are increasingly going to take over all digital platforms”. This panel contextualizes discussions about the business and aesthetics of 3D platforms in the infrastructural work of game engines, which routinely integrate databases, file formats, web protocols, and translational algorithms. We trace public debates and corporate statements over representation and governance, equity and inclusion (Bosworth 2021) to the techniques, technologies, and practices that enable massive real-time 3D digital spaces to flow and transact. We also highlight the growing intertwinement between game engine development companies and related content ecosystems, such as the Epic Games Store and the Unreal Engine, and Epic’s and Unity’s Asset Stores. This panel investigates how digital systems are designed to regulate technical interoperability and its implications for creative practice and cultural production. Together, these papers map how power and capital become centralized and distributed throughout the back end of the metaverse, and politicize how social practices and subjectivities are negotiated through technological architecture.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Panel)

Identification Number (DOI):


platforms, cultural production, metaverse, infrastructure, videogames

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


29 March 2023Published

Event Location:

Dublin, Ireland

Date range:

2 - 5 November 2022

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

07 May 2024 09:31

Last Modified:

07 May 2024 09:31


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