Books for changing the world
Menu
Menu
Marx at the Arcade
Consoles, Controllers, and Class Struggle

This pathbreaking book offers a radical analysis of how people play, produce, and profit from video games, and the major role the industry plays in contemporary capitalism.

In Marx at the Arcade, acclaimed researcher Jamie Woodcock delves into the hidden abode of the gaming industry. In an account that will appeal to hardcore gamers, digital skeptics, and the joystick-curious, Woodcock unravels the vast networks of artists, software developers, and factory and logistics workers whose seen and unseen labor flows into the products we consume on a gargantuan scale. Along the way, he analyzes the increasingly important role the gaming industry plays in contemporary capitalism and the broader transformations of work and the economy that it embodies.

Reviews
  • "Rejecting both fanboy boosterism and moralistic denunciations, Marx at the Arcade offers a refreshing approach to video games analysis. Woodcock never loses sight of the fact that the material conditions behind game production shapes the stories games tell and how they tell them, but does not reduce its analysis of the medium to these material conditions. The book highlights how it feels to actually play a game, what makes it fun, and why that participatory aspect matters when discussing what a game communicates as a cultural product." Jacobin

    "Jamie Woodcock has written a book as fun and engrossing as any game. Not only does he bring a sharp Marxist analysis to the videogames industry--in turn, he uses games to further our understanding of Marx. Whether you game or not, an indispensable book." —Sarah Jaffe, author of Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt

    "In his delightful Marx at the Arcade, Jamie Woodcock launches an urgently-needed workers’ inquiry into video and computer games—investigating both the work that goes into producing such games and  the play in which so many of us seek relief from constant work. Lucid, scholarly, energetic and itself playful, Marx at the Arcade sets a new frontier for radical political understanding of the digital game." —Nick Dyer-Witheford

    "Marx at the Arcade is an important, brilliant and timely read that reveals the oft-ignored lives of overworked and exploited game workers, as well as the rise of the global Game Workers Unite movement that is fighting for change. Placing games within the context of a wider cultural and political struggle, Woodcock makes a compelling case for combating the toxic and reactionary elements of games culture, and pushing games towards a more positive, radical role in the world." —Karn Bianco, Games Workers Unite

    "Combining the unalloyed enthusiasm of the gamer with the critical gaze of the historical materialist, Jamie Woodcock's book cracks open the console to reveal the struggles over value, labour and the meaning of play that haunt the world of videogames. Even readers who last played a videogame in an arcade will gain much from this lucid and combative exploration of the industry that organizes the "free time" of countless millions."—Alberto Toscano, Reader in Critical Theory, Goldsmiths, University of London, author of Fanaticism: On the Uses of an Idea

    “In this highly readable, up-to-the-minute counter-guide to videogame work and play, Jamie Woodcock skillfully breaks play out of the “magic circle,” not only revealing capitalism’s shaping influence on digital game culture but also restoring a political perspective on games as a site of struggle. Whether revisiting game history, analyzing individual games, unpacking the distinctiveness of the game commodity, or reporting on the increasingly contested working conditions of game developers, Woodcock richly illustrates the use value of Marxian concepts to the critical study of game media.” —Greig de Peuter, co-author of Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games

    “We, as people broadly on the left, have neglected gaming at our peril. Jamie Woodcock’s Marx at the Arcade represents an important step into that fray—theorizing play, games, and their labour from the left.” –Manchester Gaming Studies Network

    “On the face of it, Marxists might not seem to have all that much to say about video games and gamers might not necessarily have all that much interest in Marx. But Jamie Woodcock’s brilliant book explains why they both should.” –Morning Star

    “Jamie Woodcock is perhaps one of England's most interesting researchers right now . . . Marx that the Arcade should . . . be read by anyone who ever controlled a bunch of pixels over a screen.” –Flammen