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summer-sunshine-alcohol-drinkGames 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?

Cheers!

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My article on the definitions of games was recently published in Games and Culture (OnlineFirst). In the article, I review some 60 conceptualizations of games from the last 70 years. It is sort of an alternative take on the third chapter from my dissertation, this time not focusing on ten key issues where the definitions disagree, instead of the historical progression.

Yes, I know. Do we really need yet another paper about defining games? I think we do.

For me there are two key reasons for thinking about what games are. First, the ontological question of what games are lies at the heart of inquiry in game studies. By making our ideas of what games are visible, we let others understand where we are coming from. It helps them position the studies we do. In addition, by offering different kinds of approaches to grasp the object of scrutiny in game studies we hopefully build a better understand of it.

I do not advocate that we should one single definition, but that we should somehow make our underlying assumptions more apparent in our works. Conceptualizing games in different ways useful – and sometimes fuzzy concepts are useful as well – especially when this is explicit. If I do not know what a researcher means when they say ‘game’, it is very hard for me to assess their scholarship.

Second, when working in a field called ‘game studies’, the question of what are ‘games’ is political. This is quite apparent for someone who works away from the heart of digital game studies. Definitions are quite telling as to what a researcher thinks lies at the center, what at the periphery – and what is irrelevant. It is interesting to consider what are considered “real games”, and what are branded as not-games, be they role-playing games, children’s games, genres enjoyed by women (solitaires a century ago, casual games just a few years ago), idle games, folk games etc. The trends in game definitions become quite apparent when surveying a larger sample.

Here is the abstract of the article:

In this article, over 60 definitions of games since the 1930s are reviewed in order to pinpoint what those definitions agree on and, more importantly, what they disagree on. This article is conceived of as a tool game scholars can use to better position themselves in regard to the concept of ‘‘game’’ by working out their answers to the 10 questions regarding game definition presented in here.

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Award: Best PhD

11952734_10153007984021345_6126941914586621155_oLast Thursday, at the opening ceremony for the school year, I was awarded the best PhD award of the year at the University of Tampere. Well, two awards were given out, so one of the two best. The other one went to Ira Virtanen for her speech communication work Supportive Communication in Finnish Men’s Friendships.

The room was packed, mostly with first year students. There was noticeable, confused yet positive reaction to both works among the students that had the feeling of “Men’s emotions and grief play? This is university?”

You can download both for free from Tampere University Press.

Picture by Frans Mäyrä.

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WP_001640The dissertation is finally finished and published. It is very different from what I set out to create six years ago, but so am I. This is my fifth book, but the first I have written on my own. You can download the book for free from Tampere University Press.

The public dissertation defense will be held on Saturday May 9th at 12 noon in lecture hall Pinni B 1097 at the University of Tampere. The opponent is professor Miguel Sicart from the IT University of Copenhagen. Professor Frans Mäyrä will be the custos.

Click for the abstract. (more…)

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