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Games and Culture, Issue 1

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Games and Culture 1.1[2006]Edit

The inagural issue of the (largely sociological) journal Games and Culture. It essentially offers a motley of potential theoretical approaches to games, as each author answers the question "Why Game Studies Now?"

1. Need for research into games as part of political and labor economies (3rd world game production, games as advertisements, etc.). These are represented as traditional cultural studies concerns (and in opposition to the conservative right). [Toby Miller]

2. Games as networked phenomenon that create new subcultures of play that contest descriptions of passive media play or "unproductive" labor [Pearce and Williams]

3. Games and Law [Lastowka]

4. Games studied using ethnographic approaches.

Game studies as a new art form

Games as things which blur our divisions between work and play (Yee): "Using well-known behavior conditioning principles, video games are inherentlywork platforms that train us to become better gameworkers. And thework that is being performed in video games is increasingly similar to the work performed in business corporations. The microcosm of these online games may reveal larger social trends in the blurring boundaries between work and play."

Leonard's emphasis on race (and to a lesser extent, gender) analysis

Games leading to the general ludification of cultural identities, general surveys of game studies methods (the Jenkins/Aarseth debate--Joost).

Bogost's article argues for a model of game criticism that is basic in a comparatist mode, that wants to study games as expressive and understand them not just in isolation as a media form. Rather, the point of humanism applied to video games is to understand what games say about being human--a move away from functionalism and isolation on the game object. He argues this begins with Aarseth, who privileges the functional over the material. Comparative literature allows for "a theoretical framework to construct a more specified critical analysis across several domains of human activity" (45). Bogost writes:

"Comparative video game criticism would not turn its back on functionalist approaches but rather would recognize the utility of functionalist approaches to games as a useful lever for further comparative criticism. Functionalist questions about video games—what they are or how they function—are not invalid or even uninteresting. But equally or dare I say, more important questions exist: What do video games do, what happens when players interact with them, and how do they relate to, participate in, extend, and revise the cultural expression at work in other cultural artifacts?" (45).


Asking the question "Why games studies now, why game studies ever", David Myers thinks we must because game involve representations (here the interest is more cognitive than literary) and because the study of games is the study of play (play is an understudied phenomenon).

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