Happy Fifth Birthday, First Person Scholar!

fps wordcloud

You don’t often hear from me, but I’m the Managing Editor for First Person Scholar. I’ve been involved in this site in some capacity or another almost from the very beginning. In 2012, FPS meetings grew out of the semi-regular Games Institute meetings at the University of Waterloo, and I’ve had the privilege of watching the site grow from those humble beginnings to the middle-state powerhouse it is today. Whether I was involved as a contributor, a fan, or an editor, First Person Scholar has been a near constant presence in my life for five years. Continue Reading

New Directions, New Destinations

An Editorial from the Outgoing Editor-in-Chief

Editorial - One Year

As you’ve seen over the past couple weeks we are going through a changing of the guard here at First Person Scholar. At this point many of the founding editors have either graduated from their programs, or are in the midst of doing so. For myself, I am in the final stages of my dissertation and so I too am moving on. And it’s high time that I did so. It’s not that I’ve grown tired of FPS—far from it in fact, as evidenced by the many thank-yous below! But at the same time the role of an editor-in-chief should be to bring a direction and destination to a publication and I think the longevity and success of a site like FPS will be measured by the range of people at its helm, the multitude of directions it goes in, and the variety of destinations it seeks to arrive at. What I’d like to do in this post is to briefly reflect on my time here at FPS and then formally introduce the team of people who will be taking FPS in those new directions, towards new destinations. Continue Reading

Procedural Realism

The Political Representation of Reality in Videogames

Commentary - Procedural Realism

In this post I develop the concept of procedural realism in videogames. By procedural realism I mean those game processes that strive to represent real-world systems in a manner deemed accurate or realistic. What I want to explore here is the politics of procedural realism, something I pursue by examining what game developers choose to represent ‘realistically’ and what they choose to represent ‘unrealistically’ or, in certain cases, not at all. These decisions are political in the sense that they have implications for various subjects. Continue Reading

Videogames and Empathy

Towards a Post-Normative Ludic Century

Essay - Empathy and Videogames

Videogames and empathy—you could hardly be blamed for thinking that these two things have very little in common. Just last week Polygon published an opinion essay titled “No skin thick enough: The daily harassment of women in the game industry.” In the essay the author, Brianna Wu, details the abuse directed at women involved with videogames. It’s a demoralizing read, one that had me reflecting on the notion that we are entering a ‘ludic century’ (Zimmerman), in which our culture will be defined by systems, games, and play. If that’s true, then we need to seriously consider what Heather Chaplin calls the ‘dark side of the ludic century’—an age in which we become better at analyzing systems and detecting patterns, and less capable of sympathy and empathy. From this perspective, the trouble with games and empathy may have only just begun as the ludic century could be a period of prolonged detachment and disengagement from one another. Continue Reading

From Monopoly to Metal Gear

A Survey of Ludic Satire

Essay - Satire

Let’s talk about satire and games for a moment. Where these two intersect successfully we find critical, thought-provoking works that challenge contemporary social, cultural, political, or ideological beliefs. For this article I’ll adopt a rather loose definition of satire as an attempt to critique accepted beliefs through “irony, derision, or wit.” And while there are a wide range of beliefs worthy of criticism, I’m interested here primarily in accepted notions of violence and aggression as a means of resolution in mainstream videogames. The argument put forward here is that games provide a new form of criticism, ludic satire, that emanates from choice. Continue Reading

Feed-Forward Scholarship

Why Games Studies Needs Middle-State Publishing

Essay - Feed Forward Scholarship

In the next few pages I will outline two major forms of scholarship. One relies on feedback and the other on feed-forward. Let’s start with the former. Feedback scholarship shares a number of similarities with cybernetics. The phrase ‘cybernetics’ comes from the Greek word meaning steersman, as in the one who steers a ship. The man or woman steering a ship responds to the environment by adjusting the direction of the boat. In this case, the wind and the water provide feedback and the person steering the boat acts as a homeostatic mechanism, adjusting the course according to the feedback. Increasingly, I get the feeling that Games Studies is focused on maintaining the course but there’s not a lot of focus on the ultimate destination. In other words, Games Studies scholarship is inherently homeostatic. Continue Reading