Digital Deviance/Digital Compliance: Criminology, Social Interaction and the Videogame

Published: March 2024

This project was funded by SCCJR’s Research Development Fund 

Introduction and orientations

This project sought to begin a process of scoping out and developing criminological perspectives on videogames and the social worlds of videogames and gamers through two interactive workshops. Its starting orientation was social interactionism and the understanding of videogames as meaningful and affective places and spaces of interaction, presence, and ‘being’. This orientation sees videogames as potential spaces of cultural expression, symbolic representation, meaning-making, and identification; as interactive spaces of (real and imagined) participation and collaboration; and as ‘social worlds’ which participants inhabit and in which they exercise (some) agency in negotiating their deviance and compliance.

These digital social worlds are part of the fabric of everyday experience for many people who already
drift continuously between presence across different facets of the digital technoscape (including internet, social media and gaming) and the analogue world, potentially finding meaning, connection and identification across them all. This project was thus, from the outset, situated in the study of videogames and videogaming within traditions of social interactionism and the sociology of deviance, but it also sought to contribute directly to more recent developments in the field exploring the importance and effects (and affects) of representational forms, symbols, and cultural narratives, such as within visual, cultural and narrative criminologies.

In relation to videogames themselves, the project aimed to be openminded and not restrictive about what could be included. For example, although ‘crime’ features within many videogames as a dimension of the narrative, action, or game world, many games do not feature ‘crime’ but feature, or can be played in ways, that signify deviance or compliance. Therefore, the project did not restrict itself to the study of ‘crime games’, or any particular category of games, but remained open to the diverse forms that videogames take (in terms of subject matter, genre, platform etc.).

Authors / Editors

Dr Alistair Henry

University of Edinburgh

Dr Shane Horgan

Edinburgh Napier University

Research Themes

New Media, Surveillance and Technology