Game Studies: A Summer War Zone

Posted: July 28, 2013 in Academic

It’s been a long time since I last posted. A long time. But, as I’ve griped about before, grad school tends to get the best of your social life and hobbies. It hangs them up, tortures them, and throws them back in your face like your favorite pair of shoes that got chewed up by your Beagle. Or Min-Pin. They’re equally bad.

I spent this summer (so far) researching video games.  I’ve read a few of the “biggies” like Espen Aarseth, Ian Bogost, and articles by Markku Eskelinen, Jesper Juul, and Henry Jenkins.  I even tried to read Marie Laure-Ryan, but fell asleep three times trying to get through five pages.  Same thing happened to my professor, so my excuse is legit. (Also, sorry Marie–your subject matter is just so dry.) What I first recognized about this relatively new field is that is a freaking war zone! It’s like a Facebook cat-fight up in there! But you know what? That’s a good thing. The field is growing and people are taking it very seriously–although sometimes they go a little overboard but hey, gotta love the enthusiasm.  One very important lesson I learned is that you can glean a lot of stuff from games.  I particularly like Ian Bogost’s proceduralist approach that asks three very important questions: 1) What do video games do? 2) What happens when players interact with them? 3) How do they relate to, participate in, extend, and revise cultural expression at work in other kinds of artifacts? (Unit Operations, 54). Games are capable of reflecting who people really are based on their reactions to…lets call it simulation fever (simply put, the anxiety created by the blurred boundaries of reality and the game world)…and you may not like what you see. How is that not something worth looking into?

This kind of grates on my nerves, but I have been asked in reference to my academic pursuits, “What are you going to do with that?” It’s almost as if what I’m doing is not important because it won’t make me any money. To this type of question my answer is as follows: Well, I shall sit in an office. Writing nonsense. Starting various little academic quibbles (I will pwn people left and right). And then I’ll force-feed it to the next generation who decides to go to college. All because I think  it’s important. And THEN I’ll draw all over student papers with red ink and meaningless symbols and write only the first four letters of the alphabet minus “E”. How you like them apples?

My aspirations are so high. 😉

P.S. If you’re interested in this field, try reading these for a decent start (they aren’t in any particular order.  Just read ALL OF THE THINGS). They’ll set you up with the basics of people and theories you need to know:

  • First Person (MIT Press)
  • Cybertext by Espen Aarseth
  • Unit Operations by Ian Bogost
  • Homo Ludens by Johan Huizinga
  • Game Studies (Blog–Espen Aarseth)
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