Findings on “gamers who protest” (and League of Legends)


Our research is out on the civic lives of e-sports and small-group gamers. Based on a large study of League of Legends players, this piece was co-authored with Dmitri Williams in the journal Games and Culture.

Title: “Gamers Who Protest: Small-Group Play and Social Resources for Civic Action.”  (For those without library access, here is a PDF of the uncorrected proofs.)


Commercial games are rarely studied for their links to civic behavior. Yet small-group games online can affect the social networks that spill into civic life (and vice versa). This study examined players of the world’s most popular personal computer game, League of Legends. Such games are theorized as mirrors that reflect civic tendencies and help some players to retain social resources. Using models of civic voluntarism, the attitudes and behaviors of more than 9,000 gamers were investigated. Gamers were shown to have relatively typical civic lives, except for unusually high rates of peaceful protest. Which gamers protest? As predicted, models for protest improved when considering how players approach their gaming (including recruiting and collaboration preferences). Dispelling some civic fears, there was no evidence that video games distracted from civic life when played in moderation. The findings support an emerging notion of protest as a playful and “expressive” civic mode.

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