Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Moore School of Business


Business Administration

First Advisor

David Crockett


This research explores the legitimation of contested consumption practices in the context of a highly competitive online gaming community. Building on prior research, which has relied on an institutional perspective to shed light on how perceptions of legitimacy form and evolve in the marketplace, this research explores the role of legitimacy at the level of consumption communities to highlight the ways in which consumers socially construct “collective frames” which give meaning to action and organize these communities. In the empirical context studied here, online gamers have incorporated user-created modifications (e.g., modified game accessories, or "mods") into game play over the last several years. Though these mods are increasingly common, they remain explicitly prohibited by the game’s producers and their role in competition is heavily contested. I draw from the literatures on community, practice theory, new social movement theory and framing processes, as well as the multidisciplinary literature on legitimation to explain how consumers develop oppositional collective frames for the meaning and legitimacy attributed to an emergent contested practice. I then discuss the cultural production of inequality as a consequence of the legitimation process as the normalization of mod use restructures social organization and status hierarchy within the online gaming community. Qualitative data collection and analytical techniques are used to explore in-depth interview data, netnographic data, which includes online interactions in internet based gaming forums, as well as field notes from both participant and non-participant observation


© 2016, Nicholas J. Pendarvis