Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The N-word

Pushed into my mind by a long post on Terra Nova by Timothy Burke, the L vs N debate forces its way into my attention. For some information on the debate for any who might have missed it, see Marie-Laure Ryan's course for PhD students from the fall term 2002 at the IT university in Copenhagen on Ludology and Narratology.

At one point in the development of the game studies this was a useful tool for defining the study of games as something other than the study of literature. This was neccessary, to avoid the kind of colonialisation of the medium that happened in other pop-culture phenomena which could somehow be interpreted as a text. In media-studies in the eighties, this fight was over methodology, qualitative versus quantitative. And my, could my old professors use words - barbed and polished like vampiric arrows they would be exchanged in speaking and writing. Media researcher conferences were as poisonous and wicked and packed with academic gossip as any game-conference or -blog is today.

Now I find I miss those debates. Ludologists and narratologists are too close together, and the battle needs to be kept alive by the participants expansion in numbers, a consumption-driven economy of academic debate. This isn't a self-supporting academic debate! We need to have more, wider, more dramatic clashes. We haven't really heard from the number crushers yet. Hard data sociologists, do any of you care about games? Why don't you quantify the gaming acts and tell us what the patterns mean? Vannevar Bush can't be the last one to talk of Pattern Recognition - I thought that was your special field? Media studies - where are the film critics, games become films, films become games, come out, come out and play! In England we have somebody researching the physiological reactions of gamers. Good, wonderful, perhaps we can fight over the addiction of games - anybody reading up on media effects know about the rays from television sets and how they make the brain settle into a more autistic mode - does this happen with games? Are the monitors making us less able to communicate? Inquiering minds want to know!

OK, I may be slipping into a touch of ridicule here, as I approach the more media panic inspired research, and Thornton and Purdy don't deserve to be made into spokesmen for that group as far as I know. But my point is: there are so many other potential areas of overlap and conflict that ougth to be explored here, the L&N words should be allowed to rest for a while soon. Otherwise we may scare away everybody but some frustrated cultural critics, and that would be crippling to the field.


Anonymous said...

God, I hate this 'or post anonymously' stuff...

Anyway, I put this up because I have had a mellow couple of months and want to address the issue of metaphor. Lately I have been involved in the validation of fantastic courses in game culture/design, the reviewing of proposals for books and papers on games and thinking (which would be my definition of 'game studies'), the rewriting of a games curriculum, the graduation of a cohort of fantastic students who have been given degrees in Digital Games (but even if I didn't teach them I was proud of my association with them)and watched them be valued by industry. I have had countless productive and intelligent conversations with other scholars in the field. I have joked a little. I have been silly at times, and they have been far more astute than I. It has been great. Without the support of everyone else I would be screaming. And I don't want to scream. I want to play. And I want to talk about play.

If we lose the metaphors of violence online, if we stop always talking in terms of 'fights' and 'vs' and presume confrontation, perhaps we would all have more to look forward to? I realise all academic study has its little bugbears that it wants to squabble over, but as far as I can see (from the limited experience of 3 conferences and lots of e-contact) game studies (or whatever) is friendly and relaxed whe we actually meet and exchange views. Something odd happens when we get online. Why give the impression we are so aggressive all the time?


Who thinks that he should probably add a full sig because of that anonyomus thing:

Barry Atkins, Member of the let's do yoga and calm down a little tendency, and unlikely to care if he is labelled as narratologist, ludologist or guy with a bad haircut.

Torill said...

Ar least you can post Barry ;-) Not long ago I didn't even want comments here. Still ambivalent, but so far people have been nice and it is a good experience.

And on a personal level I agree with you, it doesn't really matter, I do my thing and at the moment that is more teaching and administrating than it is writing about games anyway. What bugs me is the lack of imagination in these labels. I would like the field to have a multiverse of labels, continuously recreated and connected not by simple opposition, but by random access or open access.

I never did yoga though, but I guess the Pilates comes close enough that we can be pigeonholed somewhere not too far apart?