Games and Culture has now published “Through a Shot Glass, Darkly: The Study of Games in the Light of Drinking Games” in their OnlineFirst service. I wrote the article with Olli Sotamaa. Here is the abstract:
Drinking games have a history several millennia long. Yet the global community of game scholars has barely touched drinking and games, leaving the area for researchers of health and safety issues. This article is a think piece that approaches drinking games as games and as play, ponders what the study of games can learn from drinking games, weighs what is at stake in them, and connects them to discussions in contemporary game studies relating to materiality, modding, and criticism of the idealization of play.
I am particularly proud of this article.
Of course, it started as a joke. I cannot quite remember when we first discussed it with Olli, nor where the initial idea came from, but in 2014 we finally decided to submit a short paper on the topic to DiGRA. The whole thing was supposed to be, we told ourselves, a lighthearted review of research of drinking games as seen through contemporary game studies, for the benefit of the digital games research association members at a conference in the drinking capitol that is Salt Lake City, Utah. However, while researching this lark of an article, we realized that not only are we actually very interested in this topic and were using humour to initially shield our approach, but that there is much more than cheap laughs to be found by juxtaposing drinking and games. Indeed, both of us have important experiences with games and drinking (from SingStar and Uno to actual drinking games like Elk and I Have Never). Indeed, I once had a key moment of insight into the aesthetics of games with under the influence while playing Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers – a starting point for one of my current research interests.
Long story short, the short article was accepted and presented at the conference, the tone of the presentation was light, but the content was there – and it was well-received. We moved ahead, wrote a full article, and submitted it to Games and Culture. The review took a year, since one reviewer had issues with our light tone and another objected to the whole project. Yet, finally, here we are.
This article reviews what has been said about drinking games in other fields of inquiry, and connects those discussions to game studies. What is the connection between alcohol and play? What do drinking games, as a form, tell us about games? What can we learn about modding, folk games, or player bodies by looking at drinking games? The article conceived of as a think piece – or, readers willing, a drink piece – and I feel that it is fairly successful as such. I am rarely this happy and proud in an article.
We feel that the article merits a drinking game of its own. We shall be toasting this article the next time we meet with Olli. We also promise to raise a glass each time the article gets cited in an academic publication! Alcohol and a higher h-index, what could be better?