In November 2008, HASTAC Scholars featured a forum on gaming called “Participatory Play: Digital Games From Spacewar! to Virtual Peace.” Given the interdisciplinary nature of video game studies, that forum cast a wide net and really demonstrated the variety of promising perspectives and investments being brought to the study of video games.
More recently, looking at the proliferation of sessions on games at HASTAC 2011, MLA 2012, the Marxism and New Media Conference at Duke, or the THATCamp Games at the University of Maryland, video game studies is finding critical, artistic, and pedagogical purchase but is still very much seeking its place in ever-shifting disciplinary territories as it continues to negotiate the complicated relationship between theory and practice.
In the unsettledness of this field, this forum recognizes those disciplinary forces that frequently attempt to silo the study of digital games into a narrow set of purposes, such as edutainment or gamification, or relegates digital gaming completely into the margins of “low” or “pop” culture. We seek to address how games have contributed to the digital humanities specifically, and how they might impact its future. In other words, where is video game studies in the digital humanities? And more broadly where can we identify intersections in cultural criticism, video game studies, and video game development?
The following are some questions to consider, organized into roughly three directions and points of pressure, which we hope will foster a good conversation:
1) New Approaches to Video Games
- How do games matter to the digital humanities?
- What are the affordances and constraints of video game studies? Pedagogy? Platforms? Politics? Everyday practice?
- How might we further interdisciplinary, multimodal approaches to video game studies (beyond the ludology/narratology debate, beyond the ethnography of players and synthetic worlds census-taking, beyond the “close”/“distant,” beyond serious/casual)?
- How might video games help bridge the gap between analog and digital archives, between cultural criticism and computational tools and methods?
- How might you ‘queer’ video game studies?
2) Video Games Pedagogy
- How do you teach video games as objects of study? How do you teach with video games?
- What are the benefits/challenges of teaching (with) games?
- How might video games complicate and challenge notions of “digital natives” or “digital labor”?
3) Gamefulness vs. Gamification
- How might video games encourage discussions about the role and importance of “play” in the digital humanities? What about gamification and the digital humanities?
- What are the various ways that gaming and gamification are at play in both our everyday lives and academic lives? What is the difference between the two?
- How might video game design (and play) be a critical practice? What are critical approaches to and critiques of “flow”?
To that end, we offer a simple and seemingly innocuous game as a common “text” or “object” for commentary, response, and analysis (click image to go to the game ImmorTall by Pixelante):
Play. Ponder. Post.
For further thoughts and provocations, see Michael Abbot’s “Backlash” at The Brainy Gamer, Ian Bogost’s “Exploitationware” at Gamasutra and “Taking Bully Seriously” at Serious Games Source, the Entertainment Software Association’s “Industry Facts,” Jane McGonigal’s February 2010 TED Talk “Gaming Can Make A Better World,” and Eric Zimmerman’s “Gaming Literacy: Game Design as a Model for Literacy in the Twenty-First Century” in Video Game Theory Reader Two. Sample games include: The ReDistricting Game and Peacemaker Game (these are mentioned in this article on teaching with video games in high schools and Liz Losh's post, "On Gaming, Politics and Reform").
Amanda Phillips (English, UC Santa Barbara)
Ergin Bulut (Institute of Communications Research, University of Illinois)
Alenda Chang (Rhetoric, UC Berkeley)
Melody Dworak (School of Library and Information Sciences, University of Iowa)
Grace Hagood (Rhetorics and Composition, University of South Carolina)
John Carter McKnight (Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology, Arizona State University)
Keywords for Video Game Studies graduate interest group at the University of Washington represented by:
Lisa Nakamura, Director of the Asian American Studies Program, Professor in the Institute of Communication Research, and Media & Cinema Studies Department at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Patrick Jagoda, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow and Instructor of New Media 2010-12, and Assistant Professor Starting in 2012, University of Chicago
Nina Huntemannn, Associate Professor, Department of Communication and Journalism, Suffolk University
Mia Consalvo, Canada Research Chair in Game Studies and Design at Concordia University in Montreal.