Year in review – my 2015 in game studies

The year 2015 was a busy year, and hard to summarise as it feels like there never really was any time to stop and reflect; thus I welcome this short review note as such opportunity. Much of my time this year was spent on administrative things, related processes, projects, work contracts and plans of restructuring at the multiple levels of the Finnish university system, Tampere 3 university fusion, internal University of Tampere structures, the School of Information Sciences, our degree programmes and the IGS master’s degree programme, TRIM as the research centre and our Game Research Lab, and its individual research projects and other work.

In terms of published research, it was delightful to follow how many interesting book projects were finished and came out during 2015 (many of these are already out and available, even if their official publication year is 2016). Particularly the Routledge Advances in Game Studies series was in high gear, as several important research volumes were published there; my research articles were included in The Dark Side of Game Play, The Video Game Debate and Video Game Policy books. (There were other important books in the series, too, including Rachel Kowert’s Video Games and Social Competence, and Ashley ML Brown’s Sexuality in Role-Playing Games.) For more, see: https://www.routledge.com/series/RAIGS My own work included analysing the subversive uses of chidren’s games, exploring the gaming communities, and (together with Gareth Schott) re-conceptualizing game violence.

In other published work, I was proud to be part of the editorial board of Finnish Yearbook of Game Studies (Pelitutkimuksen vuosikirja; with the new editor-in-chief Raine Koskimaa), have in-depth analyses of our game researcher survey study come out in esteemed Journal of Communication (Thorsten Quandt, Jan Van Looy as the main authors in this article). I also published a historically oriented overview of Finnish games and game culture in the Video Games Around the World volume, edited by the amazingly productive Mark Wolf for the MIT Press. I also wrote an article exploring the character and development of mobile games that was published in the International Encyclopedia of Digital Communication & Society (Wiley-Blackwell). Last but not least, the long-waited book, Playful Identities: The Ludification of Digital Media Cultures came out from Amsterdam University Press. My piece there deals with the culture and identity of casual online play.

Our research team’s work in 2015 again covered a large part of the games, player experiences, design research and game cultures landscapes. Our particular emphasis is on the emerging and transforming aspects of these, multiple and interconnected phenomena and research topics. In 2015 we wrapped up the research projects Hybridex – The User Experience in the Future Playful Hybrid Services and Free2Play – Best Practices for Free-to-Play Game Services. Some of the research publications, including the full final reports from these projects are still coming out, but you can find some of this work at: https://free2playproject.wordpress.com/publications/ and https://hybridex.wordpress.com/ . Our work in the emerging, and newly re-configured borderlines of physical and digital dimensions in play also included also practical design experiments in the TSR funded OASIS research that studied intermixing of work and play, as well as with the playful MurMur chairs (originating from the Hybridex project). Featured in local as well as in international media, such practical implementations of fundamental research particularly appear to attract the attention of wider audiences. The high-quality research on gamification was also getting wider notice this year, including many publications that were coming out from Koukku, Neuroeconomics of Gaming and Free2Play research projects on this theme. Many thanks to all members of our research team, from these, as well as other research projects.

Much of such research that includes direct applications and links with games industry and other end user or interest groups were funded by Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, as well as by various industry partners. Many thanks to all our collaborating partners, and Tekes in particular for their interest and belief in the significance of games and games related research. The Skene games programme ended in 2015, but everyone very much hopes that the huge funding cuts to Tekes, Academy of Finland and directly to the basic funding of Finnish universities does not stop work in themes that are important for the advancement of fundamental knowledge, cultural richness, and capacity for innovation – be those related to arts, technology, humanities, social sciences or e.g. human well-being (studies of games, play, gamification and playfulness relate and touch upon all those research areas).

Our work continues in active mode also in 2016, thanks to two new Tekes research projects (Hybrid Social Play; STREAM/eSports), the Academy of Finland funded Ludification of Culture and Society project, and other ongoing work that is based on individual research grants that members of our research teams have won, as well as other continuing research projects. There are many important themes that are logical continuation of the earlier work we have done (and I have probably forgot to mention many important achievements above), but there are also new innovations and expansions into new areas that are going on. Directing my time and energy into new research on e.g. hybrid play applications while simultaneously participating in other ongoing work will probably mean that in 2016 there will not be as many publications coming out from myself, but that is part of the natural rhythm, ebb and flow of academic life. It is also important that the new tenure-track associate professor in game culture studies position, announded in summer 2015, will be filled hopefully in early 2016. We are also joining forces among the Finnish game scholars to have more supportive structures and collaborative initiatives to start in 2016.

Again: many thanks for everyone in our team, project collaborators and international friends who have made 2015 such a successful and productive year – wishing you all the best, and hoping to make 2016 also a great year together!

Edit: Oh yes – Jaakko Stenros defending his PhD thesis should of course be mentioned here; every doctoral dissertation from our research team is a major milestone!

Author: frans

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