Joysticks & Killing Joy

A Game Scholar’s Take on Sara Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life

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Content Notification: gendered violence, sexism, racism

I imagine an academy filled with feminist killjoys, showing off our scars and canes and mohawks and afros and ponytails, wearing dresses and t-shirts and crop tops and bowties and hijabs. We may or may not have vaginas— that doesn’t matter— and we identify as queer, bi, lesbian, straight, two-spirited, genderqueer, butch, femme, non-binary. We have depression, anxiety, PTSD, myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), and chronic pain. We play Candy Crush, Resident Evil, Mario Kart, Settlers of Catan, solitaire, and LARP. We keep talking and playing and writing and we can’t be shut up or shut out. We are here. Continue Reading

Getting Good: An Introduction to the Becoming Machine Series

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As a researcher who studies games and their practices, communities, and industries, I am deeply interested in the ways that my own proficiency with games (or lack of) modifies how and what I know about them. To take a pithy example, my years-long experience playing in Guild Wars 2’s PvE scene affords me some insight into the ways that the game has evolved to create some opportunities for incidental collaboration between players while suppressing others. At the same time, my utter incompetence with the game’s PvP play leaves me less capable (and less willing) to investigate it – to ask, for instance, how the Guild Wars 2’s meta has evolved in response to the demands of top competitive guilds. Continue Reading

More Than Affordances

Limitations and the Systems They Create: A Review of Ian Bogost's Play Anything

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Throughout my time in Grad School, I have been intensely curious about the word play and increasingly disenchanted by the idea of game studies. If play and culture are inexorably intertwined then it seems to me that studying games does little, whereas studying play in things that are not games can give unique insight into culture itself. However, in order to really get at this concept one would have to embrace the work of Johan Huizinga in a way that is often overlooked, discarded, avoided, or reduced to absurdity – the magic circle. When I found out that Ian Bogost was writing a book specifically about this concept of play, I was excited to see what he had to say on the subject. To that end, Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, & The Secret of Games may be one of the important books on the study of play I have found. Unfortunately, the book will most likely remain largely ignored because it is nearly impossible to pin down what the book exactly is. Continue Reading

Difficult Writing

A Response to Emma Vossen’s Publish or Perish

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So I’ll start with quick praise for Emma Vossen’s piece and the inspired and inspiring video for SSHRC. It’s a brave reflection on graduate student precarity, academic responsibility and this idea of middle-state publishing. That Emma is doing this in the context of game studies and in the spirit of inclusiveness and positive change is even better. I am a faculty member. I read it in all its middle state glory and I want to honour the valuable labour and contribution there with a response. Maybe it’s better to be outside academia for Emma’s arguments to take hold. I don’t think so. Her arguments are at the heart of our vocation as academics (and certainly as game studies scholars). Maybe Emma thinks this makes it harder for her to get an academic job, I think the opposite and many of my colleagues will agree. Continue Reading

Publish or Perish?

Or Publish with Purpose?

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If you are an academic you are probably achingly familiar with the phrase “publish or perish”, which has become the motto of our broken system. Publishing has become a numbers game and as someone in game studies, it’s hard not to see it as a game. If as a grad student you ask someone with a job how to get a tenure track job, they will often tell you the exact same things: “It’s very difficult to get a job but if you publish X many journal articles in journals of X quality and go to conferences X Y and Z and then cast your net wide enough you will get a job.” That is the formula I’ve heard 100 times: publishing along the party line = job. After you get a job, you might have to write a book to get tenure, but that book must be for an academic audience and must be published with a “good” academic publisher. Continue Reading

Critical game creation

as intergenerational social participation

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Trying to change education towards a more innovative, creative and game-based learning approach is not a single-player game. There is a need for a huge amount of research and educational innovation projects before making educational actors promote digital games as a learning strategy. Just after my Ph.D, I was lucky to join a research network, a sort of a “research guild” for promoting mutual help, creating joint events and develop academic exchanges. Our “research guild” was funded by the 7th framework of research of the European Commission as a network of excellence, the “Games and Learning Alliance” (GaLA 2009-2013). The GaLA network included nearly 50 researchers in the field of digital games with educational, health, cultural purpose, also called “serious games”. Being part of an international research guild allowed me to access a higher level through collaborations with other scholars worldwide. Being in a guild required me to join efforts in topics and tasks that were out of my reach in an individual or small team perspective. Being part of a research guild is fruitful in terms of networking and outcomes. Continue Reading

The Lost Levels

of New Games Journalism

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In reality, this mode of criticism brings us closer to, not further from, the majority of people who play games. Thinking through sensations of motion, for instance, helps to explain popular experiences with mechanics like quick-time events, exposing both their promise and their failings. When you are sensitive to the way a game literally feels, you can understand why some quick time events feel rewarding—they adeptly simulate a physical sensation—and why some don’t, like mere button-mashing that bears no resemblance to the action taken by the avatar on screen. Continue Reading