Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Back to Uni

(People on the internet never seem to realise that 'uni' means university. Consider this me telling you that indeed uni does mean university.)

It looks like I will hopefully be returning to university next year to do a Communication and Culturual Studies Honours (ie. "Other", in the English School) to look at narrative in gaming and the such. Particuarly I want to look at the role of the author in games and all that stuff that I rant about (and other people rant about far better). So that should be fun, if my application survives the 6-months of beaurocratic hell to try to enrol.

Technically, though, I am not elligible to enrol as my Writing Major did not have the subjects to prepare me for an English School Honours. So over the summer (southern hemisphere), I will probably be writing a 5000 word research essay to hopefully pave the way into Honours. I applied yesterday for the research essay, and this is what I wrote that my research topic would be:

"The interactive nature of video games allows the presentation of unique narratives that would be impossible in conventional, non-interactive mediums such as film or literature. I wish to identify the devices that video games use to form these interactive marratives and how they affect the audience's (ie. the player's) experience."

So in five thousand words (ha!) that is what I will roughly be looking at. Hopefully looking at gaming narratives' uniqueness will create a kinda vague framework for the authorship stuff I wish to look at next year.

So the question I have to ask you guys is this: Are you aware of any scholarly pieces or academics that already name and identify devices that games use? It would make my essay easier (and make me seem far less arrogant) if I could critique someone elses definitions rather than take it upon myself to make some up myself (and not do them justice in a measly 5000 words).

So now I have to seriously start getting a bibliography together and finding scholarly readings that I can cite and the whatnot. My main issue is that I believe the most interesting discouse about gaming theory is happening in blogs and (the occasional) gaming magazine. So I will need to make a case for citing these types of sources in my essay/thesis. That said, I really haven't looked too hard for scholarly game writing or peer-reviewed journals so I shouldn't jump to conclusions. If anyone can suggest any, that would be tops.


Anonymous said...

I do hate flippancy, but I'd first suggest spellchecking your articles before all else.

Brendan Keogh said...

A valid point!

I admit I have more trouble being as vigorous with my proofreading and editing on my blog than I do in the rest of my writing.

It is certainly no excuse, but I find that if I don't just hastily write something and post it then I just post nothing at all. This is something I need to rectify if I want to take this stuff seriously.

Thanks for being blunt. I do believe I needed that. :)

Simon Ferrari said...

Hey Brendan, I think Thomas Cross asked me to comment on this. I study grad-level game design and critical theory at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The long answer would be these four exam lists from our PhD program:


The short answer would be the stuff I've read myself and can thus personally recommend.

First Person (Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan)

Hamlet on the Holodeck (Murray)

Cybertext (Aarseth)

Persuasive Games (Bogost)

Play Between Worlds (Taylor)

Essays on Algorithmic Culture (Galloway)

"Game Design As Narrative Architecture" (article, Jenkins)

Twisty Little Passages (Montfort)

Rules of Play & The Game Design Reader (Salen and Zimmerman)

"Phantasmal Media" (article, D. Fox Harrell, forthcoming)

The Literary Mind (not game-specific, Taylor)

The New Media Reader (MIT Press)

By reading those you'll get a fairly decent survey of the first writings on the subject. The most recent stuff is mostly in article-form, and you can find it in the digital archives of Digra, Eludamos, and Game Studies online.

Your argument that blogs are doing more important/interesting/whatever work than scholars is probably going to fall flat once you read those books and see that most blogs are barely scratching the surface compared to what scholarly work accomplished over half a decade ago. You'll also find plenty of typologies and definitions to argue with, if that's one of your critical goals.

Brendan Keogh said...


Thank you! This is exactly what I needed.

Apologies for the really weird and random tweet asking for your help. It is hard to be polite and coherent when asking someone you have never spoken to for academic help on Twitter, and I didn't want to spam your website with links back here.

Thank you once again; I really appreciate it. I've added Chungking Espresso to my growing RSS list of people worth reading and will drop in with a hopefully intelligent comment every now and then.


Simon Ferrari said...

Welcome man. Sorry my tone is so dour. Just sat through a panel on game narrative today for three hours where not a single new idea was produced, so my feelings on narrative are unusually negative right now.

Looking forward to seeing what you produce. It's exciting to start learning about game studies, because you learn new terms and concepts remarkably quickly (and then you get to carve out your niche when everything everybody else has to say is boring to you).

CrashTranslation said...

I think for the specific area you're looking at Hamlet on the Holodeck by Janet H Murray is one of the better books. I basically read it once a year and each time gain some new insight..

Brendan Keogh said...

Thanks Justin :)

I saw Hamlet on the Holodeck mentioned in an article I found today (http://journals.sfu.ca/loading/index.php/loading/article/view/1/1)

I'll try to find a copy of it and have a look.


Bobby said...

Simon is right to say that most blogs are just re-hashing or re-discovering old arguments from a lot of published worked in the past decade. Make sure to cite those first, then you can add in blogs if they've added anything to the discussion or provided salient examples.

I think what you'll find is that a) your research question is quite broad, b) that your most effective answer will be to try to synthesize these positions, and c) that somebody has probably written about the answer you're looking for.

This is not to say that your proposal is a bad idea and poorly intentioned. It's to rather help you either narrow the subject so that you can draw new conclusions, or to guide it such that more than anything else it is a "review of the literature." No shame in that.

Simon covered most of the major things I would point you to, so I'll just add a few more.

Hypertext (Landow)
Simulation versus Narrative (Frasca)

I'd also recommend reading some Marie-Laure Ryan, narrative as virtual reality.

Good luck to you.

Brendan Keogh said...


I feel like a fool for saying this over and over to each new comment someone posts, but truly thank you for your input!

My current topic is incredibly broad, I do realise. Especially for a mere 5000 words. I am hoping that as I read, i will find one particular device gaming naratives use that interest me and perhaps I will focus on that. It's still early days and I am not quite sure!

But now I do have quite an extensive list of books and articles that I desperately need to start looking at.

Thanks once again :)


Aubrey Hartley said...

So, how many years did you spend on Uni? From the sounds of it, the thesis paper was the thing that challenging you a lot. Well, good thing that you get some help with thesis writing, and eventually have the paper progressing. Anyway, what happened to the thesis? Did you already successfully defended it?

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