Mobile Games, SimCity BuildIt, and Neoliberalism

A screenshot of a city in SimCity BuildIt

EA Mobile’s SimCity BuildIt, released for iOS and Android in 2014, is the newest entry in the historic SimCity franchise. With forty million players worldwide, SimCity BuildIt is also the most played SimCity game ever released (Lazarides, 2015). Its expansive international community seems, at first, to procedurally deliver on the promises of free market globalization, achieving an equitable marketplace in which anyone, anywhere can participate. While playing SimCity BuildIt, I have traded goods with players who speak Arabic, French, Japanese, and Russian (though we have never exchanged a word). Continue Reading

Game Studies

From Colonization to Columbian Exchange

Representation of Alberti's window (perspective drawn using a front picture plane). Engraving (modified) from G. B. Vignola, La due regole della prospettiva practica, 1611.

As a film studies professor holding both an M.A. and Ph.D. in film studies, I spend my days telling people around me that games are not only “not a form of cinema”, but also that cinema is not a viable lens to discuss the visual nature of video games. This is rather strange, considering the department where I work is neatly divided into two relatively independent sections: art history on one side, and film studies on the other. Game studies have been, thanks to my colleague and former mentor Bernard Perron, present at the Department for over ten years now, but resolutely as part of the film studies section. With my colleague Carl Therrien, we now have 3 professors specialized in game studies, around 20 students doing M.A. and Ph.D. work on video games, an undergraduate Minor degree in game studies averaging 50 students a year, an official M.A. option in video game studies, and a game lab dedicated to historical preservation with more than 60 consoles and 2000 games. This suggests that it may only be a matter of time before our dual-headed department turns into a three-headed Gleeok. Continue Reading