100-Percenting It: Videogame Play Through the Eyes of Devoted Gamers


  • The original project on which this article is based received funding from a Jerome and Lorraine Aresty Research Scholarship, the Aresty Research Center, and the Henry Rutgers Scholars Program at Rutgers University. We thank Wayne Brekhus, Ka Po Chu, Judith Gerson, Neha Gondal, Eli Liebell-McLean, John Levi Martin, Michael Pinto, Sourabh Singh, Eviatar Zerubavel, and the Sociological Forum reviewers for their input. We particularly thank Vanina Leschziner and D. Randall Smith for their detailed comments and criticisms. Our greatest debt is to our study participants, whose rich insights made this article possible. A previous version of this work was presented at the Eastern Sociological Society Undergraduate Poster Session in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 15–18, 2007, the Woodshed Workshop at Rutgers University, October 16, 2008, and at the American Sociological Association Meetings in Atlanta, Georgia, August 14–17, 2010. The views expressed in this article are our own and are not those of the National Labor Relations Board or the United States government.


We describe salient aspects of the idioculture of videogame play, based on interviews conducted with 20 devoted videogame players and several hours of observation of small-group game play. We explore the meaningfulness of videogame play for participants, specifically through an examination of the social quality of play, interaction during play, the enactment of status differences in and through play, and players’ desire to play games perfectly and/or completely. We elicit players’ comments about acceptable and unacceptable forms of cheating, and we explore their management of the stigma attached to playing violent games and playing excessively. We conclude by highlighting game players’ penchant for finding moral content in their favorite games and game characters.