[This letter has been today also posted to the DiGRA mailing list, Games Research Network]
This is an open invitation to a collaborative effort into mapping digital play around the world. Currently only scattered information on the popularity and forms of engagement with digital games in global context exist. Often particularly in media statements are nevertheless made that concern “all gamers”, even if researchers emphasise how both games and playing takes multiple forms and claims about some particular game or group of players do not necessarily apply to another. In the spirit of the recent “Situated Play” conference (DiGRA 2007), we propose a collaborative effort of collecting together research, observation and data about forms of play around the world. See: www.gamescultures.org, an open beta of wiki resource about global games cultures.
How could a researcher make use of a resource like this? – In many ways. The basic philosophy behind GamesCultures.org is to share information between researchers, and to situate it within some, particularly geographical, social and cultural contexts. It is possible to use the site to summarise findings from one’s existing research, link into published work, or to compare it with similar work done in other countries. What is currently valuable but scattered work, could over time grow into a valuable haven of data particularly for comparative studies into various social and cultural aspects of gaming, peppered with useful links to other, established sources of games research information. However, a word of caution also: the usual reliability issues surrounding self-published media (wikis and blogs) apply also to this initiative — the possible errors and misconceptions will only be cleared if there are enough critical and knowledgeable users around to fix them.
I am a student, can I contribute? – Sure. Much of the “silent knowledge” about gaming is carried around by the younger generations. What if hundreds of students around the world would start doing small research projects about the gamers and forms of play popular in their country, and then share the information with each other? Even personal observations about playing behaviours can be valuable – it is just important to write in a manner where one clearly points out what is based on research (and on what kind of research), and which on anecdotal evidence. Consulting one’s professors is the recommended way to go: it is perfectly possible to study and write about games and players from multiple points of view that fit within a range of different academic disciplines.
Can I use this for my teaching? – Gladly. Currently the site is pretty empty, but how about providing your class with an assignment that would involve them setting up a small-scale games related survey, ethnographic observation project or document based inquiry (e.g. study of utilizing gaming magazines or other media, a study into the history of gaming, etc.), while teachers in other countries do the same. Hopefully this would lead into a win-win situation: students would get practice in doing research, the gathering and sharing of knowledge would raise awareness about the scale and reach of digital games, and the academic community would gain a fascinating melange of materials for inspiration and use in further studies.
Have photos or personal observations of interesting forms of digital play from other countries? – That is also worth contributing: can you take some time to write a short note where you explain the context of your photo, what is going on, where it was taken, and share it on site (use this link: http://www.gamescultures.org/Special:Upload). Then you can go to the entry for the country where your observation relates to, and use the wiki editor to link to an embedded image. Remember to write a short note to accompany the photo into the entry.
All contents submitted into GamesCultures.org are provided freely, under GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL; the same one that Wikipedia uses).
The current version of GamesCultures.org is basically just a quick experiment, implemented using MediaWiki (Wikipedia technology). A list of all countries of the world are provided in the main page, but more evolved structures, topic categories, tags, templates and other ways of organising the information will be necessary as the initiative (hopefully) will start growing. A specific page is set up with this letter, and Talk/discussion page for dialogue into the future development of this service in:
The server, plus the initial design and maintenance of this service will be provided by International Study of Games Cultures (InGa), a project funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation and carried out by the University of Tampere with international collaborators. Together with researchers from the University of Turku we have designed the small snapshot entry currently filed under “Finland” as a test of what a country specific page could look like:
Hopefully this experiment will grow and can be of service to the community. — With Season’s Greetings from Finland;
— Frans Mäyrä & the InGa Team