Video Gaming as Practical Accomplishment: Ethnomethodology, Conversion Analysis and Play

Stuart Reeves, Christian Greiffenhagen, Eric Laurier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Accounts of video game play developed from an ethnomethodological and conversation analytic (EMCA) perspective remain relatively scarce. This paper collects together an emerging, if scattered, body of research which focusses on the material, practical ‘work’ of video game players.

The paper offers an example-driven explication of an EMCA perspective on video game play phenomena. The materials are arranged as a ‘tactical zoom’. We start very much ‘outside’ the game, beginning with a wide view of how massive-multiplayer online games are played within dedicated gaming spaces; here we
find multiple players, machines and many different sorts of activities going on (besides playing the game).
Still remaining somewhat distanced from the play of the game itself, we then take a closer look at the players themselves by examining a notionally simpler setting involving pairs taking part in a football game at a games console. As we draw closer to the technical details of play, we narrow our focus further still to
examine a player and spectator situated ‘at the screen’ but jointly analysing play as the player competes in an online first-person shooter. Finally we go ‘inside’ the game entirely and look at the conduct of avatars on-screen via screen recordings of a massively-multiplayer online game.

Having worked through specific examples, we provide an elaboration of a selection of core topics of ethnomethodology and conversation analysis that are used to situate some of the unstated orientations in the presentation of data fragments. In this way, recurrent issues raised in the fragments are shown as coherent, interconnected phenomena. In closing, we suggest caution regarding the way game play phenomena have been analysed in the paper, while remarking on challenges present for the development of further EMCA oriented research on video game play.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTopics in Cognitive Science
Early online date30 Nov 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Nov 2016


  • ethnomethodology
  • conversation analysis
  • video games


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