The Berkeley Film & Media Seminar Presents: SKIN IN THE GAME: GREYMARKET GAMBLING AND VIRTUAL CURRENCIES IN COUNTER-STRIKEThu, Oct 29, 2020, 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Speakers: Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux
Points, scores, tokens, chips, coins, cash, stocks, scrips, after the the US housing bubble and the global financial crisis in 2008 and with the emergence of the gig economy, crypto assets, and platform capital over the last decade, money has gotten weird. Credit card points and frequent flyer miles make a game of measuring and rewarding past purchases; Uber Quests and Lyft Challenges offer bonus incentives for reaching rideshare goals; and Airbnb and WeWork gamble on the future value of real estate. Meanwhile, cosmetic items and loot boxes in videogames reward casual play; millions of dollars of online betting and greymarket gambling accompany esports spectatorship; and YouTube and Twitch transform games into a platform for expropriating attention. In this talk we will follow the money—specifically Counter-Strike gunskins—from the Steam Workshop to the Steam Marketplace to a series of third-party websites that explore the way in which money operates as a game mechanic and how game mechanics have come to operate as money. Ultimately skins are not simply texture files wrapped around the polygonal geometry of virtual weapons. Instead, they are objects of affinity and status, they are digital cash and casino chips, they are procedurally-generated hashes that deeply impact how people play, work, and gamble online. From the financialization of everyday life to the gamification of daily work, this talk will use Counter-Strike as a case study for thinking about how in the 21st century our wages are increasingly a wager and our games are always gambles.
Stephanie Boluk and Patrick LeMieux play, make, and write about games at the University of California, Davis. They are co-authors of Metagaming, co-designers of games at https://alt254.itch.io/, and are cast members on Every Game in This City. For more information visit http://patrick-lemieux.com and http://stephanieboluk.com.