Presentation on theme: "Games Research and the Humanities The humanities are academic disciplines that study human culture, using methods that are primarily critical, or speculative,"— Presentation transcript:
Games Research and the Humanities The humanities are academic disciplines that study human culture, using methods that are primarily critical, or speculative, and have a significant historical element—as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences. Humanities focuses on understanding meaning, purpose, and goals and furthers the appreciation of singular historical and social phenomena—an interpretive method of finding “truth”—rather than explaining the causality of events or uncovering the truth of the natural world. Imagination, as part of the tool kit of artists or scholars, helps create meaning that invokes a response from an audience. Since a humanities scholar is always within the nexus of lived experiences, no "absolute" knowledge is theoretically possible; knowledge is instead a ceaseless procedure of inventing and reinventing the context a text is read in. T. Krzywinska ‘Games Research and the Humanities’ presented at Digital Games Research Seminar, 2/12/2013, IOE, London
Crisis...which crisis? Humanities in Crisis? STEM skills in crisis? Claims for both. Certainly a downturn in Humanities enrolments in the US (applications for English and History at Brunel hit an all time low last year). And, in the UK, ‘employability’ high on the government and university agendas. This has translated into greater vocationalism in the development of new courses, the affect of which is to jeopardise humanities. In games education industry people with little or no academic background are invited onto new course validation panels or as members of teaching teams. New games courses are predominantly around design, art-making and computing – flattening out the market difference between University based courses and what were formerly regarded as vocational FE courses. Political eco-structure: students have become ‘markets’ and industry into examination boards. Leads to a greater focus on skills related to use of current technology and a very short-termist agenda for academia. Government research agendas driven by providing widgets/tech for industry (under the rubric ‘innovation’ or empirical study. The tides are against the Humanities but we must not lose sight that subtle/reflective/critical/creative thinking is a fertile source of innovation. We’re critically in danger of losing this within short term ‘impact’ agenda. “In my position as CEO of a firm employing over engineers, I can testify that most were excellent engineers. But the factor that most distinguished those who advanced in the organization was the ability to think broadly and read and write clearly.” Norman Augustine CEO of Lockheed MartinNorman Augustine
Does humanities-style thinking matter? Rhetorical positioning humanities as ‘decorative’ (ludologists construction of ‘narratologist’ game scholarship) Stanley Fish: humanities can defend themselves best by refusing to make any claims of utility (does this really help the cause?). “Maybe I can’t build a car, but I can analyze things, I know how to make arguments, I know how to write. I believe you can learn job skills on the job.” “By doing MRIs, by finding out that part of the brain turns green when you read Shakespeare, what do you learn about Shakespeare? Nothing.” “..lucrative intellectually, rather than financially..” (so simple? What did the CEO of Lockheed Martin say?) “2008 research paper from Vivek Wadhwa, Richard B. Freeman, and Ben Rissing surveyed 652 U.S.-born Silicon Valley CEOs. Only 37% had degrees in computer technology or engineering and only 2% held them in mathematics. The remaining CEOs had degrees from within the widest range of the liberal arts” Humanities acknowledges history, cultural relativity, the exclusionary politics of taste and rhetoric. It is not about measuring the norm, but about demonstrating the situatedness and implications of ‘norms’. Without this we get essentialist, ahistorical models and approaches. So why is Game Studies moving away from Humanities as a way to understand games and players? Anachronism?
Humanities agenda Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht (Production of Presence, 2004) is one who brings ‘embodiment’ to the Humanities stage, thereby giving it even more purchase on understanding games. For reasons of gender and disability, as outlined by Diane and Helen, but also in terms of how we speak of and to games more generally. How we give them weight, significance and how they becomes catalysts for imagining who we are and who we want to become. We might play games to lose the world of cares, or lose a sense of our real bodies, but this makes embodiment even more acutely present (no time to develop this here!) Humanities then makes aware that ‘We’ are integral to our particular understanding of the world, play, games and their meanings and pleasures. When we speak of agency in games, or pleasures, or taste, or success we are speaking from our place and embodiment in time. This is a ‘humanist’ position: relativist, pluralist and messy. Like Shakespeare’s plays, games are complex things that we cannot understand through production and empiricism alone. Political and economical expediencies driving what gets researched, who gets to teach, what we teach will stifle innovation and define too narrowly graduate skills
‘Digital Humanities is not some airy Lyceum. It is a series of concrete instantiations involving money, students, funding agencies, big schools, little schools, programs, curricula, old guards, new guards, gatekeepers, prestige…Do you have to know how to code (to be a digital humanist) …I say yes. Personally I think Digital Humanities is about building things…If you are not making anything, you are not a digital humanist.’ Stephan Ramsay (2011 MLA convention) Are we having such definitional conversations in Game Studies? I don’t think we are and I think we need to. We’ve moved pretty much unobserved into an eco-system that privileges making (and preparation/support for industry specifically) and empirical measurement. Why don’t we have game studies books with titles like: Debates in Game Studies? Where is the time for reflection and contemplation? What’s the cost of diminishing pluralism: stagnation; short termism; a ‘celebrity’ rather than community culture; the loss of potential serendipity and vitality in terms of correspondences and tensions; a less subtle comprehension of ourselves and who we are in the world. Humanities provide the means to explore and understand the human experience. It provides the means to think creatively and critically, to reason, and to ask questions. Games are a very useful lens to do that and without a Humanities approach making and studying games becomes flattened, solipsistic and formalistic.