The People's History of Steam
Valve Software's proprietary software distribution client Steam is billed as "The Ultimate Entertainment Platform" on Valve's website. Steam is responsible for selling, distributing and managing video game software to millions of users around the globe through their internet connections. However, in addition to functioning as a direct retail system, Steam also functions as a social network, system of control and surveillance, as well as a site for work and trade. This thesis argues that due to the inclusion of these functions as a part of Steam's code, those features must now also be considered as a part of the field of activity referred to as `play'. Utilizing a combination of archival research, discourse analysis, and digital ethnography, this thesis historicizes Steam's impact on the field of play, as expressed by users who were forced to adapt to its presence in their lives.
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