Blog Post

Looking for a Group: Video Game Forum Proposal

Greetings, all,

Six of the University of Washington's HASTAC Scholars simultaneously belong to a graduate interest group (GIG) funded by the Simpson Center for the Humanities, who sponsor our HASTAC nominations and provide for our working group.  The GIG is called Keywords for Video Game Studies, and we have planned a year-long series of reading groups/workshops organized around various "key" terms/vocabulary as a way to navigate the burgeoning field(s) of video game studies (e.g. play, immersion/interactivity, avatar, power/control, pedagogy).  For more information, go here: https://depts.washington.edu/critgame/wordpress/keywords/

To coincide with our GIG, we would like to propose to co-host a forum on video games/video game studies, inviting Scholars with aligned interests to help develop a focused yet fully-engaging forum.  Given the Scholars broached the topic last year (see http://www.hastac.org/forums/hastac-scholars-discussions/participatory-play-digital-games-spacewar-virtual-peace), we would like to think about how to extend that conversation but take it in a different direction.  The forum last year outlined a massive number of thought-threads.  The UW group have tossed around ideas about teaching with video games, video games as digital text/artifacts, humanistic and/or computational approaches to video games, the tensions between interface and interactivity, and the troublesome metaphor of the "digital native" particularly when invoked in tandem with video games.

Given the recent attention to video games in the media (e.g. Roger Ebert's redux of "why video games can never be art" -- see our discussions here: https://depts.washington.edu/critgame/wordpress/2010/06/do-video-games-matter/ and here: https://depts.washington.edu/critgame/wordpress/2010/08/how-do-games-matter/ and the Supreme Court hearings on the California law banning video game sales to minors and the intensifying cinematographicness of video games and video gameness of movies), a new lively forum seems timely and worthwhile.

It would be interesting to take up thinking about the different kinds of questions we can ask about video games and video game studies that break away from the intellectual, political, and aesthetic ruts we are all too used to seeing:

--how do video games matter (not why or do they matter or are they art)?
--how do we develop a common vocabulary for video game studies?
--can we escape from the freak-of-the-week thematics of violence?
--how might we bring new interdisciplinary, multimodal approaches to video game studies (beyond the ludology/narratology debate, beyond the study of players/study of synthetic worlds)?
--can we only talk about video games in terms of previous media?
--is the push toward computational/platform studies also a problem?
--how do we study, teach, learn with, produce scholarship about video games?

Again, these are meant to be brainstormy.  We'll pare down once we get a core group of hosts.  Please email me changed @ uw.edu if you are interested in co-hosting a forum like this and offer what you'd like to see addressed.  A special shout out to those who have already been active walking the walk and talking the talk about video games on the forums.  Please join us!  Thank you for your time and interest.  Keep up the good work!

Sincerely,
Ed Chang

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1 comment

I'm in.

Here are a few topics and issues that have been on my mind, and that may address some of the already mentioned concerns:

- the sudden industry buzz over "gamification" (the application of game-like strategies to non-game contexts), as attested to by GDC's "gamification summit" this coming year: marketing hoopla, games taking over the world, games being ruined by application to everything but the kitchen sink?

- games and the nonhuman (non-player characters, game environments, controllers, contexts of play or game places): is game criticism overly anthropocentric? This may be another way of stating the question regarding platform/software studies.

- cross-cultural analysis: where is it? Especially given the American game industry's tendency to look toward East Asia for our potential technological futures, and the prevalence of pro gaming or e-sports in Korea and Taiwan (to a lesser extent in North America).

- motion control and controller-free or "full body" gaming (Kinect's "You are the controller" rhetoric): paging Donna Haraway and Louis Althusser....

- social / casual games and handheld / mobile games: I'm lumping these together because they all seem to suggest the falsity of any necessary correlation between game success and graphic sophistication. Many of us are old enough to remember going ga-ga over text games or 8-bit graphics. And I know there are some of you out there who have already spent unhealthy amounts of time playing Angry Birds. Do we have to buy into Moore's law?

- digital ethnography: establishing best practices for conducting online research in virtual worlds and metagame areas like user forums

- marketing: increasing corporate intrusion into what is typically seen as the "protected" space of games, as well as the reverse extrusion of games into the "real world" (see gamification, above), e.g. controversy over the placement of recent Medal of Honor billboards (a professor I know was, for instance, disappointed in their prominent placement in Oakland communities already troubled enough by gun-related violence)

Alright, enough gab. Thanks for proposing! I look forward to the discussion.

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