[iDC] DL14 Intro - Austin Walker

Samuel Tannert samuel.tannert at gmail.com
Tue Sep 16 19:42:36 UTC 2014

Dear Austin,

In the biography that you sent me for the website you mentioned that you
study the Steam marketplace -- will you be speaking about it in any of your
lectures at #DL14? (Perhaps during the coffee breaks!) I have had a note on
my whiteboard for ages now that I should try and do a write-up on it, but I
have been on a chromebook for so long I just feel out of touch... So many
games have been missed, but also a huge shift seems to have occurred (TF2
was not even F2P when I left my desktop behind).

Could you recommend me some readings? I have been fascinated both with
Valve's astounding success at crowdsourcing huge amounts of content and
GabeN's curious strategy for solving the 'free labor' problem. I have had
little success finding any reliable statistics on the former (wages for
designers, outlines of the submission and selection processes, et cetera).

Though I have not seen any monographs on the latter, it seems that Valve's
strategy is as follows:

1) Make a market which currency can enter, but not exit (Steam platform;
excluding content creators who receive a share of proceeds?).
2) Commodify all objects within that market (games, trading cards, in-game
items, et cetera).
3) Allow users to produce new commodities for trade (new games, new items),
though there seems a tension over the selection process for which
commodities are allowed to enter the market? I don't know much about
4) Reward players with commodities for all actions they participate in
(playing games, watching other people play games, completing
tasks/achievements, et cetera).

That's my best appraisal, anyway, and one which is certainly generous to
Valve. By considering games to be *services* and then *rewarding users* for
their participation, the notion of unpaid work / exploitation in the
'social factory' seems to fall away -- *to a point*. The trouble seems to
arise from #1: these commodities cannot be traded for goods outside of the
Steam market (or is there an underground export market into $USD?).

That's as far as I've really thought the problem through and with, as I
have said, limited knowledge. Corrections and elaborations would be much


[GabeN's overview of his understanding of value creation and exchange, LBJ
School lecture, 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8QEOBgLBQU#t=1871]
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