An article I co-wrote with a few of my games labmates entitled Game studies, futurity, and necessity (or the game studies regarded as still to come) was recently published in the journal Critical Studies in Media Communications as apart a issue on the future of games research. It was truly a wonderful collaborative experience putting together this piece and hopefully it will be of interest to some of you.
Here’s the abstract for the article:
As members of the Critical Approaches to Technology and the Social (CATS) Lab at UC Irvine, we are particularly motivated by this special issue’s call to action. As a collective of interdisciplinary students at various stages in relevant degrees, we are the future of game studies. As such, this question strikes us not as one for speculation, but as a space to commit a set of shared values necessary for game studies to have a future—one that is more equitable, more sustainable, and more transparent. We argue that working towards this future will require an increased commitment to critiquing the relationship between industry and game-making practice; examining the sociopolitical landscape of both game culture and the world; and an attention to the institution of the university itself. Imagining the future in this way is a necessary practice, and a core component to scholarly critique. When we imagine the future, we can work both towards and against it. We do this work as researchers, but also as streamers, makers, critics, and players, each of whom brings our perspective to this special issue to articulate our vision of a critical game studies that strives for equity, sustainability, and self-reflexivity.
The full article can be found at this link. If for whatever reason you are unable to access the article, please feel free to reach out and I can help out.
Just wanted to update the blog with a few presentations of research coming up. My presentations will be focused on a paper about privileged and gendered rhetoric in Retro Gaming content. Hopefully the paper will be available to the public soon.
In early April I’ll be presenting at the Pacific Sociological Association’s annual conference in Sacramento, CA.
In June I’ll be presenting (most likely virtually) at Console-ing Passions 2022, being held a the University of Central Florida.
I’m looking forward to attending these conferences and getting back to meeting other academics!
Wanted to share a review of Life is Strange 2 by CaLea Johnson, who shares an interest in the intersection of sociology and video games.
Here is CaLea’s description about herself and her interests:
“I am a blogger who likes to write about the sociological aspects of video games. Examining how and why video game developers include social issues into games forms interesting viewpoints. I encourage people to enjoy playing video games through an analytical lens as this can create entertaining learning experiences!”
I’ll post the introduction of the review, but I encourage you to go to her original blog post here and share/comment there. Thanks to CaLea for sharing your interest in the subject!
Life is Strange 2 Review — A Riveting Adventure
Video game developers don’t tackle social issues very often because it’s challenging to talk about subjects that are so sensitive. Dontnod Entertainment boldly accepted the challenge by creating Life is Strange 2. The result is a compelling choice-based game that explores how Mexicans experience racism in America.
The plot of Life is Strange 2 is the most fascinating part of the game. It’s centered around two brothers, Sean and Daniel Diaz, whose world is turned upside down when their father, Esteban, is wrongfully murdered by a cop. To make matters worse, Daniel’s newfound telekinetic powers accidentally kill the cop. The kids decide to flee America and seek refuge in Puerto Lobos, Mexico to avoid being separated.
The bravery of the developers is admirable since they centralized the plot around racism. When Esteban is shot by the cop, the main theme of the game becomes crystal clear. It focuses on the fact that some perceive certain ethnic groups as inherently dangerous. In other words, some people are guilty before being proven innocent. Furthermore, the Diaz brothers encounter many who are consumed by bigotry and hatred while traveling, forcing them to face the harsh reality of being a minority in America.
Issues about fan labor, peripheral game development, and bootlegs games are increasingly becoming important topics to me, and this paper touches upon a lot of concepts and ideas I find interesting. Broadly the paper argues that games developed outside of the traditional games industry are wrongfully denied legitimacy because of lacking certain western-centric notions of “gaming realness”. I hope it’s an interesting article for you all and (hopefully) I’ll have more articles to share in the future.
My extended abstract entitled “Platforms at the Peripheries” that I submitted to the Digital Games Research Association’s (DiGRA) 2020 conference is now available via their proceedings.
I wrote this around a year ago when the world looked pretty different, but it still encompasses a lot of what I’m exploring in my research. I’m excited to share more about the project as it progresses,.
I recently contributed an article entitled “Theme Parks Go Virtual: An Analysis of Gaming Simulations of Theme Parks” to In Media Res as a part of their dedicated week on scholarship around Theme Parks. You can check out the post here, and the entire week of content here.
This was a super fun article to write, despite not having an extensive background in theory surrounding theme parks. It was fun returning to some of the games mentioned, with an eye towards how they were representing physical theme park space. The word limit on the post was only around 350 words, so there were plenty of more games and depictions that had to be left out. Maybe when I get a chance I’ll turn this small piece into a full length article and include defunct online-games like Virtual Magic Kingdom and more fantastical depictions such as Adventure of Tokyo Disney Sea.
Just wanted to update the blog with two unfortunate cancellations about presentations of research.
I was accepted to the Digital Games Research Association’s annual conference in Tampere Finland to present my on-going research. The presentation was tentatively entitled Platforms at the Peripheries:A Case Study Analysis of Historic Bootleg Consoles. Of course the conference has been cancelled due to the global pandemic. An extended abstract for the research will be published in the Conference’s proceedings in the next few months.
I was accepted to the American Sociological Association’s annual conference in San Francisco California to present a paper I wrote entitled Gaming Tastes: Cultural Hierarchies Amongst Video Game Consoles and Devices. The paper broadly looks at communal hierarchies of gaming hardware through concepts by Pierre Bourdieu. This conference has also been cancelled due to the global pandemic. Discussion of a virtual conference are in the works, so we’ll see what happens.
I wanted to share these two projects to extend my willingness to discuss and share info about these areas for any potential academics or interested parties. I’m always happy to chat with individuals about this research, so please do hesitate to send a message.
As unfortunate as it is for these conferences to be cancelled, they are done in an attempt to keep everyone safe. I’m extremely grateful for all of the organizers and peer reviewers for their hard work, and for the conference officials for making the swift and hard decisions to cancel. Hopefully everyone’s hard work won’t go to waste and we’ll be back to physical meetings in 2021.
I wanted to share a guest blog post I did for the Strong Museum of Play’s Play Stuff Blog during my summer fellowship there last year. The post entitled, Clones in the Archives: Console and Software Cloning Practices in the Early Years of Video Games, is a short look at how console cloning contributed to the global proliferation of video games in the 1970s and 1980s. It narrows in on cloning narratives around Pong Clones and Famicom clones (Famiclones) and seeks to understand if these narratives differ in meaningful ways. It also briefly reflects on doing archival research and the amazing opportunity I was given by the Strong Museum.
This historical piece has increasingly become a tent pole of my understanding around cloning practices more broadly, as well as foundation for situating how video game history favors specific narratives over other. Hopefully I’ll have some more pieces of this project to share in the future, but the Play Stuff Blog post should give you an idea as to where my research is heading.
I wanted to share an area of research I’m currently engaged with, particularly looking at what are typically referred to as Bootleg Consoles as meaningful social artifacts that make up regional gaming identities.
Broadly, the term bootleg console can be used to refer to any third party video game device that plays another manufacturer’s software without the intent permission from the original developer. Bootleg consoles of the past had traditionally been cloned devices that enable one to play physical software on a non-licensed device. During the early years of the industry, these types of devices sprung up all around the world in areas left untapped by big name game developers (Atari, Sega, Nintendo, etc.) and many countries had their own variations that they fondly remember.
Modern bootleg consoles exist somewhere between cloned consoles and straight emulation, and many device tend to be marketed as all-in-one devices similar to official products like the NES Classic or Sega Genesis Mini. These devices tend to feature a swath of pirated games at a fraction of the cost of official products, with the most common platform pirated still being the Famicom/Nintendo Entertainment System.
Looking more critically at these devices as platforms that are more than just cheap cash-ins or pirateware may yield interesting results about gaming more broadly, and how the industry as created a platform hierarchy through I.P and access.
One way that I am examining this project is through a twitter account that collects, documents, and share many of these types of devices. You can check the twitter account @Bootlegconsoles.
The intent of this account is to share knowledge and experiences around these devices, and does not condone piracy. You can support this project by simply sharing or subscribing to this twitter account, but also by sharing your own experiences with these devices!
I’ll be sure to share more info on this project as it progresses.
This past week AnyKey, an advocacy group that promotes diversity and inclusion in gaming, relaunched their Good Luck Have Fun Pledge. I had the pleasure of representing the organization at TwitchCon 2019 in San Diego this past weekend.
I met a lot of engaged gamers and streamers and was really moved by all of the positive responses we received regarding the pledge and the work AnyKey does. For those who have not heard or taken the pledge, it is pretty simple. The GLHF pledge asks individuals to:
Be a good sport whether I win or lose
Know that people online are real people and my words have real impact
Set a positive example with my behavior
Speak up against discrimination, hate speech, harassment, and abuse
Show integrity by honoring the rules, my opponents, and my teammates
Stop, listen, and reassess if I’m told that my words or actions are harmful
Respect others, even if their sincere opinions are different from my own
The GLHF pledge is a part of a larger initiative to curb toxicity in gaming spaces, with a big emphasis being placed on esports and streaming. If you’re a twitch member you can also earn yourself a twitch global community badge icon, which your followers can then click and take the pledge for themselves.
AnyKey is hoping to have 1 million gamers take the pledge by 2020 and so far they’re nearing 300,000 at the time of this post. It’s a simple way of showing you’re not willing to stand for toxic behavior online. You can also support the cause by using the tag #glhfpledge on twitter and following AnyKey.