I found myself beginning to get at some of the questions for this paper in my previous posts (you planned that all along, didn’t you, Dr. R?). Juul, in particular, was a scholar that began to talk about this issue, trying to determine exactly what the OoS in Game Studies are. Do we study games or the players?
Arriving at Games or Players?
Originally, the literature seemed primarily focused on the game: is a game a set of rules or a narrative? The game (that could be a digital game, but tabletop/card games fall into this as well) was the object of study and researchers were primarily concerned with looking at how we determined if something was a game. The focus on narrative likely points to the colonization of disciplines like English that Espen Aarseth discussed in the first issue of Game Studies. This dramatically opens up though not long after. Aarseth is writing this first issue in 2001.
By 2005, Juul is already beginning to argue that the real question in Game Studies should be what is our object of study? He comes to two different ideas, according to Bogost, games or players?
I asked after I wrote the major questions paper, Why not both?
Objects of Study
The reality is that researchers have been seeing both games and players as objects of study and in some cases, researchers are considering both at the same time. All of the articles in that first issue of Game Studies are focused primarily on the game as the object of study, looking particularly at narrative. It was in this issue that Juul was focused on the narratology/ludology debate still in 2001. Games often seem to be compared to other mediums of narrative such as books and film, solidifying that connection as a reason to study games too.
Researchers in the social sciences have been looking at player motivation and prosocial behavior in social games such as MUDs (multi-user dunegons) and MMORPGs (massive multiplayer online role playing games). One particularly famous researcher in this area is Nick Yee, who studies self-representation in games and social behavior/interaction of players within games. Unlike looking specifically at the game, the research is primarily focused on players and the social setting created by multiplayer games.
Mark Chen’s book, Leet Noobs, that I wrote about in my last PAB post, is focused on both the game (World of Warcraft) and it’s environment, as well as how players negotiate the game and socially interact together. He connects his work to a larger notion of new media literacy in order to legitimize it.
Researchers within Rhetoric and Composition have wrote about the use of games in the classroom, such as Richard Colby and Rebekah Shultz Colby, in the article “A Pedagogy of Play: Integrating Computer Games into the Writing Classroom,” that I wrote about in one of my PAB posts. They have also co-edited a book with Matthew S.S. Johnson called, Rhetoric/Composition/Play through Video Games: Reshaping Theory and Practice of Writing. “The collection explores games as rhetorical objects, as texts equally as sophisticated as their media counterparts (films and books), and as foundations on which a classroom curriculum can be built” (cover). It is interesting to me that there is a specific reference to other texts such as films and books mentioned on the cover of the book, in order to reiterate the notion that it is legitimate to study games and for them to be used in a classroom context. The book was published two years ago, and yet, over 10 years after Game Studies launched it’s journal, researchers within the field are still trying to legitimize their study to other scholars.
My surprise at scholars not considering both players and games as legitimate objects of study likely tells a lot about where I stand and what I use for my own research. I think that the object of study is likely primarily focused on the research questions of the scholar. It really depends on what the researcher wants to find out. However, I think in many cases it is absolutely necessary to consider both the game and player(s) when looking at games, especially because players don’t even necessarily play the same way.
My previous research has looked at the ways women rhetorically negotiate their place as “female gamers” in World of Warcraft. In my own work, it seemed necessary to both rhetorically analyze how women were represented within the game as well as talk with players about how they navigated the place, in order to really have an in depth understanding. Perhaps a lot of my reasoning for wanting the focus to be on both the game and on players is that I tend to gravitate towards studying multiplayer games.
Aarseth, Espen. “Computer Game Studies, Year One.” Game Studies: The International Journal of Computer Game Research 1.1 (2001): n. pag. Web. 19 Sept. 2015. <http://www.gamestudies.org/0101/editorial.html
Bogost, Ian. “Videogames Are a Mess My DiGRA 2009 Keynote, on Videogames and Ontology.” Ian Bogost. Ian Bogost, 3 Sept. 2009. Web. 30 Sept. 2015. <http://bogost.com/>.
Chen, Mark. Leet Noobs: The Life and Death of an Expert Player Group in World of Warcraft. New York: Peter Lang, 2012. Print.
Colby, Richard, Matthew S.S. Johnson, and Rebekah Shultz Colby, eds.Rhetoric/ Composition/play through Video Games: Reshaping Theory and Practice of Writing. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Print.
Juul, Jesper. “Games Telling Stories? A Brief Note on Games and Narratives” Game Studies: The International Journal of Computer Game Research 1.1 (2001): n. pag. Web. 17 Sept. 2015.
Shultz Colby, Rebekah and Richard Colby. “A Pedagogy of Play: Integrating Computer Games into the Writing Classroom” Computers and Composition 25 (2008): 300-312. Web. 13 Sept. 2015.
“Nick Yee’s HomePage.” Nick Yee’s HomePage. Nick Yee, n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2015. <http://www.nickyee.com/>.