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Breaking the Metagame: Seventeen Seconds of Dota 2

Stephanie Boluk & Patrick LeMieux, Breaking the Metagame: Seventeen Seconds of Dota 2. Over the past decade and with the rise of social media and sharing services like Steam, YouTube, and Twitch, the term metagame has been increasingly used to describe the community histories and material practices occurring in, on, around, and through videogames. From speedrunning and ROM hacking to virtual economies and international e-sports, metagaming has become a dominant form of play, a game design paradigm, and a way of life not only occurring around videogames, but all forms of digital technology. This talk begins with a history of the term metagame, from its implementation in Cold War game theory to Richard Garfield’s game design for Magic: The Gathering before turning towards 17 seconds of Dota 2. Now known simply as “The Play,” an unexpected, 17-second upset broke the metagame during The International 2, Valve’s million-dollar tournament in 2012. Although Dota 2 is the product of a long history of modding that has only recently been enclosed within a complex media ecology of cosmetic markets, professional competitions, and online streaming, this talk will focus on the images, commentary, and click-data to unpack “The Play.” From the disconnect between the spectator (and even the professional players themselves) and the microtemporal operations of Valve’s software to the broader racial dynamics in which Dota 2 is implicated, this talk will demonstrate how a brief teamfight between the Ukrainian Na’Vi and the Chinese iG can serve as a metonymy for the wider system of financialization that has intensified around the game.Stephanie Boluk, PhD is an assistant professor in the Cinema and Digital Media Program and English Department at UC Davis. Her research and teaching incorporates game studies and media studies to explore videogames, alternative currencies, financialization, and the convergence of leisure and labor in contemporary information economies. Patrick LeMieux, PhD is an artist, media theorist, game designer, and assistant professor in the Cinema and Digital Media Program at UC Davis. His scholarly research and creative practice engage the community histories and material traces of play, especially in, on, around, and through digital technologies in the twenty-first century.
Interactive media and games increasingly pervade and shape our society. In addition to their dominant roles in entertainment, videogames play growing roles in education, arts, science and health. This seminar series brings together a diverse set of experts to provide interdisciplinary perspectives on these media regarding their history, technologies, scholarly research, industry, artistic value and potential future. As the speakers and title suggest, the series also provides a topical lens for the diverse aspects of our lives.



Tuesday, January 12, 2016. 12:00 PM


Lane Hall, RM2 (Rodriguez Lecture Hall)


Bio-X Program, mediaX


Free and open to the public on space available basis.
Also listed as one-unit course BIOE196