“Miniaturized, A Bit Abstract, But Strangely Compelling”

A Review of Role-Playing Game Studies: A Transmedia Approach

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

Gamification as Responsible Experience Design

Disrupting the New Norm and Fostering a Hero’s Journey

Within the domain of educational technology, new pedagogical approaches and technologies have been “disrupting” the status quo of teaching and learning practices, which have in turn become mainstream and then been accepted as the “new” norm. In recent years, digital platforms, ranging from e-learning and simulation platforms to digital games and mobile applications aiming to enhance engagement, have provided alternative means and options for the way learning content is delivered and consumed. However, there is danger that a learner’s focus is further fragmented by these “disruptions.” Furthermore, dependence on different online and digital platforms for facilitating learning could lead to disconnections between learners’ engagement with the different sources and disparities between the virtual/digital and real knowledge, capabilities, confidence and self-awareness (Warburton, 2009; Arnab et al., 2011). Continue Reading

Play as Bulwark of Uselessness

Almost two years ago, halfway through my doctoral course, I found myself in Finland at the “Critical Evaluation of Game Studies Seminar,” where, above all the “big names” in the field of Game Studies who spoke there (among which were Aarseth, Deterding, Juul, and Mäyrä), one thing was indelibly imprinted in my memory: Canadian sociologist Bart Simon’s characterisation of Game Studies as a true, undeniable “bulwark of uselessness”. As a customary “tank” player in MMOs, always relishing the role of defending my teammates in our small, unnecessary virtual struggles, the image stuck strongly. Continue Reading