Working as playing? Consumer labor, guild and the secondary industry of online gaming in China

Academic Article


  • China has become one of the biggest consumers and producers of online games in the world; however, little is known about a burgeoning secondary industry emerging out of the socioeconomic interaction between gamers and the online gaming industry. Through the lens of online gaming guilds—the intermediary institutions between the industry and gamers—this article discusses how the Chinese information economy’s dependence on consumer labor and the gamers’ entrepreneurial resourcefulness have produced a secondary industry. As the secondary industry has evolved, the gaming industry has come to depend on the productive play of consumers. This changing regime of value has given rise to bio-political control of consumer labor and, along with state control, is drawing gamers into the tug-of-war between entrepreneurial invention and labor exploitation. By depicting the complex negotiations between capital and labor, and community and commerce, on both subjective and institutional levels, this article re-examines and explicates the Western debate over consumer digital cultural production and its social, economic, and political implications.
  • Authors

  • Zhang, Lin
  • Fung, Anthony YH
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • February 2014
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 38
  • End Page

  • 54
  • Volume

  • 16
  • Issue

  • 1