Review of the Research - Good Luck

Recently, I have been faced with the task of "Reviewing the Research on Virtual Worlds" (yes, with capitalization) as part of my dissertation requirements (ch. 1 of dissertation for me, due in 13 days and counting) but also to be published in a "Handbook of New Literacies," edited by well-known literacy scholars such as Michelle Knobel and Conlin Lankshear. So, for the past few weeks, I've been burying myself in old and new writings on the very spaces we all hold so dear – MMOGs, MUDs, virtual worlds of all forms.

The task is, well... obscenely hard and messy. There's stuff on MUDs, web-published but never peer reviewed, that's held up as "canon" for the field. Then there's the academic papers, much of which consist of conference papers and proceedings publications. There are a few books, here and there, written from fairly atheoretical stances that focus on game design or personal stories. And then the occasional academic paper, such as T.L. Taylor's work or Hunter & Lastowka's (to name a few). Our collective work is all over the place. And that's fine for individuals, but not fine for the development of a field of research for others to draw on.

Am I naive in thinking that we exist as a field? If we do, where do we send our students to read through the literature? So far, I've treated Terra Nova as a sort of repository of ideas. But this will not easily sustain us as more scholars join the field. So... I wonder. Is it time we publish a journal of our own? Or at least a yearly review of some form? I worry that knowledge gets lost as generations move on to other topics/activities and newcomers will see nothing but a whole lot of webtalk without much scholarly, peer-reviewed writing on the issues.

And, yes, it does matter. If academensian's (pun intended) are to take virtual worlds seriously, then we have to give them reason to do so. R. Bartle, you question why it is that MMOG's are constantly translated into the home fields of those who write on them. Well, without a defined audience of our own that proves itself legitimate, we risk becoming nothing more than a fandom community around a technology that will, itself, grow tired, as all eventually do.

So, my questions include: Are we ready for a peer-reviewed journal on MMOGs? And, if so, who exactly ought to serve as peer review? And too, would we be "selling out" or whatever to establish such a forum for paper publication? And could we create one that worked in conjunction with the lively discussions here?


Comments on Review of the Research - Good Luck:

Peter Edelmann says:

There is (was?) a peer-reviewed "Journal of MUD research" which became the "Journal of Virtual Environments". A few years back, the journal published what is undoubtedly still one of the most widely cited papers in the area (apparently to Richard's chagrin ) Don't know what the current status of that project is though...

Posted Jul 2, 2005 7:53:59 PM | link

Raph says:

Pretty sure it's stagnant, but I was about to say the same thing. It used to be JOMR and became JOVE. Alan Schwartz used to be doing it, and I think Richard was on the editorial board at one point.

Posted Jul 2, 2005 8:26:46 PM | link

Cory Ondrejka says:

For the historians and academics -- what was the film studies evolution? Who reviewed those papers? The questions of "Why do game studies? It the scholarship at all useful to game developers?" came up a lot over beer in Madison (yes, Doug, I know the paper on this topic is late) and from my touchingly naive, non-academic perspective, my reasons often end up being practical of the "make games better" variety. Similarly, it seems like if you're going to have papers written on why digital worlds are built the way they are, it would be strange to not include those who actually build them. But, again, I'm not sure of the reality in parallel fields -- do active directors review scholarship about movies? They clearly lecture at film schools -- where's our James Lipton, dammit! Julian, get a TV show now -- but that is very different than really contributing to scholarship.

Posted Jul 2, 2005 9:25:12 PM | link

Cory Ondrejka says:

Sort of a related question is where does Gamasutra or Game Developer Magazine fit in? Perhaps, more fairly, where would the idealized version of either -- that is a resource by game creators for game creators, with criticism and review of submissions -- fit in?

Posted Jul 2, 2005 9:27:19 PM | link

Cory Ondrejka says:

Of course -- sorry, keep hitting post and then thinking of something else -- there is incredible irony in talking about the study of games and deciding that the best form of scholarship is the classic academic journal. It would be a little like deciding that the only way to produce scholarship about wiki's and blogs would be via journals. Leaving aside the completely settled issues like text versus 3D and Ludology versus Narratology, most of us make and study games because they are the most interesting, challenging, and transformative field around. Why shouldn't the scholarship be as interesting, challenging, and transformative as the field? Yes, we need peer review, standards, history, etc, but are journals the best (only?) option?

Posted Jul 2, 2005 9:37:06 PM | link

Aaron says:

I think a fantastic model for a journal of Digital Worlds is the Cahier Du Cinema in the 60s in France. Bazin's influence on what became the French New Wave was in no small part due to people like Truffaut, who started out writing about movies and then ended up making them. Also, people like Peter Bogdonovich have written extensively about film, while being directors, and it's a tradition that goes back at least to Eisenstein.

From the multidisciplinary point of view, I think cognitive science is a great area where peer-reviewed journals can exist that accomodate previously disparate fields without privileging any of them. The key is to have a really good peer-review system.

Also, tbh, I think one of the keys from the scholarly 'credibility' point of view is that such a journal may need to be published in print as well as distributed online. There is something (call it prejudice if you like) to be said about having a physical presence in research libraries.

Posted Jul 2, 2005 9:43:21 PM | link

Aaron says:

I'm gonna pull a Cory and repost in response to his sensible notion about the nature of the medium and whether print is appropriate.

I think print/text is the most appropriate primary format, because linguistic items are excellent means of straightforward communication. However, it would be ideal to include components that play to the model-oriented nature of this medium.

Posted Jul 2, 2005 9:48:18 PM | link

megan conklin says:

Re: Cory's "are journals the best/only option for writing scholarship of MMO" ... I think peer review is essential, and the "author-submits-peers-review" format is known to academia. That said, it doesn't have to be a stodgy paper journal that collects dust on a shelf. I think the model to follow would be First Monday, which is a pretty decent online journal with a well-respected editorial board and some big names sponsoring it.

There are a million "online journals" but First Monday is one that stands out as being fairly well-respected, IMO.

Posted Jul 2, 2005 9:53:43 PM | link

Aaron says:

One last thought:

I've always thought it would be cool if there were a virtual space that was dedicated to virtual conferences/presesntations of scholarly work. Presentations from a given 'issue' could initially be given in the online space, where presenters could have the opportunity to exploit the space's virtuality to accomplish some of what Cory alludes to. The presentations could then be offered as print or distributed online as a volume.

In fact, I bet there are numerous public grants and private sources that would help provide money and technology for such a project.

Posted Jul 2, 2005 9:53:58 PM | link

megan conklin says:

re: Cory's "do active directors review scholarship of movies?" ... I don't know about that, but I know that in Computer Science and especially in software engineering we have that battle (maybe too strong?) all the time. To sum up a very tired argument, "the people who sit in the ivory tower and think up theories aren't the same people who work in the trenches and write code".

Just look at the popularity of perl for evidence that there is a disconnect between what software theorists say we should do and what implementors actually do.

Or, everyone who laments the atrocious working conditions of certain game companies (for example) is effectively lamenting the fact that Brooks' Law (or a similar one) didn't make it out of the book and into the cubicle.

So, there is some tradition of a disconnect between theory experts and implementation experts. We can see this in software engineering, again, as well as some attempts to ameliorate the problem: "Empirical" software engineering (deriving conclusions about the concepts of engineering software based on observation of active "implementations") is a sort of bridge, I suppose.

Not sure about other related disciplines, but I thought I'd chime in with what little I observe within SE/CS.

Posted Jul 2, 2005 10:06:32 PM | link

Mike Sellers says:

Constance asks, "Am I naive in thinking that we exist as a field? If we do, where do we send our students to read through the literature?"

I'd say we're a nascent field. "Game studies" doesn't exist in any theoretic sense yet ('theoretic' in the specific 'corpus of knowledge' sense). we're still at a practical and pragmatic stage of understanding of what we do. We can practice the craft of game development, but robust theories of it are few and far between. And of course, highly argued.

Where is the literature? It's scattered all around -- here on TN, sometimes on MUD-Dev, sometimes in books or magazines. To my knowledge there is no one "go to" place for discussions of game theory and practice (this site comes as close as anyplace, which is I suspect why we're all here).

As to "why journals? there is one very important reason: they last. We could set up wikis and blogs and virtual spaces (though the question of whose space and which technology to use would be a thorny one), but these are all ephemeral. People can search the archives of MUD-Dev for example, but it's a resource that could go away at any time (to say nothing of its "noisy" nature).

If game studies is to emerge as a true field, we must start accreting a body of accepted knowledge, structured theories, argued hypotheses, and corroborative or anomalous observations. This will require permanence and accessibility that may include, but cannot be limited to, online formats.

As to the question of how to set up peer review and the like... this is an incredibly difficult area. At least in areas such as cognitive science (as a century earlier with psychology) there were foundational contributing disciplines to lend their structure and theories to the emerging area. Here the situation seems different, perhaps unique.

We have a lot of ideas, the beginnings of a meaningful (not just borrowed) vocabulary, but few tools and fewer yardsticks by which to judge our knowledge. And no central, accepted repositories for the knowledge slowly being gathered.

Posted Jul 2, 2005 10:45:46 PM | link

Nate Combs says:

Mike>

Constance asks, [virtual worlds].... "Game studies"

This begins to suggest a difficulty: where are the boundaries? How to choose what to exclude and include? Look at the topics covered in Mud-Dev... the range of which I suspect would be very difficult to squeeze within a single discipline.


Posted Jul 2, 2005 11:27:08 PM | link

Kirk Job-Sluder says:

Cory: Yes, we need peer review, standards, history, etc, but are journals the best (only?) option?

Well, I don't know about journals, but I think that there are a variety of pragmatic reasons why 100 years of multimedia have not killed the long narrative texts that journals happen to collect.

Mike Sellers: At least in areas such as cognitive science (as a century earlier with psychology) there were foundational contributing disciplines to lend their structure and theories to the emerging area. Here the situation seems different, perhaps unique.

Well, I'm a skeptic in regards to uniqueness. I can think of a multiple fields that can be considered reasonable theoretical ancestors, including CMC, archetecture, social psychology, ecological psychology, and economics.

Posted Jul 2, 2005 11:41:12 PM | link

Kirk Job-Sluder says:

Ohh, and Nate highlights an issue that is, I think, a key concern. Does this collapse neatly into "game studies?" Given all the baggage that goes with the word "game" and the existence of virtual worlds devoted purely to social interaction?

Posted Jul 2, 2005 11:58:31 PM | link

Mike Sellers says:

Well, I'm a skeptic in regards to uniqueness. I can think of a multiple fields that can be considered reasonable theoretical ancestors, including CMC, archetecture, social psychology, ecological psychology, and economics.

You may be right. Though I don't sense the same sort of confluence that occurred in the early 1980s between neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and computer science as cognitive science began to emerge.

One useful antecedent for MMOG studies (as opposed to the more general and problematic 'game studies') could be ekistics (see also this link among others), which has been called "the study of human settlements." It encompasses architecture, social psychology, economics, and similar fields as they relate to how people congregate and settle. (In my mind, Christopher Alexander is probably the patron saint of this field.)

MMOGs aren't precisely online human settlements -- there are notable differences such as the absence of the need for access to water that has been key in physical human habitations. But there are striking similarities too as can be seen in the housing markets in UO, or in the overall growth of AlphaWorld several years ago and Second Life today.

Maybe this is a place to start, or at least one of the foundations we can draw from.

Posted Jul 3, 2005 12:07:39 AM | link

Lydia Leong says:

JOMR/JOVE is no longer publishing, as far as I know. At the time (I was part of the original board), there really weren't enough articles being submitted to sustain it -- most of the "serious" work was getting published in the "home discipline" journals of the academics or in the proceedings of conferences. This seems to continue to be the case today.

I maintained the MUD Resource Collection webpages up until a couple of months ago, which for a while had a fairly good list of links to all the academic work on MUDs/MMOs that I could find, but the body of work written ended up burgeoning well past what I could readily keep up with. I think an exhaustive bibliography project would be very useful at this point.

Posted Jul 3, 2005 12:40:46 AM | link

magicback says:

I think what is needed is what I would term a “centrally authoritative source of collected knowledge”. If a text journal is what gets accepted and taken seriously by academia then so be it.

But I think for this field and the field of software in general we have advanced beyond text and into the world of knowledgebases, virtual depositories and virtual journals.

However, as Kirk indicated, text is still a scholarly medium of choice. Even I prefer to reading printouts than PDFs on the screen.

As for the root science to start with, I’ll suggest bypassing media/art history/study and start with game theory.

My thoughts,

Frank

Posted Jul 3, 2005 12:50:43 AM | link

Aaron says:

I don't think you need to worry about a root science. In fact, I doubt there is a root science for the study of digital worlds, just as there really was no root science with respect to the formation of cognitive science.

I think what's most important, before determining how to organize such a field or limiting its object of study, is to determine how to organize the people who are interested in nurturing the field and coming up with a way to work together, share their ideas, and then distribute those ideas in a format that will garner 'shelfspace' in the academy as well as the development studio.

I think that begins by creating a semi-formal multidisciplinary panel or association that can begin to build an infrastructure that allows for at least a provisional peer-review process. Once articles start making it through that process, you can begin to talk about the best way to publish them.

For awhile I worked as the basic sciences editor of a medical journal and later at a small literary journal, and the biggest challenge in both cases was ensuring a steady flow of well-reviewed, high-quality work. Once you initiate the production pipeline, there's no turning back. And if print is going to be one of the means of distribution, the production process can become quite complicated and drawn out. It's worth it, usually, but in my limited experience with publishing, the biggest mistake many journals (in any media) make is launching before they've got their editorial system down and before they have enough peer-reviewed material ready to go.

I guess I'm just saying that the specifics of how to distribute the journal are not as important initially as creating an editorial organization that can create a stream for the collection, review, and preparatation of manuscripts.

Posted Jul 3, 2005 1:26:33 AM | link

Richard Bartle says:

As has been noted, we had the Journal of MUD Research, which morphed into the Journal of Virtual Environments. It died for two main reasons: the editorial force behind it, Alan Schwartz, left; we weren't getting enough quality submissions.

Nascent journals are a bit like VW guilds: it's a lot of work to administrate them, to get people to do anything for them, to publicise them, to enthuse people about their aims. Once Alan left, none of us really wanted to take up the reins. The journal really needed an institution driving it, not just one individual.

The problem of lack of material is not to be dismissed lightly, either. If you're a researcher in the Department of X, then people are going to look at your publications list and see how many are in X-related journals. I, for example, am in the Department of Electronic Systems Engineering, and for my publications to count they have to be in an IEEE or IEE approved journal. There are lots of these, but not a great many devoted to virtual worlds.

It gets worse. If you want to write about virtual worlds as virtual worlds, rather than as some aspect of sociology, psychology, law, architecture, gender studies, economics, government, anthropology, geography, literature, education, artificial intelligence or whatever, you'd naturally look for a computer games journal. I know of only two of these that are actually accepting articles: Game Studies, which is online-only, and The Journal of Game Development, which is printed. We haven't had a Game Studies since November, and the one issue of JOGD appeared in March 2004 (with an introduction from our very own Ted).

If you want a journal of virtual world research, I'd say:
1) You'll have to run it yourself.
2) You'll have to have institutional backing, so that when you're run over by a meat truck the whole thing won't fall apart.
3) You'll have to get the name right. No "let's invent a new name for this new field" rubbish.
4) You'll have to create a print version that won't cost institutions an arm and a leg to subscribe to.
5) You'll have to find some answer to the question: "Why would anyone send their work here rather than some more established journal in a related field?".

Personally, I wouldn't start with a journal, I'd start with a book series. Books are peer-reviewed, they rate highly on the academic research scale, you can invite specific individuals to contribute, and contributors can get a little pocket money out of it. They don't have to have deadlines, the editors get kudos and credit that's bankable in academia, and everyone gets another book on their shelf. You can grow a series out of it if you want, too, with the aim of spinning a journal off it if it becomes a success.

Perhaps one place to start would be to consider gathering together all the "classic" papers of virtual worlds, whether previously peer-reviewed or not, and publish them together as a single "collection of papers" book. What papers would be in that volume? Would it set the tone for future volumes, or would it put people off submitting their own articles?

Richard

PS: I have boxes and boxes of articles on virtual worlds, having printed hard copies of every article I've ever read on the subject. New ones arrive faster than I can catalogue them, let alone read them. If you're doing a research review of this field, you have my sympathies...

Posted Jul 3, 2005 5:30:39 AM | link

Jesper Juul says:

Constance :
>Are we ready for a peer-reviewed journal on MMOGs?
>And, if so, who exactly ought to serve as peer review?

At Game Studies, we have discussed doing more theme issues. I think a theme issue on MMOGs would be great. This would be with guest editor(s) from the field, and running through our normal peer review process. Would that fit the bill for the time being?

Posted Jul 3, 2005 7:07:26 AM | link

Mike Sellers says:

There have been a number of very good books published on game design over the past few years, mostly from the industrial/practical POV, though we've begun to see some more theoretic approaches (e.g., Dave Kennerly's discussion of graph representations of gameplay). A solidly academic book, “Playing Video Games – Motives, Responses, and Consequences”, edited by Peter Vorderer and Jennings Bryant of the USC Annenberg School of Communications, should be published by Lawrence Erlbaum this fall (disclaimer: I have a chapter in this book).

Posted Jul 3, 2005 1:11:30 PM | link

Morgan Qualls says:

The problem you've brought up isn't so much a problem with Game Studies as a field but an exposure of the Emperor's New Clothes at the heart of literary criticism or any kind of peer review outside the hard sciences: the assumption that one has license to pull any kind of idea out of one's lower anatomy if and only if a sufficient mass of other people have produced similar ideas in the same fashion.

Posted Jul 3, 2005 1:24:38 PM | link

Daniel Pargman says:

- Constance asked about a peer-reviewed journal.
- Jesper J opened up for a MMOG special issue of Game Studies.
- Richard B suggested a book series.

My suggestion is more down-to-earth - start with organizing a conference that all (self-proclaimed) MMOG researchers just *have* to go to and level up from there. Having a discussion such as this is probably a really good way to start pre-prepratory work for thinking about that conference. Or that conference was perhaps the Other Players conference in Copenhagen in December last year, but Constance's question was not something that was discussed there. So, perhaps someone else should take up the torch and organize the Other Players 2006 conference? If such a conference manages to energize the participants, there shouldn't be any problems to (for example) get people to commit both to submit and review papers for a journal/book series.

Oh, and another thing. The conference should not be production-oriented (very selective in choice of papers) if the goal is to jump-start a new (sub-)field, but rather oriented towards member support (lots of workshops, presenting work-in-progress, feedback and discussions) and getting the "right" people to come. A keynote speaker could be someone who has thought long and hard about the function of conferences, journals etc. in his/her own field (I have a suggestion) or perhaps someone from sociology of science?

Another alternative is to work towards a MMOG "track" at the next Digra conference (although we'd have to wait until 2007).

Posted Jul 3, 2005 5:27:00 PM | link

Mike Sellers says:

start with organizing a conference that all (self-proclaimed) MMOG researchers just *have* to go to and level up from there.

That could be the Austin Game Conference, this year in late October. Smaller than GDC, more MMOG-focused, generally high quality presentations. It's not academic in its orientation though. But at this stage I'd be wary of increasing the split between industry and academia; we're better off doing what we can to reduce this instead, and to make the literature speak to both camps.

Posted Jul 3, 2005 5:39:07 PM | link

Cory Ondrejka says:

Mike> we're better off doing what we can to reduce this instead, and to make the literature speak to both camps

I heartily endorse this event or product. AGC is the MMOG conference for developers, but IMHO there is currently too broad a split being academics and developers to easily choose between it or Other Players, DiGRA, GLS, State of Play, etc.

Posted Jul 3, 2005 9:21:17 PM | link

ren reynolds says:

Constance > Am I naive in thinking that we exist as a field?

I’ve never quite understood the difference between field, discipline and subject. From the discussions I’ve overheard it seems that a field is a body of study that has a sizable set of theories and methods that are perceived to be independent from others.

If this is the case then MMO studies is certainly not a field and even Games Studies is not close as all are Applied X where X is a Field. Even if one thinks about ludology this seems to be a mix of anthropology, psychology etc.

I oscillate between caring and not. Much of the time I’m like whatever and I’m glad I’m not a full time academic. Then I start to think that there is a genuinely interesting epistemological concern here and that maybe narratology vs ludology is distillation of something I should care about.

If however a filed is simply a relatively common object of study irrespective of methodology etc than I guess MMO Studies is one just so long as we say it is.

>So, my questions include: Are we ready for a peer-reviewed journal on MMOGs?

I guess that will be tested empirically.


>And, if so, who exactly ought to serve as peer review?

us


>And too, would we be "selling out" or whatever to establish such a forum for paper publication?

I don’t get what values we would be abandoning.


>And could we create one that worked in conjunction with the lively discussions here?

Depends on the economics and assumptions of current academic publishing -can something be in print and published on the web? If so we can have discussions leading off papers. Using a forum like this as a way of collaboratively working on papers is a longstanding difficulty.

Posted Jul 4, 2005 3:13:33 AM | link

greglas says:

Daniel summarized:

- Constance asked about a peer-reviewed journal.
- Jesper J opened up for a MMOG special issue of Game Studies.
- Richard B suggested a book series.

and suggested a big conference like Other Players. Mike suggested AGC -- Cory noted DiGRA, GLS, State of Play, etc. Point being, I think, that there are more than enough conferences at the moment.

No one has mentioned, I think, that Doug Thomas also has a new game studies journal coming out too:
http://www.sagepub.com/journal.aspx?pid=11113
So it seems we'll have 2 "game" journals soon. Game Studies has printed several MMOG-related papers, and I have a hunch that Games and Culture will too. The question, I think, is whether "MMOG studies" is so different than game studies that it needs its own journal.

All I can say is that, imho, while I think you need to read the game studies literature in order to study MMOGs and MUDs, MMOGs and MUDs are different enough from traditional videogames that attract people with much different interests. Almost all of the stuff that has been written by authors here on TN is about game-mediated online societies, not about, e.g., what to make of the fact that Tetris isn't a story.

Still, I think Richard is right. Unless someone (probably one of us here!) wants to launch an exclusive MMOG studies journal with institutional backing, I think we'll be part of game studies (and/or publishing books) for the foreseeable future. And I guess that's fine and sensible. I'm not sure we're seeing enough quality writing to justify a separate journal. (Same point as was made re JOVE at the time of much MUD writing). And, fwiw, the games magazines are handling MMOGs as part of the games market -- they release "MMOG issues" and give awards for "Best MMORPG of the year", but they haven't launched separate MMOG-only titles.

The real divergence point, I think, would be if you wanted to conceive of the field as broader than games (as some of us do here at TN, I think -- see, e.g., Cory's writings re Second Life and Betsy's work on social VWs). Then you really might want/need to draw a line between game studies and "virtual world" studies.

Posted Jul 4, 2005 6:43:36 AM | link

Jessica Mulligan says:

Ren wrote:
---
I’ve never quite understood the difference between field, discipline and subject. From the discussions I’ve overheard it seems that a field is a body of study that has a sizable set of theories and methods that are perceived to be independent from others.
---

"Field of study" seems to be a common enough term for the general bailiwick, such as "Anthropology is my field of study." In fact, dictionary.com describes it as " A branch of knowledge or teaching" and:

n 1: a branch of knowledge; "in what discipline is his doctorate?"; "teachers should be well trained in their subject"; "anthropology is the study of human beings" [syn: subject, subject area, subject field, field, field of study, study, bailiwick, branch of knowledge]

As a field of study, I would suggest that this is really not about online games or virtual worlds, but the more general bucket of "multi-user online societies." MMOGs, MUDs and virtual worlds would be subjects within that field of study.

My 2 cents, anyway.

Posted Jul 4, 2005 8:00:57 AM | link

Cory Ondrejka says:

Greg> No one has mentioned, I think, that Doug Thomas also has a new game studies journal coming out

Heh, actually I made an oblique reference to being late with a submission for it :-)!

Greg> The real divergence point, I think, would be if you wanted to conceive of the field as broader than games

Of course, by many definitions of "game", MMORPGs aren't games either :-)

Posted Jul 4, 2005 11:29:09 AM | link

Daniel Pargman says:

Computer games something (studies/development/X) will become a regular academic discipline - although I don't dare to guess when. Being primarily interested in online games/worlds, I'm happy enough that that is the case not to be overly bothered by the fact that MMOG/terra nova-stuff first will be a sub-field there rather than a field of its own.

When I started to do my Ph.D. there was no natural venue where I could present my results. Now that I'm back in academia I find that there is. That's really enough for me. If (when) there is a critical mass of academics doing research (exclusively) on MMOGs/virtual worlds, then is the time to formalize that sub-field of - as I see it - computer game studies. Is there now?

Something which I wonder is if there are people doing research on MMOGs/virtual worlds and whose results could *not* have been presented at the Digra conference? Then there would be a higher need for a specialized journal, but is that the case? Examples anyone?

I can imagine that the next step in reserach on computer games would otherwise be for a few larger swaths of researchers to differentiate/cluster. I can imagine that people who study gamers and gaming as a social activity (i.e. what happens *after* computer games are released to the general public) will come together and that most MMOG researchers will go in that direction.

Posted Jul 4, 2005 5:15:01 PM | link

Dmitri Williams says:

I don't see a lack of venues. The mainstream journals are getting hipper than we give them credit for. They're also better places for exposure, and the way to illustrate that this stuff matters. True, there are still a few peer reviewers who will scoff at games, but the editors I have talked to have been increasingly receptive over the past three years.

If anything, I think the problem is a lack of solid scholarship to fill those journals. Specifically, I see a giant chasm in empiricism. (Devs, are you listening? Return our phone calls, will ya? We want data!) There are notable exceptions, of course, but I see a whole lotta theorizin' and not a whole lotta measurin' and testin'. To me it's like, OK, we're all on board and agree that these things are important. Now let's form some theories, derive hypotheses, operationalize them, test them and report back to the class. That's how you build a field.

Also, print vs. paper is still a pecking order, but it's diminishing. I point to Douglas' new journal, which will be online and off, and the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, which is run by my field's (communication) premier body:
see http://jcmc.indiana.edu/

More senior scholars are learning that it's the peer review part that's the quality check, rather than the medium.

Posted Jul 5, 2005 10:17:54 AM | link

Edward Castronova says:

What if the web itself becomes the most powerful source of academic reputation? I really hate the peer-reviewed journal system. I think it's basically corrupt, ready to fall. If it does, Terra Nova will be the best new journal of virtual world research.

Also: this business is growing so rapidly it is putting everyone involved with it under incredible time pressure. Who's got the time to build up a journal? Constance, you'd probably have to give up one of your WoW 60s, you know.

Posted Jul 5, 2005 11:52:22 AM | link

Mike Sellers says:

Ted, the problem with the web (or an open subset such as TN) becoming the most powerful source of academic reputation is that it's an extremely lossy and noisy filter. Much that's good gets lost in noise. Some work that would never get through a robust peer-review process (Sokal-like exceptions aside) can get a lot of attention on the unregulated, neophilic web.

It'd be possible, I suppose, to build up reputational filters, of which those at slashdot and elsewhere are the first generation. But I think most of us know the pitfalls of these -- creating a sufficiently powerful and useful auto-screening reputation system is worthy of serious research in itself.

Now, maybe the current academic peer review system is no better (and it's certainly glacially slow with respect to the online environment). But some form of centralized screening, whether for a book, journal, or conference, seems inevitable to me. The alternative is the cacophony of the over-abundance of the open web.

Posted Jul 5, 2005 12:46:51 PM | link

John McLaren says:

As a third year Internet Studies student (albeit a fifty-two year old one), I do hope that the study of MMORPGs will find itself accorded the status of 'field.' Having no knowledge of these games until quite recently, they have grabbed my attention (partly thanks to the work of many of you) and I've been encouraged in this new-found enthusiasm by my tutors at Curtin University.

As regards the peer-review system, I have found it useful, although one should be able to sort the wheat from the chaff in the 'fray-for-all' of blogs and other online sources. Even essay work nowadays only seeks a 'majority' of peer-reviewed sources. It's pleasing to see that personal judgement has not been completely side-lined.

Posted Jul 5, 2005 3:17:33 PM | link

Nate Combs says:


sort the wheat from the chaff in the 'fray-for-all' of blogs and other online sources

Peer-review has its virtues, but it is not a panacea. Recall the old "precision vs. recall" (wrt search) trade-off. Both have their places, and so do a lot of places in-between.

Posted Jul 5, 2005 5:39:10 PM | link

Dmitri Williams says:

Just a reality check from a junior faculty member: We have to be in peer-reviewed journals in order to get tenure. After tenure, we can try other things, bite the hand that feeds us (apologies to Jessica!), etc.

Posted Jul 5, 2005 7:50:44 PM | link

Kirk Job-Sluder says:

Dmitri: Just a reality check from a junior faculty member: We have to be in peer-reviewed journals in order to get tenure. After tenure, we can try other things, bite the hand that feeds us (apologies to Jessica!), etc.

Tenure frequently only means they just can't sack you without cause. However, there are 101 ways for a department to make a faculty member wish they had gotten a pink slip instead. (I met a botanist turned bio-ethicist who had experienced about a dozen of them.)

Posted Jul 5, 2005 11:59:16 PM | link

Richard Bartle says:

Edward Castronova>What if the web itself becomes the most powerful source of academic reputation?

This isn't incompatible with peer review. However, if there really is no peer review, you basically just handed the entire field of biology over to the creationists.

>I really hate the peer-reviewed journal system.

Yeah, me too. They don't like my papers either.

>If it does, Terra Nova will is the best new journal of virtual world research.

If Joe Newbie Researcher applied to become a TN author, would you grant them the necessary privileges? Or would you politely turn them down?

Isn't this just another, less formal version of peer review that's even more open to abuse?

Richard

Posted Jul 6, 2005 4:23:29 AM | link

Eric Random says:

Virtual Worlds have extreme functional versatility and can act as a point of intersection for many disciplines and inter-disciplines. Because of this, many studies that clearly relate to MMOGs are published in respective disciplinary or inter-disciplinary journals. There are many peer-reviewed journals that include studies directly applicable to MMOGs, but do so mainly because it is directly applicable to the respective discipline.

This does not change the fact that it is difficult to survey the related studies concerning MMOGs in the vast number of peer-reviewed journals.

I think what may be best, and this has probably already been suggested, is a pseudo-editorless link collaboration page similar to digg.com. Anyone accessing the site can provide links to pages which host a particular study or a journal which hosts studies and allow the link to be tagged with key words to organize the various disciplines and fields that can relate to MMOG or virtual world studies.

Once the site develops, then one can start getting a good idea of which studies are represented and which are not. New journals can then be created to fill in those gaps reducing the possibility of ambiguous and intersecting journal objectives, and thus mitigating their effect on subscription and submission. Further, such a site can provide visibility equally for both low and high popularity journals as well as rank them as respected.

An example of some of the disciplines and inter-disciplines virtual worlds can intersect with is as follows:

Disciplines
===========
-Anthropology (cultural)
-Architecture
-Art
-Business and Administration
-Communication (Media Effects)
-Computer Science
--Software Engineering
--Information Systems (Representation, Processing, Storage, Retrieval)
--Computer Graphics
--User Interface
-Economics
-Marketing
-Philosophy (Ethics, Mind, Language, Epistemology)
-Psychology (Cognitive, Social)
-Sociology

Inter-Disciplinaries
====================
-Cognitive Science
-Linguistics
-Artificial Intelligence
-Learning Sciences
-Gender Studies
-Media Studies
-Human-Centered Computing
-Visual Communication Design
-Information Systems (General)

Keep in mind, this list is only illustrative on the multi-disciplined nature of virtual worlds, and should not be considered exhaustive. These fields are just some particular fields where I’ve seen virtual world related studies on the level of academic to leisure/opinion

Posted Jul 6, 2005 11:46:30 AM | link

F. Randall Farmer says:

I can't speak to the academic sense of ‘peer’ review, but I’d like to reinforce one point with some history, and to make another.

Let me reinforce that the study/construction of Virtual Worlds is multidisciplinary to such an extent that to date many attempts to organize an academic dialog with practitioners have failed to produce any reasonable cohesion around anything as fundamental as a common glossary of terminology. First it was a mismatch with the humanities (literature, metaphysics). Then it was the visualization groups (architecture, VRML/3D, metaphysics). Now it has expanded to include economics, cultural anthropology, sociology, and so many other disciplines.

How could it be any other way? The very metaphorical name Virtual Worlds suggests that everything we are, and study, has bearing on these systems. So, if academics are encouraged to specialize and publish in their own circles, VW papers will always be spread throughout JournalSpace – and couched in language that the specific discipline has adapted for internal use. Perhaps our esteemed academics could provide an example of a currently existing multidisciplinary structure that encourages communication between such diverse groups. Ever since the disaster of Cyberthon2.0, I’ve been waiting and hoping. (http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/academic/communications/papers/habitat/litcrit.txt)


Without a doubt, Terra Nova presents practitioners with a practical peer-review platform. I and others have engaged the community here directly for the rigorous review and critique of VW implementation strategies and ideas. See the TN article about my KidTrade proposal and the ensuing comments, as an example. (http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2004/10/farmer_virtual_.html) This process was significantly more effective than any article in a print-journal could have ever been. Direct engagement led to refinement in my design, my presentation, and to the creation of derivative and potentially superior works – all in the public domain.

So, while I feel for the honest academics, like Constance, I’ll just keep plugged into Terra Nova. My peers are here – looking for the same things. I seriously doubt I’ll ever be published in a peer-reviewed-formal-journal, I will go on publishing. :-)

Posted Jul 6, 2005 12:52:18 PM | link

About Pictires says:

Hello it a very interesting site!
Thanks for the good material!

Posted Jan 24, 2006 7:52:58 PM | link