America’s Army

If you are some sort of pack rat like me and have an unbearable compulsion to save anything videogame related, or if you are just interested in America’s Army, then you might want to check out the pdf about it. I haven’t read it yet, and honestly, I haven’t spent as much time with America’s Army as I should, but it looks interesting. And, again, I have a compulsion to download anything I see that might possibly potentially be useful in research at some undefined point at the future. Luckily, bits and bytes don’t take up much space…
I found it via a comment left over at Grand Text Auto.

Just a reminder…

I haven’t seen this or anything, but as a reminder, GSN, the channel formerly known as the Game Show Network, is going to be showing a documentary Sunday night. It will probably be horrible and nothing that anyone didn’t already know, but in my mind, even horrible things about videogames are interesting, simply because they are on the air and are being seen by lots of people who probably spend less time thinking about videogames than us academic folks and as such even horrible representations of videogames are for many the only representations that they may see.

So be sure to tune in tomorrow night! Its got Tony Hawk! It must be kewl!

I can’t escape it!!!

OK, this whole “I’m researching videogames” thing has started to get to me. I’ve been on spring break this week (whooo party! …or not) and I have been visiting friends who don’t own videogames (I know, I know, it is hard to believe that a) there are such people and b) that I, of all people, would be friends enough with them, but it is true). Now I”m home and trying to get caught up on school work. All day I’ve been looking at my lonely X-Box and thinking — “Man, I really should play a little bit. It’s been a week since I’ve played” but not out of some (at least overt) addiction, but out of obligation, like I am somehow obligated to play.
I know I’ve talked about it before, but it is weird that a hobby has now become some sort of job. A great job, but it still feels weird.
Anyone else feel that way?

A shocking, I say shocking, revelation

I was doing some reading this morning and found out something I didn’t know. We remember about the guy who shot Reagan back in the day, right? He did it to impress Jodie Foster. This story is pretty commonly known. Any time when they do a biography of Reagan they say this. While I was alive at the time, I didn’t remember WHY shooting Reagan was supposed to impress Foster.

The reason was that he was imitating Taxi Driver. That little bit of info goes pretty unreported when we the assassination attempt is discussed, at least as far as I can tell. Certainly, I might just be out of the loop. Now if he had done it in imitation of a video game, you can gaurantee that bit of information would be mentioned every time.

Look at Columbine. When it first happened, it was often said that there were three things that the kids were imitating. Now, chances are, if you ask the person on the street they will only say videogames. However, at the time there were also comments made against Marilyn Manson (I think though that it might have been shown that they didn’t even really listen to him) and the film, The Basketball Diaries in which there is a short scene where the star shoots some people in a school while wearing a trenchcoat.

It’s funny how the film accusations have fallen to the side. Now, this may come as a shock, but I am beginning to suspect that the media might be just a little bit less fair and balanced than they would like us to think….

The rant that will not die!!!

My rant is continuing to generate discussion. In fact, the whole conference seems to be stirring up debate. Is gamesstudies headed for its first rift? I hope not.

For my part, let me backpedal some more. I already posted about how I regret some of my language, but let me make clear, I implied that Dr. Palmer was an elitist bastard.

A couple of people have questioned if I understand what was really intended to go on at that confernece. I fully feel that I do. I’m not sure that ranting was the best way of making people understand my problem with the article. I don’t really have any problem with the conference. It is the way that it was presented in the article and some of the assumptions that still seem elitist and reproducing the bad of older disciplines that disturbs me.

That being said, bring on the comments. It is only through engagement that we will be able to prevent gamestudies from factionalizing. So let’s keep the talk coming.

…Even if you are all wrong! (that was a joke, seriously!)

Go with the flow

There is some discussion of work and how we need a way of talking about fun. In thinking of this I have long said that we need think of playing videogames as a performative act. We need to stop looking at the games and start looking at the players. (I’ve been saying that for almost 3 years now! That is a lifetime in videogame studies!) The fun is in the players, not the game. While his work has been criticized and it has ventured close to new age self help territory, I think that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work on “flow” can be of help in focusing on what goes on with the gamers and what is fun and how to talk about pleasure. I really recommend taking a look at Beyond Boredom and Anxiety for a way of thinking about pleasure and what happens when we are in the zone and why work sometimes is pleasurable.

Research

Anyone out there doing some research on videogame players as a sub-culture? Using a little Dick Hebdige or Sarah Thornton? I’m getting set to do some work on that and it would be nice to see what someone else has done on it.

Ranting Results???

Now, I do not seriously think that little old me had any influence on this at all, but in the comments below, Walter Kim (of Ludonauts.com) noticed that the article in question is no longer called “The Ivy-Covered Console” but is now called “Deconstructing the Videogame.” I haven’t had a chance to read the article again to see if anything else has changed, but it is interesting that at least a tiny little bit of the elitist connotations of the article have been removed.

Ranting regrets…

Of course the rant hasn’t been up a day yet and I feel like I should clarify it.

I like the work of all the bloggers mentioned. Even with the person who has the quote that I strongly disagree with is entitled to his opinion and I really don’t mean anything personal by it.

I read Mia Consalvo’s blog that she noted that violence isn’t mentioned at all, and I have to agree that this is a great step.

However, I sitll think that the article is dangerous in that it presents a very elitist vision of what videogame studies could end up being. Elitism sucks. Beware of it! (and of course I am aware of my own biases of reverse-elitism, or automatically tending to privledge the popular)

And of course there are typographical errors. I cannot spell. I may have a BA (or is it a BS? I really don’t remember) in English, but that doesn’t mean I can spell. I would go back and fix it, becasue it is embarasing, but I it is published and so be it.

*RANT* Uppity Research Makes the Baby Mario Cry! *RANT*

So this is going to be a rant inspired by the article Ivy-Covered Console. I am glad that our work is getting some press, but it seems that this article is built on some frustrating biases.

First, let me say it. We all know that the only reason that this conference that the article is about is not the first videogame conference, nor is it the biggest. Yet it gets coverage in the New York Times which spends a lot of money with commercials trying to convince me to have it delivered to me even though I live in Indiana. Sure lots of people think the New York Times is hot shit, so in some ways it is great that this article exists. Of course the only reason why it exists is that this conference is taking place at an Ivy-League School. So at the heart of this article is elitism. Something I have little patience for. What do you expect from someone that has a Master’s degree in Popular Culture?

Again, I suppose I should be thankful that this isn’t yet another article that talks about how evil videogames are and features lots of unchallenged quotes from my favorite lawyer, Jack Thompson. However, much of what is written in this article just makes me sad if this is what the future of videogame studies holds.

I originally wrote a blow by blow account of why I dislike this article, however, I figured that came of as bitter for even me.

The article is basically an exercise in elitism written for an elitist paper. That is my problem with the article. In my opinion, videogames and videogame studies should not try to emulate elitist, exclusionary practices of the ivory tower. One sample passage reads, “Video-game studies is still a nascent field, too young to have a standard list of must-play games…” No, no, no. Lists are for suckers. Literature departments have spent decades realizing that their cannons were too narrow. Let us not have a cannon. A cannon by its very nature is exclusionary. So what if we all thing that Half-Life is the best thing ever and Codename: Nina is crap, but does that mean that we shouldn’t at least look at it and figure out how such crap came to be? Obviously there are only a certain number of games that one person can play, but the minute we, as academics, start making up a cannon of videogames, then we are putting up walls and limits. There is tons an tons of crap out there, but crap is worth looking at. If we have to start using a cannon to tell ourselves which games are “worthy” of out time, then we might as well go back to more traditional fields.

Then the article goes on to talk about Aristotle and Shakespeare. Now I know the writer of the article is not only trying to write an article about why videogames are worthy of study but is also trying to justify to his readers why videogame studies is worthy of having an article in the oh so prestigious New York Times. However, call me narrow minded, but there is a reason why I left my career in the English Department behind and part of that reason is so that I don’t need to talk about white guys who died before the light bulb was invented. Drawing on those names is an obvious attempt to justify our work, not only to ourselves, but the readers of the New York Times. I’ve made my opinion on this clear already. I’m taking a class right now with some wonderful people who are writing about 18th century literature. They are great intelligent people. However, you tell me, whose work is more relevant? Call me crazy, but if anyone has to justify their work, it ain’t me. As a field, I think that the attempt to legitimize our field is totally a waste of time. People who get it, already get it. People who don’t, never will. We don’t need videogames to be art. I’ve already written about that in the past. Art is exclusionary and elitist. Why would we want people like that to like us? Why would we want to be those people? Now I enjoy art, but I do not put definitions on what art is, and find definitional argumetns tiresome.

Finally, the article ends with, “But I don’t want to draw the comparison between Arc the Lad and ‘Ulysses,’ ” Dr. Palmer said, “because that would be very, very wrong.” You know what else is wrong? Being an elitist bastard. It is wrong to compare a game and work of literature? Fuck that. Now, his comment is a bit ambiguous. Why is it wrong? I would like to think that it is wrong simply because they are very different. I’ve never played Arc the Lad and have never read Ulysses (I never got around to that one when I was getting my Bachelor’s in English), so I don’t know. However, the most obvious interpretation is that Arc is not in the same ballpark as Ulysses. The only thing I can say to that to think that a videogame is a worthy comparison to a book is sad. Videogame studies is a new field and if we have such an inferiority complex that we cannot make some bold assertions with confidence, then maybe there isn’t any hope for us. I’m sure Dr. Palmer is a fine person, but that line needs some explanation.

This article is nice in that it gets the general public aware, but it represents a lot of what I hate about academia and what I am actively trying to work against. If videogame studies is going to be about consciously replicating the biases and elitism of old disciplines, it will be at the cost of the work by people on the fringes who have made it possible to study videogames in the first place. We need to stop legitimizing our work and simply start doing our work. If we do that, then the quality of the work will legitimize itself without having to buy into the elitist establishments of the academy or newspapers.