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Transnational Tendencies in Gaming

The next speaker at AoIR 2010 is TL Taylor, whose interest is in game culture – an area where transnational connections are now also prevalent. Where games consoles used to be strongly region-controlled, this has loosened considerably – games bought abroad will now often also play in a different geographical region, even if the same is not necessarily true yet for DVDs and Blu-Ray discs. But in accessing and downloading games, for example, users are often still required to identify their location (or geolocated by their IP address).

Games companies themselves are also reinscribing regional specificity into the gameplay itself now – online players are often regionally segregated onto different game servers (for technical reasons, in the first place, but also through language and other choices). Interactions between users from different regions and nations (such as debates over what languages to use) also highlight a relocalisation of game participation.

Further, local cultural attitudes and government regulation also affect these questions – some game content is or has to be modified to meet such specific rules, creating differing local versions of the same game. This is also being circumvented by some gamers (and companies), of course; currency points for the Xbox (which allow new game content to be bought) are often nation-specific, for example, but there are now Websites and user networks which engage in an international points trade. Similarly, specialist stores provide international access to games which are sold in one country or region, but not in another.

Some of this is also done through users setting up diverse dummy accounts in different countries that allow them to get access to a different range of content than is available in their local region. This is a significant form of circumvention practices, and the earliest forms of this probably are subtitling communities that collectively generate detailed translations of the game texts. Such activities operate across an interesting collage of legislative restrictions, technological; support tools, and user communities.