“10 Years of Game Studies” panel notes

Sharing my rough notes from DiGRA 2013 “10 Years of Game Studies” panel:

Who are the game researchers? Where are the game studies heading? What we can learn from the history of contemporary game studies to inform the scholarly work we carry out and aim to do in the future? Finland has been active in the international scene of studying games for many years, and in my comments will draw from my perspectives as the first president of DiGRA and as the head of the Game Research Lab in the University of Tampere:

Notes outline:

– remembering the original goals and vision of DiGRA (c. 2001-2002)

– promoting the academic study of games: the need for recognition, or even the basic possibility of doing academic work related to games

– focus in promotion, professional, as well as in scholarly sense

– the need for more job opportunities, as well as a shared vocabulary of game studies (degree programs, jobs, identity, community)

– the most ambitious goals were perhaps even revolutionary

– to make the academia more playful place, “take over” the scholarship

– paradigm shift, change of an era

– after a few years, it became clear that the speed of change was not necessarily as fast as some wished for

– we established journals, the association, published books, articles, got research grants and many research projects

– getting entire degree programs and tenured professor, lecturer and researcher positions was slower

– particularly the economic downturn in the society and restructuring / scaling down of some universities has hit also this field

– yet, important progress has been made

– it is no longer valid to approach the game research as a “blank slate” and claim that your definition or theory/typology of game, play or game culture is the first in the field

– there is not necessarily overall consensus, but there is dialogue, and that is important

– personally, I am happy that DiGRA has persisted, against the challenges of a) turbulence of academia, b) dynamic changes in the phenomena of games and interactive/online media, c) multidisciplinarity of the field

– it could well have been that the field of game studies would have broken down into humanities, social sciences, computer sciences/engineering, design based subcommunities

– to a certain degree there are such subcommunities, but there are also places like the DiGRA conference where people coming from many different backgrounds meet and discuss

– in terms of discipline, Game Studies can be both promoted, heralded as well as criticized as a project

– some think that currently there is already too much uniformity and conformity of thought in this field (“the ludology canon”?), some think that the field is too haphazard, broken down and in need for more disciplinary identity

– it can be claimed that all academic disciplines are in “crisis”, and have been for decades already (the self-questioning and critical reflection of all fields of knowledge is constant part of science and scholarship)

– I think both aspects are needed in a healthy, dynamic and living field or discipline: divergent and convergent elements

– some basic vocabulary is needed so that we can communicate the research questions and identify the object of our research

– at the same time, alternative perspectives and approaches are needed since they open up new perspectives, question and rejuvenate the field

– some think that academic game studies is insufficiently connected with the practice of making games

– yet, some scholars are exactly working on applied game studies, design experimentation, innovation, or promote the recognition of alternative voices in game design and culture

– some think that there is too much complicity with the industry, or that game scholars are too much “gamers” and fans of games themselves, lacking critical distance to see the negative dimensions of games and play clearly enough

– this is obviously one dynamic line that is capable of putting game studies into motion, if we engage into better dialogue about such issues in our conferences and papers, and in the practice of our work

– yet, we need both basic (theoretical, even “esoteric”) research and study of games, as well as applied work that links to issues relevant for making better or more ethical, games and services, and more sophisticated game criticism

Author: frans

Professor of Information Studies and Interactive Media, esp. Digital Culture and Game Studies in the University of Tampere, Finland.

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