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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ll be presenting my research “No Skin=No Skill: Reproduction of Toxic Masculinity and Capitalist Hierarchy in Free-To-Play Battle Royale Video Games” at the Pacific Sociological Association’s annual conference on March 29th in Oakland, CA. I’m excited to meet with other sociologists and for the discussion the panel I’m presenting on creates around video game’s place as an area of sociological inquiry.
I’ll also be presenting this research in April at the Southern Sociological Society’s annual conference in Atlanta, GA. More details about that presentation to come.