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The rise of e-sports signals a development in computer gaming well worth paying attention to. Not only are we witnessing the emergence and refinement of elite play in formalized competitive environments, but the growth of an industry around it -- complete with team owners, league organizers, broadcasters, and corporate sponsors. Based on extensive qualitative research, this talk will explore the nature of professional computer game play as embodied, technical, and social practice. It will then situate these player performances within a broader context of various institutional actors that are also shaping how high-end competition is developing. In particular, it will look at issues around the ownership of e-sports playing fields, and the status of player action within them.
T.L. Taylor is Associate Professor in the Center for Computer Games Research at the IT University of Copenhagen. She has been working in the field of internet and multi-user studies for over fifteen years and has published on topics such as play and experience in online worlds, values in design, intellectual property, co-creative practices, game software modification, avatars and online embodiment, gender and gaming, pervasive gaming, and e-sports. As a qualitative sociologist, her research looks at the socio-cultural aspects of network life and play. Her book Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture (MIT Press, 2006) presented an ethnographic study of a popular massively multiplayer online game and her new book, Raising the Stakes: E-sports and the Professionalization of Computer Gaming (MIT Press, forthcoming March 2012) will be the first published scholarly monograph looking extensively at the rising phenomenon of high-end competitive computer game play. She is also a co-author (along with Tom Boellstorff, Bonnie Nardi, and Celia Pearce) on the soon to be published Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method (Princeton University Press, forthcoming summer 2012). Her website (including copies of many of her articles) can be found at tltaylor.com.