Other essays

“Beyond Minnows and Whales: Reconstructing Mobile Gaming for the Cross-Platform Franchise”

Steirer, Gregory and Matthew T. Payne. “Beyond Minnows and Whales: Reconstructing Mobile Gaming for the Cross-Platform Franchise.” White Paper research report presented to Warner Bros. Digital Distribution as part of the Connected Viewing Initiative sponsored by Warner Bros. and the University of California at Santa Barbara (2015).

Executive Summary:
This project identifies and evaluates possible methods of employing mobile gaming apps so as to support and increase consumption of cross-platform gaming franchises. In particular, we sought to analyze mobile gaming models that could drive engagement of cross-platform franchise games through connectivity features. We used market analysis, interface analysis, and small-scale focus testing among student gamers in order to identify the most promising engagement and cross-platform connectivity mechanisms given the current state of the mobile market and Warner Bros.’ own specific franchise and genre priorities. After producing an overview of the market and a general taxonomy of connectivity mechanisms, we examined the functionality of cross-platform interfaces according to three criteria: connectivity, visual/haptic design, and behavioral incentives. Though we expect publishers to continue to experiment with cross-platform franchise design over the next few years, our research suggests that unlockables represent the best mobile-to-console connectivity mechanism for their desirability and simplicity. Once we had concluded our primary research, we then applied our findings to the nascent WBPlay system so as to suggest how our research might inform WBIE’s future strategy with respect to cross-platform apps.

Articles (refereed)

“Parody as Brand: The Case of [adult swim]’s Paracasual Advergames”


Gurney, David & Matthew Thomas Payne. “Parody as Brand: The Case of [adult swim]’s Paracasual Advergames.” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 2014.


Advergames – a neologism for video games designed to advertise a product or service – are marketing devices employed to impact consumers’ purchasing decisions and, more frequently, shape their impressions of a promoted brand. The online advergames of the programming block-turned-media brand [adult swim] present a clear case in which the games act as rich signifiers of brand aesthetics even if they are not directly connected to the content of the brand’s TV shows, live events, and other assorted merchandise. Although these “casual”-style titles have gameplay mechanics that are accessible to broad audiences, these advergames often exhibit a critical stance toward other games, which differentiates them from the vast majority of casual games on the market. But rather than being anti-casual, we argue that these games are best understood as being paracasual because they use parody to both trouble prevailing definitions of casual games and advergames, and deploy an aesthetic disposition that further helps define the brand. Furthermore, they are an increasingly visible and vital component of a constellation of texts and practices that function as what James Paul Gee calls an “affinity space” for a lucrative audience demographic. This article assesses how [adult swim] games use parody to deconstruct textually video gaming’s most popular genres, and how such parodic deconstruction, as evidenced by players’ online discussions, serves as an affinity space for a media-savvy taste culture.