Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Sociology

Content Description

1 online resource (v, 278 pages) : PDF file

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Ronald N. Jacobs

Committee Members

Richard Lachmann, Aaron W. Major


aesthetic public sphere, civil society, cultural sociology, entertainment, video games, Video games, Video games industry, Forums (Discussion and debate)

Subject Categories



In recent years the video game community has undergone a drastic transformation. What began as a communal pastime for programmers in federally-funded research laboratories during the late 1950s and 1960s has erupted into a multi-billion dollar industry enjoyed by millions of Americans. Reflecting this transformation, social scientists from a wide variety of fields have begun to explore video games' social significance. Sadly, so far very little work has examined video games from a sociological viewpoint. In this work I attempt to remedy this serious omission by adopting a cultural sociology framework to study video games' social meanings in three different mediated spaces, including The New York Times, the popular video game media outlet Kotaku, and the internet discussion forum NeoGAF. Consistent with recent work on entertainment commentary's capacity to function as an aesthetic public sphere, my analysis demonstrates that discussions occurring in all three spaces address broader sociopolitical concerns. However, the frequency in which these spaces engage in sociopolitical discussions, the type of topics they address, and the manner in which they do so vary. Consequently, my work adds new insight to the literature by highlighting how aesthetic public spheres are not isomorphic, but instead assume a variety of forms. Moreover, my work demonstrates how the particular type of aesthetic public sphere that an entertainment public facilitates is influenced by that entertainment public's position in civil society, the specific meaning the space attaches to the entertainment form under discussion, and civil society's overarching cultural structure. In this sense, my work strengthens the literature's understanding of entertainment's role in civil society by revealing the multiple forms entertainment commentary can assume and the sociological factors that influence the shape of these discourses.

Included in

Sociology Commons