An article appeared in the New York Times today titled “The Ivy-Covered Console”. It is an interesting read.
There are several things about it that irritate me, however. I will try to get to some of them later, however, let me mention something included in it that I had never thought of before. In the article, they mention that some videogame researchers are doing what they call, “close gameplay,” “in which a researcher plays critical scenes of a game repeatedly, analyzing the details, perhaps searching for an anomaly the programmers have buried in the code or simply arriving at some resolution.”
This is the first I’ve heard of this. Does anyone actually do this? And if so, what do you get out of it? It seems to be a very odd thing to me. If anyone out there practices “close gameplay” let me hear about it.
It looks like for the foreseeable future my Friday nights will be spent playing Counter-Strike. All in all, there are worse things I could be doing. I like CS a lot. What I’m going is some ethnography on a group of guys (and they are guys) who play CS in a lab on campus on a regular basis.
Of course, I’m not just playing, but observing, and interviewing people. That is where it gets interesting. I’ve turned my hobby into a job. I know that I’m not the first to observe this, but interesting things happen when you turn your hobby into a job. As I said, I like Counter-Strike. And it is fun to play with other people face to face. I’m new to this university, so it is nice to meet some folks outside my department as well. However, because I’m studying these people (and myself just as much) it isn’t just fun and games, but it is work. Playing Counter-Strike on Friday nights is a job.
Certainly, I haven’t got a lot to complain about. As a graduate student, I am getting paid to play videogames and hang out with people. However, the dynamic is different now that this is for an external purpose — that is my dissertation and the ethnography class I am currently taking. A group of my friends were getting together to play some cards that same night and I couldn’t because I had to go observe people. So of course when I did stop by the card game around midnight (I know, I left the gaming early!) the first thing I told them was that I would have been there earlier, but I was out doing original research and I didn’t have time to sit around all night and play silly games.
Well, I thought it was funny. But it points out that taking on this project means that I have to make some (however small) sacrifices.
My point in this is not to complain. I know I’m pretty lucky. It is as a warning. Think about it before you turn your hobby into a job because when you do, it changes things. in four years (hopefully!) when I finish this dissertation, I certainly hope that I won’t be burned out on playing videogames. Of course if I am, that will just be another chapter for the dissertation, “How Studying Videogame Players Made Me Burn Out and Never Want to Play another Videogame Ever Again.”
I’ve had some free moments in the past couple days so i’ve started reading some videogame studies articles I’ve been meaning to get around to. Some of them are pretty good. But lots of them are not. To be nice. I know it isn’t a new observation, but 90% of everything is crap. Now that videogame studies seems to be the hip new thing (I was here first posers! 😉 ) there is more and more to read and more and more of it seems less than earth shattering. Of course many may say that of my work, but I’m not naming any names here so be kind! It is kind of sad though to see the field filling with mediocrity.
Of course I was pleasently surprized when the Popular Culture Association program was put online. There are several videogame panels. Quite a big difference from two years ago in Toronto when there were three of us videogame people on one panel. Of course, there is that 90% of everything is crap and the PCA has certainly adhered to that rule the two times I’ve gone in the past. Oh well, I can be that ass in the audience who askes rude obnoxious questions.
Over at Gamegirladvance, there is an article about MTV using game footage in videos. Actually, it seems that all the examples that people have are EA games. So rather than MTV getting into gaming, is EA getting into videos becasue I’m sure they don’t care if it is MTV or MuchMusic or Fuse that airs their promotional material, just as long as it gets aired. Of course it is also probably the case of big corporation EA getting into bed with (presumably) even bigger corporation Viacom.
I saw one of the MTV/EA segments and left this post over at gamegirladvance:
Recently MTV has been jumping on the videogame bandwagon. They
had a videogame countdown show and more recently a “Video Mods” show
which took videogame footage and set it to music. I found a link that
talked about it here.
The one video I saw was a remix of N.E.R.D. song, which is of course
fronted by Pharrell of the Neptunes and is of African decent. Number of
non-whites in the “video mod”? zero.
I’ve started doing my ethnographic work here. I spent the evening playing Counter-Strike with a handful of gamers. It was interesting to get to play against experienced players again (I was the worst one there) as well as to put on my ethnographer hat and study them. My little research subjects.
I spent three hours playing. So what was the first thing I did when I got home? Started playing Grand Theft Auto. Maybe there is something to this videogame addiction thing.
I read Sarah Thornton’s Club Cultures again the other day. I read it first three years ago before I decided to turn my interest in videogames into my vocation. It and Dick Hebdidge’s Subculture make interesting reading. While reading them I couldn’t help but think about videogame players. Are videogame players a subculture? WHat consists of subcultural capital for a gamer?
I think that obviously he who has the best computer has a certain amount of capital. Also, there is a certain amount of bragging rights to being able to say that you played Counter-Strike earlier than the other guys (beta 3 baby!). But is that enough to make a subculture? I don’t know. I am not sure what calling gamers a subculture gets me and my research. If gamers are a subculture, then so what? Is this a question worth pursuing? Is a label meaningful? Is it useful? I’m not sure. Something to think about.
Since the weather here is frightful, I thought I would give a little update on my reading material.
I finished Dungeons & Dreamers recently and found it to be interesting and entertaining, if a bit scattered in its focus. Like Masters of Doom, it is a non-academic historical look at gaming, with particular interest paid to RPG’s specifically the role that Dungeons and Dragons and the Ultima series had in the development of videogaming.
I might write up a formal review for Reconstruction, the web journal that published me last review, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Let me just say that I found the first half that focused on Garriot to be very interesting and once it moved away from him I found it to be rather fragmented in focus and not nearly as personal or as interesting. It is a good light read and fun. I think I would recommend Masters of Doom over it. However, that may be simply due to my stronger interest in FPS games than RPGs.
Over at Thinking With My Fingers, there is a post about academics having to justify their research. I must be pretty lucky. I really don’t recall ever having to justify studying videogames and people who play them. Maybe it is a matter of being in the right academic climates. I really do not see how I should have to justify my research when I run into people studying 17th century left handed poets.
People are playing videogames at this very moment. Can people who are resistant to videogame research say the same thing about their work? Are people spending hours a day engaging with it?
As I always seem to do in questions like this, rather than attempt to justify something which seems infinitely more relevant than 75% of the things I see going on at most universities, I have to ask why people care what other people think of their research. Basically, if you don’t like what I’m doing based soley on the principle that it is not a valid subject, then there is a pretty damn good chance that I think you are an elitist ass and your opinion doesn’t matter to me anyway. While I love being in school, there are certainly enough elitist snobs here, they can go hang out with each other, they don’t need to bother me.
Now, if you don’t like my work because you think it is inferior or flawed or just plain bad work, but the subject material is valid, that is another matter. I make no claims to my work being good, just valid and relevant.
I purchased Gamers: A Documentary back before Thanksgiving. I usually review books as soon as I finish reading them. For some reason it didn’t occur to me to review this documentary untill just before Christmas.
I submitted it to an online journal some fellow Bowling Green alums are running called Reconstruction. The review is now up.
So head over to Reconstruction and read my review. You might as well read the whole site as well. They’re smart kids doing interesting work. Rock on.
Well, we all knew it wouldn’t be long before I had to bring up my favorite lawyer, Jack Thompson, could it?
I was surfing around for new videogame blogs and ran across buzzcut.com. According to a post on the site, Jack Thompson took part in a debate. A student emailed him about his stance on issues of regulation and such. Not surprizingly, according to the post, Jack is in favor of lawsuits. What? A lawyer in favor of lawsuits? So am I correct in saying that Jack Thompson who seems so concerned about children and videogame violence would rather wait untill something bad happens so that he can sue rather than pass laws and prevent something bad from happening? You mean that it is possible that his motives aren’t the most altruistic in the world? Who knew?