I recently gave a talk about my research, and from the crowd the question was asked, “What is the point of studying all that game stuff?” I suspect the underlying question was really something like, “who cares about what people do in games.” Later that same day, in fact, someone suggested that for my next talk, “don’t tell them you play games for a job.” Of course this ties right into discussions here and elsewhere (Raging Monkeys) as well as elsewhere (Righteous Orbs) about notions of the “value” of games in general. Whether it’s as an academic or a player, as an area of inquiry or time-consuming hobby, video games suffer from, there’s no denying it, a Bad Reputation.
My view, is, of course, that this is silly. I’m not saying this reputation is meaningless – I’m actually really interested in how and why these games have a bad reputation – but from careful thinkers, I don’t expect this “who cares, it’s a waste of time” attitude. Perhaps it is not a use of time that every single human on the planet prefers, but this “waste of time” idea is really a spurious argument. That’s like saying, “why study the planet Mars, chances are you’ll never go there anyway.”
After all, understanding the world around us is part of human curiosity and ultimately, academic work in general. A lot of people spend a lot of time online, talking to other people, doing stuff… and playing games. 65 million Farmville users can’t all be ignored, after all. Our paltry 12 million WoWers might reveal some interesting things, as well. Most importantly, “that online stuff” and “that game stuff” in particular represent, to me, some of the most complex and interesting aspects of current communication patterns. So yes, I study games, the people who play them, and what happens when they (we) do. And yeah, I get paid to do it. Because, let’s face it, human beings are interested in things other human beings do. And some of us play games.
The best evidence, I suppose, is that people are studying and talking and thinking about these things more and more every year – and yes, for moneys. Indeed, some such discussion will be held at the end of this month. Below is the promotion poster for a conference where I will be speaking, along with a host of impressive folks, including Mia Consalvo, T.L. Taylor, and many others. If you happen to be in Montreal, come drop by!