Cultural and Social Interactions
Games are an inherently social and participatory art form, and one that is heavily influenced by the historical and cultural moment in which it is created and played. Game studies needs a paradigm shift that re-centers cultural and social interactions in the way the field conceives of studying games. Previously, games were privileged at the center of the study, positioning the human component at the periphery. The research in Theme 6 seeks to address five different implications of a "gamified" world. Specifically, it examines the ways in which gamer culture, social interaction, and virtual communities influence gameplay experience, as well as the applications of gaming in the travel industry, public participation in scientific activities, and in the dissemination and public understanding of scientific knowledge. Ultimately, theme 6 aims to understand how games as cultural artifacts exist within broader society and culture:
How do games affect other dimensions of society and culture? How does society and culture affect games?
Dr. Milburn, a Professor and Director of the Science and Technology Studies Program at the University of California Davis, coordinated the research on cultural and social interactions. In his teaching career, Dr. Milburn's research focuses on the ways in which video games contribute to the public understanding of new and emerging techno sciences such as nanotechnology, synthetic biology, and geoengineering. He has also looked at the relation of military technologies to popular game narratives and how actual player engagements with these games may radically transform their overt ideological content. Through IMMERSe, Dr. Milburn continued his research in video games to explore social and cultural uses and implications of the game experience.
Perhaps most representative of this theme is the Palgrave “Games in Context,” book series co-edited by Dr. Neil Randall and Dr. Gerald Voorhees of the Games Institute at the University of Waterloo. The series sets out to produce texts that showcase the breadth of games scholarship and its contexts in contemporary life. Dr. Randall and Voorhees developed this concept from the understanding that games intersect with many facets of the human experience, including leisure, work, health, culture, history, technology, politics, industry, and beyond. Books in the series reflect how games and game culture contexts span disciplines, bridge professions, and highlight unexplored or underrepresented questions.
Within the world of Games Research, and the game industry in general, issues of representation, inclusion, censorship, and translation are incredibly prevalent. Jordan S. Carroll and Emma Waldron, IMMERSe researchers from the University of California Davis, collaborated with Dr. Adrienne Shaw on the LGBTQ Video Game Archive in an effort to explore these issues using a critical framework. The archive was created in the interest of collecting and codifying lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer video game content from the 1980s to today. Drawing on curated lists of content from fans, journalists, and voluntary contributors, researchers have completed compiling and analyzing the archival entries for all LGBTQ game content from 1982 to 2005. The findings from these data have been presented to a variety of audiences across the United States, Canada, and Australia (The LGBTQ Video Game Archive).
A unique product of games culture is the Let’s Play—a play through of a videogame that is recorded and disseminated widely. In the 2015 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference in Quebec IMMERSe researcher Josef Nguyen reported on the phenomenon of The Let’s Play video. In his paper “Liveness and the Performance of the Videogame Player in We Plays [Let’s Plays]” Nguyen contends that the creation of Let’s Play videos are largely performative on the part of the Youtuber. In them, the player performs a role and in turn offers up a form of vicarious play to the viewer. Let’s play videos, he contends, also operate as historical artifacts and a way of preserving a particular instance of video game playing (Nguyen).