The seedy academic underbelly of video games
April 17, 2006 5:43 AM   Subscribe

Video game studies? Yes, please. And I don't just mean in gaming schools. Critical perspectives have been developing as well. Metafilter is already wise to ludology,but what about its mother discipline, ergotics? Don't forget narrative and storytelling. Of course, if cultural studies, or education is your thing, that's covered too. Other programs focus on application and aesthetics. Perhaps MeFites are catching on?
posted by mrmojoflying (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
After 14 months of enjoying MeFi goodness, I had a hankering to make my FPP debut.
posted by mrmojoflying at 5:43 AM on April 17, 2006

ergodics with a d?
posted by grimmelm at 6:29 AM on April 17, 2006

Ergodic literature
posted by mrmojoflying at 6:31 AM on April 17, 2006

oh well
posted by mrmojoflying at 6:46 AM on April 17, 2006

Q: what if you major in video game studies and you flunk out because you're always reading your course textbooks? Is there a word for that, too?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:04 AM on April 17, 2006

This is nothing real new, the Game Developers Conference has had an academic section for at least the last three or four years. People from lit-crit and film have been studying games for a while, of course, much like when they got hip to the Internet, a lot of them didn't really "get" games (see the Cyborg Manifesto for an example of a similar thing). Among those that have done insightful work are Henry Jenkins who has done game stuff for this for many years (incidentally, his IAP class at MIT on games is terrific), and he managed to start the MIT department that deals with games and related media. Janet Murray's Hamlet on the Holodeck is considered, for better or worse, a classic on the subject. And some veterans of the game industry, like Chris Crawford, have also done a lot of thinking on the subject.
posted by blahblahblah at 7:46 AM on April 17, 2006

Without Oregon Trail, I might never have blazed a trail and settled out west, whilst having my daughter break her leg multiple times.

Thank you video games. Thank you.
posted by bardic at 7:57 AM on April 17, 2006

A problem I see with this is the great divide between academia and practice. Chris Crawford for example. He spends an enormous amount of time yelling about the doom of the game industry, and its many problems, but he hasn't produced a game since the 80's.
posted by zabuni at 8:26 AM on April 17, 2006

Hey now, Chris Crawford is about to release the future... an interactive fiction engine.... any day now...

So how dare you say that he is behind the times. I mean, the next natural step for gaming is interactive fiction. I hear that the Playstation 3 will be optimized for it.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:36 AM on April 17, 2006

This is nothing real new

True that, and incidentally you might notice that Murray and Jenkins lead two of the programs mentioned. The point I was making, however, is along the lines of academic disciplinarity. Scattered academics talking about videogames doesn't amount to much, even if they are teaching classes, publishing, and conferencing. The trend that strikes me is that graduate programs are popping up dedicated to studying videogames. Institutional accreditation rules and definitions aside, what will make videogame studies an academic discipline is more and more of these programs offering Ph.Ds. That is where expert graduate faculty will be trained to sustain disciplinary-level study.
posted by mrmojoflying at 8:52 AM on April 17, 2006

ono don't tell Jack Thompson about this stuff!
posted by dopamine at 10:45 AM on April 17, 2006

Incidentally, the ratio of people who go to college to learn game design and end up as game designers is roughly the same as those who go to film school to become directors and end up as directors.
posted by Durhey at 11:24 AM on April 17, 2006

A problem I see with this is the great divide between academia and practice. Chris Crawford for example.

That might be the case, especially with large business entities like EA and UBI and so on, but the divide isn't so large when you look at the independent games scene. And slowly it will work its way up. It will just take time. Look at Zimmerman as a counter-example.
posted by mkn at 12:41 PM on April 17, 2006

Hrm, I read Terra Nova on an infrequent basis that has a quite bit of dialog between researchers and developers about their mutual roles. The basic problem (as I read it) is that researchers are not always motivated to create better games, and have few incentives for presenting their findings in a way that is useful to game developers. (In fact, some research might end up critical to the game environment in question.) And game developers are fighting in a highly competitive market where they have few incentives to open up their databases to research that might not benefit them, and could even hurt them.

This is a problem that's not unique to studying games. But I don't think there should be this expectation that research is automatically going to be commercially viable.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:09 PM on April 17, 2006

because it's related, pimping grandtextauto (previously linked)
two of the guys on there are the ones behind facade.
posted by juv3nal at 5:07 PM on April 17, 2006

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