“How Active is the Audience? A Study of Chinese Game Fandom” presented by Unknown presenters


Session Title:

  • Games: China - Games and Gaming in China

Presentation Title:

  • How Active is the Audience? A Study of Chinese Game Fandom




  • What is unique to fan studies in comparison to audience research in general is that the former emphasizes more on both social aspects and interpretive activities. Moreover, the resistance power and textual productivity among a group of audience members is the best example of audience activism.

    John Fiske noted that fandom is “associated with the cultural tastes of subordinated formations of the people, particularly those disempowered by any combination of gender, age, class, and race”. Fiske claimed that fans established a sense of ownership over their favorite media texts, and engaged in interpretive play with these texts to resist their negative characterizations in popular culture. Fan participation was related to political resistance because fandom appealed to “subordinated” groups in society.
    Following John Fiske, Henry Jenkins further defined “meaningful participation” of the audience. In this discussion, he contrasted two different phenomena to show what constitutes meaningful participation: (1) Participation vs. resistance; (2) the public vs. the audience. He argued that participation means that people are organized in and through social collectivities and connectivities. However, resistance means that people are organized in opposition to a dominant power. When it comes to the differences of the audience and the public, the former is produced through measurement and surveillance and the latter is different from the former in that the public actively directs attention onto the messages they value.
    However, not all of the fans can reach this ideal situation with meaningful participation. Some fans may be less social or less participatory. Sandvoss expanded the definition of fandom to include “the regular, emotionally involved consumption of a given popular narrative or text in the form of books, television shows, films or music, as well as popular texts in a broader sense such as sport teams and popular icons and stars ranging from athletes and musicians to actors”. Here, we can see that there are different levels of participation and productivity in fan practices. Comparing mere emotional consumption to political resistance the range differs widely. Thus, the purposes of this study are to understand: How far it is from mere emotional consumption to political resistance? How many different levels of participation and productivity are there? How active is the audience in the game fandom world? This study will focus on the game fandom practices in China. Through game fandom practices, we hope to answer the question “How active can the audience be”?
    Another useful tool to answer the aforementioned topics is Wirman’s five dimensions of player productivity. Wirman proposed five dimensions of player productivity (1) game play as productivity; (2) productivity for play: instrumental productivity; (3) productivity beyond play: expressive productivity; (4) games as tools; and (5) productivity as a part of game play. She provided a tool to evaluate different levels of game fandom participation and productivity. An interesting topic for discussion is if these five dimensions are all “meaningful participation” according to Henry Jenkin’s definitions? Furthermore, these five dimensions were discussed in a western context but this study aims to study game fandom in Chinese culture. We look at different participatory and productive practices of game fan players and try to categorize them into these five dimensions. If the dimensions do not fit, we will propose different ones.
    We plan to study two different popular games in China. One is the international commercial game “League of Legends” (LOL) and the other one “Full mental Alchemist” is the Doujin game made by fans. Ethnography will be employed in this study to observe the different practices of game fandom. Besides, we plan to interview several key reporters to get deeper insights of the practices of Chinese game fandom. We expect that there exists different game fandom practices related to both commercial and non-commercial practices. Therefore, the spectrum of game fandom practices can be broadened and widened. Hopefully, this study can contribute to the notion of “active audiences” in communication studies and categorize the different practices of the Chinese gaming culture.

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