Project/Presentation Outline/Logic

Just want to work through some thoughts on my final project. Throw it out there—see what kind of feedback I get (if any). Here are some of the basic premises I’m working under (you may see a lot of this rehashed/more nuanced in my presentation/final project):

(1) Contrary to popular belief, game studies scholars recognize games are serious; and, what’s more, they’re serious in a number of ways. First, the video game industry is booming, with profits exceeding those of film. Second, the serious games movement has pushed to design games for purely educational purposes. Third, competitive gaming, which is taken very seriously in South Korea and increasingly in European countries and America, is on the rise.

So, when gamers say “games r srs bsns,” while they often mean it sarcastically (as in “calm down, it’s just a game”), their sarcasm belies the truth in the scope of video game growth. The potential for games to be serious is explained by Dutch play theorist Johan Huizinga in Homo Ludens: he explains that the continuum between play and seriousness is fluid. Play can shift between levity or severity—it’s dynamic.

(2) Competitive play and competitive games are underrepresented in game studies scholarship, which tends to focus primarily on Sims and MMOs. The reason for the attention on Sims and MMOs is varied, but includes visible social practices, explicit textual practices, low barriers to entry, obvious content transferability (the list goes on). I feel fairly well read/versed on game studies (especially after this class), so I feel my assessment is reasonably accurate, but my biggest goal will be in “writing the gap,” so to speak and showing the dearth of scholarship on competitive play and games.

It’s important to qualify what I mean by competitive play and games. After all, it’s my position that every video game is competitive (we play against the rules of the game, if nothing else). When I say competitive play and competitive games, I mean game genres and game play types that specifically place players in contest with other players. Nardi’s conception of competitive play—which recognizes killing WoW monsters as competitive—is too inclusive.

(3) Koster recognized the brain as a pattern-making machine. One major strength of rhetoric is the meta-awareness of genre, conventions, what choices are appropriate given the circumstances, and so on. In short, rhetoric’s power is the ability to amplify people’s pattern making capabilities, making their choices in response to patterns more sound, valid, reasonable. And competitive play creates more patterns than other forms of playing because gamers are reacting to human choices as well as game rules. Play against only the game’s rules is not as dynamic as play against others through game rules.

This is the central argument, though it needs a lot of contemplation/tinkering/reflection. As stated earlier, before I can even get to this point I need to write the gap—are there people talking about competitive play that I haven’t read/heard of? The resonance between pattern-making, the human brain, rhetoric, and competitive play may be useful, but it’s ultimately relevant because of peripherals to the play itself, which brings us to. . .

(4) Gee, Jenkins, Nardi, Steinkeuhler, and several other game studies theorists explain that the discourse communities and literacy practices that surround games is often as significant as those found within games (indeed, the boundary between “in” and “out” in this case is repeatedly recognized as blurry). The discourse communities and literacy practices are often pointed to by game studies scholars as the prominent potential for games in/as education. Players’ writing, argumentation, content creation, and so forth is valuable because of its intensity—this is what gamefication and serious games are trying to tap into (or so it seems to me).

But, as I hope I showed in point three, competitive play engenders more patterns than other forms of play. Subsequently, the literacy practices, discourse communities, content creation, argumentation, et cetera that accompany competitive play in peripherals (by which I mean areas for gamers to congregate outside the game, such as online game forums and message boards) are important to study. The connection between literacy practices, rhetoric, and competitive play is what I really want to explore.

There’s much more to consider: genres of competitive games (such as FPS and RTS) which are often ignored, the reasons they’re ignored (serious games often focuses on K-12 and FPS and RTS are usually violent), the problem of defining genres (which we recognized in Barton’s chapter). An empirical study of the theory-crafting and literacy practices of competitive play communities versus other play communities may be necessary (though this is an entire project unto itself and I’m not touching it).

That’s about the logic of my project (which is something like 3 or more projects) as I currently envision it. It needs a lot of work, pruning and paring, but I think it’s interesting (and that’s what counts, amirite?!) Thanks to anyone who read this far, and a SUPER HUGE MEGA ULTRA thanks to anyone who goes so far as to provide constructive replies.