What are Game Studies? a brief overview Tim Rowlands, June 2008
Game Studies What is it? The field of study referred to as game studies is the study of games from an interdisciplinary (mainly social science and humanities) perspective. While the majority of interest right now is dedicated to video games, game studies also includes the study of role-playing games, board games, collectable card games, sports, etc. Historically, it was used to examine the games children play.
Game Studies Game studies have been roughly divided into two branches; narratology and ludology . Narratology focuses on video games as a storytelling medium. This school of thought tends to treat video games like the ‘Holodeck’ from Star Trek, in which we get to become another person and act out that character in another world.
Game Studies Ludology looks at games first and foremost as games . It is interested in games in terms of their rules, their interfaces and through the concept of play. However, the division is somewhat artificial. In practice, game studies often involves elements of both approaches.
Game Studies Game studies researchers look at games as a phenomenon unto themselves and not as metaphors or illustrations of other theories or phenomena. Game studies is not the same as Game Theory, a branch of applied mathematics.
Game Studies Why is it important? In 2006, the video game industry was estimated to have a value of $18 billion in the US alone and supported 144,000 jobs. In 2003, 60% of Americans over the age of 6 played interactive games on a regular basis.
Game Studies What is it good for? Despite this, there has been relatively little academic research on the topic of games. Like other new media studies, game studies gives researchers a way to frame their critical examinations of this new medium and its impacts on its audiences and others. It establishes a research community which is developing research questions and agendas in conversation with each other.
Hot Topics As a relatively new field there is room for research in a diverse range of areas. Some of hot topics in game studies are: violence, addiction, gender, race, narratives and role-play, computer-based learning, virtual communities, therapeutic applications (pain control, treatment for phobias, etc.), computer-mediated communication, artificial intelligence, etc.