Digital archives, fandom histories, and the reproduction of the hegemony of play


  • Taylore Nicole Woodhouse University of Wisconsin-Madison



Fan archives, Video games


Fan-made videos documenting the history of video games are growing in popularity on social media platforms like YouTube. These histories help fans imagine their communities by telling stories about who belongs and what modes of fandom are accepted. The fan archives that fan-historians draw from when constructing and narrating history thus play an important role in determining who can and cannot be represented in fan histories. As a case study of a fan-made history video about League of Legends (2009) makes clear, the archive of game play footage that League of Legends fans use to create their history videos contributes to the writing of histories that imagine a fan community devoid of women, people of color, and others who have historically been marginalized within gaming culture. On commercial platforms like YouTube, fan archives are powerfully shaped not only by fans and fan culture but also by the computer algorithms that process, organize, and present information. The algorithmic curation of League of Legends' game play footage archive presents an image of the game’s fandom in which women and people of color are invisible—an invisibility reproduced and reified as fans use the archive to write histories of their community.