contemporary gamer persona

Not all personas belong to individuals, places, objects or organisations. Some personas are performed by a range of texts, images, and otherwise unconnected instances that are more than tropes and stereotypes. 

In this video, I’m going to introduce you to Tomkinson and Elliott’s account of the gamer persona, specifically as it is imagined and enacted by [G Fuel].

[Tomkinson, Sian and Elliott, Jordana 2020 Hype Source: G Fuel’s Contemporary Gamer Persona and its Navigation of Prestige and Diversity, Persona Studies. Vol, 6. No 2., https://doi.org/10.21153/psj2020vol6no2art971 ]

G Fuel is an energy drink manufactured in various formats and advertised by a range of social media influencers and entertainers typically associated with ‘gaming’.

Tomkinson and Elliot argue that the result is more than just marketing and branding, but a persona that has actively reimagined the gamer as an ‘athletic activity’ requiring mental and physical energy, connected to others in an exciting and glamorous lifestyle. 

They argue that: [“The contemporary gamer persona signals that there has been a shift in the popular discourses surrounding the ‘gamer’ identity in specific gaming micro-publics.” (p. 22)].

In this context, [Gamma Labs], has been able to form partnerships with micro-celebrities to appeal to a large global audience, negotiating between a commitment to diversity and controversial influencer figures.

It’s important to note that this ‘contemporary gamer persona’ identified by Tomkinson and Elliot is a very successful marketing and PR operation that exists in a post [‘Gamergate’] media landscape.

I’m going to add some resources on Gamergate to the learning platform for your reading, and I want to point to it as another kind of gamer persona but I don’t want to go into detail in this video:

Braithwaite, Andrea 2016. ‘It’s About Ethics in Games Journalism?’. Gamergaters and Geek Masculinity. Social Media + Society. October-December 1-10. 

Massanari, Adrienne 2017. #Gamergate and The Fappening: How Reddit’s algorithm, governance, and culture support toxic technocultures. New Media & Society. Vol 19. No. 3 pp 329 – 346.

[G Fuel is a multimodal and transmedia brand.]

The product itself comes in different packaged forms  – [a powder, a liquid and a candied ‘energy crystal]’ and these feature strongly in the mediatisation of the gamer persona and the trademarked slogan [“The Official Energy Drink of Esports.”]

Esports is a massive social media entertainment industry that prior to the global pandemic had a very popular physical presence but has maintained its interest online via sites like Twitch TV. 

[Collective]

Tomkinson and Elliot argue that the contemporary gamer persona is a collective performance of G Fuel and its more than sixty partnerships with influencers, gamers and athletes.

G Fuel is not limited to Epsort and is also associated with a number of contentious ‘gamer’ micro-celebrities.

Tomkinson and Elliot point out the controversial nature of the game persona is more than #gamergate but a long history in which the label of ‘gamer’ is associated with an affluent cultural identity and capacity for social capital and leisure time. They argue that historically the gamer persona has been largely represented by the media as being aggressive, young, heterosexual, white and male – despite more than a decade of research that points to the average gamer as being middle-aged women of diverse backgrounds. As the authors note:

“Indeed, in the US, UK, and Australia, women comprise around half of all players, and the average age of gamers is increasing (ESA 2020; Brand et al. 2020; Borowiecki & Bakhshi 2017).” P23.

The authors argue that G Fuel’s persona construction is mediatised by both its corporate [web presence] and its network of prestigious and diverse sponsored influencers. 

They provide a detailed textual analysis of the G Fuel website and the ways that Gamma Labs uses discourses of [health and athleticism] to frame their product in opposition to other energy drink brands. 

Using the representation of esports as a professional lifestyle the site lists “UFC fighters, eSports athletes, bodybuilders, skateboarders, YouTube stars, fitness models, and even NFL players” as key consumers.

Gamma Labs then builds on the representational strategies of the website by making alliances with social media entertainers and influencers to present themselves publicly as part of an elite collective of G Fuel partners – as part of the Team Gamma.

These micro-celebrities operate across Twitch, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube and many other social media platforms. 

Tomkinson and Elliot highlight G Fuels relationship with the esports organisation [FaZe Clan] – a team of professional gamers, with its own persona, brand and merchandising which they argue maintains: “… elements of the classic gamer in the sense that those who are male and highly dedicated to the hobby more easily gain legitimacy compared to women and minorities, as well as those who have a more relaxed attitude to gaming, play less often, or play so-called “casual” games.” (p.27)

Prestige is an important part of the FaZe clan contribution to the G Fuel contemporary gamer persona enabling a connection to a brand that is based on the representation of the individual as  “competitive, high-performing, dedicated, and stylish gamers that distance themselves from geekery”.

Tomkinson and Elliot’s analysis takes a close look at the value and reputation of the [YouTuber Keemstar] (Daniel Keem) who is known for being inflammatory and aggressive confrontational content on his channel DramaAlert. 

Keemstar’s own persona is highly controversial but arguably as successful as FaZe clan but it is a persona that seems to thrive on transgression and controversy to maximise his influence. 

Despite damage to his reputation with ongoing incidents and transgressions, G Fuel did not officially terminate their association with Keemstar but they did remove his products and merchandise from their store. 

FaZe, PewDiePie and Keemstar have all had controversies that seem to contribute to the rebellious and contentious characteristics that now express values associated with the contemporary gamer persona – however as [Tomkinson and Elliot] note: 

“Gamma Labs presents itself as being aware of women’s underrepresentation and poor treatment in multiplayer spaces, esports, game development and publishing, journalism, and content creation.

 G Fuel’s website contains a blog section that regularly publishes a “Women of G Fuel” series, consisting of interviews with female content creators. 

These interviews offer insightful details into the history and lives of women streamers, specifically how and when they started gaming, and what obstacles linked to their gender they have faced in their journey.

The Twitch streamer [NoisyButters] – Hannah Bryan – joined the G Fuel collective in 2020 with an official flavour ‘Star Fruit’ which is an interesting way to see the relationship between brand, product and persona. 

NoisyButter’s persona is associated with positivity and happiness, rather than the edgy humour of PewDiePie, the contentious drama of KeemStar and the esports higher competitiveness of FaZe clan:

[“By avoiding stigma and controversy, NoisyButters creates value for her persona through playing mainstream titles such as Call of Duty with great attention to game mechanics, and establishing a strong reputation through her consistent affirmance of personal values such as “positivity” and “happiness”.” ]

So to conclude, I recommend taking a look at the article and some of the other papers cited in it, to see the way the contemporary gamer persona has been largely legitimized by public male figures. And the way that it has become clear that the gamer persona is in a continuous flux because it is contributed to by a collective, which means a greater opportunity for further diversity and a range of representations that are starting to afford women and minorities better degrees of attention and respect. 

Thanks for playing.

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