Research Seminar: ‘Play to Submission: Gaming Capitalism in a Tech Firm’

This event is part of the School of Media and Communication research seminar series.

In this seminar, Tungyu Wu (Zhejiang University, China) will discuss her new book ‘Play to Submission’ (Temple University Press).

Games are often a fun perk of a tech company job, and employees can “play to win” in the competition to succeed. In studying “Behemoth” (a pseudonym for a top American tech company), Tongyu Wu discovered that gaming work culture was far more insidious.

‘Play to Submission’ shows how Behemoth’s games undermined and manipulated workers. They lost their work-life balance and the constant competition made labor organizing difficult. Nonetheless, many workers embraced management’s games as a chance to show off their “gamer” identities and create a workplace culture with privileged insiders and exiled outsiders, with female and migrant workers usually in the latter group.

Wu indicates this may be the future of work for high- and low-skilled and, creative workers in an environment where capitalists have heightened demands for technology and creativity.

Drawing from 13 months of ethnographic work, Wu presents a persistent reality in which the company reaps the reward of surplus productivity, leaving employees in a highly competitive and sometimes precarious work position.