Press Start to Continue: Toward a New Video Game Studies

Press Start to Continue: Toward a New Video Game Studies

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").

 

HOSTED BY:

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:

Edmond Chang (English)
Theresa Horstman (Learning Sciences)
Terrence Schenold (English)
Natascha Karlova (Information Science)
Sarah Kremen-Hicks (English)

INVITED GUESTS:

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. 

79 comments

I’d like to address the question of “new” approaches to video games, as I’ve staked my own work on this very idea that game studies could benefit from a variety of other disciplinary influences and methods. My personal project has been to mediate encounters between new media theory, especially in regards to games and other computational media, and environmental criticism as evolved in literary theory, science and technology studies, environmental science, and ecological economics. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in negotiating the relation between the “old” and the “new” that we forget to move and meditate laterally.

New may not be the right word
Those of us interested in games as media must come to terms with the fact that games are no longer the new kids on the block. At this point, neither are they subcultural (most of them, anyway). We are now dealing with a medium that can be enshrined by the Smithsonian and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and at the same time betoken the worst sorts of mainstream, mass consumerism. Conclusion: The defense of games and game studies can no longer derive from claims of newness and access to cabal-like mysteries.

This is not to say that we can’t generate innovation in both game design and scholarship. Game scholarship is heading in new directions, game industries are developing and exploring new tools, distribution channels, and aesthetics, and gamers themselves are shifting demographically. As Jesper Juul documents in his book on the “casual revolution,” being a gamer is less an inherent attribute—either you are or you aren’t—than it is a malleable description of practices that change throughout one’s lifetime, whether from “hardcore” to “casual,” single-player to “social,” or genre to genre. Conclusion: The times, they are a-changin’?

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I would like to second Alenda's insightful point that the old / new, "games are important because they're new and different" discussions have lost their relevance and usefulness in advancing the critical study of games. This framing of the study of game media was in part responsible for an early theme in the scholarship of obsessively distinguishing games from everything else, conceptualizing them in ways that made the needed interdisciplinary thinking and work harder to imagine and do (to say nothing of getting it published!). In fact, one could argue that part of the origin story of game studies was the struggle to establish the idea that games are not narratives--that they were a radically "new" textuality, but this just delayed the needful discussions of how games related to the inherited media ecology, how they used narrative, music, video, etc. to new effects. Too much focus on the “what” and not enough on the “how.” What's more, the high profile work that got published early on tended to be very formalist, conceptual, and theory-centric, making it hard to engage in discussions of time/temporality and the experiential qualities of games--aspects of gaming that seemed to be thrown out with narrative (baby with the bathwater?).

I would also like to add that growing game studies and enlarging our understanding of game media requires that we finally overcome (or at least rethink the value of) the assumption that games are a uniform "medium." They are not. What does Higinbotham's "Tennis for Two" have to do with Blizzard's "World of Warcraft"? Not much. The point is that there is a lot of talk about games that stays on the level of "games." The problem with this abstract entry point right now is that it allows people to assume their own archives (what counts as a "game," their concrete exemplars) without making them explicit. It is hard to avoid when you're caught in the throes of legitimization - everyone wants us to speak for the value of Games. But I think one problem facing the growth of game studies is the paucity of sustained and, echoing Alenda, methodologically diverse inquiry into specific games. I know that is a struggle against the "tyranny of the new" in games culture (heck, in academia, too) that may be futile, but I'd like to see it.

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Thanks, Terry! I completely agree on the need for a greater plurality of methods and disciplinary crossovers. And I don’t think this necessarily entails discarding the already useful contributions from narrative theory, film theory, computer science, and so on. I could list numerous suggestions for novel combinations, but for discussion's sake I'll focus on two:

- We need more comparative and transnational study. Let's not make the usual error of treating the Western world as the source of cultural matter for the rest of the world, prime examples being Hollywood cinema or canonical British literature. One of the fascinating things about games is that we could easily argue that East Asia is, in fact, the dominant trendsetter, something rarely acknowledged in game scholarship beyond the fascination with Japanese RPGs.

- Let's remember to also address ourselves to the world outside of games. I don't mean we have to simply jump on the “serious” games bandwagon or learn to make games ourselves, but we should enrich our understanding of games by studying the effects of labor, capital, region, policy, community, etc. on cultural production and consumption (e.g. my ongoing research on farm games and the way they generally leave aside relevant economic, environmental, and social factors).

128

Just to underscore Alenda's very important point, our exploration of games, game culture (whatever that is), the games industry and gamers must contextualize these practices. We might work on specific locals, but we should strive to discuss local practice within a global context. Yes, let's not make the error of creating canons of US or Japanese games, or privilege the gameplay of Western, industrial nation players. But for me this is also about paying attention to the transnational distribution (both formal and informal) of games and game content; investigating the entire production process, from raw materials mining in Africa to console manufacturing and assembly in China, to out-sourced game dev and middleware dev in Eastern Europe, India and Russia; platform hacking in Brazil, and so on. There are so many rich areas for exploration beyond the usual suspects. This past year, while working on an anthology with Ben Aslinger about global gaming, I've been lucky to meet many wonderful scholars outside of North America, Australia or Northern Europe who are doing local work that goes a long way to broaden the geographical scope of game studies. Plenty or good work to be excited about and good folks to collaborate with!

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On that note, we had a great conference here last year on the business and culture of gaming in East Asia. I was blown away by presentations from Korean gaming executives and game scholars from Taiwan, for instance Holin Lin's work on differences in Chinese and Taiwanese WoW player communities (exacerbated by the Chinese government's shutting down of mainland WoW servers, the influx of Chinese players to Taiwanese servers, cultural and political differences, and even linguistic differences between traditional and simplified Chinese characters).

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Just a note that it's not too late to submit abstracts to the Journal of Virtual Worlds' special focus on Asia issue: http://jvwresearch.org/index.php/2011-07-30-02-51-41/for-authors/8-about...

 

We are interested in topics like socio-cultural framings of virtual worlds, game-based worlds and the communities that emerge within them as well as special technologies that have emerged in the region. Commentators such as Engeström (1999) have given us lenses through which to investigate such interactions and growth.

 

Authors submission of abstract: Mar 1, 2012 using the Journal the system (login at the top right of the journal site, state that you aim at the Asian Perspective issue.) Abstract submission will give authors quick feedback and allow editors to identify reviewers asap.

 

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Excellent point about the need to get past treating "games" as a monolithc object of study. This was, of course, part of what fed the ludology/narratology wars - people were playing radically different games and generalizing from their own work. The prominence - now fading - of "virtual worlds" in academic study, both game worlds such as the studied-to-death World of Warcraft and the non-game Second Life muddied the waters also, as much of what tended to get studied was social interaction around the platform rather than issues more directly linked to the platform.

You suggest an important reminder for teachers of games studies: students tend not to be "well-played," on an analogy to "well-read," but knowledgeable in one or a few genres. Genre and platform literacy cannot be assumed, but must be introduced, taught and checked carefully to ensure meaningful participation.

A more challenging issue - related to "the tyranny of the new" -  is the role of classic games: while students would expect to see "old movies" in a film studies course, playing "old games" can meet with more resistance, and may require framing work and patience.

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These are all great points, John. I'm especially interested in seeing Games Studies as such, as well as the pedagogical treatment of games, move past the idea that games are "objects of study" at all. In fact, our "object of study" is an unstable and subjective set of processes and objects that at best reach temporary moments of stability in the practice of a particular player (or group of players). This is an incredibly messy reality but, as Ian Bogost has suggested in "Videogames are a Mess," it's not one we can avoid. (Constance Steinkuehler's work touches upon this is as well, esp. in "The Mangle of Play.")

Among other things, this means we've got to juggle our students' particular literacies, experiences, backgrounds, and subjectivities with any number of other concerns that are so often set aside. For example, what about our students' physical abilities and skill sets? How does skill play into their experiences of games? Or the broad set of issues related to our students bodies? Or as another (potentially related) example, why are some students skilled at console games, while others are skilled at PC games, and others prefer board games, or sports? How do we parse this question, as it relates to physicality, gender, age, economic background (i.e. computers are expensive!), or any number of other issues?

116

I'm going to keep these on hand as a reminder going into every games studies class I teach. Staying grounded in the specifics of practices also means staying grounded in, and aware of, the specifics of our students' embodied experiments.

 

And, Steinkuehler's "The Mangle of Play" is one of my favorite pieces in the field!

104

Also, the question of "old" games raises various problems, for both pedagogy and scholarship, about how one encounters these games. There are many unexplored questions surrounding emulation, for instance.

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This is an aside and probably could be cross-threaded with the pedagogy discussion: I am struck by this idea of 'encountering' games and about 'old' games.  My current focus group class on video games and other media (co-taught with Sarah Kremen-Hicks) has addressed some of these concerns, particularly the nostalgia we have for 'old' games, the (in)ability to access older games, and the very different sociality and embodiment of playing old games (e.g. stand-up arcades).  The work of archiving old games, game worlds, and game systems is already underway.  But emulation, like simulation, does not always capture the full experience of playing a game. 

110

Thanks for putting together this rich forum and inviting me to respond.

I would add to Alenda's important point that "newness" remains a limiting concept not only in the area of videogame studies but in so-called "new media studies" in general. The new, in this context, is often merely assumed, celebrated, or fetishized. It is useful to discuss the new, of course, but it requires more precision. Whenever I hear the category of "new media" named, a number of questions come up for me: What precisely is the "new"? What assumptions about discontinuity (and continuity) are associated with claiming that a form or a medium is new? What is the relationship between newness and tradition? What types of investments, cultural and political, accompany claims of novelty? Moreover, who, in various situations and at different historical moments, is invested in the newness of things?

The new can be a pathway into thought. The new can be both a danger and a promise. And sometimes a danger precisely because of its promise. Whenever I think of the new, I cannot help but return to Adorno, especially as he grapples with this concept in the posthumously published Aesthetic Theory. In a reflection on art, Adorno observes, "The abstractness of the new is bound up with the commodity character of art. This is why the modern when it was first theoretically articulated — in Baudelaire — bore an ominous aspect. The new is akin to death." The new, for Adorno, is a compulsion of the object itself. It is a quality of that which is not yet consumed. The new is central to the commodity character of art. Whether or not videogames are art (which may be the wrong question to ask or a very limited one), they are popular and profitable commodities. If you take into account the combined growth of console, PC, portable, and online games, estimates suggest that games were a $56 billion business in 2010 and some estimates suggest that they're poised to reach somewhere between $70 and 82 billion by 2015. We cannot think videogames (in general or at the level of specific games) without taking into account their role within different transformations of capitalism.

But videogames are not merely commodities. Despite numerous formalist attempts to define "games" and "videogames," they remain irreducibly multifaceted (which explains, in part, the growing interest in this field). Ian Bogost's recent (new?) book How to Do Things With Videogames shifts away from defining the form of videogames and seeks instead to explore their various affordances. This move strikes me as sensible and generative. In different contexts, videogames operate as art, entertainment, political tools, branding mechanisms, relaxation techniques, exercise aids, pranks, educational vehicles, and much more. This diversity is a sign, to me, that games are unquestionably an important area of study for anyone interested in exploring culture in the latter half of the twentieth and early twenty-first century. That we must study these games in a specific way, as Terrence has already suggested in this forum, is an important point. How best to oscillate between specificity and abstraction, between particular games and (whatever we mean by) game theory, between analysis and design, will remain key methodological questions for this area of study. This area is, after interventions by Johan Huizinga, Roger Caillois, Chris Crawford, Janet Murray, Ian Bogost, Nick Dyer-Witheford, Katie Salen, McKenzie Wark, Jesper Juul, and many, many others, not a series of isolated interventions but a vibrant and growing academic field.

112

Overall, although all of the forum topics are interesting, I am most interested in thinking more about developing cultural and studies approaches to video games (which will translate to further scholarship, game design, but also critical gaming pedagogies and practices).

I was lucky to get to present this year at MLA on these ideas and to draw attention to the fact that current games with queer content tend toward “window dressing."  Yes, you can romance a same-sex partner in Dragon Age or woo an alien (of the same sex?) in Mass Effect.  Yes, you can select a same sex spouse in Frontierville or encounter a queer character here and there.   Moreover, much of this is either taken up as shock value (certainly by mainstream and often homophobic players) and titillation, is recuperated back into heteronormativity, or it simply does not matter because algorithmically there is no difference.

I see the need to push the need for intersectional approaches to look not only at gender and sexuality but also race, class, and other (hetero)normative logics.  I mean looking at the sample game ImmorTall, how might we talk about the gendered representation (in only a few pixels) of the girl, boy, mother, and father?  How might we talk about the reinscription/protection of the nuclear family?  And how might we talk about the role of the alien/other as sacrifice for the well-being and continuation of the family?

And even beyond all of that,  I want to think intersectionally when it comes to certain foci of video game studies itself--the need to look not only at code and platform or gameplay and reception or representation and narrative as independent.  How might the simplicity of the side-scroller mechanics reinforce the lack of choice and enforce the logics of normativity in ImmorTall?  

I look forward to all of the threads that will undoubtedly be spawned from such a great forum.  Thanks to everyone who helped put it together.  And thanks to everyone who weighs in.  

110

I really do dislike the phrase "window dressing," because it implies that "just representation" is really incidental to meaning in a way that procedures and such are not. Sometimes it is, like your examples about BioWare's recuperation of queer desire into a heteronormative frame, but I'm really skeptical that this is always a bad (or meaningless) thing to do. Even if being queer doesn't affect the outcome of a game, doesn't the option to dress the windows in your own way (particularly in a way that is potentially subversive) a meaning-making device in itself?

And what happens when queerness/race/gender/etc DO have some sort of impact on gameplay? Sometimes it is (more or less) benign, like the stat boosts given in Valkyria Chronicles when you place soldiers near other soldiers of their preferred gender (take that, DADT!), and sometimes it is more problematic, like giving "racial traits" or bonuses to characters in DnD-style RPGs.

I haven't had a chance to dig into Skyrim yet, but I one thing that struck me while playing Oblivion is that NPCs recognize your race, mostly in benign ways like calling you by that name - "Greetings, Redguard!" (although now that I actually type that out it doesn't seem so benign at all). Ian Bogost writes about San Andreas that one remarkable thing is the way NPCs don't recognize race. There are obviously more and less problematic ways to do this, but imagine what a powerful meaning-making device that could be. Can anyone else think of any really problematic and/or insightful uses of gender/race/sexuality in games? Perhaps we can brainstorm some readings on the fly....

134

There is an interesting article to be written about the handling of race in The Elder Scrolls series, specifically in III-V (Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim). Oblivion is the least interesting, while Morrowind and Skyrim are equally intriguing, mainly because they take place in provinces in Tamriel that have built-in racial tensions. In Skyrim, home of the Nords (a white, viking-inspired race), the Khajiit & Argonian (the cat race * lizard race, respectively) are heavily discriminated against (in some cases relegated to living in slums or outside of towns in huts, e.g.) and the game actually makes you *feel* this, somewhat: character dialogues, staged events, and quests reflect this - it is not just there as a background dynamic. Also, the Stormcloak faction questlines and the leadership have a racial purity theme that is unsettling, seemingly by design. I haven't thought very critically about it, and this is not my area at all, but I have a sense that in RPGs Skyrim is more interesting and engaged on race than most.

114

I'm trying desperately to find a blog post that talked about how easy it is to commit genocide against people of color in Skyrim but am coming up with nothing. I found the link through Twitter and if I manage to come up with it again, will share it with you! 

113

@Amanda: I agree that representationality (If that's even a word) is not something to be discarded, and perhaps I make might point too emphatically.  But I do often find that much talk of queer/race/gender-ness (particularly from my students) usually is too simply located in whether or not a game represents such things stereotypically or critically and that's that.  I'm thinking of gaming site lists of "gay" or "queer" characters or plotlines.   Some representation is better than none, I suppose.  But I would like to see further exploration of these things to see whether these characters or plots or choices provide more than narrative purchase and/or how they are fleshed out or recuperated back into normative narratives. 

I do think that it is important, as you suggest, to connect what happens on the screen to the selections a player makes to what's churning along in the machine.  I just had this conversation with a colleague here at UW (@m_kopas) about this very thing: he described the importance of being able to play with the configurable possibilities of Fable III, for example, in cross dressing and crossing desires within the game world.  But more important how 'fun' and 'useful' that was as players to be able to "countergame" in ways intended and unintended by the game.  Given that the Keywords group here just did a session on "alternative" ways to play (including spectating) and fandom, I also think the possibilities are rich when looking at how race/gender/sexuality get taken up outside of the game itself (how far does that 'magic circle' extend?).

106

Would love to hear more about that conversation re: Fable III. I gave a paper about butch avatars at UCLA Queer Studies this year, and Fable II/III was one of my examples. Fable II, as a masculine-identified woman, had the most satisfying avatar progression system, but the beefy female avatar ultimately turned a lot of gamers off and they removed the body growth system in the sequel. I appreciated the ability to play gender in multiple ways in Fable II and its sequel, but ultimately for me it turned into a weird gender-negating experience. My character, for instance, started racking up a lot of STDs after a while because it is impossible to have safe lesbian sex in the game - condoms are only for males.

Fable III did enable safe lesbian sex, but you still have to use a condom.

It's in these details that the gender-bending possibilities of Fable really break down for me, because it ultimately marks them as superficial gestures at best or failure to mark gender at all, at worst. I know there are design limitations but it's a baffling omission.

76

Becky Chambers at the blog The Mary Sue has been rocking gender/sexuality analyses of games lately, particularly Star Wars: The Old Republic.

I'm going to be using her most recent post in my undergrad class as an example of how to do a close reading of a game - and how to write well for new media.

http://www.themarysue.com/the-hey-sweetheart-scenario-deconstructing-how...

114

I also read The Border House, which provides coverage fairly exclusively of queer, feminist, critical race, and disability studies-relevant content, many of which are close readings of the kind you post here. The Escapist does some, as well, but not nearly as often. There's also The Gay Gaymer Lesbian Gamers, and so on. Border House is my source for more academic-type readings, though. And there's always the troopers at Shakesville, many of whom are gamers and who have borne the brunt of coordinated harassment attacks from gamers upset at their critiques of Fat Princess and Penny Arcade's Dickwolves fiasco, for example.

Any others people can share?

120

Worth mentioning Mia Consalvo's work on The Sims, for example in "Hot Dates and Fairy-Tale Romances" and "It's a Queer World After All." I've used this to teach along with gameplay clips, like "Bears in Games."

117

The use of video games in education continues to increase as a number of government, industry, and academic organizations are working towards understanding how to best incorporate and/or capture the potential of video games as learning tools. In the last few years its seems overwhelming the diversity of settings and uses of games for learning. In my own work I enjoy looking at the design process and how educational content gets interpreted and "incorporated" into game play. I think there may be conflicts between instructional design strategies and game design strategies (industry standards) and the merging of learning objectives into game play is a complex endeavor.

I truly appreciate the diverse experiences in this community and I'm looking forward to hearing about your experiences and opinions about video games and pedagogy. In addition to the questions above I’m curious about if you are using games to demonstrate specific learning objectives? if so, how are you doing this? Do you let the learning experience emerge through play unscripted or how do you guide your students (or your own learning) through game play?

101

Betty Hayes and I have been teaching an undergrad games studies course uniting new media reading/writing, academic readings across disciplines, and gameplay across genres for two years now. Typically we state a theme and learning objectives for the week, assign ~3 readings drawn from academia, blogs and news media, and assign a game. They're then asked to write a blog post on their gameplay, drawing on the readings if/as useful.

We've been steadily adjusting the model: last year we used short play assignments in a lot of games, while this year we're playing a few games in greater depth. It all seems to work fairly well

If anyone's interested, I can post links to our syllabi.

107

Sorry for the delay in response. I was right in the middle of general exams when the forum went live. Now that I'm out from under that milestone I feel I can participate!

Thanks for sharing your teaching experience. It would be great if you wouldn't mind linking to your syllabi, the organization of classroom content surrounding a theme lends itself to an interesting interdisciplinary experience. 

I've also been thinking about the challenges of allowing for emergent learning through less-scripted play experience but being able to tie these experiences to assessments or standards without reverting to traditional testing. I don't really have any answers and perhaps it involves a change in policy of what is considered appropriate assessment :)

106

I come to HASTAC from a different background from most of the Scholars: I’m in a science and technology studies program where I focus on the user, rather than the designer, experience.  I’ve found STS is a wonderful lens for teaching games studies: where some humanities approaches reify “texts,” STS tends to deconstruct “objects” into networks. One advantage to this approach for undergraduate pedagogy is its ability to refute the opinions, even of avid young gamers, that games are trivial.

We can present the game as not just images on a screen or an object in a box, but as a node in a network of social practices – from playing Call of Duty with dorm buddies to World of Warcraft in a Chinese internet café; to the economics of gold farming; cross-genre writing about games (we started this semester with articles by a literary journalist, a games designer, and an academic); the construction and performance of identity, including race and gender; a range of technologies; and the divergent disciplinary perspectives of the humanities, social sciences, engineering, programming and law.

The STS approach is inherently trans- or post-disciplinary, which can be a great advantage in teaching students from a broad range of departments, experience and interest. We are able to mobilize rhetorics of design, programming, writing and play; to use music, dance and humor in an integrated and authentic way. Offering students more points of contact with their own interests and backgrounds has enabled great engagement and creative thinking among our students.

Breaking down the boundary of the text (and stomping all over the games-studies concept of the “magic circle,” a legacy of class-ridden Edwardian notions of the amateur and the child), enables us to start from an integrated view of social justice and social responsibility while giving students tools to interrogate critically their relations with technologies, beginning with the familiar and intimate ones of the electronic game.

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John: I'm definitely influenced by the STS attention to networks of actants--institutions, practices, things, people, animals, microbes, and so on--because to me, it's inherently ecological thinking. I still find it convenient to consider games as "texts," but the STS perspective is a useful corrective, and speaks to the ways I'm trying to perforate game worlds and make them permeable to social and environmental realities.

Plus, now we really need a witty cartoon of someone stomping all over the magic circle.

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Yep, Zimmerman's post is an important piece: but the critical response to it on the GAMESNETWORK listserv is an important piece of the discussion, and a shame it was limited to such a narrow forum.

 

Zimmerman says great things from game design, but it's a mistake to think "there is no magic circle jerk," given the continued dominance of the trope (and some utility for it, much as I loathe it) in law, "virtual worlds" studies and other fields.

I didn't feel I had the chops (or the time this week) to make that point adequately; it was great to see top scholars addressing Zimmerman on that listserv.

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I do not have a teaching background, but as a student in a library and information science program, I am trained to think of the person using the game before I considering the system. What are those gamers’ human needs? What are their knowledge needs? What I find fascinating about the era of online gaming that we’re in is the information sharing that happens between users in online forums. So the questions about pedagogy make me think about the teacher that’s not standing in the room with them. What are the secrets to successful peer-to-peer learning online?

Virtual networks improve a person’s capacity to make it through the game world and may increase that person’s weak ties. What’s the magic that’s happening there? I’m sure the majority of users may sign into a forum few times, but there have to be consistent personalities and leaders in forums for them to thrive. How do pseudonymously consistent users (consistent across different forums) build up reputations for themselves online that lead to out-of-game opportunities? 

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This is going to sound old coming from me, but I've been thinking a lot about disciplinarity lately. In my recent blog post, Disciplining our Disciplines, I discuss using some of Clare Hemmings' citation strategies as a ways to start holding the community accountable for the problematic discourse in its midst. My inspiration was, in fact, the dissertation chapter I had been working on, which covers some of the discourse communities surrounding video games.

Defining a discipline is not straightforward work. How do we determine who is a "real" game studies scholar and who isn't? The territorial disputes around narratology vs. ludology (which are not over yet no matter how sick we are of hearing about it and I've seen the publication feedback to prove it) started the discipline off on a fairly hostile note, and I'm not sure we've really passed through that yet. Does the stuff published in other disciplines' journals count as good game studies, or are they too influenced by non-ludological thought? What's the difference between Game Studies and Games and Culture as journals? Do blogs count? What about blogs from non-academics? Or non-academic blogs from academic writers?

I'm not trying to encourage the drawing of restrictive and/or arbitrary boundaries, because to some extent that's what NvL was about. But if we acknowledge that we're still in some ways trying to carve out a space, how do we as a group define that space? Game studies is moving into its second decade, and I think those of us who wrote the prompt, at least, have acknowledged that it's not so easy to say what is game studies and what isn't. Does it matter?

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Amanda, you're hitting on exactly the kind of questions that I'm working through in my post on legitimacy and game studies. I'm interested in how the question of "who owns games studies" and the question of "who owns writing" intersect, since I see a lot of the same debates about territoriality and disciplinarity in both. And I think the language of carving out a space for game studies is very telling. There is a sense from other scholars sometimes that we're trying to diminish, appropriate, or infringe on their turf. This is why I think the trope of networks is useful since what we're talking about with a network is connecting disciplines, moving through, and resisting boundaries.

I don't have any answers here, but I think the questions are productive and necessary.

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I would also add the strategy of organizing inquiry around actual games rather than by disciplinary discourses, genre, or theoretical arguments could also help here. The early anthology publications were to theory-obsessed or approach-themed that common interests in specific games got lost.

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Grace, I love that we posted basically the same thing at the same time, and that Terrence then followed up with a post I was planning to write in response to one of the upstream threads. I'll try to keep the nesting separate so as not to confuse the thread, but I want to respond here to say that I ABSOLUTELY think that more close readings of games from different disciplinary perspectives might come in handy for figuring out what exactly game studies is. I've seen some promising articles in Game Studies recently in this vein, but the only collections I can think of are The Meaning and Culture of Grand Theft Auto and The Legend of Zelda and Philosophy. It's telling that these are also published through publishers that certain academics might stick their noses up at. I'm not as up-to-date on publishing politics, but I would love if someone with that kind of expertise could contribute with a bit of a rundown on what makes these types of studies less attractive than more abstract/wide-ranging works.

I'm actually planning a panel with some friends for the SCLA's "Future of Comparative Literature" conference in Las Vegas, with the theme of gaming. It'll be a panel on God of War from a variety of academic perspectives - queer studies, critical race studies, classics, and one more that we're trying to figure out! (if anyone has a good angle on GoW, I would be open to suggestions)

Anyway, close readings of literature helped theorists to develop new ways of thinking about it, so it follows that if we see more game-centric studies (even if they are just in journals rather than collections) would do the lateral thinking that Alenda posited up top.

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Amanda, thanks to you + the other hosts for putting together such a fascinating and timely forum. I find this particular comment to be especially interesting in that it seems to exemplify the micro-level disciplinary issues that the broader digital humanities are currently experiencing (IF you even want to situate game studies within DH, though most DHers in general seem to want game studies). Matthew Gold's Debates in the Digital Humanities has some extremely interesting essays on disciplinarity and discipline formation, definition, classification, etc. Much of the debates revolve around openness vs. exclusivity (i.e. who counts as a DHer, what kind of work counts as DH, etc.), especially in terms of building vs. theorizing. In my opinion, some of the more interesting responses to the debate (Matthew Kirschenbaum, Patrik Svensson) define DH as something more akin to a state of mind, a social community, a methodology, rather than a discipline, field, or something you can tangibly point to and say "That's DH, that's not DH." Self-reflexivity and self-identification seem to be useful concepts for more inclusive disciplinary definitions. I'm wondering what your take on game studies as social community or methodology might be, vs. game studies as institutionalized discipline? What would be at stake in a broader institutionalization? 

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Dana, I definitely think of these disciplinary maneuvers in the context of Debates in DH. We in the #transformDH collective are kind of obsessed with that idea of openness in DH, in expanding the possibilities of what it means so that more rigorous work can get done.

There is some political advantage to being recognized as a discipline of your own. The first issue of Game Studies ironically positions the field as resisting colonization while simultaneously being in a position to take away the resources of already-existing departments. There is a certain bottom line here that the early self-styled game studies academics saw (you know, back in the days of yore 10 years ago) and that we may feel now both as game studies scholars and DHers being assailed on multiple fronts by people who are afraid the public will lose interest in "traditional" scholarship in favor of the allure of technology. I don't know that there is a good or easy solution to this.

With that origin in mind, I have to say that "methodology" is not the simplest thing to parse out for game studies academics - in fact, that was the original battle royale that we can still feel today and that still resonates in DH; at the end of the day, there are plenty of people who will eliminate you from a particular category for the approach that you take to the object. Try writing anything about how games may possibly be seen to cause increased aggression, or addictiveness, or whatever. Try not writing about process in your article. Try writing too much about narrative, for that matter. Some of these strategies are really important and should be incorporated into the methodology... some seem unnecessarily limiting.

As for the social aspect, I would say that's a more promising route to take. But again, where do we find each other? And is working on a similar type of object enough to bind us together? (more questions from upstream!) There is a lot of scholarship about games out there that clearly doesn't identify with a game studies perspective and therefore doesn't take advantage of some of the critical moves made in the discipline that might complicate or even simplify things for them.

And honestly, at the end of the day when thinking about all this disciplinarity nonsense, there are always the fringe cases that make you question whether any boundaries are useful after all. Is defining DH substantially different in that way?

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I'm wondering what your take on game studies as social community or methodology might be, vs. game studies as institutionalized discipline? What would be at stake in a broader institutionalization?

Disciplinary game studies is very, very unlikely. The days of disciplinary X studies programs are probably numbered. It might be for the best. If anything, we'll likely see a very few games programs and then a diaspora of game-friendly or at least game-interested folk.

In any case, focusing on institutionalization is not your best move. Do good work for a particular audience. The rest should come.

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For folks outside of our happy bubble, games (when they are taught) are often taught in composition classes as one might might teach any other text – by looking at the narrative through the dialogue and images of the game. Some teachers push this a bit further to consider how player action also develops the story. But this seems to me to frame games as merely one more type of text for analysis. Now, I'm not opposed to viewing games as texts, but if we're going to walk down that road, then I think we should also consider how students can compose games as a “valid” form of academic writing. How do we teach games as compositional techniques? How do we use the interdisciplinary, social, and iterative nature of game design in our composition classes? For example, James Paul Gee's What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy does an excellent job of extracting the principles of game development for learning, but in the process, he moves away from the necessity of using, analyzing, and composing games themselves.

Beyond the pedagogical aspects of this work, I'm also in the issue of legitimation. I wish we could all ignore questions of legitimacy, but as we know, the wheels of academia turn slowly. For example, I spoke recently with someone who was interested in publishing a game in a scholarly online journal. That's awesome and exciting, and it's a great step in the right direction. However, the person explained that the game wouldn't be peer-reviewed, “of course.” It was the “of course” that got me. The issue, I think, is not simply that there aren't enough scholars in the field to judge the material, though I'm sure that's part of the perceived problem, but that we lack the institutionalized, concretized, systematized ways of making value judgments about games that we do for print media. Instead, legitimation of games comes through the traditional scholarly routes of journal articles, conference presentations, and monographs. I'd be very curious to know how folks are approaching the struggle for academic legitimacy in your respective fields. I feel like English is more open to games studies than perhaps some other disciplines might be, but I'm fortunate to be surrounded by supportive faculty and fellow scholars (your mileage may vary).

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Grace, I think you raise some interesting points here about digital media pedagogy, about games as a text and as a valid form of academic writing. I would not self-identify as a gamer, nor am I completely in the loop on game studies as a whole. However, I come from a background of composition pedagogy and I think you are right on. In a previous post, I reflected on a talk I attended at NC State on using games to teach procedural rhetoric. In this case, yes, the game is a type of text. But a text is more than narrative and frame; its persuasive, compelling, convincing, and maybe manipulative. It reflects cultural, social and economic practices that should be contested. Studying and producing games (and playing our own productions) provides an excellent means of learning by doing, creating, playing, performing, and reflecting. It offers a forum for composition where students could understand how changes in medium create new affordances and constraints for a message.

As far as games as a form of academic writing, I think this could be promising. In my research, I am interested in human-nature interaction and environmental ideologies; generally speaking, I'm interested in how humans relate to their environments--natural, virtual, digital, and so on. I have found this forum fascinating because I think creating and playing with game environments would be a method for understanding how people relate to their digital and online environments. That is how are natural environments transformed in gaming environments? How differently do we relate to these digital environments from our natural environments? Is there a game that encourages environmental activism?!

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Molly, I'm interested in the same questions about natural and digital environments. In fact, I'm writing my dissertation on this very topic (right now, it likes to go by the name Playing Nature: The Virtual Ecology of Game Environments). I take both media criticism and environmental stewardship very seriously, so it's always bugged me that nature people and technology people have largely remained content to ignore each other.

Environmentally oriented games have been mentioned in game criticism as a subset of the broader realm of "serious" games (e.g. World Without Oil, The McDonald's Game), but to my knowledge no one has really tackled them on their own level. Outside of game studies proper, there are a few excellent pieces that discuss the unexpected convergence of the natural and the technological at the origins of modern computing: Sue Thomas's "When Geeks Go Camping" and Fred Turner's book From Counterculture to Cyberculture, both of which note the early generative ties between Silicon Valley/California computing bigwigs and nature-loving, commune-sharing hippies.

If you're interested, I've written a lot on this topic, both informally and formally:

"Games as Environmental Texts" (a melding of literary ecocriticism and game studies)

"Games as Virtual Ecologies" (short conference proceedings)

"Back to the Virtual Farm: Gleaning the Agriculture-Management Game" (should be out in a month)

Hope this helps!

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Thanks for the links Alenda, I'm checking them out now. I'm currently involved with an interdisciplinary program that studies the social and ecological effects of genetically modified pest organims...Do you by chance know of any games relating to GMOs? I'd love to check them out!

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"Studying and producing games (and playing our own productions) provides an excellent means of learning by doing, creating, playing, performing, and reflecting. It offers a forum for composition where students could understand how changes in medium create new affordances and constraints for a message. "


Yes, yes, yes! This is exactly where I was headed. And not only do games show how the medium changes the message (thanks, McLuhan), but games may be one of the best ways to address the issue of audience since games are enthymematic by nature, requiring the players to supply information/beliefs/arguments to flesh out the open spaces of the text.


Molly, your work sounds really interesting (and if you're planning on coming the CRC at Clemson this weekend, we should find some time to talk in person). So much of the recent work on human relations to digital environments has focused on identity, and it sounds like your research is taking you in a different direction, which is great. Have you read much of Tracy Fullerton's work? She's done quite a bit about how game systems act as models of real-world systems, so that might help you in considering how natural systems are simulated in digital environments. And, y'know, Baudrillard and Plato and all. ;)


There are a few environmental games that I'm aware of, and probably a ton more that I don't know about: Fate of the World (via Steam) is interesting, and Ecogamer.org has a bunch. World Without Oil is probably the most well-known and most interesting because it functioned as an alternate reality game that required players to modify their real-world behavior.

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Thanks for your interest in my interests, and the games to check out. :) I'm a little late checking back on the forum, and no I didn't make it to CRC, although I would have loved to have gone! I think I saw on your bio you're planning to go to Computers and Writing? I'll look for you there! I'll be presenting on my research on the Google Books debate.

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Thanks for your interest in my interests, and the games to check out. :) I'm a little late checking back on the forum, and no I didn't make it to CRC, although I would have loved to have gone! I think I saw on your bio you're planning to go to Computers and Writing? I'll look for you there! I'll be presenting on my research on the Google Books debate.

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One perspective I would like to see more legitimized in games research is the design perspective. I have noticed that there is a divide between designers and academics. Rarely are both perspectives found in the same person, and often the one ignores the other when writing about games.  I believe that, with games, research is best backed up with application. I do not necessarily suggest to everyone who does games research to also make games, as this would be asking too much of most people. I have a programming background and so I am at least capable of making some simple games to stand as examples. What I would suggest, though is for more researchers to take a look at how a game is made and understanding the medium and process that they are talking about.  I would like to see more academic sources paying attention to the design of games. This could be as simple as examining games closely within a given perspective, and trying to understand how or why a game was designed in such a way. It could be as simple as realizing that a game is partially designed by the player.  As a person who fuses research and design, I find it hard to get what I would consider legitimate sources. Design literature and research literature are sometimes at odds with one another. Design literature is primarily found on designer blogs, rather than academic journals. It can be hard to cite these, from an academic perspective, but sometimes the design articles say just what I want to say. Instead I am relegated to finding academic sources which say only a bit of what I mean or, more likely, turning to games themselves and performing close readings on them. I rather like performing close readings on games, but sometimes it feels quite a lot like I'm just pulling ideas out of the ether with only my words to back it up.  Sometimes, it rather seems like design is a dirty word in the humanities, and that can make me feel that I am at odds with my own field.

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Michael, I think this is an important question, and one that I think you and Grace could talk a lot about given her background in the industry. It's certainly not a new question and is related to the hack vs. yack debate in the digital humanities, or even older questions in the theoretical tradition about whether one must (or should) be a poet to understand poetry. I realize that you aren't prescribing this perspective as much as hoping that it is represented in the discipline, though.

We do have a lot of designer-theorists in the field (and in DH more broadly) - Ian Bogost, Jane McGonigal, Mary Flanagan, Tracy Fullerton, Katie Salen, Eric Zimmerman - many of whom publish their theories of design. I would suggest checking their books out - or are you looking for something different?

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Amanda, I think I want to answer yes to your question. I agree that a good number of researchers are also designers in this area of study. I have read Bogost, McGonigal, and Salen and Zimmerman (as well as Jesper Juul, Raph Koster and others). In general I like their work, but time and time again I read arguments that ignore the way that a game is designed.  Perhaps I am making a bigger mess of this than it actually is. I just feel like I remark an awful lot something like "that's not how the game was made" or "that isn't how games are designed." I think I remark such more often when reading a response to an event in a game (Grand Theft Auto comes to mind).

Let me get back to where I am saying that I think I am talking about something different, though. In an academic paper, I don't think that I would feel legitimate in citing something from a designer. It doesn't feel credible, even though the designer may be someone like Ron Gilbert. Ron Gilbert, though, has recently written a short anecdote about how "adventure games" are not really named appropriately as a genre. If I am writing about adventure games and genre, I might want to cite him, but it doesn't feel legitimate. I would probably spend hours searching for an article that said the same thing, by someone who is probably not as well respected (and from a source which might weaken what I am writing).  Likewise, it would feel inappropriate to cite one of Raph Koster's recent blogs on feedback systems in games, much less the ensuing (and very exciting) discussion in the comments.

What I am getting at is that designers very often write about games in non-academic spaces. Theorists prefer the academic model more. Theorists also control many of the avenues that people like me want to write in, and I find it hard pressed to talk about games, from my (design) perspective, in academic venues, as I keep wanting to use these non-academic sources (from people highly respected in their field).  Perhaps I am putting too much weight on the "proper" way to write about anything (in this case games). I am, after all, still very young to this whole thing that I am doing with my life. I don't have enough name, clout, or confidence yet to say, "To hell with convention."

but this is a forum about aiming towards a "new video game studies" so I want to bring it around to that. In this new video game studies, I want to feel like I, the designer, am legitimate.

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Film and Media Studies can provide models of the Designer/Theorist question.  There are theorists turned filmmakers (Goddard for example).  Theorists often cite filmmakers, though they need not.  At USC for example, those in Critical Studies (at least as late as the late 90s when I completed an M.A. there) all had to make their own films early in their studies - theory and practice were understood as tied together, and part of the theoretical practice required an understanding of, for example, flim grammar (in the sense of editing), and what it means to shoot and cut a film.  Film Studies has it's "high theory" but also history, criticism, and theory closer to the ground, in which filmmakers practice and concerns are integrated.  I would argue that even if not citing a game designer, it is an important step for any theorist to design at least a handful of games.  Can or should one philosophize about a medium one has not embraced to the point of design?  I vote:  no.

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Michael,


I think you bring up some really important issues.


There are a few folks who are working hard to trouble the theory/practice divide in games, but by and large, we seem very segmented into the two camps. This is problematic since it tends to mean that the people who are theorizing games are usually doing so post-production rather than as part of the iterative and recursive process of design. I'm not saying that such an approach doesn't or can't work, but analyzing only the end artifact is going to provide a limited view. There are also scholars who consider the design process, but (again) don't take part in it, and that work tends to feel a bit ethnographic to me.


It's true that not everyone has the background knowledge or resources to design digital games. However, everyone has the possibility to design some kind of game -- a pen and paper prototype, a mockup using household objects as placeholders, etc. Even that kind of work could be helpful in understanding the processes involved in design, though if you want to study digital games, I think you should have a basic understanding of computational processes.


And that's part of the problem -- the theorists tend to be situated in the humanities, while the designers tend to be situated in the sciences, and our institutional, professional, and cultural systems currently reinforce the divide. (As I sit in my office in the humanities quad working on the narrative arc, visual argument, and procedural rhetoric of my current interactive project, the lead programmer is on the other side of campus in the computer science building working on the code. We are literally divided by the physical constraints of our university.) Game development, in or out of academia, has an art/science divide problem. Even in the commercial industry there can be feelings from the programmers that the writers and artists don't understand the technology, while the writers/artists can something feel that programmers lack vision. In academia, where theory has more cache (and which is often more territorialized by the humanists in game studies), this can translate into designers feeling less legit than the theoryheads.


This issue of theory vs. practice, hack vs. yack, arts vs. sciences, and how game development can (and should) shatter those binaries is important, and I hope we can continue breaking down those barriers. HASTAC, of course, is one group that is committed to such work, and thank goodness they are, but the kind of collaboration that we promote needs to be expanded in our university and work systems.


The other issue about legitimacy that you've brought up is equally interesting to me, and one that I think is not exclusive to game studies. With the rapid exchange of ideas made possible through digital networks, a lot of us want to feel that we can use the ideas that we find from scholars on blogs and in discussion forums, and I think you're correct that it doesn't always feel "legit" to do so. There are lots of forces here that we could discuss -- academic canons and academic publishing, for example -- but the way you've brought up the issue makes me wonder if it also tied to the arts vs. sciences divide. There are certainly exceptions to the generalization I'm about to make, but it seems like science and tech scholars have more readily embraced the kind of non-traditional writing you're talking about, while humanists are more wedded to traditional avenues of publishing. I'm excited when I see things moving in a different direction, and when I think about journals like Kairos and Enculturation that are bringing academic publishing up to speed.


 

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This is where I become my own detractor. The problem I have with the idea that "if you want to study digital games, I think you should have a basic understanding of computational processes" and "should one philosophize about a medium one has not embraced to the point of design" from Owen's reply is that this creates a large barrier of entry. I suppose that is a bit of the point of a discipline, that it requires these kinds of specialized knowledges, but it seems almost punishing to say, "If you want to talk about games, you need to know how to make them, oh and you need to be a good writer too." Perhaps I say this because the avenues to gain this knowledge are disparate. Like you said, at universities there is a physical separation. In my program (Rhetoric and Composition) there is no design knowledge to access (this is a blanket statement, the few games scholars on campus do their best to address design in the games classes they get to teach, but they are not, themselves, designers).  I am taking game design classes in an undergraduate certificate program to round out my formal design instruction. The certificate is housed by the school of engineering. The classes are useless to my degree. I can't even get the certificate attached to that program (graduate students here cannot pursue an undergraduate certificate; I require overrides to even be able to take the classes). From my perspective, there is institutional resistance.

I say this, though, knowing that no professor has suggested that I not undertake the design aspects of my forged education. The chair of my program thought it was a good idea when I raised it with her.  Last semester, I made a game for one of my English classes. I got nothing but support for this.  However I did hear the same kind of statement: "I really don't think I can help you with this" or more simply, "I don't know enough about design." I am sure that if I asked some design or computer science instructors about avenues of academic publishing on games I would get a similar response. The joke amongst my friends and colleagues at the school is that the humanities and design do not really talk to one another, which makes me a bit of the elephant in the room.

Would I ask for a games studies program at my university? A program dedicated to this humanities/design fusion? I don't know. Here, I don't think there is enough draw. I know they have programs like this elsewhere (Georgia Tech and UC Santa Cruz are ones I had wanted to consider), but those places have programs that support design in the humanities (or humanities in design).

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What you're doing is great. You're taking the bull by the horns. Who cares if it's on your transcript; nobody will ever look at your transcript. 

Institutional resistance is a sign that you're doing something new. Novelty is absolutely required in our line of work. There's lots of competition, for one, but for another it really is helpful to have some design/engineering knowledge to do work on games. That's not the same as making games, to be sure, but it's more than just writing words.

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Apologies for the double post!

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I haven't weighed in on this conversation yet, because my own interests lie firmly in practical problems of preserving games and game development materials in the archives--not pedagogy or anything else commonly found in the game studies literature. But I have to respond to the conclusion of this comment, because it expresses a sentiment that drives me batty:

"I don't have enough name, clout, or confidence yet to say, "To hell with convention.""

If not you, who? If anyone is to create a "new" game studies, conventions need to be changed. And the only way conventions are going to change is if people stop paying homage to them. No matter your rank. If you take a look at the evolution of any discipline, you'll find that the most radical changes were driven by grad students and junior faculty.

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This is reassuring, to say the least. I'm still finding my way in the academic system. I mean, this is only my first year as a master's student. Given that, I worry that if I test the waters too much I will lose support from the university (such that it is). Already I have taken to reshaping my experience in my program, tailoring my classes to what I want to do and taking on extra classes that do not count towards anything program-related. Then there is the academic gesturing. Will anyone publish me if I'm using non-academic sources? At this point, I'm just letting it go and wherever I find sources, I'm going to try to use those, academic or not. I'm already going against everything that I considered graduate school would be, what's one more drop in the bucket?

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So many thought-provoking posts thus far that have me thinking about several possible responses. I will organize my first comments around the general provocation about pedagogy and address the future of teaching game studies.

 

This semester I am teaching a senior-level seminar in “Digital Games and Culture” to undergraduates. When I first taught this course in 2008 it was an elective, and thus interest in the subject was high. Now the course is required for students majoring in media studies, and interest varies. Teaching critical games studies, particularly a course that integrates humanities, social science and STS approaches, presents many challenges. Here are just a few I've been thinking about and grappling with lately:

In most of the courses I teach, I can assume students have watched television, seen films, listened to music and used networked technologies. I can increasingly assume that my students have some experience as media makers as well - creating videos, writing blogs, and remixing audio tracks. While I don’t want to obscure the variance that does exist, I can reliably build upon the media literacies that my students bring to the classroom. But the game literacies of my students vary widely, and few to none have ever built assets in Minecraft, created a level in Little Big Planet, or modified Half-Life. Of course, the varying ability and experience of students is a challenge in any classroom, for any subject. It requires educators to create nimble courses, offering a variety of assignments and assessment methods. These issues have been and continue to be addressed in the Games and Learning community. It will be important to the future of games studies that we share the successes and failures of our curricula across disciplines that incorporate games.

In response to the varying literacies of my students, I need access to technology in order to provide, essentially, remedial instruction before I can build deeper, critical literacies about games and culture. Recently I have been thinking about the colleagues preceding me who had to convince their institutions to install VHS, DVD and computer equipment in classrooms. Faculty from film and television programs who allied with colleagues in other disciplines successfully made those persuasive arguments. Those of us in education, media, history, English, STS, programming, art and design, etc., need to collectively advocate for technological resources. This continues to be difficult while an anti-game climate persists and academic institutions still operate, as mentioned above, as so many silos. The non-standard state of game technology complicates hardware and software acquisition as well. One platform/console/system does not rule them all. A commitment to integrating games into a curriculum is a significant investment, and, especially for public institutions under close fiscal scrutiny, it can be a political briar patch.

Another challenge facing teaching about games that I see (particularly in the technology belt that surrounds Eastern Massachusetts) is excitement around adding “hot” programs in the digital industries to university offerings that do not include humanities and social science approaches. These programs often promise (or imply a promise) that would-be students will be prepared for sexy jobs in the exciting world of games and new media. Well-meaning and capable colleagues in computer science, graphic design and media production often design these programs. But humanities and social science scholars must maneuver themselves onto curriculum design committees, make friends with colleagues in other departments and advocate for the necessity of integrating critical inquiry with production.

These challenges have antecedents in other fields of study that were once new. It is particularly difficult now, however, because of the professionalization of education and shrinking resources at most institutions. But I have confidence that game studies will prevail, as TV and film studies did. And I look foward to conversations that start, "I remember teaching in classrooms that didn't have game system integration, gasp!"

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Nina, thanks so much for joining us here! I used to fantasize that my ideal job would be in a game design academy like the ones you describe, since so much more than technical knowledge goes into designing a good game these days (not that I lack any technical expertise, but you know what I mean). But yes, non-tech faculty need to be more proactive about getting into those institutions - or should tech faculty be more proactive in recruiting us?

I have found the games access/literacy issue (which is also appearing upthread) to be a challenge in my classrooms, as well. When I taught my "Literature and Gaming" course for the Department of English two summers ago, I encountered quite a mix of gamers and non-gamers. It seemed as if many students had not read the course description online, as they were quite surprised to not be taking a "traditional" English class.

My approach to the access issue is one that is, admittedly, untenable for many instructors and course designs. So far I've been able to construct a syllabus that requires students to play one game all the way through over the term, but I give them a variety of choices that span all current (and some older) consoles and PC/Mac and include at least one free game on the list. For "Literature and Gaming," they had a choice of BioShock, Metroid Prime, ICO, Psychonauts, and Cave Story. For "Queer Textuality/Queer Virtualities," they could choose between The Sims, Ocarina of Time, The Ballad of Gay Tony, Bayonetta, and the collected works of Auntie Pixelante. This approach requires the instructor to be intimately familiar with all of these games, however, and also to have a course design in which the students can devote the time and resources to playing a game throughout the term. These games also have to fit with the themes - and since I was doing an intro-style class and happen to think a lot about queerness in gaming, everything came together for me.

I have had some luck getting the institution to fund software purchases, as well, though this was in the context of a high school enrichment program that is funded by student tuition. Still, Minecraft accounts aren't cheap, and they were willing to cover enough to get the class on a server together. Do you know of any funding sources designed for this kind of equipment purchasing? I know once upon a time UCSB received an NEH grant to set up the Transcriptions lab in which I am currently working... surely a games lab isn't so radical of a notion today?

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I've found it effective to use analog (paper, board and card strategy, and backyard) games to teach in arenas with lack of funds.  Many of the concepts, mechanics, and other aspects of game play.  We need not teach digital in the digital.  Digital game designers themselves learn from and play analog games. 

Consider the magnificent "7 Wonders" for example, perhaps the winningest table-top strategy game of the last year.  We can teach concepts of resource management, goals, strategies, rules, conflict.  I use such strategy games as a base from which students can mod - This is an excellent primer to digital games, but also a sound strategy for teaching both game design and game theory. 

Who else out there is teaching using analog games as well as digital games?

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I've found many of the above posts extremely fascinating, and would like to add to some of the comments about teaching games, especially those offered by Nina and Amanda.

This quarter, at the University of Chicago, I'm teaching a mixed-level "Critical Videogame Studies" course made up of advanced undergraduates, MA, and PhD students. The course is offered in both English and Cinema and Media Studies. It's interesting to notice the composition of students attracted to such a course at a private university that does not have an established new media program or a communications/media major (Cinema and Media Studies is, at present, primarily a film program). The course is currently made up of students coming from disciplines that include cinema studies, creative writing, literature, economics, history, computer science, anthropology, and law.

On the one hand, this composition presents challenges. Students have varied methodologies of choice and divergent disciplinary trainings. What it means to approach a game critically needs to be negotiated at every turn. On the other hand, I have a diversity of riches available to me. First off, the vertical integration approach works extremely well in my experience. Oftentimes undergraduates can teach graduate students through rich gameplay examples, and graduate students can, in turn, introduce undergrads to generative concepts, theories, and methods. Second, I attempt to capitalize on the diversity of disciplines through frequent collaborations. Instead of assigning a midterm and final research paper, for instance, I assign a series of short assignments that allow students to practice different academic and creative genres related to videogame studies. These exercises include a group board game design project, a gameplay experience reflection (for which students focus on their phenomenological and emotional reactions to a game), a videogame conference abstract, a critical close reading of a game, a presentation on a contemporary indie game, a pitch session for a game concept, and an open-ended final collaborative project (for which students can, for instance, create a Machinima film, a piece of interactive scholarship about games, a text adventure game, or an Alternate Reality Game). I intentionally create groups made up of students with different backgrounds. In the past, these collaborations have yielded impressive results, as in an undergraduate Digital Storytelling course that I taught in 2011 for which, among other assignments, many students produced game-related projects. This range of assignments enables students to experiment with theory, play, design, collaboration, and (for grad students) professionalization.

Nina's point about technological resources is extremely important. Especially given the time limits of the quarter system, I find myself incapable of both covering the games and theoretical readings that I would like to cover (in 10 weeks) and offering remedial tech instruction (in cases in which I'm capable of providing it). Certainly, I try to develop a gaming literacy through frequent "game nights" that stand in place of the types of screening sessions that one might include in a film or television course. During these collective and spirited sessions, gamers tend to do a great job of teaching non-gamers some of what they know. Arguably, I could include comparable "lab sessions" to teach software or design literacy. For the time being, however, I've discovered that enough of my students have some background in areas such as visual studies, web design, or programming. So if I formulate groups with complementary skill sets in mind, I usually get groups capable of technically proficient productions without having to teach them these skills. I spend more of my time pushing them to think critically and creatively about digital games.

Of course, digital literacy aside, access to technology (both hardware and software), as Amanda points out, can be a major problem in many educational contexts. The University of Chicago, for instance, has a wonderful film collection that covers numerous formats. But a collection of games, analog or digital, is an idea that we're only beginning to think about. Funding is always a serious concern, though admittedly far less so at a private institution. Other problems arise, however, as we speculate about such a game library. These issues concern the use of emulators, the placement and availability of consoles, the use of software such as Steam in a university context, the archiving of older games and consoles, and so on. I'd be curious to hear more about how some of you have addressed the problem of a collection or archive of game materials. Fortunately, there are numerous culturally and analytically rich games that are either free online or cost less than $10. But, for the future, I'm looking for ways to minimize costs for students and to build up a richer collection at the university.

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Patrick, I really love your short writing assignment ideas - I will definitely try to incorporate them into future course designs! It really amazes me how many different strategies exist in the wild for teaching games.

This is also something I find pretty unique to technological academic disciplines like game studies - sometimes it is difficult to establish wide-ranging best practices because the conditions in which we all teach vary so widely from institution to institution. It's easy to write the lack of game studies teaching best practices off on being a fairly new practice, but this variation in the teaching situation really must have something to do with it.

No one in my department bats an eye when I propose a video game studies class for the summer, whereas I know others have had to fight hard to justify their conditions. Some classes, like yours, are set up as a mixture of grads and undergrads, majors and non-majors. Personally, I usually suffer from a distinct lack of gamers in my game studies classrooms. Some places have students who have already been well exposed not only to the medium, but to the theory itself.

Have people addressed this in pedagogical discussions that you've been a part of? It's a wonder any of us can agree on any good classroom ideas at all!

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What a beautiful and provocative experience:

I was struck by Evan Miller and Amor Game's ImmorTall *SPOILERS - GO PLAY IT IF YOU HAVEN'T - takes only a few minutes * - emotionally moved by the loss of friends, meta-frustrated by my lack of player autonomy.  It plays like a Greek tragedy in which the player is a part -- but what does the game mechanic say about free will or lack therof?  Is theology/philosophy of the game about helplessness or about engendering empathy, and therefore hope? 

I offer a space here to begin considering questions of faith, empathy, religion and more regarding this game.  I prefer shorter posts to play tennis with you, but welcome all posts - would love to hear your thoughts on this game.

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hi all,

Very interesting reading so far- thanks for all the good food for thought. One more item I thought I'd throw into the mix is the idea of overlooked genres. Over time it seems that certain types of videogames have been seized upon by game studies scholars (I'm guilty of this as well) as ripe for analysis. I'm thinking of RPGs, MMOs and Virtual worlds, some FPSs and RTSs, survival horror, and adventure games to some degree. But we've seen much less study of sports videogames, driving/racing games, hidden object games, or even many handheld games in contrast. Part of this simply comes from our own interests- given the time expenditures to play and analyze a game, there's only so much time in the day and we have to make choices. But I'm concerned that through such neglect, we're overlooking not just potentially valuable analyses, but sending a message that some genres just don't 'matter enough' to be taken seriously. Of course there are some scholars working in these areas, but they don't get nearly the attention that others do. Is there anyone here working on such types of games? What's been your experience in doing so, both in terms of study and other scholars' reactions to your work?

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Mia, I think I have gotten some form of those questions every time I go to a conference, especially when I am talking about teaching (with) games.  What games do you use?  How do you select games for a course?  Why teach only AAA, blockbuster games?  What about older games (to connect back up to an earlier thread)?  It does seem that even as we struggle over the definition(s) of what video game studies is, a canon is forming.   I think it is important, then, as we do in our own work and our own classrooms to articulate some sort of rationale when choosing games for a course or project.  Like a survey literature course, I try to frame the game choices in terms of history, genre, argument, even access.  The latter seems an important constraint (as addressed above) and produces some interesting game choices: I use text games, web-based/flash games (like ImmorTall), inexpensive to download and low on the tech needs (gotta love Steam), even just walk-through video.  I would also add to the mix the simple problem of skill with a game--I am terrible at FPSs and Platformers--but to show that you can still study and work on a game yet struggle with it makes for some wonderful teaching moments.  My own investments in using mainstream, popular games (which aligns with my teaching of popular texts like Harry Potter) come from wanting to capitalize on that popularity with students yet to explore the affordances and ambivalences these titles provide, to denaturalize the 'fun-only' experience of playing these games since students often have the most personal investment in (defending) them. 

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I definitely agree with Mia about the neglect of certain genres in game studies. But I wonder if we have taken any particular game seriously enough. We've been really good about developing critical tools for thinking about "games," but what I often want in class is, well, something more akin to criticism. Problem is, most of the games in the well-covered genres Mia mentioned are rarely subjected to searching analyses and more often used as examples to make a more general theoretical point. There's nothing wrong with this, but it lends itself to organizing courses on theory easier (and more likely) than organizing them on particular games or genres.

My colleague Ed's strategy of teaching smaller, non-blockbuster games is the most sensible approach to the economic, access, and hardware problems of teaching games courses, especially if you want to offer a more diverse media experience.

I would also like to suggest that placing one game as the focus of inquiry (and central student experience) ought to be done more, especially if we want to get serious about understanding games with progression or large worlds. One issue in the past has been the messiness of game studies lit in terms of topics/inquiry and the messiness of teaching a variety of games. That's two messes to organize into a semi-coherent course experience. Why not take a specific game seriously as a ground for inquiry, mashalling diverse critical resources to develop student understanding?

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Mia, great question! I'm co-teaching an undergrad games studies course with Betty Hayes this semester, and we'd fallen into just that trap: we come from backgrounds in MMOs and RPGs, and thus have had the class play games we're intimately familiar with.

This semester, though, we've got a bunch of tournament-ranked RTS and fighting game players, and they've pushed back against our narrative/embodiment-heavy game list.

Since the class is "Computer Games, Learning and Literacy," and they all have to do a relevant term project... I 've challenged some of them to teach me to play their games and to document the process. It should make for some terrific student projects.... and broaden my own gaming literacy. A win all around!

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Ok, so first the requisite "I'm new to game studies/I don't really know what's going on" statement. But thanks for all of the great reading... which leaves us quite a lot to consider.

I think that one of the best things about game studies is that it is fertile grounds for cross-disciplinarity. As mentioned, students seem to come to game studies from a host of different backgrounds bringing along a bunch of methodological approaches with a mixed bag of competancy. I wonder if one way to bridge these "divides" (and I mean, are they really divides? what about ditches?) is to focus on experience and play. I suppose affect theory is one way we do this already. Videogames are fun, or at least I think they should be. I don't like games that aren't fun. This doesn't mean I don't like games that make me think, because I like that too.

I'm also in favor of critiquing and analyzing the industry-side of the dynamic. The money. Game studies will continue to grow not only because an increasing amount of people are playing them, but also because it is a really freaking huge industry. Call me a bit of a Marxist, but I think a lot of concerns regarding minority communities are often determined by what the market asks for. We get certain representations of maleness in videogames because the companies know that these images sell.

 

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Thanks for joining the discussion, Kevin. I think you're right to say we'll stick with things that are fun for longer. I think that's a big part of the motivation part of gamification that I wrote about in my last comment (Gamification & Crowdsourcing). Exercise or yard work can be fun with the right attitude. But the purpose of play in gaming isn't just about attitude, it's about algorithms and design. So how to design fun? 

Are you familiar with the concept of immersion? Your thoughts on fun + thinking reminded me of it. James Gee covers the concept of immersion quite a bit, and there's this great video of what that looks like on players' faces

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Kevin, you're really right. Our undergrad classes in particular have included students from a vast range of majors. Most of them, though, tend to be lifelong gamers. This semester, on the first day of class, even before we got started, the discussion of game news and "what do you play?" made for a lively session. Our job as co-instructors then was to show that their passion (a) was legitimate knowledge and (b) could be tied to their majors or academic backgrounds.

I come from Science and Technology Studies, so my core message is that a game isn't an artifact or experience, but a node in a global network of labor, capital, ideology, race, gender and class forces.  One tool I've used - not as effectively as possible yet - is Cory Doctorow's novel For The Win (available free under a Creative Commons license), which tells the stories of young gamers, from wealthy corporate employees to Chinese gold farmers, tying them all together in a story of the globalization of gaming.

I'd love to hear what others are using along these lines!

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Here's some quick defintions to help orient those less familiar with these terms. "Gamification" can be briefly described as using the strategies found in games for purposes beyond entertainment gaming. The Open Badges initiative (https://wiki.mozilla.org/Badges) has a gamification aspect because the rhetoric used encourages people to "level up" their achievements. (It must also be noted that games may have perfected the achievements-based literacies the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have touted for decades.) "Crowdsourcing" is the efforts of a number of people contributing to a significant outcome. 

Galaxy Zoo is a website that employs gamification for crowdsourcing purposes and is an example of what's possible for gamification in the digital humanities. By engaging the person on the other end, the scholars on the programming end of the project can gather a greater amount of data than they can without the crowd. Gamification teaches us lessons about audience and contributor motivation. If they feel like they are gaining from the experience--whether it's through knowledge or feelings of accomplishment (level up!)--they're more likely to come back for more. They'll contribute more and the scholars on the other end will have more robust research. 

It's important to be mindful of the user's personal outcomes, as well as the research's outcomes, however. Is the user experiencing growth as well or is this just free labor? 

Anyone have other examples of gamification that has inspired them? What are some other examples of gamification employed for other literacy and learning purposes?

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We're one of the HASTAC winners from 2010 (we were paid to make LittleBigPlanet levels that taught STEM)> Now, we're working with the local school district to get LBP in the classroom.

 

http://www.kfbb.com/news/local/Gaming-to-Learn-Little-Big-Club-Planet-Sh...

 

The reason I think LBP is so important is I REALLY think any talk of games in the classroom should include authorship and enable the students to learn outside material to be repurposed for the game. LBP takes what can be a multi-year game dev process and shrinks it down to a few weeks or a few months, allowing the students to get comfortable quickly and focus on learning STEM and figuring out how to make the STEM content relevant and exciting to players!

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We're one of the HASTAC winners from 2010 (we were paid to make LittleBigPlanet levels that taught STEM)> Now, we're working with the local school district to get LBP in the classroom.

 

http://www.kfbb.com/news/local/Gaming-to-Learn-Little-Big-Club-Planet-Sh...

 

The reason I think LBP is so important is I REALLY think any talk of games in the classroom should include authorship and enable the students to learn outside material to be repurposed for the game. LBP takes what can be a multi-year game dev process and shrinks it down to a few weeks or a few months, allowing the students to get comfortable quickly and focus on learning STEM and figuring out how to make the STEM content relevant and exciting to players!

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Don't know what that happened...either way sorry!

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It is thrilling to read this conversation on games, developing, designing, playing, teaching, learning, studying, analyzing.   I'm learning enormously.  And I want to just interject my institutional two cents:   I think Ian Bogost is right that you do the best work you can, you find your audience, and you hope that institutions will recognize your contribution (and sometimes, it will take a while for them and for you to get it right).  I don't want to be Pollyanna about "the best work floats to the top."   There are lots of missed connections and great flukes along the way to any career, in any domain.  But in general I think worrying about reshaping an institution to one's own design is a lesson in disaster.   Rather, I still believe what David Theo Goldberg and I wrote in the Future of Learning Institutions books:  that "institutions are mobilizing networks."   That we inhabit them in different ways at different times, but, thorugh our affiliations, we find others, kindred spirits, with whom we can network and build and, sometimes, when all the forces come together, we can make change.   But in that order.  Focus on the work, do what you feel passionate about, find your fellow travelers, build together . . . and remember that, in building, you are remaking institutions in ways that you often don't see, can't control, and that are sometimes indirect not direct.  

 

And a word on the HASTAC "collaborationb by difference" method:  I'm not one of those who believes we all have to be great and knowledgeable in all domains.   Rather, I think we have to have the right methods that ensures creative contribution by those in different domains so that, together, we can build the world we desire.   Having to be master of all means a lot of frustration.   Being willing to admit someone else's mastery and do whatever is necessary (including learning some of what the other person knows , understanding their protocols and limits) to ensure that mastery informs one's own practices, and vice versa, is to me the best offering of interdisciplinarity.  I won't go on about this except to say that, rather than be frustrated that not every game theorist is a game designer, it is useful to appreicate great game theory and game design, appreciate when those come together, and find the right tools, partners, and methods to make collaboration work when expertise is distributed but the goal is shared. 

Anyway, that's my side bar two cents on a fabulous conversation.  Thanks, everyone, for being so darn smart.   I can't wait to teach this forum in my class next year.

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Just thought I'd chime in here with my own experience trying to get a game library/play lab up and running at my institution. Despite several formal proposals, a hope-filled move to new facilities, a meeting with our sympathetic film/video librarian, and impassioned, impecunious grad student reasoning ("I might want to write about Barbie Race and Ride, but I really don't want to pay for it!"), I've never been able to get institutional support for such a thing off the ground here. I've also been told point-blank that there were "worries" over perceptions of nonseriousness, e.g. should an industry investor round the corner in our workspace and come face-to-face with a bunch of graduate students playing the Wii. For me, this misses the point entirely, and is in effect a double standard for game scholars. I've thought mournfully about this every time I have to bundle my PlayStation 3 into a canvas bag and hike across campus with laptop, console, cables, and controllers in tow.

Fortunately for me, the Cabrinety collection is not too far away, and Henry Lowood at Stanford is a huge supporter of all things game-related. UC Santa Cruz also has a game library and lab that caters to its game design students.

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Oops, meant this to be a response to Pat, Owen, and Amanda's discussion up top.

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Teresa: With all respect, I don't think the attitudes you're describing have anything to do with either games or play. What they do relate to is the vast gulf in the conception of the digital between (primarily) (many) younger folks and (primarily) (older) teachers, who tend both towards a general technophobia and a specific conceptual flaw caused by too much old sci-fi and Turkle-esque bad analysis.

Seeing the digital as something distinct, autonomous and fundamentally different leads to a critique of computer games that owes more to generations-old critiques of television than to any understanding of the medium. As Henry Jenkins has documented, American boys' play has traditionally focused on the gruesome and violent. It simply took place out of sight of familial and moral authorities for much of American history - in the backyard, the woods. After the Second World War it came under closer scrutiny in urban and smaller suburban environments, giving rise to the moral panic over horror comics in the 1950s.

Add to that the bad metaphors of "cyberspace," of computer technology as being situated in some alien space, and you get a radical misunderstanding of what kids and adults actually do in screen-mediated play, and a very low signal-to-noise ratio from critics.

My undergrads don't see a dichotomy: they play sports, they play games on their phone while waiting in line, they have friends over to play on consoles, they play networked to strangers. It's all play, and all grounded in a largely common etiquette.

Gamers have normalized the screen; teachers still tend to demonize it.

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Re: How might video (and computer) games encourage discussions about the role and importance of “play” in the digital humanities? 

Many educators and play advocates see video games as interfering with "real" play, that is the kind of play that involves children running around outside and interacting with materials (sand, water, leaves, glue, glitter, etc.). Video games also have a reputation for being violent and advertising misleading ratings.  With that said, much work needs to be done to show what is beneficial and developmentally appropriate about video games. For example, students enrolled in Quest to Learn, a noncharter public school in New York City, learn to design computer and video games by playing them.  The education at Quest to Learn is centered on the idea that digital games are an important part of children’s lives; in theory, their classroom experiences reflect their home experiences.  Quest to Learn is one of a few institutions attempting to highlight the positives of video and computer game playing.  Scholar Jackie Marsh has also completed significant research that indicates that online game playing often helps children develop socially and emotionally.  Marsh has also found that online play often mimics in-person play.  In order for more institutions to successfully integrate the playing of video and computer games into their programs, researchers, educators, and gaming advocates need to provide significant research to demonstrate the positives of computer and video game playing.  Similarly, our discourse about the developmental advantages of play needs to include an evolution of the definition of "play," such that it incorporates the current and future interests of youth.  As our discourse changes, video games will inevitably become better situated in the digital humanities. 

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John-

While I appreciate your comments, I feel that you have misinterperted my point.  When I write about reconsidering our discourse concerning video games and play, I am talking about the divide that exists between the views younger people have toward technology and the views older people embody (as you've pointed out).  Regardless of whether younger people, or in your case, undergraduates, see a dichomotoy, "older" people are still very much a part of academia and making policy, therefore, their views should be considered and taken seriously in regard to play and video games.  I do very much so believe that what I wrote does in fact have something to do with play and video games, as I have written about and researched the topic for quite a while.  It may not be from a perspective that you are most accustomed to, but for many people, cyberspace and virtual worlds are not tangible.  For these people, the conversation needs to start with bridging what they see as separate worlds (play vs. technology), and in my opinion, this has something to do with the way we've come to understand the defintion of play.

As for violence and boys, my intent in mentioning game ratings is simply to say that sometimes games with explicit content are purchased for children who should not be playing them.  For example, I tutored a first grader who was allowed to play "Call of Duty."  Perhaps it is a judgement on my part to find this inappropriate, but I do think parents deserve to be better informed about how to choose age-appropriate content for their children and understanding game ratings.  

Thank you for your response and considering my ideas. 

 

 

 

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I thought that some of you might be interested to see a new book on Video Game Studies:

Wordplay and the Discourse of Video Games: Analyzing Words, Design, and Play by Christopher A. Paul

Published on February 15, 2012 by Routledge

Publisher overview:

In this timely new book, Christopher Paul analyzes how the words we use to talk about video games and the structures that are produced within games shape a particular way of gaming by focusing on how games create meaning, lead to identification and division, persuade, and circulate ideas. Paul examines the broader social discourse about gaming, including: the way players are socialized into games; the impact of the lingering association of video games as kid's toys; the dynamics within specific games (including Grand Theft Auto and EA Sports Games); and the ways in which players participate in shaping the discourse of games, demonstrated through examples like the reward system of World of Warcraft and the development of theorycraft. Overall, this book illustrates how video games are shaped by words, design and play; all of which are negotiated, ongoing practices among the designers, players, and society that construct the discourse of video games.

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Howdy again! There is a new person on HASTAC looking for resources on work in Feminist Game Studies. She's asking for help on how to get started on the research and reading list. It would be fantastic if some of y'all could drop in and offer your amazing wisdom! If you can offer some of your favorite texts and resources, send them here.

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