Rants on Edge, academia

The Wall Street Journal mentions the Level Up conference in an article asking: Are Videogames Ready
To Be Taken Seriously By Media Reviewers?
(From Game Girl Advance.)

Some choice extracts:

British games monthly Edge is getting kudos from both game makers and academics for its higher-brow coverage of the industry.

Don’t get me started on Edge… It is a sad indictment of our industry that this counts as a serious magazine. Ever since they were unable to remember what the flag of Germany looks like, many, many years ago, they have lost all credibility in my eyes (and who can forget the classic Lionhead article screwup?) But well, they preview games other mags don’t, and that’s what counts. (In related news: things may not be going well at Edge.)

The debates between camps of researchers — like the “narratologists” and “ludologists” — are impenetrable for outsiders. But some conference papers are more accessible, such as those concerning policy debates on topics like game addiction and the violence often portrayed.

It sometimes seems to me like all academic output on video games is either incomprehensible, or concerns topics which are already being broadly discussed inside the industry, e.g. violence.

I hung out on the DiGRA mailing list for a while. There are some smart people there, but no smarter than in the industry. Practically all of them approach games from the angle of some other subject or medium. If they’re not looking at games as a strange kind of novel or movie, they’re fighting for the right to have games treated as a full-fledged medium in itself – only to then dissect them using pretty much the same methods as the novel and movie people. I can see no practical use in it (and I’ve said so on their mailing list and have not been convinced otherwise).

Having said that, this is only my experience based on limited interaction. I’m good at learning new things and domains and I honestly wanted to see if people in the academic world were doing some serious thinking on game design, but I was disappointed. The academics I’ve talked with, generally very nice and very smart people, just don’t seem to be interested in improving games the way I am.

At least in my case, I am not surprised that, to use the WSJ article’s quote of Chris Crawford, “The academics are rushing to study games, and the industry doesn’t much care.”

Comments 3

  1. Stephane Bura wrote:

    I like Edge.
    Sure, they often go wild with enthusiasm in features or previews but they’re the first to admit their mistakes.
    The main difference between Edge and other gaming mags (for me) is that they get me existed about games by talking intelligently mostly about gameplay.
    Not about storyline, how many characters I can play or how many cars or weapons there are: Gameplay.

    Plus, I like their columns, even if they often are sanctimonious.

    Posted 04 Nov 2003 at 21:38
  2. Jurie wrote:

    Many otherwise intelligent people like Edge. I think you hit the nail on the head: they can be sanctimonious. Although their choice of subject matter and general approach is good, I feel their tone is a bit too arrogant for the general quality of their content. If you’re going to pretend you’re cool, you better BE cool.

    Sadly, it probably still is the best gaming journalism out there…

    Posted 04 Nov 2003 at 22:53
  3. Aubrey wrote:

    I also find it hard to stand those academics who wear their hidden agendas on their sleeve, but at the same time, where that are analogous areas, it’s useful to have a wider knowledge than just the subject area. Lateral leaps between neurons can be constructed as a result of wider experience, giving one extremely useful insights.

    So, yeah, I don’t like the shoe-horning of games into other mediums’ terms (until something meaningful and useful comes out of it – the possibility of which is reason enough to pursue it). What we have, though, is a freedom to ignore those who shout loudest and say least. And that’s my attitude with Edge, as well. A good proportion of the monthly columnists struggle to say anything useful, but whether it be through hyperbolic exaggeration, or pure engrish comedy gold, they still manage to make it entertaining. If I don’t agree with most ludologists, why am I going to agree with a relatively mainstream perspective?

    (Just out of interest, does anyone else get that weird feeling that ludological stuff you’re thinking about today gets picked up in publications a year from now?)

    Posted 18 Nov 2003 at 13:36

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  1. From Wax Banks on 02 Jan 2004 at 20:04

    Game criticism.

    Over at an interesting new blog called Intelligent Artifice (not a great name, what can you do?), a mini-rant on academic game criticism. Having written a Masters thesis digging (insufficiently deeply, in my estimation!) into narrative structure, the i…