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.

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,.

Updates and Cancellations

Just wanted to update the blog with two unfortunate cancellations about presentations of research.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Summer Travels 2: HEVGA summer school, Sweden.

Continuing with an update about my games research related activities this summer, I wanted to share a little bit about my experience at the Higher Education Video Game Alliance  (HEVGA) summer school in Skövde, Sweden.

This was a three day workshop where games researchers from multiple countries came together to discuss current topics in the field, share on-going research, and collaborate over shared interests. I presented on a research proposal about bootleg consoles I’m starting to dive into and received some great feedback from participants and faculty. It was a terrific opportunity to meet scholars from around the world and create connections outside of my narrow academic lens.

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A brainstorming exercise to find collaborative ideas

It’s a rare opportunity to engage in a event like this, so I was incredibly honored to have the chance to participate in the summer workshop. Even just traveling abroad for video game related research is something I never would have thought i’d be doing some years ago. Hopefully HEVGA decides to hold the summer school next year and the event becomes an annual gathering of academics.

After the summer school I had the chance to spend a few days in Stockholm, and I took the opportunity to check out some game related activities

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One of my first stops was to NERDS video game bar, located in the area of Södermalm. Besides offering video game themed drinks, the bar offered the ability to rent out consoles and tvs for local play of classic titles like GoldenEye and Mario Kart 64. Having done research prior on physical gaming spaces, seeing how social engagement was key to the design of the bar was really fascinating. It was incredibly packed so I didn’t get a chance to play anything, but I did get to try one of the bar’s in-house beers.

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Also decided to check out one of Stockholm’s used game store, GameShop.Se. It was a really neat store that had consoles and games from multiple regions (US, PAL, Japan) and even some old cloning/bootleg devices. The shop owners were incredibly hospitable and overall the store seemed like a great stop for anyone in area looking for some retro titles.

What’s next? I’m hoping to update the blog more often and actually share some written work. Unfortunately academic publishing moves slower than blogging and it’s taken me awhile to actually pull together some research worth sharing, but things are in the pipeline. Overall this summer has been incredibly productive for creating new connections around game studies and for solidifying some ideas I’ve been working on.

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Follow me on Twitter @SocialVideoGame

 

Summer Travels Part 1: Strong National Museum of Play, Rochester, New York

I’ve been active doing video game related things this summer and thought it was finally time to sit down and share. I’ll be breaking this up into multiple post, so stay tuned for most posts in the near future.

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A Outside look at the Strong

This July I had the opportunity to conduct archival research at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, as  part of the Strong Research Fellowship. For those unaware of the this impressive museum,  The Strong is the largest museum dedicated to the act of play in the world and boasts multiple exhibits dedicated to video games and gaming. I was thoroughly impressed by the range of exhibits the museum offered, both those pertaining to video games and those more centered more broadly around the history of play. In particular, the Strong had an excellent exhibit on the history of Women in Games that was expansive and nuanced. With the Strong having broken ground in 2018 on a major expansion aimed to open in 2021 that will include a World Video Game Hall of Fame gallery and other immersive video game related exhibits, the future for the museum as a global archive and educator of play is bright.

 

As a part of the fellowship, I had access to the International Center for the History of Electronic Games’s impressive collection of documents, artifacts, and digital records pertaining to play. I came in interested in studying software and hardware cloning in the early history of video games (1972-1995), a subject that I have developed a fascination for this past year. Through the ICHEG’s archives, I was able to to play and see some devices that have become increasingly rare to find in working order, as well as diving into documents of gaming past that inform our current community. I’ll have more to share via the Strong’s Play Stuff Blog about the specific of my research findings in the near future, but I can’t express how grateful I am to have received the opportunity to do this form of archival research by the staff at the Strong.

My next post will share some pictures and experiences from the Higher Education Video Game Alliance’s (HEVGA) first Summer School that took place in Skövde, Sweden.

Follow me on Twitter at @SocialVideoGame

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Earnest’s Demographic of Video Gaming

Earnest, a technology company that analyzes data pulled from loan applications, surveys, and/or publicly available data sources released their finding on the demographics of video game consumers. In this case, they pulled their data from student loan refinancing applications. Data sets on video games usages and gamers are relatively rare so I figured I’d examine their findings and share. Despite the less than ideal data source, let’s examine what their key findings were:

Key Takeaway

  • Younger people, especially those aged 18-24, are more likely to make video game-related purchases than older individuals.
  • Men are more than three times as likely to make gaming purchases than women.
  • Individuals with high school diplomas or Associate degrees are the most likely to make gaming purchases, while dentists are the least likely.
  • People making more than $90,000 are less likely to make gaming purchases than their lower-earning counterparts.
  • People are less likely to make video game purchases the more time has elapsed since they graduated from their highest degree program.

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There’s some interesting findings here, some of which reinforce or challenge the Electronic Software Associations. The disparity between male and female game purchasers is significantly higher than the findings of ESA,  who found that men are the purchasers of video games about 63% of the time (compared to 37% for females). Likewise, the finding that 18-24 years are the ones most likely to make gaming purchases conflicts with finding that the average purchaser of video game content is 36 years old.

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This graph I find particularly interesting, because it exemplifies how video games as a medium is a relatively universally participated one. You see some minor dips, especially as income increases, but for the most part there isn’t a huge difference across income levels. As the report points out, some of this may also be tied to age and profession; as one earns more they are often more set in their careers, older, and perhaps have less time for video games.

I’d be interested to see survey myself and to get a little more information about sample size and general demographics of respondents, but this report does provide an interesting perspective that we may not get in other large scale data sets.  You can check out the entire report here: https://www.earnest.com/blog/the-demographics-of-video-gaming/

Follow me on Twitter @Socialvideogame

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