Written by an anonymous respondent whose name I won’t be disclosing.
I’m surprised to see that people seem to think that academics aren’t naturally interested or have links to games. In terms of Game Studies, scholars have been around for about 30 years – it’s a well established discipline now. But we are all gamers or game enthusiasts of some description. Academics don’t spend thousands of hours working on something they don’t like – at doctoral level and above, scholars a choosing an area of speciality that they have a personal interest in. I’ve played since I was a child. There are WoW guilds of scholars, Steam groups, clans and single players and people who just like history games and rpg fanatics and people who love theorycraft and server owners and everything in between. We spend years working on each project – this isn’t a bunch of omnipotent snobs who just happened to look at games one day and think they might be interesting; we know games and count ourselves as players. Rather like all players, we are also varied politically, socially and culturally.
Personally I also think our role in gaming is vital. It was an academic who advised President Obama about the usefulness of games several years ago, and in the UK, there are academics working with the government to help make games that make us fitter and healthier. There are also industry people who have become academics – people like Iain Livingstone (Games Workshop, Eidos, Square Enix), who are now dedicated to getting games taught in schools, or used to help learning. There are a lot of links between the industry and academia – just like there are between the industry and journalism, but these are to support integrity and development. It’s also worth pointing out that none of us are sitting on piles of gold from doing this – in the UK being an academic is a hard, thankless task for most people, and Games Studies still have to fight for respectability because many people still don’t see gaming as an important part of our everyday lives.
A lot of the response to DiGRAs involvement in studying and talking about games seems to think that we have vast amounts of power and are giving each other jobs. It’s very unusual that you get paid for writing a paper – in fact that’s seriously frowned upon (because it is seen as lacking in integrity). Instead papers largely go towards building an academic’s overall portfolio. Sometimes our universities fund us to attend conferences, but I’ve had to pay for every DiGRA conference I’ve attended for the last ten years out of my own pocket. Collaboration does happen, but that also happens in games development and journalism – it’s a natural part of networking and meeting like minded people. Without DiGRA and organisations like it, we wouldn’t be able to network at all; it certainly isn’t wild parties, and the last and most expensive freebie I’ve had at a conference was a memory stick that had all the proceedings on it. Oh, and I was awarded a Viva Pinata mug once, but can’t remember what it was for.
DiGRA is voluntary. It’s run by a group of people who don’t get paid to do it. Secondly, the peer review system is BLIND. That’s how peer review works. And I know it’s blind because I’m involved with it, and have been for years. Several years ago, one of the most prominent academics in the world was turned down for a paper because their abstract wasn’t good enough, and because the peer review was blind. This probably wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been, because we would have seen that xxx had submitted a paper and felt pressured into taking them because of their reputation. But peer review happened and the paper was judged on merit, not by name; causing it to be rejected.
Rather unsurprisingly, at conferences, after giving papers, academics sit down and talk to each other. They share interests, and sometimes that means they then go on to research and write papers together. That’s not nepotism; that’s how networking works. I have no shame at all in that DiGRA includes papers on diversity and representation, and actively challenges current thought in games. This is called healthy debate. Inclusivity and tolerance, as well as spreading games to a broader spectrum of people are aspects that have been written into the DIGRA UK code of conduct.
I also love some of the comments given to this already that appear to suggest that scientists are ‘okay’, but the humanities have no place in games. Sorry, what were the scientists supposed to be doing again? Putting games in a test tube? Rather like Media Studies, Film Studies and Literature, Game Studies is a Humanities discipline, for the most part.