Date of Award

Spring 5-17-2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Peggy M. Albers

Second Advisor

Teri Peitso-Holbrook

Third Advisor

Teresa R. Fisher

Fourth Advisor

Lynée Lewis Gaillet

Fifth Advisor

Tisha Y. Lewis

Sixth Advisor

Amy Seely Flint


Built upon symbiotic flow, that is a merging of flow theory (Csikzentmihalyi, 1975) and situated cognition (Gee, 2007) this dissertation presents the findings from a 6-month qualitative study of an elite gamer and his practices and experiences with video games. The study used mediated discourse analysis and case study methods to answer the following question: What does it mean to be an elite gamer, to one life-long player of video games? In addition, the following sub-questions were considered: a) What aspects of elite gaming are important and meaningful to one particular gamer? b) What moments of play does this gamer identify as significant? c) What does sustained play look like for one him?

Data sources included interviews, observations of significant gaming (that is gaming in heightened states of enjoyment and success), observation de-briefs, co-analysis interview, and a research journal. The researcher coded observational data for elements of symbiotic flow and in response to interview data. Data are presented in narrative, expository, and graphic forms across the study. This inquiry has resulted in the creation of the Model of Nested Transaction in order to articulate and understand the nature of significant gaming experiences. Additional significant findings include: a) Time is the primary resource and commodity in this particular player's elite gaming world, because it represents a level of dedication and insider status; b) this gamer values particular affordances in his gaming, namely experiences that develop knowledge and skills that can then be applied instantaneously in gaming contexts and be harnessed for longitudinal participation; c) video games provide the participant, and gamers like him, with possibilities for greatness, an aspect of his identity that is both critically important to him and often strikingly absent outside of games. The study argues for productive consideration of video games as a mediational tool of both meaningful learning and powerful identity exploration.