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

Why Write About a Book?

An Editorial About Book Reviews

Editorial - One Year

In fact, if there’s anything I regret from my tenure as review editor, it’s not going far enough to promote different perspectives. I wish I had dedicated more time to pursuing a wider diversity of reviewers, and, especially in the early days of FPS, I regret pushing reviewers to hit that formal, authoritative tone instead of pursuing their own voice and position. It’s to that end, in fact, that I’ve been very grateful for the review model pioneered by Elise Vist, as I think it really draws out the multitude of approaches that can be brought to bear on long-form criticism, asking what a given work meant to the reviewer’s research, to the field, the classroom, and to the reviewer personally. These are questions worth asking. Most of all, though, I regret not stepping further out of the academic field in terms of the books themselves. I’m proud of how multidisciplinary the reviews are—we’ve got reviews about ethnography and sociology, genre and gender, games for health and game culture. There’s some edging towards criticism outside of academia, but not enough. Further, I would have liked more reviews on things that blur the line of engagements with games entirely: gamebooks, game art books, longform criticism like Leigh Alexander’s Lo-Fi Let’s Plays. Chris will have his own vision of where the Book Reviews will go, but these are my own roads not traveled. Continue Reading

Looking Back & Looking Ahead

An Editorial from the Essays Editor

Editorial - One Year

I have no idea where the field is going, but I can say where I’d like it to go in general terms. I hope to see a further focus on two concepts in particular, subjectivity and complexity. Subjectivity is important for the obvious reason that videogames are played by humans. A critical methodology that ignores subjectivity is, in my view, missing an important piece of the puzzle. As Stephanie Jennings puts it, “the critic’s subjectivity, experiences of playing a game, and even personal identity are… part of the game text under analysis.” The idea that objectivity is desirable or even remotely possible in criticism is, in my view, absurd. Sure, we can discuss the formal characteristics of a thing, but the characteristics we choose to examine and how we interpret them is going to depend on the person. Luckily, I think we’re at the point where the push for objectivity is disappearing and more or less confined to the comments sections for AAA game reviews. Still, the examination of subjectivities is something I’d like to keep seeing. Continue Reading