From Interdisciplinarity
to Identity and Back: The
Dual Character of
Academic Game Studies
Frans Mäyrä
University of Tampe...
Talk outline
•  Introduction: contemporary game studies, and disciplinary
organization of knowledge
•  Is the object of ga...
Disciplines and interdisciplinarity
•  Disciplinary nature of learning is rooted in antiquity
•  Plato favoured unified sc...
Call for interdisciplinarity
•  Thomas Kuhn (Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962) called
‘normal science’ that ‘cons...
Early studies in games
•  Multiple origins:
•  Anthropology: e.g. Stewart Culin, Games of
North American Indians (1907)
• ...
Modern game studies emerging
•  Contemporary game studies started to emerge (particularly in
late 1990s) in a transforming...
Inherent interdisciplinarity
•  Deceptively simple appearance of early digital games, plus their
low cultural status, had ...
The-semiosis-and-ludosis)of-games-are-inseparable:-the-mul?dimensionality-
in-contemporary-digital-games-is-a-challenge-fo...
Why a discipline?
•  “There is no-one understanding my work – my studies on
games are judged by people who know nothing ab...
Disciplinarity: does it matter?
•  Discussing the academic affiliations helps to make us
aware of our differences and simi...
Tensions in interdisciplinarity
•  Acknowledging the complex character of games and play does not
automatically lead to ag...
Survey: implementation and the sample
•  Designed by scholars from multiple backgrounds and
rather substantial in length (...
Results: Disciplinary background
0- 2- 4- 6- 8- 10- 12- 14- 16- 18-
Other-(s?ll-in-High-School)-
Game-Studies-
Informa?on-...
Current research field
0- 2- 4- 6- 8- 10- 12- 14- 16- 18-
Other-(not-specified)-
Informa?on-Studies-
Game-Studies-
Economic...
Transfers between fields
•  55-%-(300-respondents)-stayed-in-their-original-field,-45-%-(244)-had-changed-to-another-field-
Identification as a “digital games researcher”
0- 5- 10- 15- 20- 25- 30- 35- 40- 45- 50-
Strongly-Disagree-
Disagree-
Neit...
Identification as a “digital games researcher” by
original degree
•  Design,-Engineering-and-Humani?es-researchers-appear-...
Identification as a gamer
0- 5- 10- 15- 20- 25- 30- 35- 40-
Strongly-Disagree-
Disagree-
Neither-Agree-nor-Disagree-
Agree...
Research collaborations
0- 50- 100- 150- 200- 250- 300- 350- 400- 450- 500-
Other,-please-specify-
Interna?onal-Government...
Lessons from data
•  In light of the findings, it appears clear that:
•  a) in terms of background education, no single di...
There and back – and the way forward?
•  Views from the Critical Evaluation of Game Studies seminar:
•  Espen Aarseth: gam...
References / further reading:
•  Aarseth, Espen J. (2007) “I Fought the Law: Transgressive Play and The Implied Player.”
I...
From Interdisciplinarity to Identity and Back: The Dual Character of Academic Game Studies
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From Interdisciplinarity to Identity and Back: The Dual Character of Academic Game Studies

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The keynote talk slides for the Summer School of Games and Play Research, Utrecht, 18th August 2014.

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From Interdisciplinarity to Identity and Back: The Dual Character of Academic Game Studies

  1. 1. From Interdisciplinarity to Identity and Back: The Dual Character of Academic Game Studies Frans Mäyrä University of Tampere frans.mayra@uta.fi-//-gamelab.uta.fi-//-SIS-/-TRIM-/-game-research-lab-
  2. 2. Talk outline •  Introduction: contemporary game studies, and disciplinary organization of knowledge •  Is the object of game studies inherently situated between disciplines? •  Some results from a survey that was targeted to probe the academic background and practices of games researchers •  What kind of disciplinary backgrounds and research traditions the current practitioners of digital games research are coming from? •  What we can say about the disciplinary identity of game researchers? •  How unified or diversified the field of games research Academia appears to be today? •  Game Studies / research of games: from emergent discipline to multidisciplinary meeting ground, interdisciplinary field, and back?
  3. 3. Disciplines and interdisciplinarity •  Disciplinary nature of learning is rooted in antiquity •  Plato favoured unified science, but Aristotle aimed to establish clearly lineated areas of inquiry (e.g. Poetics, Politics, Metaphysics) •  Already Romans concerned about dangers of overspecialization •  Educational ideal: integration of knowledge through: –  community of disciplines of knowledge (universitas scientiarum) –  community of teachers and students (universitas magistrorum et scholarium) •  The original root for our word for ‘university’ •  During the late 1800s, universities started organising themselves around modern disciplines, fields of knowledge and learning
  4. 4. Call for interdisciplinarity •  Thomas Kuhn (Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962) called ‘normal science’ that ‘conservative form’ of scientific operation that continues to operate on shared assumptions •  By 1960s universities had become subject to new demands: –  the rapid development of sciences, new needs of students, professional training, changing society, economic and administrative challenges to contemporary university •  Universities were now required to produce ‘innovations’, boundary-breaking or paradigm-shifting new knowledge, to contribute to national competitiveness •  Public calls for research grants started to emphasise interdisciplinary collaboration, emerging new areas of knowledge
  5. 5. Early studies in games •  Multiple origins: •  Anthropology: e.g. Stewart Culin, Games of North American Indians (1907) •  History: e.g. H.J.R. Murray, A History of Chess (1913) •  Mathematical game theory: e.g. John von Neumann (1928) •  Cultural & art studies: e.g. Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens (1938) •  Computer Sciences: e.g. chess program studies, Alan Turing (1947), Claude Shannon (1950) •  Educational sciences: e.g. Richard Duke, Gaming: The Future’s Language (1974)
  6. 6. Modern game studies emerging •  Contemporary game studies started to emerge (particularly in late 1990s) in a transforming academic and socio-cultural context for research and education •  The rising popularity starting in early 2000s is the sum of many things •  Generational shift in the universities: personal experiences among digital games made aware about the qualitative leap from traditional board or card games •  Many new digital games provided the sense of entering an extensive alternate simulated world, facing rich and dynamic array of chancing challenges, often immersed in high-speed action, with spectacular audiovisual displays •  New focus on ontology: what games are? What is the “gameness” of games? And epistemology: how we can study games? What is valid knowledge about games and/or play?
  7. 7. Inherent interdisciplinarity •  Deceptively simple appearance of early digital games, plus their low cultural status, had arguably hidden the potentials of this art form from critical awareness •  Gameplay of e.g. Pac-Man can be recorded as video and then analysed as a storyline of compulsive eating and fight for survival (metaphor for consumerism & predatory capitalism?) •  When actually played, the dominance of gameplay often displaces representational and narrative aspects: under the graphical surface, the underlying dynamic system of forces and counter-forces is revealed •  Dual structure of games: both interactive, digital media and playful performances of players
  8. 8. The-semiosis-and-ludosis)of-games-are-inseparable:-the-mul?dimensionality- in-contemporary-digital-games-is-a-challenge-for-disciplinary-knowledge- hBp://gamestudiesbook.net--
  9. 9. Why a discipline? •  “There is no-one understanding my work – my studies on games are judged by people who know nothing about them” •  Discipline is a form of organising (scientific and scholarly) knowledge and related practices •  Disciplines can be rigid, but they also facilitate communication, community formation, institutional support, as well as continuity and progress in scholarship •  Disciplines promote terminological clarity (shared language) •  They bring together people focused on same, or closely related phenomena (shared subject matter, expertise) •  Disciplines support: degree programs, conferences, journals, associations, academic work positions
  10. 10. Disciplinarity: does it matter? •  Discussing the academic affiliations helps to make us aware of our differences and similarities in questions such as e.g. –  What is the role and status of games and play in culture and society? –  How, and from what kind of starting points should they be researched? –  What kind of knowledge about games and play is relevant or valuable knowledge? –  What kind of purposes should the knowledge about games primarily be used for? •  Room for genuine disagreement, as well as agreement
  11. 11. Tensions in interdisciplinarity •  Acknowledging the complex character of games and play does not automatically lead to agreement about what the proper research focus and methodology should be •  Humanities scholars: hermeneutic and phenomenological traditions of thought, critical explorations into the ontology of a work of art •  Social sciences: research needs to be based on empirical data that has been collected systematically and which can be verified •  Design research: aim is at contributing to the innovation in games •  Economic, legal, health, education and many other fields have their own knowledge aims and established practices •  Espen Aarseth (2007): in e.g. social sciences/humanities, informal/ formal methods, will lead into incompatible differences in what is the object of game studies, and what should be its proper methodology •  I perceive the difference, but also room for collaboration
  12. 12. Survey: implementation and the sample •  Designed by scholars from multiple backgrounds and rather substantial in length (46 questions/statement groups, some with multiple statement lists) •  Distributed online to the mailing lists of DiGRA, as well as to the ECREA and ICA game studies groups (email, Facebook pages); NOT e.g. among CHI Play participants •  The survey gained 808 responses, with 561 respondents (70.8 %) completing the entire survey •  After removing some invalid entries (including all those cases where an incorrect response had been given to at least one of the control questions), 544 valid responses (67.3 %) formed the data that was used in the following analysis and discussion
  13. 13. Results: Disciplinary background 0- 2- 4- 6- 8- 10- 12- 14- 16- 18- Other-(s?ll-in-High-School)- Game-Studies- Informa?on-Studies- Natural-Sciences- Economics,-Business-&-Management- Design- Social-Sciences- Arts- Engineering- Media-Studies- Psychology- Computer-Sciences- Educa?onal-Sciences- Humani?es- Communica?on-Studies- Percentage-
  14. 14. Current research field 0- 2- 4- 6- 8- 10- 12- 14- 16- 18- Other-(not-specified)- Informa?on-Studies- Game-Studies- Economics,-Business-&-Management- Natural-Sciences- Computer-Sciences- Arts- Social-Sciences- Engineering- Humani?es- Design- Educa?onal-Sciences- Psychology- Communica?on-Studies- Media-Studies- Percentage-
  15. 15. Transfers between fields •  55-%-(300-respondents)-stayed-in-their-original-field,-45-%-(244)-had-changed-to-another-field-
  16. 16. Identification as a “digital games researcher” 0- 5- 10- 15- 20- 25- 30- 35- 40- 45- 50- Strongly-Disagree- Disagree- Neither-Agree-nor-Disagree- Agree- Strongly-Agree- Percent- •  C.-79-%-considered-themselves-as-’digital-games-researchers’.--
  17. 17. Identification as a “digital games researcher” by original degree •  Design,-Engineering-and-Humani?es-researchers-appear-slightly-less-likely-to-agree- •  Differences-are-not-sta?s?cally-significant-(ANOVA-F(9,-503)-=-1.896,-p)=-.05;-neither-Tukey’s- HSD-showed-no-sta?s?cally-significant-differences-between-groups)--
  18. 18. Identification as a gamer 0- 5- 10- 15- 20- 25- 30- 35- 40- Strongly-Disagree- Disagree- Neither-Agree-nor-Disagree- Agree- Strongly-Agree- Percent- •  66-%-saw-themselves-as-gamers;-those-who-selfciden?fied-as-‘gamers’-also-more-likely-to- iden?fy-themselves-as-‘digital-games-researchers’-(r)=-.295,-p)=-.000)--
  19. 19. Research collaborations 0- 50- 100- 150- 200- 250- 300- 350- 400- 450- 500- Other,-please-specify- Interna?onal-Government-(e.g.-European-Union,-U.S.-Federal-Government)- Na?onal/State-Government- NoncGovernmental-Organiza?on- Industry- Researchers-from-another-country- Researchers-from-another-ins?tu?on-in-your-country-of-residence- Researchers-from-your-own-ins?tu?on- •  Majority-(433-of-544,-76-%)-had-at-least-some-research-collabora?on;-49-%-had-done- interna?onal-collabora?on;-39-%-reported-industry-collabora?on-
  20. 20. Lessons from data •  In light of the findings, it appears clear that: •  a) in terms of background education, no single discipline plays a key role for organizing the academic identity of contemporary games researchers, and that •  b) the research on digital games and play is in fact highly multidisciplinary and highly dynamic as almost half of the survey respondents reported currently working in a different field than from which they gained their highest degree •  On the other hand, the respondents also predominantly identified themselves as “digital games researchers”, which appeared not to be an exclusive feature of their academic identity, but rather something that they were capable of combining with other academic affiliations. •  Research collaboration was also very common, probably contributing to more interdisciplinary contact among those academics who are interested in researching games, but are originally coming from different academic fields. It was also interesting to note that, whilst the majority of the respondents agreed to a statement of being gamers themselves, over a third did not.
  21. 21. There and back – and the way forward? •  Views from the Critical Evaluation of Game Studies seminar: •  Espen Aarseth: game studies is a “field”, and its establishment as a discipline should not be desired •  Bart Simon: game studies should remain true to the “unserious” character of games and play •  Sebastian Deterding: game studies has already established an epistemic and methodological ‘core’, but since there are few career opportunities, researchers are also building multiple sub-communities within established fields (e.g. games research special interest groups in Computer Sciences, Communication Studies etc.) •  Consequently, there is no one ‘game studies’, but many: an ongoing dialectic between humanities, social sciences, art, design studies, computer sciences, economics etc. based “polyphonic game studies” •  However, basic theories and terminology need to be shared, otherwise teaching, evaluating and building upon earlier research is not possible
  22. 22. References / further reading: •  Aarseth, Espen J. (2007) “I Fought the Law: Transgressive Play and The Implied Player.” In: Situated Play – Proceedings of DiGRA 2007. Tokyo, Japan: DiGRA Japan. [ http://www.digra.org/wp-content/uploads/digital-library/07313.03489.pdf] •  Bok, Derek (2004) Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Higher Education. Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press. •  Charle, Christophe (2004) “Patterns.” In: Walter Rüegg (ed.), A History of the University in Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 33-82. •  Klein, Julie Thompson (1991) Interdisciplinarity: History, Theory, and Practice. Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books. •  Kuhn, Thomas S. (1996) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago (IL): University Of Chicago Press. •  Mäyrä, Frans (2008) Introduction to Game Studies: Games in Culture. London & NY: Sage Publications. •  Mäyrä, Frans (2009) “Getting into the Game: Doing Multi-Disciplinary Game Studies”. In: Bernard Perron and Mark J.P. Wolf (eds.), The Video Game Theory Reader 2. New York: Routledge. [ http://people.uta.fi/~frans.mayra/Mayra_Multidisciplinary_Game_Studies_2009.pdf] •  Mäyrä, Frans, Jan Van Looy & Thorsten Quandt (2013) “Disciplinary Identity of Game Scholars: An Outline”. Proceedings of DiGRA 2013. Atlanta: Georgia Tech & DiGRA. [ http://www.digra.org/wp-content/uploads/digital-library/paper_146.pdf]

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