Circle Gets the Square: Advancing Conversations in Game Studies [Edited Collection]

full name / name of organization: 
Jason Thompson, University of Wyoming and Marc Ouellette, McMaster University

Game Studies—that peculiar multi-, inter-, and trans-disciplinary field wherein researchers from such diverse areas of computer science, literary studies, psychology, and media studies come together to study the how games are made, how games come to mean, and how games effect people—has reached an unproductive stasis.

Depending upon the scholar the now proverbial magic circle (Huizinga, 1938) has comprised either a portal opening or a dome surrounding studies of video games. As with other "new" media productions video games have gone through several waves of development and of popularity. These notwithstanding, the scholarship remains either divided (as in narratologists and ludologists) or indecisive (as in its frequently apolitical stances on play and fandom). We firmly hold that scholarship should be distinguished from the repetitively reductive commonplaces of violence, sexism and addiction. In other words, beyond the headline-friendly modern topoi that currently dominate the discourse of Game Studies, what issues, approaches, and insights are being, if not erased, then displaced?

It is with tongue firmly planted in cheek (and pen firmly planted on paper) that the editors of the proposed collection recall similar discussions taking place around rock and roll music, film, comic books, television and their various categories. Clearly the primarily youthful demographic plays a large part in this regard, but studies of video games seem to be more resistant to the sort of move one finds, for example, in the study of soap operas and their fans so that the latter are no longer seen as needing protection from the oppressive regimes reproduced by the former. Similarly, one finds not only books but entire courses devoted to celebrity and even individual celebrities but somehow games, perhaps for the better, generally remain outside.

Such a move could not have been made without recognizing that the modes and premises of consumption might not match the means and the methods of production. Save files, hacks, mods and other instances of consumer as producer have been available since the first game was created – it could not have been shared otherwise – yet there is a palpable if unstated determinism in the criticism, regardless of its location around the ring. Indeed, the persistence of the media effects modality, especially in scholarly work, only confirms the status and the stasis of the discipline.

We therefore challenge Game Studies scholars to displace this comfortable equilibrium of spinning familiar positions along the same axis: through this invitation to advance the state of the state of Game Studies we seek to put a spoke in the wheel.

Genre and/or genre theory, including industrial, audience and institutional expectations
Ethnography and the multiple layers of community
Cult games, their fans and their players
Eroticism and/or Pornography in games
Tertiary markets around games
Games as surrogates
Age and ageism
Games and cultural resistance
Games and activism
Games as unknowing agents
Play through gender, sex and sexuality
The limits of populism and of media effects
Games and Disability (both adaptive hardware design and representations of disability in games)
Paratexts and user-developed content
Idiosyncratic uses of games, game engines and devices
Game design and the third world

Proposals (roughly 500 word abstracts) are sought by the January 1, 2011. Completed essays should be submitted by March 1, 2011.

Please send abstracts to both editors at