Background: Focusing on ways a common endeavor brings people together, Gee offered the concept of affinity spaces, which suggests that open participation without exclusion or membership is possible. This theory contrasts with Lave and Wenger’s communities of practice, which called attention to situated, hierarchical participatory practices. Bridging these two theories, we look to discussions of Discourses and specialist language and behavior to highlight how doing–being–valuing combinations situate people within a particular space in ways that can welcome open participation while supporting both inclusivity and exclusivity.
Purpose: This article defines and illustrates features of belongingness visible in videogame spaces, underscoring the dynamics of hierarchical participation in interest-driven practices, an important element to consider when attempting to make education more responsive to contemporary youth.
Research Design: This retrospective cross-case analysis includes data from two separate ethnographic studies of videogame affinity spaces. Data displays, as well as anecdotal notes, help facilitate the qualitative analysis of observations, interviews, field notes, and artifacts.
Findings: Within these videogaming affinity spaces, there were practices and value systems (i.e., Discourses) that promoted inclusivity and exclusivity. Data reveal specialist knowledge, interaction, and proficiency, in particular, to be prominent features in relationship-building in interest-driven participatory spaces.
Conclusions: This study calls attention to the doing–being–valuing combinations that situate one within a particular space while supporting inclusivity and exclusivity. A focus on belonging, therefore, revives the concept of community-based Discourses, honors the practices that situate learners in contemporary spaces, and helps researchers and educators understand how youth configure and reconfigure their social practices to seek inclusion by using and honing specialist language and behavior.