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6 Things You Should Know About Game Studies

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I've come across a lot of information over the last few months, and I can understand how hard it is to wade through. If you get NOTHING else from this Wiki, you should understand these six things:

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1. No one knows what a "game" is.Edit

This seems silly; this is game studies, after all. How could there possibly be any debate about what a game is? It seems like it should be easy to determine, but think about it: what is a game? Are you sure? Neither is anyone else; almost every theorist I've looked at has spent time at the beginning of their works comparing previous definitions of the term with their own, eventually coming up with a "working defintion." And there are plenty of valid ones. Just take a look at the definition page for "Game" to see what I mean. I'm not even sure which definition I agree with most. Even if I did, there'd still be problems because...

2. No one agrees on what anything is.Edit

This point is so essential to get that it overlaps with the first point. There does not seem to be a single coherent vocabulary for which to describe the field in general. Certain words are definitely important and have been put into good use by multiple theorists (emergence and coherence, for example), but one set of definitions still eludes the field. This leads to some confusion, but it is usually just a matter of semantics. The reason this exists is because...

3. The field is multifaceted.Edit

Who exactly is doing research on games (digital or otherwise)? The answer is just about everyone. Scholars, game designers, marketers, psychologists, sociologists, pundits, archivists, tech researchers, and the players themselves all have something to say about the field they love (or hate) so much, and they usually find a way to say it. It pays to draw from as many fields as possible in research, though the most useful split for the Wiki as it stands is that between academics (Bogost, Juul, Ruggill and McAllister) and game designers (Koster, Schell). Based on a person's background, they might have a differing opinion on...

4. Ludology vs. NarratologyEdit

This describes the debate between looking at games as primarily vehicles of play, unique from stories and other media (ludology) and seeing games primarily as unique forms of storytelling (narratology). Both sides have interesting implications for the medium as a whole -- the idea of violence, for example, is stripped away in Koster's description of the narrative as mere "dressing," while perhaps being examined from an experiencial perspective under the narratological lens. The general consensus is elements of both theories are true, and that the best games mix their gameplay with their story effectively. This debate often bleeds over into what I find to be a more compelling one...

5. The Question of FunEdit

What is the point of a game? To designers like Raph Koster, it is to have fun. Period. If a game isn't fun, it has failed as a game. Some, like the team behind Extra Credits, are wholly against this mindset, as they believe the focus on fun restraints the medium from being truly impactful and exploring a wide range of experience. Indeed, multiple projects have toyed with the idea of fun recently, and will likely continue to do so in order to answer...

6. The Question of ArtEdit

This, for me, is the big one: can games be considered forms of art? Many in the field seem to hold that they are, but as a whole our society does not share this appreciation. As such, scholars of games are faced with raised eyebrows and skeptical looks, and must fight for legitimacy (either through "duplicity" as Ruggill and McAllister explain, or by writing in the frustratingly obtuse style I encountered in my research.) This issue has become the topic for debate, especially among the more narratologically minded, and will no doubt continue to intensify as the medium develops. Keep an eye on this one; it could be the future.
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