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Dec 12, 2005



It was really great to view the documentary and read more about the Arden Institute. Excellent work! It does suck being an impoverished PhD student in New Zealand though. Attending such events becomes close to impossible...


I have to echo Gordon's plaintive wail about being stuck in New Zealand (queue violins, please) and how nice it is to have access to video archives of events like this.

But here's also an opportunity to ask a bigger question - there were comments in the documentary about what a tight-knit community games studies is - this maps well to my own experiences... Ever since I've been involved in the community, I've noticed how supportive it is compared to other academic communities - especially when it comes to welcoming newcomers and embracing new contributions and challenges (the occasional heated TN debate aside). I wonder... can that be attributed to the fact that it's a relatively new discipline (and once the honeymoon phase has ended might degenerate?), or is it a unique state related to the fact that most of us are gamers who are well-versed in the business of cooperation? Is it simply that the community is small and we're able to build social capital more easily? Or maybe we all get our angst out in WoW and elsewhere and have less left for petty academic bickering?


That's a good question. Part of it is probably a new-field thing. we can all be friends now because there's really nothing to fight over. Kurt and Constance and Dmitri and Thomas have all the grants, all $23,257 of them. The untenured are fighting just to get the field recognized, not to get this or that approach to it recognized. Lots of commonality of interest there.

But there may be something deeper at work. I am thinking there may be a new epistomology emerging, one that focuses on wit and collegiality first, and any notion of 'substances' or 'fact' being secondary. Driven by the notion of blogs as academic communities. COnsciously post-modern and ironic. And since we are all game players, we're all pretty conscious of this kind of approach. This whole thing is a game, why not have fun and laugh?


From Doug Rushkoff's "Get Back In The Box: Innovation from the Inside Out":

"Fun is not a distraction from work or a drain on our revenue; it is the very source of both our inspiration and our value. A genuine sense of play ignites our creativity, eases communication, promotes goodwill and engenders loyalty, yet we tend to shun it as detrimental to the seriousness with which we think we need to approach our businesses and careers.

If we can switch our orientation to fun, and see it not as an anarchic threat that needs to be quelled but rather as the core motivator and source of meaning for all human thought and behavior beyond basic survival, we will enable ourselves to reach levels of success that were previously unimaginable."

Ludium1 in a nutshell.


I think it is a function of the size of the field: small. It's not so different from my little field of philosophy of language -- people staying up until 2 AM drinking and arguing about philosophy. Big academic conferences are another matter entirely. Just wait; when this field explodes in size (and it will), we'll look back at this as the golden age when game studies was still fun and not a chore.


Another few possibilities for collegiality:

1. "Us vs. them": As a novel field, it's not yet respected within academia (or the media, or the public) generally, causing its early students to close ranks.

2. "Comfort with technology": Many academics (and others) are still uncomfortable with computers. The field's dependence on computing hardware and fairly specialized software allow it to be perceived as cold and non-humanistic. Those within the field share an understanding that changing this perception will take time and education.

3. "Birds of a feather": Those who are drawn to this kind of thing are similar kinds of people. That doesn't mean they'll always agree, but it does mean they can understand each other where others can't.

4. "Broadness of skills": That virtual worlds merge art and commerce and psychology and computer science makes their study extremely cross-disciplinary. That keeps the field fresh and relevant.

Possibly the enthusiasm in the field is a combination of these and the other reasons suggested. I hope it lasts for a while longer.



I'd add one other aspect that adds to the collegiality - the doctrine of "academic hot pursuit" (Postman, 1962). I saw this back in the early 1980s when cognitive science was a new cool thing, but no one had any training in it (which is why I remember that citation). As with psychology in the late 19th and early 20th century, everyone involved came, academically, from someplace else.

Today "game studies" (is that what we're calling it?) draws in people from computer science, communications, sociology, psychology, and other (or no!) disciplines. We're all feeling our way on what is definitely Terra Nova. Academic feuds and entrenched schools of thought haven't had time to form yet, as we don't even have our basic operators and pedagogical principles down. We have vague-but-useful notions like "community" (our phlogiston?), but we have a long way to go before we all think we know enough to stop staying up until 2am boggling each other with our wild ideas.


Well, let's make a point of keeping it collegial and open to new ideas. I like it this way.

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