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
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
Content Notification: online harassment/abuse
When I wrote my new book, The Toxic Meritocracy of Video Games: Why Gaming Culture Is the Worst, I knew that I would be poking at a soft spot and would get a response. The title alone is designed to provoke and the content within it encourages readers to consider a variety of issues related to game culture, meritocracy, and structural privilege. All of these things get a reaction from people, but the primary argument I want to advance in this essay is the need for all of us to reflect on game culture, game studies, and on how the choices we make reproduce the defensiveness that is so readily seen in discussions around video games. Continue Reading
What does it mean to be immersed in something?
This is a question I’ve been asking myself for the last year or so. As a member of the Games Institute, which is part of the IMMERSe network, this question is one that pretty much pervades my 9-5 existence. It’s not always at the forefront, but it’s always there. Continue Reading
Some people might respond to that last sentence and say that good scholarship requires discomfort. You should have to prove yourself in order to be accepted by the community. To be clear, I’m not arguing that I like fan studies because they have no standards. It’s just that the standards that fan studies sets are actually achievable. Fan scholars understand that you can’t possibly be a fan of everything that anyone is a fan of. Recent scholarship even makes the argument that as a fan of one thing you aren’t even expected to know everything about it. Zubernis and Larsen (and Jenkins) argue that defining a fan as someone who makes or collects things—as being active—denies the ways in which fans can participate by reading, by thinking, by sharing links (Zubernis and Larsen 16). There are as many ways to be a fan as there are fans. Continue Reading
Four members of the Games Institute take a hard look at the Amiibo trend from a variety of angles including: historical materialism, fan exploitation, nostalgia, consumerism, fan cultures, and competing corporate strategies. A good mix of pontificating about Nintendo as a company and a culture and general nerding out. Continue Reading