Emma Vossen is a PhD candidate currently writing a dissertation about the accessibility of games and gamer culture for girls and women. Her research is examining how comfortable women feel playing, talking and writing about games in both physical and virtual spaces and how this determines who enters and becomes a part of gamer culture.
The New Team
Hi, I’m Emma and I’m the new Editor in Chief of FPS! After his many years as EIC, Steve Wilcox has graciously left this position to me after a few months of training. In fact, we (the outgoing section editors of FPS) have been training a whole crop of new editors for the past few months in an effort to maintain FPS’s longevity. Student-run publications and programs have a habit of cropping up and then disappearing soon after their inception because fortunately/unfortunately people must eventually graduate. Many of our existing editors are now either in the process of graduating or have already graduated; they are looking for jobs or have already landed great ones and while this doesn’t mean they wanted to walk away from FPS it does mean they have less time to devote to it than those of us still picking away at our games related dissertations. This turnover is especially important if we want to keep up our current publishing schedule where we publish new games related content for our audience from a vast array of talented authors every Wednesday all year long (with a short break in August and December so we can all breathe). It’s not easy getting quality work out there every week, but we manage to do it without fail because of the devoted work of our (totally unpaid) hard-working editorial team. I owe a great debt to all the previous editors of FPS including Steve Wilcox, Jason Hawreliak, Michael Hancock, Kent Aardse and Meghan Blythe Adams for all their hard work on making FPS it what it is today. Keep your eyes peeled for great things from these fine folks!
I am also very happy to announce a line up of brand new editors for our 2015-2016 season of FPS. Every single one of these editors is taking on a new position where I am sure they are going to excel. I cannot wait to see what this team can accomplish, considering how much they have helped FPS already as assistant editors, associate editors and copyeditors.
We have as follows:
contact at: firstname.lastname@example.org
contact at: email@example.com
contact at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I feel so lucky to be taking on the EIC position with this team that I trust and have enjoyed working with so much in the past! If you would like to submit to any of these three sections you can contact them through their emails above!
The Road So Far
A lot has changed since I showed up to my first FPS meeting. Steve asked me to join FPS in 2013 as I was running gameplay nights in our community that were focused on being inclusive for women and he thought I might be able to lend a different perspective on games and gaming. This was a few years before Gamergate but because of my lifetime of experiences playing games as a woman I was obsessed with finding ways to make playing, talking and writing about games more accessible to myself and others who didn’t fit into the “gamer” or “game studies” mold. Eventually this obsession would become my dissertation research, but at the time I was still working on a dissertation about similar issues focusing on gender, sexuality and pornography.
At first I was mostly just functioning as a consultant for FPS and doing some editing here or there but I became increasingly fascinated with the commentaries section and its nebulous identity. Before joining the editorial team I had written both a Book Review and an Essay for FPS but I had avoided writing a Commentary because I wasn’t quite sure what it was. There was a lot of discussion at FPS meetings about what defined the Commentary as a genre. Was it the priority of the theory? Was it the number of games discussed? Was it the type of writing? The number of citations? The timeliness? Because the Commentary is a sort of genre unto its own we have been making it up as we go and I think only recently has the section really come into its element as a fully functioning third of FPS. I remember at one meeting I tossed in my two cents saying, “Well, I think ideally we are looking for a commentary on a topic or text that is not written as a formal essay-style argument.” This rough sketch eventually moved me to my current definition of the commentary, which is purposely open ended: “Is your piece of writing an essay? Yes? Then it’s not a commentary. No? Well then it’s probably a commentary.” The three formats we use at FPS are so different because we think carefully about the rhetorical positioning of our arguments. What benefits your argument more? Does it need a more casual or a more formal format? Does it even work as either? Would it be better off as a podcast? Or a video? Most commentaries could be written as essays and vice versa but usually it becomes clear in the writing process which way you need to frame your argument to get the most out of it.
My favorite example of the commentary form was written by our book review editor Elise Vist – she discusses her academic transition from game studies into fan studies and how the methodologies encouraged in the two disciplines influenced her thinking throughout her education. Elise is a talented writer and could have easily written this article as an essay, but I feel like its strength is its loose form and very personal perspective.
The commentary section also allowed for a space to discuss more than just games and theory, its flexibility made it the perfect place to discuss events and culture as well. My first commentary (and my first act as Section Editor of Commentaries) was a two piece article about Gamergate and safe spaces within games culture. At that point we hadn’t published anything quite like this (although we had published a few other pieces looking at gamer culture) but it was necessary for us to respond to what was happening as a publication. It became clear that if we were going to discuss systemic problems in games then the culture, the industry, and the consumers were going to be just as important to examine as the texts themselves. The reaction my article got also made us realize that we were (sadly) going to have to start working a lot harder to protect our site and our contributors but the positive attention it got made it clear that this type of writing was highly valued by our readers.
I realize now that this autoethnographic games writing was the direction my research was taking all along. My essay about The Walking Dead game from June 2013 concluded with an examination of the memes of being shared by players and wondering if they demonstrated a desire for gen Y and Z players to live out a fantasy of parenthood that their IRL economic positions would never let them fulfill. My book review of Hyrule Historia concluded with me questioning how much of the information being canonized in this official guide to the Zelda universe was actually fan created material, and wondering how fans feel about having their unofficial Zelda timelines made “official”. My non-games related writing is the same: I’m always more interested in the consumer, the reception, and the culture than the product or text itself. Discussing Gamergate and gamer culture has just been the logical extension of my life long interest in how identity intersects with consumption and creation. This type of writing did incredibly well on FPS and my commentary about Gamergate led Katherine Cross to contact me and write her own commentary about Gamergate which went on to become the most read FPS article of all time in a matter of days. Working with Katherine on this piece was incredibly affirming for me and I realized that I wanted to devote more of my time and energy to making FPS as great as possible. I wanted more of our articles and authors to get the attention they deserve for their ideas. I wanted to help translate the work being done in academia to the rest of the world. I wanted to demonstrate our validity as games critics and show the power of free open online scholarship. The rest is history, and now i’m stepping up as EIC. It’s extremely fitting that the first article of the new year will be written by Cross as the debut article in a special issue of talks from the Different Games Conference this year. This special issue will span the rest of the month and I hope you enjoy reading these articles as much as I did!
I had a few pithy goals for the last year as Commentaries Editor and I think that I accomplished them. The first goal was to see more women writing and editing for FPS, the second was to see more writing about games culture, and the third (highly personal fangirl agenda here) was to see more writing about Nintendo games and gaming. Last year approximately 17 of our 45 (not including interviews, editorials, round tables, or podcasts) articles were written by women which has increased a lot from the approximately 11/33 or the 10/37 the year before that. So that is 37% up from 33% up from 27% — it’s a slow but steady climb. It is worth noting though that our most read and shared articles are more often than not written by women and that we are currently (as of this fall) up to 5 women editors which will hopefully lead to an upswing in submissions from women. I think we saw a small increase of writing about games culture but we could do much better in that category. Lastly I think we did a pretty impressive jab at my third goal of writing more about Nintendo! Nintendo games while taking up a large corner of the games market are rarely examined seriously in game studies, usually the majority of our articles (and articles elsewhere) examine either very serious narrative heavy AAA games or art games/serious games/news games/ indie games. We had a few great articles examining Nintendo games including Brey and Orlando’s examination of Pokemon Snap, Lawrence’s take on Majora’s Mask, Gino Grieco’s thought provoking piece about Nintendo’s use of lenticular design and, of course, our Podcast about the Amiibo phenomenon (part 2 coming soon).
These are still all goals of mine going into the 2015/2016 school year. I want the number of women contributing to keep climbing. I want to publish more writing about casual games, children’s games, pink games, purple games, transmedia games, card games, escape games, and all other understudied genres of gaming. I’m extra interested in contributions about production, distribution, reception, and criticism of games and game adjacent activities. I would love to see some examinations of niche aspects of games culture as opposed to the larger gamer community and welcome any pitches about these communities of fans and players. Lastly, I think we are far from done discussing games in relation to identity and identity formation and would love to solicit pitches that look seriously at identity in terms of class, age, gender, sex, sexual identity, ability, race or nationality. We are looking to expand our writing not just in terms of content but also form and methodology, so feel free to send us an email if you have writing that you think could fit into one of our three categories but is a bit of an experiment for you. I’m still waiting on the day that someone sends in a submission formatted as a Twine game!
Well, that’s it from me for now. Most importantly: thank you for reading FPS, for supporting middle state publishing and for supporting all the great writers who have come to us as a platform to try out new ideas. Steve recently came up with a new slogan for us when he said that he saw FPS as a place for “playtesting scholarship.” I love this concept and I will do everything I can to make sure that FPS is a safe and inclusive space for us to playtest our ideas, and discuss them as a diverse community of games scholars composed of those within and outside the academy, the games industry, and games culture.