Back in July betsy, Chris, and Rob said their farewells and hinted at some changes for the coming year. After some time at the character selection screen, Sabrina, Patrick, and Lia have been chosen to take up the mantle and continue the adventure that FPS started all those years ago. And what better way to start than with some introductions and an unveiling of those changes.
While we sit here writing this editorial, all we can think about is the one promise we made to the outgoing editors: “Just do the best you can and love the publication as much as we do, and there’s not much that can go wrong. We believe in you.” And with those words, the three of us sit at the continue screen with every intention to keep First Person Scholar the amazing publication and community it is, while unquestionably making it our own.
Sadly, this year, due to COVID-19 and other circumstances beyond our control, we’ve lost funding and won’t be able to pay our contributors. But we’re still here, volunteering our time for the publication that means so much to all of us, and we want to hear from you! Your voices matter, and your opinions matter, and we are really looking forward to hearing (and publishing) them, especially if you’ve got something to say about gender, sexuality, or racial identity in games.
We have a lot in store for you all this year! First, we want to continue the work our forerunners have done to make FPS a safe space to write about gender and sexuality, and dedicate even more space to Black, Indigenous, People of Colour voices. So, we will be looking out for articles that advocate for and/or come from those perspectives! Second, we’ll be tweaking our podcasts to allow space for some casual conversation and have a more consistent team. Our podcasts will now regularly feature our three editors and our Podcast producer, Giuseppe Femia. Third, we’ll be starting up an FPS stream! Three days a week, you can check in with the three editors and watch us stream our favourite games and talk about them. You can catch us on our personal streams or hosted at twitch.tv/firstpersonscholar on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 4:30-6:30 PM.
Let’s not mince words: it’s been a rough few months. For those reading this, we are eternally grateful you are still here for us and we promise to be here for you as well. Keep doing your best and we’ll keep doing ours. But on that note, who are “we”? We’ve shifted some of the responsibilities to the section heads to form a team of co-managing editors, because after all, it’s dangerous to go alone. But that’s just us professionally, let’s take a minute to let you know who we are outside of the FPS office!
Part 1: Sabrina – Editor in Chief, Book Reviews & Interviews Section Head
I grew up in a semi-traditional Italian family, with two older brothers, and mostly older cousins (and family friends who I treat as cousins). This meant that if I wanted to have fun and play with my brothers and cousins, I had to start understanding games from an early age. But, I won’t lie—as a kid, I rarely played anything. My preference was watching my brothers and cousins play. They were so good at these games! I remember spending hours watching my brothers play Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo, 1998), or Kingdom Hearts (Square Enix & Disney, 2002), to name a few. It wasn’t until later in life, as I started to get older, that I started playing on my own, or with them.
I have a lot of fond memories playing Halo (Bungie & 343 Industries, 2001–) with my brothers, cousins, and even my dad. But when I was a teenager, that’s when things clicked: I picked up Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (Ubisoft, 2010), and became obsessed with researching the actual history that inspired the story. I maintained this desire to analyse and understand games for their storytelling abilities with me throughout my undergraduate studies, but it wasn’t until after I graduated from Ryerson with a Bachelor’s in English Literature that I realized I could actually study games academically.
That’s what brought me to graduate school! So here I am, doing a Ph.D., and somehow trying to make a career out of playing and studying games. So, to all the teachers that said gaming would get me nowhere: jokes on you—because here I am!
In line with my early gaming interests, my research tends to focus on which narrative structures appear in games, and whether that indicates a cultural preference for a certain type of story (at least in the context of this medium). This means that I prefer to play (and research) story-rich, single-player RPGs, but I do play the odd first-person shooter, strategy game, or MMORPG. As long as a game can really suck me in and immerse me into its player-character and world, I will enjoy it.
I’ve been with FPS for almost two years now. I started by working in Commentaries, and learned a lot about what writing in the Games Studies field can be. I loved my time in those positions, because I had such great leaders to guide me, and it showed me how intersectional and open this field can be. I’m happy that this year, I get to be a big part of the Editorial team. Filling the shoes of those before me will not be easy, but I am extremely excited for the team we have this year, and for all of the plans we’ve got in store for our readers! As Editor-in-Chief and head of Book Reviews and Interviews, I’m dedicated to giving voices to those who are often silenced, and building a strong sense of community around FPS. It’s time to tear down the Ivory tower, and I can’t wait to make that part of the journey.
Part 2: Patrick – Co-managing Editor, Essays Section Head
What brought me to game studies wasn’t necessarily video games but horror. While I played video games throughout my childhood, my passion in my teens and early adulthood was watching, collecting, writing about, and reading about cult and horror films. My dream job was to work at a video store, which I achieved in 2001 at age 17. Eleven years later, I outdid myself and became a contributor and columnist for Rue Morgue (a formative horror rag in my youth).
Sadly, my interest in horror movies began to wane at this time, probably through reviewing droves of mediocre titles. I was drowning in horror movies every day (mainly underground/DIY stuff) and becoming desensitized. I found thrills instead through a slew of indie horror games that were coming out at the time, such as The Amnesia series (The Chinese Room, 2010-2013), Slender: The Eight Pages (Parsec Productions, 2012), Lone Survivor (superflat games, 2012), and Home (Benjamin Rivers, 2012)—it’s worth noting that a lot of the horror games I loved at this time were pretty problematic in representations of mental health, but I digress. I adored the low-fi graphics (especially in Home and Lone Survivor), for tickling my nostalgia and allowing me to run them on my old PC. I was able to shift to writing more and more about these games for the mag, but I eventually got burned out on writing about new releases. I was more interested in older horror stuff, specifically physical media (VHS collection was becoming more fashionable at the time).
To fully immerse myself in researching and writing about horror video collecting, I pursued a master’s degree. While working on my master’s research project, my collecting shifted to retro video games. I began with the old and unfamiliar (Atari 2600, Colecovision), expanded to childhood favourites (Gameboy and Sega Genesis), and ended with my pre-teen machines (Dreamcast and Playstation). The Dreamcast was the last system I was really into before largely ducking out of gaming until the aforementioned indies of the 2010s. The games I remember loving in the 6th generation of consoles were Resident Evil: Code Veronica (Capcom, 2000), House of the Dead 2 (Sega, 1999), and Zombie Revenge (Sega, 1999)—zombies were big at the time but hadn’t been played out, yet.
I like to imagine that the aesthetics of indie horror games awakened strange emotions that returned me to my formative gaming experiences and led me back to their source (gaming on the Genesis and Dreamcast). Of course, that’s probably bullshit sentimentalism. But that hasn’t stopped me from dedicating my dissertation to how retro graphics, particularly pixel aesthetics, make for affective narratives in indie games. While my current interests are far more sensitive than scary—I’d play Undertale (Toby Fox, 2015) over Imscared (Ivan Zanotti’s MyMadnessWorks, 2016) any day—feelings of the past still haunt my gaming choices today.
Switching gears, I want to say that I am very grateful to be a part of First Person Scholar. I come from entertainment journalism with a short stint in the Toronto zine scene. In those two places, I was surrounded by deep thinkers just looking to share knowledge. When I got to University, I was saddened by its closed doors and sneering attitude towards non-academic writing (YouTube Essays are great!). FPS, and the many publications like it, are indispensable. They not only lift up marginalized voices in games criticism but also kick open the doors of academia for us all to play together.
Facilitating a more open and accessible conversation can only be beneficial for society at large. Let’s dissolve the silos and perish together!
Part 3: Lia – Co-managing Editor, Commentaries Section Head
I think back to some of the earliest gaming memories that I have: shuffleboard against the old ladies in Florida when I was four or five, various educational computer games my parents got for me when I was a wee child, and the persistently brought up (but not remembered) time I erased my mother’s save in The Legend of Zelda (Nintendo, 1986). It’s only been recently with Subnautica (Unknown Worlds entertainment, 2014) that she’s gotten back into video games. And before anyone starts at-ing me on Twitter, yes I take full responsibility for that time away.
Growing up in the country, with a brother who had entirely different interests, meant I spent a lot of time on my own in the virtual worlds my Playstation 2 and CRT TV created. From the robot ridden planets of Ratchet and Clank 1-3 (Insomniac, 2002–2004) to the urban streets of Need for Speed: Most Wanted & Carbon (EA, 2005–2006), I found myself in worlds where I could relax and be myself. And yes, while gunfights, police chases, and street races can get your adrenaline pumping, the emotional release of not having to hide yourself goes a long way.
As a queer trans woman, I have a strong connection to the capacity of games to give you the space to experiment with who you are and take a breath away from the cloying air of the real world. My personal experiences blend directly into my academic research. While I don’t work exclusively with games, they are the perfect example of how players can reimagine characters as queer or trans, even where the developers maybe didn’t expect or intend. Driven by my own morbid curiosity—and a healthy dose of pressure from my partner and my friends—my research is turning to fanfiction as a library of the wonderful queer things a player’s mind can imagine.
As a first-year (approaching second-year) Ph.D. student, I feel blessed every day to have had the chance to work with so many amazing people and to continue working with them. I learn so much from contributors and colleagues alike, and every piece I work on gives me a little more hope for the future of academia and the world of game studies. As the head of commentaries, I recommend every contributor make the same move I do: to push back against the idea that your work should be removed from yourself. We all have a stake in the work we do, and there is no reason that should be removed from the words we share.
I may not be as prone to tear down and burn, but I’m all for being the new growth of the tree pushing all that old and rigid to the outside to make space for new voices.