Games and gaming ideas are everywhere these days – running through conversations about teaching, social media, law, and social justice. The ways conversations about games are happening seems to me to be interesting, too; hosts of popular gaming podcasts, journalists, and academic cultural critics are all part of the discussion in various ways — talking to each other, even — something that strikes me as rare, if not unique, for a medium that is also a multi-billion dollar industry.
So I think it might be fun and productive to use some of our time at THATCamp to think with, and about, games.
There are bunch of different ways this kind of conversation could go. Are games good to teach with? That seems to be the philosophy beyond a recent spate of flash games sponsored by British cultural institutions on particularly nasty episodes in British history (Nelson at Trafalgar, the Opium War, the Battle of Hastings, etc). Can games change the world? That’s the question Jane McGonigal’s Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They can Change the World takes on. How should we critique games as cultural objects? That’s the theme that has launched a thousand podcasts and blogposts, as well as more explicitly academic projects like Kill Screen Magazine or The Brainy Gamer. In addition to these issues, the conversations around games seem to be engaging with a theme dear to the heart of digital humanities work: what’s the relationship (economic, political, emotional, or social) between creators and communities of users?
The thesis here is that games, and the communities and industries they sustain, are potentially useful tools to think with; and the themes of the developing conversation about games seem to be parallel or perpendicular to those happening in the digital humanities world. At least, I suspect they are – but I’d like to hear what other and wiser heads besides mine think about all this.