According to the results of the Ludespace study, video games have become a massive phenomenon and today concern nearly 60% of adults and 95% of children between 11 and 17 years old (Ter Minassian, Boutet, 2015). Nevertheless, this survey shows great disparities in its practice, its regularity and the types of games preferred. In fact, if almost everyone plays, it is not with the same intensity, nor in the same games. This diversity of appropriation then invites us to “deconstruct the video game ensemble” (Tremel, 2002:5) in order to understand each way of approaching this media support, and also invites us to question not only the practice itself, but also the reflexive work of the audiences of videogame entertainment. In fact, the distinctions between the types of appropriation and investment of playful spaces also emerge in the ways of presenting oneself and claiming one’s passion for video games. This is particularly evident in the case of the claim of an identity, and even of a community, “gaming”.
Whether it is displayed in the presentation of oneself online (on the proﬁls social networks) or offline (in the circles of aﬁnités or on the body, via tattoos and other referenced tee-shirts), or even criticized for its sexism, the gamer community’s quesion is at the heart of the modern history of leisure. There are thus occasional gamers in large numbers, and gamers, even hardcore gamers, who make this practice more than a distraction, but a central part of their narrative identity (Ricœur, 1996). The central thesis defended here is that, in the same way that Karl Marx differentiated between “class in itself” (static reality) and “class for itself” (collective consciousness) (Marx, 1847), the gamer’s identity as it is aﬁchée is constructed by permanent reflexive movements that build the borders of a group and the norms of authenticity to be performed.
The video game is not the only leisure activity
If the video game is not the only leisure activity to which the name of a collecif is attached – one can think of the ﬁgure of the cinephile, or the numerous names of fan communities (Peyron, 2015) -, the frequency of its use and its claim seems to indicate paricularities to be quesionnered. The goal here will be to explore the way in which the frontiers of this group, this imagined community are constructed (Anderson, 2006), and the modalities of communal authenticity within it. The aim here will be to explore the way in which the boundaries of this imagined community are constructed (Anderson, 2006), and the modalities of community authenticity within it. This will be based on a primarily theoretical reflection on the lack of authenticity in subcultures, on the gamer’s medieval ﬁgure, as well as research on the emergence of the claim of a geek culture (Peyron, 2013).
Our quality sociological approach is based on a corpus of data consisting of fifty-three semi-directive entreiens whose duration varies between forty-five minutes and three hours. The individuals surveyed are between 18 and 37 years old, are forty-seven men and six women and, without claiming to be representative, their social and geographical origins are as varied as possible, with a predominance of individuals living in urban areas within different French regions (Lyon, Paris, Marseille, Grenoble, etc.). Respondents were recruited between 2008 and 2011. The oldest Entreiens are thus about ten years old, but because of the biographical aspect of the Entreiens, who were returning in length to the period of gamer identity formation, this will allow us to look at the evolution of this quesion between the 1990s and the 2000s. This period corresponds to a critical moment in the video game industry from the point of view of its massive expansion, which gives these testimonies both a sociological and historical value.
One can, to begin, ideniﬁer the central diﬁculté related to gamer identity starting from a study by Adrienne Shaw (2012). The author looks at ideniﬁ as a way of addressing a minority gamer culture (women, homosexuals, racialized populations, etc.). She then notes an interesting fact: it is not necessarily those who gamble the most who consider themselves gamers. She compares different proﬁls and observes that some respondents, for whom this claim is at the heart of their déﬁniion, gamble less than others, who do not feel comfortable using this label for their qualiﬁer. It is therefore a good thing that suﬁt does not accumulate hours of play to unlock this banner as it would happen in a game where a “success” would be added to proﬁl in case of a successful acion.
This contributes to it, but something else is at stake. This past time is the first step, constantly reworked and crossed with other contextual data as well as the representation that everyone makes of what a “real” gamer is. We must then, to begin, ask ourselves which signiﬁcaions takes these terms of true and false in a context of ideniﬁcaion to a group far too vast to be mixed with the whole, and of which there is no institutionalized déﬁniion. This then points to a central issue in the study of any sub-cultural aﬁliaion, that of authenticity. The search for authenticity is a central value of contemporary Western society, which has been in existence since the 1960s. In this moment, which Anthony Giddens (2004) calls reflexive modernity, the injunction is to what François de Singly (2003) calls “self-production” (p.35). The individual, his quest for identity and his will to be enﬁn himself are at the heart of everyone’s preoccupations. This induces groupings of communities not only around externally assigned criteria (religion, gender, social origin, etc.) but around individual tastes and choices aﬁrmés.
In advertising, ﬁcion, personal development books, the world of work or social networks, we are constantly invited to find ourselves and to be enﬁn ourselves. Popular culture then becomes a privileged ouil of the aﬁrmaion of oneself with the help of shared cultural references but through which the commitment and the identical investment of each one is variable. It is a question of presenting oneself as a fan of such and such a series (Glevarec, 2012), of such and such a book saga, of ﬁlm that everyone knows at least by name but does not appreciate with the same intensity. As Chrisian Le Bart (2004) notes, contemporary fan cultures and subcultures constitute one of the typical examples of the “passage in our societies from prescribed identities to chosen identities” (p.284). In this framework, belonging and aﬁliaion to a group is no longer merely inherited, but the fruit of a claim. However, because of its performative character, this aﬁrmaion is fragile and individuals then permanently seek to show their authenticity.
Framework of a subcultural movement
This authenic self is then only in reference to an ideal and, within the framework of a subcultural movement, this ideal is the ﬁgure typiﬁée of the perfectly au-thenic member. In his study on punks, David Muggleton (2000) already showed that few of those who claim to belong to this movement totally resemble the classical representation of the young individual wearing a crest and torn jeans while listening to music with violent lyrics. However, all of them refer to this representation to situate themselves in relation to it in their attitudes and ways of approaching their sense of belonging. This relationship to an ideal way of being can lead to paradoxical situations, where those who are the most expert in a practice within a cultural movement are not necessarily recognized as the most authentic.
This is what Basien Soulé (2007), for example, reports in his ethnography of surfing enthusiasts. He notes that the best surfers from a technical point of view are often not considered as the most authentic compared to others less gifted but who have the authentic style, a whole way of being, of dressing, To be considered authentic and to fully assume the claim, one must therefore demonstrate one’s authenticity by externalizing it and being fully aware of the instinctively stabilized social norms that allow one to evaluate others as much as oneself. This reflexive work is also carried out by the gamers who in aﬁrmant their identity aﬁrment also what an ideal gamer is and allow us to observe the social construction of authenticity as a value.