Don’t Leave/I’m Ready

A Farewell Editorial in Three Parts

brey editorial header

As you may or may not know, the editorial team at FPS is run by grad students. That means our team changes from year to year. This year, three longtime editors are stepping down from the publication: betsy brey, Chris Lawerence, and Rob Parker. What will FPS look like next year? Well, we already know, but you’ll just have to wait and find out. But, before our August publishing break, they commandeered the weekly post one last time. Here’s what they have to say.

Part 1: betsy

Dear folx and friends,

I am an expert procrastinator, you know that? I’ve been putting off writing this editorial for literal years. This is the third year I’ve come back to this document, filled with crossed out ideas and too much philosophical waxing pointless description narrative framing. Is an editorial a story to tell, or is that just how I always write everything? I can start in the middle, the beginning, or somewhere in between. But I might as well start at the now, because that’s where we are. There isn’t an end yet.

It took me a few minutes to understand what it meant when I got that email. It wasn’t long ago. The Ivy Plus Libraries Confederation chose to include us in their Digital Gaming Communities Web Archive. We’re part of some academic libraries now. “Preserved” is an odd word in that email. How can we be “preserved” when we’re still in motion? I never saw that coming as a copy editor in 2014. As an Editor-in-Chief (EiC) in 2020, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I love that we will be archived and our work will not be lost if something happens to FPS. It feels strange that it would be Ivy League schools, of all places, to archive us though.

“Aren’t you nervous to leave it behind?” they ask me. No, I was at first, but then I remembered I had no idea what I was doing when I started. Passing FPS to people more kind and fierce and talented than I was in 2014 (or am now, for that matter)? That will feel good. As soon as I decide that I’m ready. 

I’ve never hidden what I do or have done with FPS, but I haven’t really explained to y’all what I’ve been doing the past three years on the site. Well, not in an official capacity but we all know I never stop hollering on Twitter. The last thing you probably heard from me as an EiC was when I wrote this letter in 2017. Those were my goals and expectations for FPS. It’s easy to feel like it’s never enough. Never enough work done. But as teachers, writers, social justice advocates, researchers, gamers that word still makes me cringe because of 2014 but I won’t let them have it, this is the kind of work that is never done, period.

I have always preferred to let our actions speak for our ethos as a publication. From time to time I have to, as we all do, give ‘em the old razzle dazzle, dance and sing my elevator pitch and smile through the stats. Explaining what we’ve been up to has always made me feel empty; it just never feels enough. It isn’t enough in a lot of ways. Are editorials supposed to be this sentimental? I can’t say I regret the vulnerability; I never have with FPS.

Maybe because of that, I didn’t realize the things I have been able to do with FPS, the opportunities I had myself and was able to make for others. Until this very moment, as I am writing this, I did not realize that I did everything I set out to do in 2017.

We published more interviews to try to show the wider depth of what game studies and game development looks like. I gave workshops, speeches, and talks for underrepresented folx in game development, game culture, and games academics. As a volunteer, as an invited speaker, or as a guest lecturer, I set out to be the best mentor, ally, and friend that I can.  I drop-kicked as much red tape as a graduate student can and our poor faculty supervisors have several times had to deal with me unapologetically going rogue to get things done. Fought for publishing and editing gender parity, for queer representation, for opportunities for Black, Indigenous, and people of color at FPS. I was dreaming when I mentioned it back in 2017, but I even got to edit a Twine game for FPS. And there’s another one coming in the future that I won’t get to work on, but I know we can continue to pave the way for more research creation and alternative scholarship at FPS. I failed in many ways. Succeeded in many ways, too. I will scream if anyone thinks this is a request for a gold star. Fuck that, this is the minimum; we all must take action and accountability. 

I’ve edited and coordinated on all five special issues FPS has ever done. 20-some podcasts and interviews. Five articles. Two funding grants. Three multi-institute collaboration projects. A loose estimate would say I’ve helped more than 300 people publish their work over the last seven years. And once at Gen-Con, I fan-girled at Mary Flanagan so hard that she was probably afraid of me. That’s the only part of this I did alone.

What makes me the most happy about that isn’t that I got to do it. It’s that I’m just one of the many people who help keep this dream alive. We’ve all done that much and more. More, again, and continuously. Because everything I’ve done at FPS hasn’t been about me as an editor or even FPS as a publication. This journey, these highs and lows, belong to all of us. You, me, them, us. The support of this community of scholars, players, designers, allies, and friends has been everything.  I hope I can find a sliver of this passion, care, and collaborative kindness in my future. I can’t wait for us all to see what’s coming.

I’ve been working at FPS for six of the eight years we’ve been running. Three of those years, I’ve been an EiC. It’s well past the time to let someone else steer this amazing little corner of game studies that we’ve been able to shape. I honestly question if I could keep doing the level of work I have been. I know I’ve been quiet for a FPS EiC–my predecessors have done so many awesome things–but you know what? So have I. I am so proud of the ways FPS is growing and will grow.

Thank you all.

Thank you to our 500+ contributors. Thank you to our 4,000+ (and growing!) readers.

Thank you Patrick, Sabrina, and Lia.

Thank you Nicholas, Diana, Alex C., Hanna, Joey, and Aidan.

Thank you Sarah, Justin, Pierson, Will, Rina, Elise, Raquel, Matthew, Megan, Tyler, Alex F., Lelia, Teagan, Theresa, John, Arianne, Michael, Becky, Jason L., Emily, Eric, Eve, Alex H., Josh, Judy, Jason H., Phil, Travis, Mark, Hana’a, Meghan, and Kent.

Thank you, Steve, Emma, and Alexandra.

Thank you Jen, Gerald, Neil, Agata, and Pam.

And thank you so, so much, Chris and Rob. There wouldn’t be a publication to step down from today if not for you two. You’ve held me together the past three years. Last year, we knew it was time to step down. But FPS wasn’t ready. And let’s be honest, we weren’t ready. I think we’re ready now.

Thank you. All of you, all of us.

Keep playtesting that weird research, and I’ll see y’all around <3

-bb

The settler city of Waterloo is located on the traditional territory of the Attawandaron (also known as Neutral), Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples. The University of Waterloo is situated on the Haldimand Tract, land promised to the Six Nations that includes six miles on each side of the Grand River. I acknowledge this with respect and humility. Acknowledging territory is an act recognition of the presence of Indigenous communities and peoples both in the past and the present. But acknowledgement isn’t enough.

Part 2: Chris

Juicy confession time for a supposed co-EIC of a weekly games publication: I finish very few games. I think the last game I saw the credits for was Doom Eternal back in March. Before that? The original Uncharted… in December (I know, I know, the Before Times).

I’m often playing half-a-dozen big games at the same time, and I lose track. Who are these assholes with the big foam swords and zippers again? I’m bad at seeing things through to completion.

But part of it is also a purposeful desire to linger, a desire to wander. Sure, I could free the divine beasts, storm the castle, and absolutely fuck up Ganon’s shit, but. . . ehhh. I’d rather run through the fields, catch butterflies, tinker with new cooking recipes, and just chill. At the end of the day, even when I love a game, I’m just not terribly bothered with endings. 

So it goes with First Person Scholar. Nominally, I am retiring from an active editorial role (And it’s well past time; I’ve been here–what, six years?), and there are some bittersweet feels attached to that, but for me it doesn’t really feel like an ending. I’m just grateful for the time.

Most of that time here has been spent as commentaries editor, and that time has felt in some ways a lot like the time I’ve spent in Hyrule Field–experimental, playful. Or if you prefer the theory, specifically queer theory, it’s been about “pleasurable possibilities embedded in the middle” rather than climaxes–Shira Chess (2016).

It’s here that I’ve found a real love for editing, for supporting new writers, for giving them room to really take off and make a mark on the discourse. It’s been rad. But it’s also time to let newer voices take up the task.

Because FPS isn’t going anywhere. This is a challenging time for everyone, I know, I know, doom and gloom and all that. There’s a lot that’s still up in the air. But I couldn’t imagine a more capable and more talented team to take up our project than the people we’ve got assuming our leadership roles now.

I’m not gone from the internet, either. You can still find me senior curating for Critical Distance, doing what in truth I always loved about this job the most: reading new voices in games, and connecting those voices to wider audiences.

Maybe that’s another reason why it doesn’t feel like an ending.

So I guess I won’t actually say goodbye. I’ll still be around (as a person for the current editorial team to holler at, and to help facilitate our next special issue), and so will FPS. I’m excited to see what kinds of weird and wonderful stuff we publish in 2021 and beyond.

Hope to see you there.

Part 3: Rob

I’ve been a part of First Person Scholar almost since the start (and even when I wasn’t officially a part of it, I was definitely out there cheering the editorial team on). For almost eight years, I’ve thought about First Person Scholar at least once a week, if not once a day. Much of what I’d contribute to this editorial is already covered in a piece I wrote to commemorate First Person Scholar’s fifth anniversary. Reading through it again, I’d say it’s a little sentimental, but I still agree with what’s in there. So, for this piece, I wanted to talk about messes.

The post-secondary education system is a mess. The systems that undergird and organize academia uphold white supremacy and patriarchal capitalist exploitation. To pretend otherwise is to erase the hard and absolutely vital work being done to change it. The messiness of that system has impacted and informed First Person Scholar. For proof, you only have to look at the founding editorial team for the site: wall-to-wall white dudes.

I wasn’t a part of the decision-making process at that time, but I can say that while it wasn’t a conscious decision to create a homogenous editorial team at launch, that’s still what happened. Without the continuous and committed work of several generations of editorial teams, it’s very easy to imagine a publication that would have stayed that way. Instead, various editorial teams took up the work that was needed to push back against those entrenched systemic tendencies to put a bunch of white dudes in charge. If you read through the exit editorials from previous EiCs, each one touched on the need for more diversity within the editorial team and a future where First Person Scholar would continue to make academic discourse more accessible for wider audiences.

I’ve been here this long because I deeply believe in the idea that First Person Scholar stands for. That idea is, in a word, accessibility. I don’t just mean accessibility in terms of taking complex academic theories and explaining them in less labyrinthine ways. I mean pushing back against all the myriad bureaucratic, financial, cultural, and sometimes pedagogical roadblocks academia deploys to communicate you’re not welcome here to anyone that isn’t a well-to-do, straight, white dude. I’d like to think that the proof is in our output and in our ongoing commitment to ensuring a diverse editorial team as we move forward, but my personal assessment isn’t relevant here. I’ve been too close to the site for too long. I want FPS to exist as a publication that is perpetually open to criticism and striving to do better, conscious that it is always possible to do better, rather than a site that pats itself on the back for a job well done and stops reflecting after that.

And so, it’s well beyond time to get some new folks to lead this site. COVID-19 has changed a lot of things in academia, and First Person Scholar is not exempt. This pandemic has already impacted funding and what post-secondary institutions deem “essential.” This new team will have their work cut out for them, no doubt. However, I cannot think of a more talented and capable group to navigate the road ahead.

As for me, I look forward to the chance to take a step back, take a breath, and figure out what my next step is. I am fortunate to have been a part of this site and I think the foundation everyone helped build means we can weather the future. I’ve worked with too many people to name individually here. Some of the folks I’ve worked with at FPS are among my closest friends and I’m so grateful for the chance to work on this and proud of what we’ve built.

The future is now a scarier place than ever. But as far as First Person Scholar is concerned, it’s one area where I genuinely can’t wait to see what comes next.