Dan Hunter et. al’s Amateur Media

Amateur Media collects essays that explore the blurred line between amateur and professional media producers in an era of user-generated content and digital distribution. The volume’s editors -- Dan Hunter, Ramon Lobato, Megan Richardson, and Julian Thomas -- organize a set of chapters that collectively argue for a more nuanced and fluid relationship between the commercial and noncommercial, the regulated and unregulated, and the corporate and independent media industries.

Deploying a range of critical perspectives and case studies, individual contributors comb the “margins” of media industries to historicize the shifting definitions of amateur media production. Furthermore, the collection makes a case for a more dynamic understanding of the role amateur media producers have played in new media economies, effectively arguing that these outsiders are the cornerstones of innovation and inspiration for more formal media economies. In this way, the collection challenges clear-cut distinctions between the professional and the amateur to embrace a more open and amorphous relationship between the two.

In this excerpt on amateur game production, Christian McCrea exemplifies the connections between small and large players in the games industry by arguing that, at a time of high uncertainty and significant market shifts, some of the most successful trends have emerged out of amateur and indie game development. For example, McCrea delineates how the indie darling Minecraft owes much of its design and subsequent commercial success to two niche amateur games, Infiniminer and Dwarf Fortress. He argues this relationship illustrates the way innovation often flows from the “bottom up” in digital games production. Moreover, McCrea maintains these small games trouble the very definition of amateur, noting how their design and mechanics reflect highly skilled, professional creators despite their origins in amateur economies. Accordingly, McCrea proposes a path for innovation that travels from amateur (noncommercial) to indie (commercial, bootstrap funding, defined by taste cultures) to professional (fully commercialized enterprises beholden to market trends), creating a supply chain of creative ideas that connects all game developers, big and small.

At a time when Google earns billions on the backs of amateur video producers and indie game creators frequently set the trends for the gaming industry, Amateur Media provides provocative insights into the changing nature of contemporary media production and the increasing interdependency between formal and informal media economies.

Hunter, Dan, Ramon Lobato, Megan Richardson, and Julian Thomas. Amateur Media: Social, Cultural and Legal Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 2013.

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