The readings for this week were meant to establish an updated, theoretical foundation for gaming as a social practice. Steinkuehler & Williams (2006) updated Oldenburg’s “third places” to incorporate virtual communities as “public spaces for informal social gatherings.” Consalvo argued that Huizinga’s idea of a “magic circle” is no longer applicable in our always on and always connected world. Squire points to the frames that our culture has developed around video games and attempts to situate those frames. On a whole, these readings support multiple viewpoints and multiple contexts for studying video games but there is still something that is lacking across all disciplines- a common vocabulary. Costikyan (2002) addressed some of the critical vocabulary issues  but I believe the operationalization of a few more terms would be helpful in light of their appearance in this week’s reading:

  • Edutainment – Is it educational or entertainment? Can you do both successfully or does the game need to be created to be entertaining and have the education happen in a non-obvious way? The term “Edutainment” has been hotly contested. According to legend, the term can be traced to 1983 when the technology industry linked it to educational software developed specifically for the Oric I and Spectrum microcomputers as advertised in several issues of “Your Computer” magazine. It was not created by educators but by the “entertainment” industry. If the goal of edutainment is to keep students involved in the content longer by increasing the entertainment value then isn’t the entertainment value the current driving force in educational game development. And if not, are those which emphasize education actually entertaining? Can we rely on entertainment to teach? Should we re-frame this area to emphasize the processes and mechanics (ie- the gameplay)?
  • Casual Gamer – What is a casual gamer? The word is bandied about in many articles as if everyone who is reading the article should already know the definition. For example, Consalvo stated, “MMOs are difficult for casual gamers to do well in.” It would have been helpful for Consalvo to cite some research indicating this. In order to understand this statement one has to first know the definition of casual gamer and decipher why casual gamers would not do well in an MMO. Are we considering a purist definition of casual gamers-as in they can only ever play casual games and have no concept of other games? Perhaps this is an instance where a better understanding of how, why and when we use video games will help to untangle this mess of neologisms that are coming out the industry.
  • Video Games – “1980 called and they want their word back” – Is this term outdated? What is the difference between video games and computer games? Does the term “video games” prime researchers and readers to the cultural frames which Squire discusses?   It’s no longer a video cassette, they are no longer video cards …so why still keep it as a video game? Why not just lose the video part? (eg. Interactive Games, Digital Game) Is it video game or videogame? Or perhaps it is still appropriate because it incorporates the video (narrative and graphics) and gameplay (ludic) in “one” word?  

Resources:

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