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Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Manchester Metropolitan University

Tom has written critically about professional gaming and the ‘darker’ side of play in two peer-reviewed journals. The first article: ‘Roger Caillois and eSports: On the Problems of Treating Play as Work’ is to be published in Games and Culture. The articles present a critical account of the impact that electronic sports has on human psychology. It argues that the pressures and demands of professional computer gaming orientate human cognition towards instrumental thinking, which in turn, feeds the exploitative ‘dog-eat-dog’ world of eSports. The article presents a number of case studies to show how treating play like work ‘corrupts’ the values that players attach to games plausibly leading to a) unhealthy behaviour in the form of obsession and/or b) risky, illegal behaviour, in the form of match-fixing. In the case of the latter, it is suggested that cheating can be considered as ‘survival strategy’ within such a highly competitive working environment. The second article: ‘Videogame Consumption: The Apophatic Dimension’ is to be published in the Journal of Consumer Culture. It considers how people derive satisfaction and motivation from the more negative aspects of video gameplay, particularly failure and loss. It argues that overcoming challenges in games is deeply rewarding, and may even help people deal with personal psychological issues, like anxiety or OCD. The article then extends this discussion to consider how typically problematic aspects of online gaming, e.g., ‘trolling’, can be rewarding through the creation of moments of cathartic laughter, which serve an important sociological purpose: to create and maintain social relationships.


  • –present
    Lecturer in Sociology, Manchester Metropolitan University