In the summer of 2018, I began work on a book project about the design and communities of customizable card games. Tentatively titled The Rebirth of Netrunner: On Metagaming a Dead Game, this book project focuses on the game Android: Netrunner and the many alternate forms of play that fan communities have used to keep it alive. I am currently working on a book proposal for this project, with the hopes of publication in 2023 or 2024.
I have been involved with this game and its community since 2013; I’m @scd on Stimhack, Stimhack Slack, Reddit, and Jinteki.net. This book project was originally going to focus on my experiences (some brutally frank ones, involving my own struggles with learning, anxiety, and competitive play) as well as interviews with members of the game’s community as seen in face-to-face and online settings. My original goal with this book was to provide both a take on how we can understand personal engagement with games as well as a new model for how we can tie together all of the many strands of a game into an interesting, compelling story. As it has evolved, I have become increasingly interested in how gaming communities take ownership of “dead games” like this, beginning to craft new futures for them despite the uncertain legality of such practices. In my eyes, the story of Netrunner is one of creativity, competition, diversity, and intellectual challenge; I seek to help others understand more about the life cycle(s) of games, their communities, and the ways games provide interesting new lenses for understanding multiple forms of media.
I have already written a fair amount about the game. I attended Android: Magnum Opus and the final World Championships in early September, 2018, where I chatted with players about their experiences with the game. I have written a few pieces about Android: Netrunner already — you can find my piece “Mandatory Upgrades: The Evolving Mechanics and Theme of Android: Netrunner” at the Analog Game Studies journal, and Antero Garcia and I wrote about Magnum Opus/the end of the game for Analog Game Studies in a piece entitled “Netrunners Wake: How a Living Card Game Dies.”
I have another solo-authored piece in a special issue of Well-Played on the “sporting mindset” entitled “Exploring the Sporting Metagames of Competitive Android: Netrunner.” This paper addressed fan communities around the game — from the Android: Netrunner Players Circuit through to NISEI — and focused on money, memes, and the “sporting metagames” that players make to resist the corporate stakeholders of a game. Additionally, this work was also presented as a talk that I delivered at the 2018 University of California-Irvine Esports Conference — click here for a great Twitter summary of the talk by Samantha Close and click here for the slides (warning: lots of big images). I also gave a talk regarding interface design and community practices around Jinteki.net at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies in 2018; those slides are available here (again, big PDF, so be warned).
I was also once very active in this game’s community, before its official shuttering. I was briefly a member of the community team for NISEI during its first year, and before that was (also briefly) an uncredited playtester during the ChiLo Cycle/Reign & Reverie period of Fantasy Flight’s final development of the game. I’ve recently (as of 2019) been involved as a consulting game designer in the fantastic Victorian-era reskinning project called Lacerunner, designed by Naomi Clark (more information here on Lacerunner and Naomi’s original goals with it).
If you’re interested in learning more or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at my first name dot my last name at virginia.edu. Please put “NETRUNNER PROJECT” in the subject line, and I’ll try to get right back to you.