Competition and Cooperation

Authored by: Emma Witkowski

The Routledge Companion to Video Game Studies

Print publication date:  December  2013
Online publication date:  January  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415533324
eBook ISBN: 9780203114261
Adobe ISBN: 9781136290510


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Within the study of video games lies a combination of various player practices, technologies, game structures, narrative elements, win conditions, and co-created performances and productions. With such an array of forms and cultures of play squeezed under one helm, writing about competition and cooperation from a game studies approach is no small endeavor. Take, for example, what is perhaps the most clear-cut competitive and cooperative game practice, the team sports video game that brings systems and cultures of play together with an emphasis on “us versus them.” FIFA 12 (Electronic Arts, 2011) demonstrates one of many ways that cooperation and competition can be combined in a video game. The association football video game presents cooperative and competitive, and single or multiplayer, modes of play on a variety of platforms, showing how different the configurations of competition and cooperation can be. The scoreboard, a standard in sports video games, is an insistent reminder of who (or what) is winning. Opponents might be seated together on a living room sofa, supporting (or goading) one another with tips (or light-hearted jests), impressing each other with elaborate moves, laughing over botched performances, or sharing turns on the controllers (Heide Smith, 2006; Newman, 2004). At the same time, an identical copy of game software can also be played under the formal organization of e-sports (electronic sports) leagues, complete with tournament and local rules, official records, online rivalries, spectators, and trained (human) match referees. The international competitors might otherwise engage in soundless performances of instrumental play going “for the win,” or by trashtalking their way to a victory spectated by thousands online.

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