Wresting Fans as Players, Performers as Characters: Conceptualizing WWE Storytelling and Production in terms of Games and Play
MetadataShow full item record
This thesis aims to position mediatized professional wrestling as a game, applying various play and game-related metaphors to its transmedia storytelling model, in an attempt to re-structure and understand the activities of WWE fans, performers, and executives. The introductory chapter gives an overview of the WWE and its play world called kayfabe, where the author justifies the conceptualization, linking WWE fan activities and WWE’s transmedia storytelling to the concept of play and games. The first chapter conceptualizes WWE audiences as players of the game, applying the concept of playful identity to establish the double experience for fans immersed in play with respect to professional wrestling storytelling. The concept of player typologies establishes roles that fans can partake in, broadly defining their motivations for their engagement with the game. In the second chapter, the focus shifts to the wrestling ring used for staging playful transmedia narratives and WWE performers interpreted as characters in the game. I explore the performative potential of these narratives, taking into account the impact of real-life texts which influence the play world of kayfabe. The role of aestheticized WWE violence is also discussed in relation with playful engagement and the boundaries of the play. Case studies showcase how WWE narratives are shaped by real life and kayfabe, and demonstrate the participatory culture that transmedia storytelling engenders amongst its publics. The theoretical framework of the third chapter derives from the concept of Ecology of Games, framing WWE’s production as a game from a cultural studies perspective, factoring the activities of various industries and societal spheres that hold a stake in the production of WWE narratives. This framing also specuates on narrative production processes being approached playfully. In the conclusion, the author explores how the WWE is changing its storytelling methods and production values due to restrictive measures in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, forcing the WWE to experiment with available resources and technology to enhance its online and digital experience for WWE fans. Potential avenues for future research into mediatized professional wrestling are explored in the final section.