Chinese Cloud Players: How Proxy Play Develops From the Game Live Streaming
The term “Cloud Player” (云玩家) has been widely used as a put-down of the alleged pseudo-players who actively engage in online game discussion but seldomly play games themselves, and game live streaming is considered as the major channel for those to indirectly experience games. This paper enquires into the identification and population of the so-called cloud players in China by investigating Chinese players’ habits, consumption, and preferences in game and game live streaming through survey and interviews. The study showed that cloud players are an endogenic subgroup of the Chinese game community that has been marginalized and stigmatized. Cloud player as an identity is not a static but fluid and composite status an individual can opt for in experiencing one game at a time. To analyze the complex play mechanism of cloud players, a particular play conduct named proxy play by which gamers actively take on avatars of avatars and tune their levels of agency to varying play scenarios, is proposed and elucidated based on the established research on individuals’ motivations for and engagement in game live streaming as well as reflective discussion of prominent theoretical frameworks in game studies such as the magic circle and the frame theory.
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