Book Review: Video Games as Culture

Considering the Role and Importance of Video Games in Contemporary Society

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I want to emphasize that this is not a book in which the reader will find untouchable truths: rather, it is a tool that explains, in a very clear and understandable way, some of the debates and discussions that are still open around video games and their communities. Hence, I would not dare to say that this is going to be a definitive or complete book, but the beginning of future works and new publications that will take as their starting point some of the questions that Muriel and Crawford have synthesized and summarized so well in it. Continue Reading

“A glimpse of the possibilities”

A Review of Queerness in Play

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It seems overly reductive to claim that any field is “characterized” by certain traits, but sometimes I’m tempted to resort to this tactic anyway after excellent first impressions of new work. So, by way of compromise I’ll say it this way: new scholarship in game studies is often influenced by the ways in which game studies itself is a developing and interdisciplinary field. And, in a strong recent example of this, the 2018 anthology Queerness in Play is at once a realization, a celebration, and a call for more work drawing from the intersections between queer studies and game studies. Contributors do a commendable job of keeping both the theory and the games they discuss accessible, and I imagine that this text will prove valuable to scholars and students alike. (I know I was taking notes for two of my other projects as I read!) Continue Reading

“You Ever Have That Feeling Where You’re Not Sure If You’re Awake or Still Dreaming?”

A Review of Woke Gaming: Digital Challenges to Oppression and Social Injustice

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Born from the ashes of Gamergate and the 2016 US election, Woke Gaming: Digital Challenges to Oppression and Social Injustice (2018) investigates video games from the lens of social justice, discrimination, and domination. Edited by Kishonna Gray and David Leonard and published by the University of Washington Press, Woke Gaming includes the work of scholars from a wide range of disciplines—game design, sociology, and criminal justice among others. Continue Reading

“Miniaturized, A Bit Abstract, But Strangely Compelling”

A Review of Role-Playing Game Studies: A Transmedia Approach

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In the introduction to Role-Playing Game Studies: A Transmedia Approach, José P. Zagal and Sebastian Deterding call games “trusty little mirrors of social life . . . miniaturized, maybe a bit abstract, but strangely compelling” (1). The latter portion of that quote serves just as well to describe their book’s relation to its topic. Noting a lack of cohesion in the study of role-playing games (RPGs), Role-Playing Game Studies strives to integrate scholarly works dispersed across a variety of disciplines and locales, and to begin the work of establishing a canon of RPG scholarship. Indeed, in a space already so nebulous and uncentered as game studies, RPGs appear mostly as curiosities – blips scattered across journals, institutions, and conferences, with little sense of who else is studying them and why. Continue Reading

Safiya Umoja Noble’s Algorithms of Oppression

A review

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In Vincent Mosco’s The Digital Sublime, the author describes the cult of technology as “cyperbole,” a kind of social fervor toward new methods of communication. Electricity, telegram, television, the computer and, now, the internet all had phases in their development that emphasized the utopian potential of a new and popular technology. But, according to Mosco, the real social influence of technology isn’t apparent until it becomes banal, after the utopian promises are unfulfilled and new technology has been integrated into existing power structures. A consequence of globalized industrial capitalism is that technology becomes the locus of progress that paradoxically weaves so neatly into daily life that it becomes unnoticeable. Continue Reading

Book Review: The Toxic Meritocracy of Video Games

Why Gaming Culture is the Worst

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Reviewing The Toxic Meritocracy of Video Games presented a bit of a meta problem for me. Once I finished the introduction, a thought popped into my head and refused to leave. I had been asked to evaluate on its merits, including the skill of the author, a book that is about the toxicity of games that “valorize skill and technique” (back cover copy). One of the major points of the book is that meritocracy is a flawed concept. Identifying meritocracy as a system in which skill is measured and outcomes tracked, with a mixture of talent and hard work rewarded, the author states that “meritocracy isolates, individualizes, and strips out context” (13). Continue Reading

Review: Boluk and LeMieux’s Metagaming:

Playing, Competing, Spectating, Cheating, Trading, Making, and Breaking Videogames

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As a topic, ‘Metagaming’ is heating up. Generally used as a catchall term used to describe all the ways in which games interface with the contexts in which they are played (Garfield 2000), discussions of metagaming have seeped into a broad range of competitive play communities (Abbott 2016; Masisak 2011). Academics also are learning to pay heed to the role of metagames in shaping communities of play and informing game design practice (Kow, Young, and Tekinbas 2014; Carter and Gibbs 2013; Carter, Gibbs, and Harrop 2012; Donaldson 2016). Nevertheless, discussion on the topic has been, for the most part, scattered, sparse, and balkanized. Continue Reading