the international journal of computer game research volume 2, issue 2
december 2002
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Jonathan Dovey
University of The West of England.

Guest Editor's Introduction

by Jonathan Dovey


This edition of Game Studies is devoted to a small selection of papers originally presented at the Game Cultures conference at Bristol in July 2001. Curated by myself and Helen Kennedy for the School of Cultural Studies at the University of the West of England Game Cultures was the first academic conference in the UK dedicated to computer games. As such it brought some of the best work being done internationally to a UK academic audience for the first time. Apart from excellent contributions from some of the leading scholars in the field the event created the chance for academics from all over the world to come out as gamers.

The selection published here represent the diversity of the debates and methods which delegates brought to the conference as they began the task of elaborating a Game Studies. The argument between narratologists and ludologists had its first engaging rehearsal for a UK audience and generated some enthusiasm over the course of the weekend, however the publication of its detail here, a year and a half later, probably serves no purpose. Instead these papers take perhaps a more seasoned approach to extending knowledge. They are all in the process of taking existing methodologies and testing them against different aspects of games culture. In all four cases the use of existing methods is shown to be useful in providing insights into games as popular culture as well as drawing our attention to some of the specificities of the emergent form.

Political economy is redeployed by Lugo, Sampson and Lossada. It proves an effective way to understand the place of games within a globalised a industrial structure and stresses its continuity with existing structures. In particular it argues that from a Latin American perspective the kind of values that have been associated in the North with technological convergence do not export nearly as well as the need for cheap means of assembly.

Helen Kennedy similarly uses and tests the limits of existing methods in order to understand what goes on between the player and the text in Tomb Raider. Here our attention is drawn to the continuing relevance of a gendered critique of representation. ( Simulations may deploy representations in new ways but they remain representations nevertheless.) However the essay works through contradictory feminist positions to arrive at an account of spectatorship that is specific to Gameplay.

Greg Smith's work here makes a close grained application of narratology to dialogue conventions in Final Fantasy VII. He argues that whilst the game draws upon cinematic conventions they are in fact repurposed to do particular work with the organisation of time and characterisation for the player.

The paper on Counter Strike by Wright, Boria and Breidenbach makes use of traditional reception study techniques to take advantage of the generation of log files in online First Person Shooter gaming. The work published here is a compressed fragment of a mass of data generated by players and reveals an extraordinary rich and layered gaming practice. This ground breaking study is one of those rare pieces of media scholarship that offers the kind of detailed information about user experience that the cultural industries themselves rarely attempt. The depiction of player experience as a liminoid space promises to be a really fruitful way of developing our understandings of interactive entertainment. Again, this contribution displays a methodological eclectism in which research techniques are adaptated in order to map the emergent terrain of New Media.

Since the Bristol conference the Game Studies field has continued to flourish with three more conferences in Europe alone; we hope that the papers offered here are part of an ongoing atempt to document and publish this explosion of academic activity as it happens.

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