148: Quibus Lusoribus Bono?

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Quibus Lusoribus Bono?

"The problem here isn't the old town-gown conflict; it's not that game studies scholars look down their noses at the working-class gamers who happen to reside in a virtual neighborhood that borders their own. If that were the case, gamers - including academics like me who study games but remain firmly outside the 'game studies' camp - could just say, 'Well, Douglas, we hate you too."

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Let academics be academics, wrapped up in their own little bubble world of self importance & pedantic arguement that has no bearing on reality outside their college campus. Its what lets them justify their paycheque

if game studies didn't harbor what amounts to a desperate need to lay claim to ownership of game design as well as theory

That solves itself though, doesn't it? If what they have to say about design has value then the industry will want to make use of these people's ideas and probably try to hire them too. And if not, their relevance is lost on me.

In the modern world the question that has largely replaced Cicero's "Cui bono?" is the closely related "Who pays?". Opinions are cheap, but these academics won't get far unless people can be persuaded to care enough about their views to fund them. And if someone is funding them then inevitably their remit will drift towards whatever those funding sources value. That's not cynicism, it's just the way things have to work.

As such, I think there will always be people telling me to "put down my controller and grow up". But that's fine, because as an ex-academic myself I know that no discipline ever studied has been short of people who are profoundly wrong about things. Accordingly, my preferred response is to point and them and laugh. (Then hand them my spare controller, just in case they feel like learning from my example.)

ok, to be honest, what brought me to read your article is that cute, big cheeked model. lmfao

The thing is, i don't understand how the fluck you can have a game "studies". I am an engineering student, but i am a gamer first. You dont study games, you play them. With that love for gaming, you develop that drive to make them, and that is where good games come from. You cant just go study games, then pretend that you can go make it and expect it to be fun. Almost all good games came from one simple idea from a game designer, like portal, which was a senior design project. Like how you quoted that lady, janet or w/e, something about you must make games to study them and you must study games to make them. Imagine if Mozart had to get a Ph.D in " Musical Studies", he would of never developed that freedom of thought and creativity that comes from loving music. like wise for games.

I agree with you, lets stick it to these "Game Studies" doctorates. Games are an art, but an art full of masochistic codemonkeys!

Cousin_IT:
Let academics be academics, wrapped up in their own little bubble world of self importance & pedantic arguement that has no bearing on reality outside their college campus. Its what lets them justify their paycheque

The professors and other PhD students I work with help figure out cancer, among other things. Don't lump all academics together please! :)

BTW author "Joined: 31 Dec 1969"? Pre-epoch! That date doesn't exist! Or its -1...

Wilson's position may be a little bit defensive, as well. As the above comments demonstrate, gamers, on average, tend to be pretty hostile towards theory.

The introduction of rigorous film theory programs gave us Scorsese, De Palma, Altman, Spielberg. So let's not pretend as if a theory department never did anything to advance culture, even on a productive, practical, non-theoretical level.

I don't like the idea of having to study games to make games, if everyone followed this it would be a huge stifle on originality as you would always be looking at what was proven in the past for the future, there is no science to games, they like all forms of art are subjective, I ask those same academics to define aesthetics, they can't as it's philosophy and not science. Personally I'm happy if we annoy them, if I really thought they could produce anything except hot air then they would annoy me too.

I think that in some ways, the split between gamers and game-studies academics is a societally manufactured rift, driven by the same mass-market media culture that sensationalizes stories about game violence by citing self-proclaimed "experts" who have little or no understanding of gamer culture.

That said, I would note that not all game-studies academics are the same. I have tremendous respect for folks like Bogost, who not only speak about games, but have actually tried their hands at development.

- Alan

oneplus999:

Cousin_IT:
Let academics be academics, wrapped up in their own little bubble world of self importance & pedantic arguement that has no bearing on reality outside their college campus. Its what lets them justify their paycheque

The professors and other PhD students I work with help figure out cancer, among other things. Don't lump all academics together please! :)

I meant academics in the Humanities sense :-)

A very good article.

Any game studies whose target is to improve games through theory are doomed to fail. There is no academic discipline that claims to be able to improve literature, just like no amount of debate will improve the films we watch.

Game creation is an art. You can teach the craft of game making just like you can teach the craft of sculpture building, but to actually create a game or a sculpture or a play or a film, the genius of the creators is what makes a work of art successful or not. You can't substitute the creativity with an academic manifesto and hope to actually get good results. Only a very intuitive blend of craftsmanship and inspiration can produce a good work of art that relates to us as human beings. Games are no exception.

It seems that many of you are misunderstanding the nature of game studies. It's not about about someone with a clipboard asking gamers what they liked or hated about a game, and then using that information to spew out the "perfect" game over and over. It's about understanding how all these elements work together and how they affect us. It could be something as complax as examing financial flows in MMOs, or how a background evokes a particular mood. Last week, I read an essay that compared compared Katamari Damacy to the myth of Sisyphus. Great stuff.

If game developers were also involved in game studies, it would actually help to distinguish their works instead of cloning others because it encourages the student to consider the meanings and connotations behind everything. Some might throw a pair of aviator sunglasses on a character and call it a day, but what stereotypes do aviators spark? What about wraparounds, circles, or no sunglasses at all? 99% of games are not art, because the developers don't put that type of thought into their products. They don't consider how all of these visual and gameplay elements are going to affect gamers. They just know that the kids these days are all about guys power armor.

The irony of all this is that I don't believe in game studies either, or at least to the degree that some wish to take it. I have a bachelor's in Film Studies that I left behind three years ago. When your involved in film studies, there is a divide between you and everyone else. After seeing The Host, I wanted to talk about independence vs. reliance, and anti-governmental themes. The customers in my store just want to know if it has "blood and titties." Film Studies is a bubble, from which very little leaks out to the general public.

Video games have an exponentially more active fanbase than film, so I think their is potential to cross the scholar/fan divide and get out of the bubble. It shouldn't be done with papers analyzing "panoptical discourses of semiotic...." It will be done by reveiwers, bloggers, etc. who take a moment to put one more step of consideration into their thoughts and comments. *It's a bloody game. The arterial fountains remind you of Planet Terror. Was the game inspired in some way by the movie? Does the excessive blood work in this game, or was it only meant for the nonsensical confines of Planet Terror?*

Starting out small, being accessible and comprehensible are the best ways to avoid a game studies bubble where elitists can pat each others back for hypothesizing about things that no one will ever hear about.

I have to say I just don't see how Espen Aarseth has anything to do with the point the writer is trying to make. Janet Murray on the other hand has got stuff really mixed up. She has even tried to interpret Tetris as political satire on american society...

One of my classes last year at the univerity of Oslo was about videogames and Espen Aaseth was one of my professors.

I can confirm that Aarseth is not just an dry academic, but is very passionate about games and he plays them alot. The article by Aarseth quoted in this article, really puts an emphasis on the fact that game studies is a field in it's infancy and that it needs to grow before it can find it's place among other scientific fields. It also needs to develop it's own methodology.

I think Aarseths most important point is that game studies should separate itself as much as possible from film studies. In short: when studying games from a narrative perspective one loses alot of what is unique about games. That's why game studies need different methodologies and concepts.

I have to say i found the class very rewarding without losing any of the fun associated with games.

(I also got an A on my written exam about Bioshock, hehe)

You should google Terra Nova which discusses virtual world "theory" for obtuseness. It takes them hundreds of comments to agree that they can't agree on whatever subject they're talking about.

I'm pretty open to being fairly criticized, but this article makes a number of assumptions and claims that are wrong or unsupported. I've written a response here.

I'm glad Ian replied; he's more eloquent than I. I encourage anyone who feels strongly about gaming, game design and so forth to actually read Ian's article and some of his work.

I am a computer scientist, game player and (in the spirit of disclosure), a Computing faculty at the much maligned Georgia Tech, who teaches our Computer Science class on Video Game Design and Architecture. I can't pretend to do game studies, but I can see the value in some of it. I teach various aspects of game design in my games class (inspired by many people, from folks like Ian through other academics like Tracy Fullerton and the writings and articles by many folks in the game industry), so I'm not completely without perspective on this. But, it's fairly clear that there is value to what our digital media faculty teach; considering the rate at which industry hires our students, I'd say the proof is in the pudding there.

I also work regularly (in both research and educational capacities) with many of our digital media faculty (including the ones mentioned here) and I'm frankly speechless at the absurdity of this article. Roger, do you really believe the Straw Man you've constructed? I'm not sure where your deep seated disdain comes from, but you have attributed a vast number of viewpoints and stances to folks here that I've never seen in my interactions with them.

Yes, there are game studies people who say silly things. There are also game industry folks that do. And gamers. And, apparently, Professors of Classics.

(I'm Roger Travis, BTW)

I've replied to Ian over on his blog; I think his comments there are very fair, and we've started a discussion that I hope will go on.

Blair, to be frank, the "deep seated disdain" isn't really either deep seated or even real disdain, but rather a rhetorical position intended to provoke. I'm glad it did provoke, though I'm sorry it seemed silly. I know what my straw man is made of, in other words. Thanks for responding!

Wow I have no idea what that article was about. It sure sounded smart, tho.

I have been on a game course, though it wasn't academic. I do think it can add something to the industry, and I also think it needs growing up some more. I think they can even inspire creativity.
Speaking from my own experience (the studies was called game development & design) we students had the time and room to fiddle around with crazy concepts and some new technologies. We didn't have to make money and release a successful title on the market. Such creative projects were even encouraged, and we also got lessons in cognitive psychology and gaming history, and explored gaming as serious, and educational ways.
That's stuff we can't do once we're in a (commercial) company. There is less room for exploration, because at the end of the day, money has to be made.
Maybe the two don't really fit well so far, but I think industry and Academics can have quite a fruitful co-existence.

The 'looking-down' aspect is something seen in many academic studies. It's not really unique to this one.

TinPeregrinus:
(I'm Roger Travis, BTW)

I've replied to Ian over on his blog; I think his comments there are very fair, and we've started a discussion that I hope will go on.

Blair, to be frank, the "deep seated disdain" isn't really either deep seated or even real disdain, but rather a rhetorical position intended to provoke. I'm glad it did provoke, though I'm sorry it seemed silly. I know what my straw man is made of, in other words. Thanks for responding!

you know, where i'm from, we call that "trolling".

Wow, just wow. Take away all the poetry and prose (aka "big words"), and these "academics" are no different than internet forum trolls, spoiling for an argument over a fight that is full of personal opinion and conjecture. I feel genuinely sorry for anyone who spends hard earned money on their courses. Don't be fooled, all this crap just tries to give the impression of being intelligent, doesn't mean it is.

While the article comes across convoluted and pedantic, it does strike one cord with me that I hold to be true: anything claiming to be the authority on criticism is full of crap. Everyone has a right to their opinion in their own experiences and anyone arrogant enough to see themselves as elite enough to tell others otherwise should be seen for the deconstructive, pompous pricks that they are - I would hope hater critics would remember what it was like to just have fun themselves rather than telling others how they should have fun.

Pat M.:
you know, where i'm from, we call that "trolling".

I don't see that there's a lot of point in arguing semantics, but I'd rather call it "provocation." In my lexicon, trolling is undertaken for the sole purpose of making others' lives difficult. I'm trying to improve things.

This article is poorly written and unresearched. He is also an academic! Video games as Homeric epic? The author seems to have issue with gaming scholarship that differs from his. It seems that the author is looking down his nose at gamers, because he could never write something like this in the context of his work at the university, but in a gaming forum his argument is weak and takes advantage of anti-intellectualism and the defensive reflexes of many mainstream gamers. He admits as much in his reply to Bogost's comments: "As you've pointed out, I took shortcuts in the article because of the nature of the venue, and I think your criticisms are fair." This is your front page editor's choice story? Who is looking down their nose at gamers? I think I will stick to the Yahtzee reviews and keep it moving.

Geeflex, I think your criticism illustrates my point pretty well. I may be wrong about whether game studies scholars really should feel obligated to address the attitudes of gamers, rather than simply trying to sweep them into the dustbin of history, but I think in the light of Wilson's piece I was justified in researching (feel free to say "under-researched," since that claim is unfalsifiable, but "unresearched" the piece is not) and writing (as well as I could) the piece I did write, shortcuts and all.

It seems like a significant part of the criticism here is that the game theorists and the gamers designers are not connected. If I'm correct in my reading here, then the simple fact of the matter is that the whole article is based on a false assumption.

I'm a former student of Ians and Janets and I can rattle off a huge list of my peers at the Georgia Tech program who have gone into game desgin, taking their their background in game studies right along with them. They've made huge contributions to innovative games like Spore and Sam and Max and they have a significant presence in Maxis R&D. Disney Imagineering owes a great deal to game studies graduates (sadly, Georgia Tech cannot claim to monopolize the field, but the point still stands).

The fact of the matter is that the program I attended brought together people who were interested in studying games so that they could understand games so that they could design games. Roger Travis seems to be confusing game studies with film studies. In the later, very few devotees of film studies go into film making. The reverse is true in game studies.

The strangest thing about this article is that it puts forth names and programs that I recognize, but describes them in a way that made me wonder if Travis and I are talking about the same thing. I think that the world Travis describes is one that exists mainly in his own head and not on the Georgia Tech, CMU or MIT campuses.

Matthias, I'm sure that the real people behind the theoretical construct of game studies are wonderful people. I tried hard in the piece not to make any ad hominem arguments, even against Douglas Wilson, but I accept that the provocative tone I felt I needed to take in the piece may make it seem like I was saying that the real people Ian and Janet and their colleagues at GT and elsewhere are disdainful of gamers. What I tried to do in the piece, by contrast, was to say that it might be good if game studies as a field thought about what the construction of their discipline, where, as you say, game studies students learn design and go on to be designers, has done to produce attitudes like the one Wilson displays in his piece.

As I said also on Ian's blog, I don't even disagree with Wilson's overarching goal of improving the culture of gaming; I do think, though, that game studies as an unreal, theoretical construct (which I'd argue isn't just in my head but, ideologically, in the heads of many of those who do game studies), isn't helping in an area where it would be good for them to help.

That babe is hot man.

I remember reading Wilson's article, and I raised an eyebrow. Oh, no in fact I just went, OK, well...

So by being serious at studying games, you kill the fun, and at the same time, you think you're becoming mature about it, but in fact you're just giving ammo to those who think you're just a petulant brat?

If anything, what I got from Aarseth's excerpt is that claiming the existence of a structured field of design studies, a vergeance of many abilities and techniques, on the theoretical, analytical and creative plane, is hard to come by, and I fail to see how he's part of the fun-killing club (or she, I don't have a fucking clue who this person is).

As always, what baffles me the most is how all opinionated people seem to always make a case of white against black. :)

Dom Camus:
In the modern world the question that has largely replaced Cicero's "Cui bono?" is the closely related "Who pays?". Opinions are cheap, but these academics won't get far unless people can be persuaded to care enough about their views to fund them. And if someone is funding them then inevitably their remit will drift towards whatever those funding sources value. That's not cynicism, it's just the way things have to work.

That's why the thing today is to blog like a rat. Post post post postpostpost psotpstospotsptosptostpsotstpostpso until your fingers bleed.
Wear the attention whore suit. :)

wrshamilton:
Wilson's position may be a little bit defensive, as well. As the above comments demonstrate, gamers, on average, tend to be pretty hostile towards theory.

The introduction of rigorous film theory programs gave us Scorsese, De Palma, Altman, Spielberg. So let's not pretend as if a theory department never did anything to advance culture, even on a productive, practical, non-theoretical level.

Courses which were probably most useful to them because they had someone to educate them, teach them techniques and guide them on their path to critical thinking. Not counting the impressive pool of material to study they surely must have access to as well (though most of it lies outside of universities).
Most of which can be tackled on your own, but you'll likely miss things, and it may take a lot more time. What you gain in efficiency, you may loose in originality.
I say may, because proper masters know how to give their scholars enough freedom.

Drong:
I don't like the idea of having to study games to make games, if everyone followed this it would be a huge stifle on originality as you would always be looking at what was proven in the past for the future, there is no science to games, they like all forms of art are subjective, I ask those same academics to define aesthetics, they can't as it's philosophy and not science. Personally I'm happy if we annoy them, if I really thought they could produce anything except hot air then they would annoy me too.

I think it always start with pioneers, and past a certain point, it is deemed necessary to gather the knowledge and make it accessible to the plenty.

That said, there are courses where creativity is hampered, up to a point the emphasis is put on the necessity to produce a playable game, often traditional in design, instead of letting the scholards use their tools to literally explore new horizons.
The school is the best time in your life to do so, before you're caught by the economical imperatives. However, we have to understand that such restrictions are meant to prepare scholars to the daily realities of the worlds.

As far as I'm concerned, courses should considerably put the emphasis on the experimentation and design, on the fun part, and eventually let scholars wander on more engaged fields if they want to.
Games being, before anything else, products of entertainment, you have to think of those who you'll communicate with through the design.
Of course, that's about courses which largely focus on GD, not other courses which include GD to provide a more industry compliant formation for future artists or coders.

UndeadAreGo:
Last week, I read an essay that compared compared Katamari Damacy to the myth of Sisyphus. Great stuff.

Well, I'm much much more reserved about the quality of the stuff.
The connection in the article, if we're talking about the same, seemed lost very early, not to say very gimmicky to lure readers, and a good excuse to launch lines and lines of Pseudo-Plato babble. A pointlessly complicated phrasing to look smart and be respected, but which ultimately fail at actually being accessible, at providing starting material for freshier thinking about video games.

It also was extremely fun killing.
I know many love to have a literate blowjob by sticking their dick in a dictionary at page E for Ego and shaking it back and forth, but if you want to get your point through, I'd say drop the pretense, make things simple, it's often better.
Of course, the guy's looking for book sales.

image

- This is adequate material for my superior cortex.

Pffrwat.

If game developers were also involved in game studies, it would actually help to distinguish their works instead of cloning others because it encourages the student to consider the meanings and connotations behind everything. Some might throw a pair of aviator sunglasses on a character and call it a day, but what stereotypes do aviators spark? What about wraparounds, circles, or no sunglasses at all? 99% of games are not art, because the developers don't put that type of thought into their products. They don't consider how all of these visual and gameplay elements are going to affect gamers. They just know that the kids these days are all about guys power armor.

The irony of all this is that I don't believe in game studies either, or at least to the degree that some wish to take it. I have a bachelor's in Film Studies that I left behind three years ago. When your involved in film studies, there is a divide between you and everyone else. After seeing The Host, I wanted to talk about independence vs. reliance, and anti-governmental themes. The customers in my store just want to know if it has "blood and titties." Film Studies is a bubble, from which very little leaks out to the general public.

Video games have an exponentially more active fanbase than film, so I think their is potential to cross the scholar/fan divide and get out of the bubble. It shouldn't be done with papers analyzing "panoptical discourses of semiotic...." It will be done by reveiwers, bloggers, etc. who take a moment to put one more step of consideration into their thoughts and comments. *It's a bloody game. The arterial fountains remind you of Planet Terror. Was the game inspired in some way by the movie? Does the excessive blood work in this game, or was it only meant for the nonsensical confines of Planet Terror?*

Starting out small, being accessible and comprehensible are the best ways to avoid a game studies bubble where elitists can pat each others back for hypothesizing about things that no one will ever hear about.

Yet the article you mention, if again we're speaking about the same, is absolutely obscure and pompous.
I don't call that great reading.

Many renowed devs have been forwarding their enchanted visions through interviews, sometimes sounding like they were on crack and very inspired, and that was often interesting to read.

Music.

My criticism does nothing to prove your point. You are a bad writer who tried to prove silly point (people who study games are disdainful of gamers?) by writing an almost unreadable article. Then when called out by Ian Bogost, you go over to his blog with some half-assed exuses. If you don't have time to write a fucking article, don't publish it.

I think the writer here is misunderstanding this PhD candidate. Look at 4chan and its childish, racist, condescending, bullying, and offensive humor and its script kitty culture. THAT represents gaming culture, and why academia rolls its eye at those studying gaming. Gaming culture has gone the way of decadence and bubblegum satisfaction that mainstream TV and movies have taken, and the juvenile element compounds this perspective to the point that gaming studies may never be taken seriously, and why gaming in general is still not viewed as a higher art form.

NoPantsMan:
... and its script kitty culture.

i can has DoS attack?

NoPantsMan:
I think the writer here is misunderstanding this PhD candidate. Look at 4chan and its childish, racist, condescending, bullying, and offensive humor and its script kitty culture. THAT represents gaming culture, and why academia rolls its eye at those studying gaming. Gaming culture has gone the way of decadence and bubblegum satisfaction that mainstream TV and movies have taken, and the juvenile element compounds this perspective to the point that gaming studies may never be taken seriously, and why gaming in general is still not viewed as a higher art form.

I think one element of gaming culture that needs to be recognized is the burgeoning of critical discourse in the blogosphere. I think sites like brainygamer.com and sexyvideogameland.blogspot.com serve to bridge academics and enthusiasts through a desire look at games seriously. I guess all I'm saying is that not all of gamer culture is shallow. Critical discourse may thrive in the public forum whereas it tends to become insular in an academic one.

Roger Travis:
What follows is meant to be provocative. I hope those I am trying to provoke will take it in that spirit, and provoke me in turn.

Tee hee!

Yeah, I can see why he hates us.

NoPantsMan:
I think the writer here is misunderstanding this PhD candidate. Look at 4chan and its childish, racist, condescending, bullying, and offensive humor and its script kitty culture. THAT represents gaming culture, and why academia rolls its eye at those studying gaming. Gaming culture has gone the way of decadence and bubblegum satisfaction that mainstream TV and movies have taken, and the juvenile element compounds this perspective to the point that gaming studies may never be taken seriously, and why gaming in general is still not viewed as a higher art form.

That's sad, that you would pigeon hole gamers with those griefers. Every community has its a-holes but we also have our good samaritans too. Perhaps, if that is indeed what Academics are looking at, they really should learn to look to more than just the sensational.

I also take issue with it being said that time spent in academia is a good time to be creative and live with out the normal financial concerns - talk about out of touch with reality. Would you tell me no one ever got a bad grade (affecting their GPA) for disagreeing with an instructor of a course? Do you know what "higher" education costs these days? How many students live with soul crushing debt and struggle just to pay the costs of living from month to month?

Oh well, its not like gamers and those who would like to study games really need their education from academia anyways, we have plenty of opportunities to do that online.

I have to say that I found the article a bit confusing, but this fear of academics ruining games is a little crazy. Games, as a medium, will always attract and cater to all walks of life. If someone wants to try and quantify video games... let them. I'm sure some good will come of it and any negative aspects will called out for what they are.

There are classically trained musicians and self-taught, garage bands... has the medium of music been compromised by the academic theory in schools? I don't think so.

I don't understand the reasoning behind the fear of academic game design and theory.

I'd hardly call it "fear." "Caution" would be a much better word. Music isn't such a bad example, actually. Almost to a one, composers who get degrees in music write music that even Classical music lovers don't enjoy listening to.

More importantly, there's what I see as a really harmful and unfortunate split between high music and popular music which has meant that popular music tends not be studied in the way it should be, but rather relegated to fandom. In my piece I'm trying to get gamers to pay attention to the split, and start asking for the kind of criticism of the games they love that will help them understand the games and themselves better.

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