Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Getting what you wish for

Back in early July I wrote this post, basically bemoaning the fact that video games aren't 'taken seriously' by our culture. Since then some very serious things have happened in gaming (i.e. gamergate), and so one negative element of gaming has come to be taken a little more seriously, but that's not what I'm going to talk about today. I refrain from talking about gamergate primarily because I've yet to think of anything I have to add to the discussion that hasn't already been said - I do, of course, wholeheartedly condemn gamergate itself.

Today, I have something rather more optimistic to offer. I'm now part of the planning process for a university-level 'gaming and interactive media' course (title not final) within the University of Liverpool's School of the Arts (backstory: UoL is my alma mater and now my primary employer; I lecture and teach in the Department of Philosophy, part of the SotA). We had our first departmental discussion of possible modules/topics this morning, and I got clearance to engage in some informal public consultation.

This is exactly the kind of thing I was yearning for when I wrote that post back in July. It's not a technical course - we're not expecting to cover programming, hardware design etc. though we may build links to courses that will - but a cultural/humanities one. The process will put gaming closer to film, television, theatre, literature and so on in terms of serious cultural consideration.

But this is a very new field, and if we're clear about one thing so far it's that we're not clear about much. I'm looking for suggestions of issues that a course like this - a humanities course, one approaching games as cultural artefacts - could or should address. If you're a gamer (either in the sense of 'someone who plays games' or of 'someone who identifies primarily as a gamer') what would you like to see discussed?

Some issues are obvious; for example, there's no clear definition of 'a game' or 'a video game', and phenomena such as augmented reality gaming and the gamification of education make the definitional question profoundly interesting. There are complex issues relating to authorship within videogames, too; who is the author of a narrative which is directed as much by the player (the audience) of a game as its developers? And, given everything that has come to the surface over the last three months, it would be negligent not to discuss feminist critiques of games (along with other dimensions of privilege - race, sexuality, ability etc.).

Not everything need come under the banner of philosophy. Our School of the Arts includes Music, English, Architecture and Communications/Media Studies, and there's a joint meeting in three weeks' time where we'll all be putting things forward. Any suggestions you can offer for what we should cover will be most welcome.

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