Where art thou?

For the last couple of weeks, aside from legal issues IRL (broken families are fail) and the academic term starting, I’ve also been busy searching for someone at my University who has interests even remotely related to gaming studies. It’s been an epic journey.

First, I contacted the head of the Simulation and Gaming Studies Certificate Program. Sounds promising, right? No. He told me that the program is getting changed to something more to do with applications and is only still on the books because of people who’ve gotten it in the past. Also, he’s not the head anymore. There isn’t one.

Next, the Communications department. They are supposedly the haven of new media studies. Rumor it remains, at least so far as gaming is concerned. The professor I contacted who reportedly works on games told me he could do nothing to help with humanities and qualitative research because he is a social scientist. Helpful! Interdisciplinary! Modern. You go, sir.

Next, American Culture program. No response. They are all mostly interested in gender and performance still according to their faculty pages. Important things, to be sure, just not what I want. Still waiting though. Email is hard for some people. Not a good sign when you’re looking for someone who works on games. (Or maybe I’m the only one who always has my email open and checks it incessantly…)

I then thought, hm, perhaps the Institute for the Humanities may know of some humanities-minded person who is interested in games. How naive of me. The Institute appears to just be the lovely donor of rather mysterious special grants. I doubt they have a clue about the things they give money toward, but whatever. They might come in handy later.

Most luckily, I got a big email package of announcements from my fellowship director. Buried at the bottom was the invitation to a new student group – Digital Media Studies Group. Finally, people who sound like they may know what I’m talking about at the very least! All grad students as far as I know, but inspiration to be had if not mentorship.

Last, but not least, Sheila Murphy. Thankfully, a different CompLit seminar yesterday was incredibly helpful. We talked about visual culture, visual narrative, intertextuality of visual experience, etc. From that talk, I decided to do some searching for other people who work in visual narrative and I found Professor Murphy. She holds a degree in Visual Culture Studies and works on games. I just started reading one of her articles which starts with personal narrative of a Tony Hawk experience. (Article is “Live in Your World, Play in Ours” Journal of Visual Culture 2004). Film department it is.

So the moral of this delightful story? Even though I may be at one of the top research institutions in America, it’s very likely I am the only one here doing what I do. Exciting and a little scary.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Shawn
    Nov 11, 2009 @ 17:20:07

    I suspect you will find this is the same situation at all the classical universities.. there is a stunning lack of open-mindedness even among the New Media oriented faculty regarding the role of interactive fiction and games. I spoke with the president of the Game Creation Club here at OSU and he regaled me of a tale of being rebuffed by faculty in no less than 5 colleges when he attempted to create his own Game Art & Design oriented program.

    This was discouraging for me personally since I face having to begin my undergraduate degree program from 0 here at OSU since they don;t recognize the work I’ve done at the Art Institute – they see it as a “trade” school and not a higher learning institution and so will not accept any of the transfer credits.

    Being a staff member I’d really like to take advantage of my education benefit but it’s discouraging and more than a little disappointing that some of these great minds of scholarship are so stuck in their preconceptions.


  2. Ada
    Jan 02, 2010 @ 17:47:57

    ((Late reply, sorry!))

    Since I’m at Michigan, it’s hard to see anything OSU does in a kind light, but one thing they recently did actually impressed me. I’m not sure which program it was (I believe one of the Social Sciences), but just recently, they graduated their first PhD whose dissertation was entirely digital. This is actually a huge step for people who do New Media, even if it isn’t directly related to games. Typically, dissertations are required to be in text, formatted a certain way, turned into a book, etc. A digital dissertation is quite a challenge to this tradition since it defies typical formatting rules, requires software as well as eyes, and has little to no material for comparison. It also requires a digital press to publish and an entirely new attitude toward non-traditional scholarship (journals and monologues).

    The Academy really has so far to go before they actually enter the Digital Age but it’s good to see these preliminary steps. I don’t think many of them realize the extent to which they are going to have to change in order to take advantage of what technology can offer and to actually be relevant in the present and the future.


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