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Playstations and workstations: identifying and negotiating digital games work

Daniel Ashton (Bath Spa University, Bath, UK)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 1 March 2011



The aim of this paper is to present qualitative research with higher education games design students to explore situated understandings of work and the negotiation of “work” and “non‐work” boundaries.


Situated understandings of work are examined through interviews and focus groups with games design students in the UK and contextualised with interviews with games industry professionals and attendance at industry careers events. The theoretical approach of “occupational devotion” is used to explore work practices and motivations, and “technological action” is then used to draw out the significance of relations with games technologies in this negotiation.


The main finding concerns the continued significance of a fixed field of “work” for students intending to progress from education into “work”. The importance of “work” was identified in how students positioned themselves (occupational devotion) and engaged with games technologies (technological action). This is contrasted with the emphasis on co‐creative relations and broadbrush assertions of blurring boundaries between work and non‐work.

Research limitations/implications

A larger sample of students that ranged across different digital gaming disciplines within higher education (programming; art) would add breadth and further perspectives. Further research would connect student perceptions of the games industry, from attending events such as careers fairs, and the industry promotional discourses and representational strategies. A longitudinal study would be valuable for tracing changes in recruitment strategies and industry and education intersections.

Practical implications

The paper provides insights into how higher education students engage with the games industry and articulates their personal development and employability attributes.


This paper makes a case for research with students as a means to explore boundaries of “work” and “non‐work”. It questions the blurring of “work” and “non‐work”, and provides conceptual pointers, combined with empirical research, that indicate the continued purchase of fixed notions of “work” for workers‐in‐the‐making. This is relevant for scholarly research into the sociology of work, higher education pedagogy, and industry‐education relations.



Ashton, D. (2011), "Playstations and workstations: identifying and negotiating digital games work", Information Technology & People, Vol. 24 No. 1, pp. 10-25.



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