Upcoming Presentations: FDG 2022, Athens Greece

I’ll be presenting research on the retrogaming community, as well as a brief presentation on my dissertation work, at the Foundation of Digital Games annual conference in Athens, Greece. The paper “Privileging the Past: Problematic and Gendered Rhetoric in Retrogaming Content” will later be published in the FDG22 proceedings (so stay tuned for that!)

If you’re also going to the conference or have interest in the presentation/paper, please feel free to reach out. Looking forward to sharing this research.

New Article: The Bootleg Connection

I’m so excited to share my newly published article entitled The Bootleg Connection: Micro Genius and the Transnational Circulation of Early Clone Consoles now available via the Journal of Game Histories, RomChip.

Micro Genius products

Here’s the abstract for the article:

Video game histories often depict the medium’s global rise as untroubled, with video games emerging from North America and Japan and meeting little to no resistance. Recent game scholarship has shown the flaws in this narrative, specifically its Western-centric bias and failure to acknowledge the numerous regional markets and local developers who contributed to the medium’s global popularity. This paper continues this work by considering an alternative, bootleg network of transnational gaming circulation. By exploring Micro Genius devices and their transnational legacy as a case study of bootleg gaming brands, this paper contends that alternative gaming experiences are not only important but critical to game history and the global game industry’s extraordinary reach. Originating in Taiwan, Micro Genius devices had an undocumented impact on the growth of the regional gaming market. Subsequently, the brand had an extensive afterlife as a transnational clone via three regional variants: the Dendy in Russia, the Pegasus in Poland, and the Samurai Micro Genius in India. The case of Micro Genius and its various rebrands shows how pirate brands not only invited regional communities into the video gaming market and culture but did so through complex transnational networks comparable to those of leading companies like Nintendo and Sega.

I’m so happy that this piece is finally out there. It’s been several years of work and really encompasses a lot of where my research is going.

New Article: Game studies, futurity, and necessity (or the game studies regarded as still to come)

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.

Upcoming Presentations: PSA and Console-ing Passions

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!

ReBlog: “Life is Strange 2 Review — A Riveting Adventure” by CaLea Johnson

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!

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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.

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For the complete review, head on over to CaLea’s Medium page

Platforms at the Peripheries Extended Abstract now Available to Read

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.

A Famicom clone “Bootleg Console” called the Skyeye Racing Pro,

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,.

In Media Res Post about Theme Parks and Gaming Simulations

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.

 

Short Post on the Early History of Console Cloning

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.

video action (1)

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.

Follow me on Twitter @SocialVideoGame

 

New Project: Bootleg Consoles and Regional Gaming Identities

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.

Subor console
A Subor Famicom clone, not licenced by Nintendo

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.

crazyboyconsole
The CrazyBoy famiclone.

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.

powerplayconsole
Power Player device, an example of modern bootlegs on the market

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.

Screenshot 2019-12-05 at 11.39.20 AM

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.