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How games support associational life: Using Tocqueville to understand the connection

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Publication details

JournalGames and Culture
DatePublished - Jul 2011
Issue number4
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)354-372
Original languageEnglish


One of the greatest problems in contemporary social science is the decline of participation in political and civil spheres. Video games and digital worlds are promising new modes of association capable of connecting people in a way that passive forms of mass communication are unable to. This essay shows the strength of video games as a medium for associational life by turning to the thought of one of the preeminent philosophers of collective action: Alexis de Tocqueville. Although Tocqueville lived long before the advent of video games, his theory of democracy provides an excellent account of the benefits of civic associations. Among these are teaching enlightened self-interest, creating feelings of efficacy, protecting individuality, and establishing meritocratic norms. Video games are capable of providing each of these goods, making them an effective supplement, though not a replacement, to traditional associational life in an age of increasing fragmentation.

    Research areas

  • associations, civic culture, public sphere, Tocqueville, video games, virtual worlds

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