Above the Action: The Cultural Politics of Watching Dota 2

  • Elam J
  • Taylor N
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The rise of live-streaming platforms, and the related surge in popularity of esports, remind us that there is a politics of watching play. This article extends intensified scholarly interest in game spectatorship, offering a materialist consideration of the embodied work involved in spectating competitive game play. Most readily associated with the discursive alignments between competitive gaming and/as sport, the active camera mode used by esports competitors and “shoutcasters” facilitates analyzing the highly kinetic action of team-based combat in first-person shooters and multiplayer online battle arenas. Here, we draw from microanalyses of audio-visual recordings taken as individual participants spectated a Dota 2 match. Examining the cognitive and perceptual competencies they draw from, we argue that participants are incorporated into apparatuses of perception associated with militarized optical media. While at a discursive level esports spectators may be watching sports, at a material level they are playing with the logics of drones.




Elam, J., & Taylor, N. (2021). Above the Action: The Cultural Politics of Watching Dota 2. Communication, Culture and Critique, 13(4), 501–518. https://doi.org/10.1093/ccc/tcz033

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