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Interaction Tension: A Sociological Model of Attention and Emotion Demands in Video Gaming

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Publication details

JournalMedia and Communication
DateAccepted/In press - 29 Nov 2019
DatePublished (current) - 20 Dec 2019
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)226-236
Original languageEnglish


Video gaming actively demands players’ attention, affording positive experiences like flow. Recent research has suggested to extend analysis from cognitive and physical to the social and emotional demands of gameplay. This paper argues that Erving Goffman’s concept of interaction tension offers a promising theoretical model for social demands. We report a re-analysis of qualitative interview data on the social norms of video gaming corroborating the model. As suggested by Goffman, video gaming features rich social norms regarding involvement. When spontaneously experienced and normatively demanded involvement misalign, players experience self-conscious disinvolvement and engage in unenjoyable, effortful self-control of their experienced and displayed involvement.


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