recreational capital



Video games: the reproduction of capital through electronic games

The process of commodification of social relations, arising from the very development of the capitalist mode of production, is a much-debated phenomenon, but still little theoretically deepened, especially from a radical critical perspective. Leisure, as a set of recreational activities, does not escape this process and becomes the target of society's growing commodification beyond the production process, constituting what we call recreational capital. Thus, a set of recreational cultural activities, such as movies, musical shows, amusement parks, recreational clubs, etc., become merchandise and merchandise, contributing to the reproduction of capital and, consequently, of the totality of capitalist society.

The so-called electronic games or videogames, with the development of technology, appeared in the mid-60s of the 2000th century and represent an important niche of entertainment and recreation. But it is from the 2013s, with the expansion and popularization of electronic games (both via consoles and in games executable on computers), that they become an important profitable sector within the dynamics of the world's recreational capital. In 65, the electronic games market moved more than 89 billion dollars and should reach 2018 billion by the end of 2014 (PWC, 2001). Although there are already some broader studies, especially on the social character of games and their constitution in society (HUIZINGA, 1986; CAILLOIS, 2005), there are still few analyzes, especially focusing on electronic games or also called videogames (JUUL, 2004; SALEN & ZIMMERMAN, 2007; SCHUYTEMA, XNUMX). This is due to the fact that most of the bibliography on electronic games is historical or merely descriptive, without the necessary theoretical analysis that allows going beyond the appearance of the phenomenon, understanding its multiple determinations.

From this angle, this text seeks to analyze the dynamics of electronic games in capitalist society, especially their contribution to the reproduction of capital. In this sense, our focus is based especially on the constitution of recreational capital and its appropriation of leisure and, in particular, of the so-called electronic games or video games. This is an introductory analysis that will later be better developed in a broader work.


The development of human history is marked by the succession of modes of production. In this way, in modernity, we live under the capitalist mode of production. From this angle, the fundamental characteristic that defines this mode of production is the production of wealth based on the extraction of surplus value from the bourgeois class over the proletarian class.

Thus, in capitalist society, the bourgeoisie – owner of the means of production – hires the work of the proletariat – devoid of means of production and owner only of the workforce. The proletariat's workforce sets the means of production in motion, constituting commodities. Commodities are sold and their value is defined by the sum of the value of the labor forces materialized in them with the value of the means of production (Cf. MARX, 1996).

The value of the means of production is the result of work previously developed and passed on to commodities. The value embodied in commodities by labor power is a value formed in the act of production. Insofar as the worker does not merely work to replenish the value of his labor power, but works beyond this time, he produces more value than is appropriated by the capitalist class. This is surplus value, which is the source of profit for the bourgeois class and is the main motivation for capitalist production.

As the bourgeoisie appropriates surplus value and reinvests this value back into production, capital is constituted. Capital consists, therefore, in investing value aiming at the return of surplus value. Thus, capital is the result of a social relationship of exploitation between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat in which the bourgeois class appropriates surplus labor from the proletariat and reinvests it in production to make a profit.

A commodity is a product that has a utility and can be exchanged for other commodities on the market. One full commodity in capitalism it is a product created specifically to be sold, that is, in which there is a preponderance of exchange value over use value. With the development and complexity of capitalist society, things that do not come directly from a capitalist industry are also appropriated in a mercantile way. Thus, as an expression of the commodification process of social relations, some things are sold, taking the form of goods, but not their substance. Therefore, these products are conceptualized as “mercancias” (Cf. VIANA, 2016).

Commodity-producing work is characterized by being productive work, because to the extent that it creates new value and is expropriated by capitalists, it is work that produces surplus value. As for commodity-producing work, it is unproductive work, as it only reproduces the exchange relations in society, it does not produce new value and does not result in the appropriation of surplus value by capitalists.

Within capitalist production, we have a capital that appropriates leisure. Leisure is understood here as a set of recreational activities carried out by human beings in a residual time in relation to work time, stop-work, time to satisfy basic needs and social obligations (Cf. VIANA, 2014). The capital that appropriates leisure is conceived as recreational capital (Cf. ORIO, 2019). We also have the production of goods and leisure goods. Capital that invests in the production of leisure commodities, such as games and toys, is recreational industrial capital, while capital that invests in the consumption of leisure commodities, such as movies and musical concerts, is recreational mercantile capital.

In the historical development of capitalism, we have the consolidation of commodified leisure from the post-war period, during the combined accumulation regime (Cf. VIANA, 2003). Thus, in the period in question, various forms of commodified leisure intensified, such as music, cinema, sporting and cultural events. Subsequently, with the regime of integral accumulation, there is an intensification of the extraction of relative and absolute surplus value both in the countries of dominant capitalism and in the countries of subordinated capitalism. There is the development of microelectronic technology and products such as TVs, VCRs and electronic games proliferate.

The video game, in this sense, expresses the reproduction of recreational industrial capital, as it comprises the production of electronic game reproducing devices, cartridges, CDs, DVDs and video discs. blu-ray containing the games. In addition, it also expresses the reproduction of recreational mercantile capital, since the games themselves are mercantile products without the substance of merchandise, constituting merchandise.

With the proliferation of travel packages, movies, cultural events, among other things, there is a plurality of commodified leisure offers for workers to enjoy in their moments away from work. Thus, there is little room for creativity, that is, for the planning of activities to be developed in free time from work autonomously. Leisure, therefore, does not express a moment of creativity on the part of workers. And in relation to the video game, it establishes itself as a leisure practice mediated by capital, replacing creative practices such as traditional children's games that do not need any merchandise or merchandise to be developed.

As a result, leisure in general and electronic games in particular constitute ways of reproducing capital in general, as in addition to filling workers' time outside of work, it also contributes to the reproduction of capital, with the sale of goods and goods intended for recreation. For this reason, leisure cannot be considered a space for the search for the transformation of society, since, insofar as it is another instance appropriated by capital, only with the break with capitalist society will it be possible to enjoy time in a truly free.

*Gabriel Teles is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of São Paulo (USP).

*Matthew Vieira Orio is a professor at the State University of Goiás (UEG).


CAILLOIS, Roger. The games and the men: the mask and the vertigo. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1986.

HUIZINGA, Johan. homo ludens. São Paulo: Perspective, 2001.

JUUL, Jesper. Half-Real: Video games between real rules and fictional worlds. Massachusetts:

MIT Press, 2005.

KORSCH, Karl. Marxism and Philosophy. Porto, Confrontation, 1977.

MARX, Carl. The capital. Critique of political economy. Book first. Volume 1. São Paulo: Nova Cultural, 1996.

MARX, Carl. Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. 2nd edition, São Paulo, Martins Fontes, 1983.

ORIO, Matthew. recreational capital. The capitalist appropriation of leisure. Curitiba: CRV, 2019.

PWC (PRICEWATERHOUSE COOPERS). Global entertainment and media outlook 2014-2018. Acquired at: (2014).

SALEN, Katie. ZIMMERMAN, Eric (eds.). The Game Design Reader: A rules of play anthology. The Mit Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. London, England, 2006.

SCHUYTEMA, Paul. Game Design. A Practical Approach. Translation by Cláudia Mello Belhassof; technical review by Paulo Marcos Figueiredo de Andrade. São Paulo: Cengage Learning, 2008.

VIANA, Nildo. The commodification of social relations. Capitalist mode of production and bourgeois social forms. Rio de Janeiro: Air, 2016.

VIANA, Nildo. The commodification of leisure. Free space, Goiania, v. 9, no. 18, p.56-68, Jul-Dec. 2014a. Available in: . Accessed on: 18 Mar. 08.

VIANA, Nildo. State, democracy and citizenship. The dynamics of institutional politics in capitalism. Rio de Janeiro: Achiamé, 2003.

See this link for all articles


  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • Letter to the presidentSquid 59mk,g 18/06/2024 By FRANCISCO ALVES, JOÃO DOS REIS SILVA JÚNIOR & VALDEMAR SGUISSARDI: “We completely agree with Your Excellency. when he states and reaffirms that 'Education is an investment, not an expense'”
  • A look at the 2024 federal strikelula haddad 20/06/2024 By IAEL DE SOUZA: A few months into government, Lula's electoral fraud was proven, accompanied by his “faithful henchman”, the Minister of Finance, Fernando Haddad
  • Strengthen PROIFESclassroom 54mf 15/06/2024 By GIL VICENTE REIS DE FIGUEIREDO: The attempt to cancel PROIFES and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the errors of ANDES management is a disservice to the construction of a new representation scenario
  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank
  • Chico Buarque, 80 years oldchico 19/06/2024 By ROGÉRIO RUFINO DE OLIVEIRA: The class struggle, universal, is particularized in the refinement of constructive intention, in the tone of proletarian proparoxytones
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives
  • The melancholic end of Estadãoabandoned cars 17/06/2024 By JULIAN RODRIGUES: Bad news: the almost sesquicentennial daily newspaper in São Paulo (and the best Brazilian newspaper) is rapidly declining