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.”

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