12 Jan 2010 [ Prev | Next ]

My Games Research Story

What were your experiences looking for peer-reviewed academic sources on games?

What were the steps you took to complete Ex 5? What gave you the most trouble, and what tips can you share with your peers? What questions arise from your exposure to games scholarship?

How confident are you that you know when you have found peer-reviewed academic research?

What do you do when you can't find an academic article on the game you want to study?

You needn't post an answer to each prompt -- these are just an indication of the questions I hope this topic will explore.  As we begin the research process that will lead to the academic component of the final project, let's keep this discussion forum in mind, so that we have a place to go to share our successes and frustrations.  I'll do whatever I can to help, including helping you to evaluate the credibility of sources that you find, and even recommending articles, if any come to mind.

Begin by posting your initial reaction here. If you wish, you may post on your own blog as well, but rather than just posting the URL, help your peers identify the topics they'll be most interested in discussing, by adding a few lines explaining what your readers will find if they click on the link.

A note on starting conversations online

If my homework were to recommend a video and start a discussion about it, I could just post this:
I could be a little more helpful, and post
Here's my video. What do you think?
But you'd still be in the dark unless you first click the link, and only then could you decide whether you have anything to say about the topic.

I could instead do this:
Multiplayer games are environments that can encourage people to develop leadership and teamwork skills, as the games are designed to reward these skills.  Online games are also environments where people who lack those skills can fail spectacularly. Is this a staged joke, or does Leroy really have that much to learn about teamwork?
Which of the two approaches is more likely to start a conversation?



My experiences were generally positive looking for peer-reviewed academic sources. I tried to find online journals that specially stated that they were peer-reviewed and stayed away from blogs and news reports. My experience might not be so positive when I go to search for my own project because I will be looking for specific articles to support and oppose my thesis. The biggest thing that I noticed regarding academic articles is that they are long, and it can be hard to pull out specific information. My senior seminar at Millersville University was all about marine environments, but the class really was about how to read and digest academic articles. In a way, this class is doing the same. Even after all of that I am not extremely confident in knowing that I found peer-reviewed academic research, so to help me along with my project (and especially if I am having trouble finding relevant information), I will ask for some help. Others may know of some great resources that I have never thought of using. Good luck to everyone though; I cannot wait to hear about your experiences too.

I didn't have that much of a difficult experience either Susan. I actually used EBSCOhost, which is provided by Seton Hill and it gives you the option of selecting only peer-reviewed articles. It was a great help to me. The only downside is that some of the journals can't be viewed online. So, it gives you specific sources, but sometimes a very limited number of them.

Thanks for the great resource, Beth Anne.

Even if EBSCOhost doesn't show you the full article, it will give you the name of a researcher. Most researchers in game studies have their own web pages now, and they often post links to wherever their articles are published online. If you can't find an online version of an article, the author might post a link to an older version of that article, that might have appeared as class lecture or a conference presentation, or they may link to an article they wrote on a different topic that appears in an online journal that does publish its full text for free. The SHU library may also be able to get you a copy of a journal article from another library; if you let them know you need it electronically, they'll let you know whether it's possible.

I had a hard time getting started with the whole thing. I started by searching the web and that was probably not the best idea. I have not used EBSCOhost very mcuh so Beth Anne your information also helps me a lot. Thanks.

Why is it important that you show me you can read a dry, jargon-filled 20-page article by a professor, when a snappy 2-page magazine article seems to convey the same information?

Mostly because the reason the magazine author can boil something down into 2 pages is because the scholars have done all the hard work. Magazine authors and fan pages get facts wrong all the time, as I learned when I was researching the history of Colossal Cave Adventure. I regularly monitor the Wikipedia page, and remove the errors that people put there after they read one of these inaccurate magazine articles. Journalists who are rushing to meet a deadline, or who are cutting to jam their ideas into the small spaces their editors gave them, will cut corners, simplify, and generalize. That's why their writing is easier for non-experts to read -- it's been dumbed down for the general reader.

But now that you're taking a course in video game studies, you are no longer rank N00Bs. You are apprentice scholars with a solid background in what game studies is about, and you are about to demonstrate your ability to present an academic study of your chosen topic. And the first step will be to find and sift through what scholars have already published.

You may not find an academic article on your chosen game. Or you might find the only scholarship is a chapter in an obscure book that you won't be able to get hold of before the paper is due.

In that case, you can try to find what else that author might have written in other publications. You can look for that author's website; maybe he or she has linked to a transcript of a speech, or a YouTube video of a conference presentation. Perhaps Amazon or the publisher's website offers a sample chapter.

If you can't find an article on a particular game, you might be able to find scholarship on other games in in the same genre, other games that deal with the same subject, or other games that were popular at time in history. You might find scholarship on movies, comics, literature, or board games that cover the same issues.

I used EbscoHost to supply my research as well. I was actually surprised by the amount of articles written concerning video game violence. I tried doing searches with specific games, but those searches weren't very successful. Mostly, the results were from newspaper publications. Dr. Jerz, is it okay to use newspaper articles if they are peer reviewed? I always mark the "peer reviewed" and "full text" options when I'm doing a search, but I'm still weary of using a publication article that isn't from an academic journal.

Jessie, if the newspaper article is interviewing a scholar about a recent study, a thorough researcher will check the study directly, rather than trust the reporter to have summarized it accurately. So if a magazine article refers to the demographics or sales figures for a game, a good reporter will say where those stats come from. Follow the trail back as far as you can.

If a reporter tracks down a game designer and asks for an opinion on a topic within the designer's expertise, then that's an informed expert opinion and it's worth citing in an academic study. (Not all opinions will count; a designer's opinion on what the weather will be like tomorrow, or a supermodel's opinion on politics might be newsworthy, but no more credible from an academic/intellectual point of view than anyone else's.

So, to sum up... I'm not banning non-academic sources from your articles. The "Pac-Man Dossier" is not academic, but it's not a summary of what other people think, it's exhaustive original research and so far no scholar has tried to top it. Likewise, Johnson's video used quotes from people in gamer forums in order to support his analysis of what players think Civilization is about. You're welcome to quote what people say in formus devoted to the game you study. But all this non-acedemic evidence should support your scholarly argument. The core of your paper should be a debatable academic question, and your research should be your effort to defend your stand on that question.

Does this help, Jessie?

If you have more to say, please continue on the Presubmission Report page.


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