Guilt has finally gotten the better of me. It has been too long since I posted a real post. I have been doing a lot of work behind the scenes lately and was really feeling like a slacker. Then I asked myself the big question…how is that any different from being an academic in the digital humanities? We do the work because we love it and it’s our love of the work that keeps us working in a field where much of our labor is invisible. And if people do see us doing certain kinds of work or conducting certain kinds of research they disparage us.
How many times have I had to hear people say “I wish I could play games and call it research?” or even had folks stop by my office and see me gaming with students and holding theoretical conversations about the work that we are doing and had folks think that it was ok to interrupt us and say things like “It must be nice to be able to play games and call it work.” As if I walk by their offices when they are talking to graduate students and interrupt to say “It must be nice to sit around talking about the authenticity of tea cup patterns in the film adaptation of yet another stupid obscure 19th century novel and call it work.” No….I don’t do that and would never think of saying something so rude…even if I was thinking it. And the funny thing is I’m pretty sure no one would ask me that if I were a man. The men in our field who do digital humanities are known as techies, geeks, film guys, etc. No one asks them to validate their scholarship. Is it the medium, sex, or a combination of the two that leaves me open to interrogation?
More than just a rant, this post is directed at other folks who do digital humanities as well (especially graduate students). We have to do a better job of accepting the fact that playing games can be work for us…and that sometimes even if we’re not playing for a specific purpose the knowledge gained while playing can also be a part of our intellectual growth. That is part of the method to the madness for NYMG. This is an intellectual endeavor and a bit of a stress reliever. It gives me a chance to talk to smart people about games and helps me to stay on course with the research that I am doing.Skinner Box and video games? Gates grant and online writing communities. Race, sex, and World of Warcraft? Cs and the article that I am co-authoring with alexlayne. Anything on games in general and learning (in the classroom and learning game tutorials)? My book project. It’s kind of a low stakes way to think through a lot of my ideas.
So, the funny thing is the next time some asshat says “It must be nice to…”, I’m going to say, Why yes, it is. It’s nice to enjoy the work that I do and to know that this work is valuable and applicable outside of a small circle of friends who give a damn about tea cup patterns in period films. I’m just saying.