Additional Resources

I’ve added some more resources that may be useful to you: A number of articles and research volumes, as well as two example whitepapers (in draft form).

admin method in gamestudies

Gee, Affinity Spaces

Last week, I talked briefly online about James Paul Gee’s notion of “affinity spaces.” It’s a terrific idea that works very nicely in terms of game culture, but really ramifies across most digital culture.

I’d hoped to have this to you last week, but here is a short chapter of Gee’s to read if you have time, together with a 2.5 page explainer I wrote to contextualize his argument for our purposes.

Take a look, if you have a moment, and see what you think. Later tonight I have a set of whitepapers to share (if I haven’t posted them already) together with sample outlines of student-written work. Look for these after 9PM on Monday 4 May.

Gee, Affinity Spaces

admin method talk

Audio: Whitepapers

Includes quick intro to Twitch, but mostly an explanation of what whitepapers can do for us.


Whitepaper: Brainhacking

Yes, this is disorganized. I’m just putting material online: I’ll reorganize it ASAP. Meanwhile, here’s a gamification whitepaper whose title should make you very, very nervous (“Brainhacking employees… for their own benefit”? Really?)


whitepaper example

Here’s a terrific example of a whitepaper that happens to be addressing material immediately related to our own interests.

Consumer as Producer Whitepaper

admin method


The scholarship on livestreaming is fairly thin, and mostly unable to gain enough traction to make sense of its topic. Why? Because if game studies sometimes had trouble knowing how (and why) to “make sense” of video games, then livestreamed games via Twitch make the challenge ten times greater. Think of the challenges that an older relative — one who typically exhibited scant interest in games or internet culture — might have in “decoding” a Twitch broadcast. Take my mother’s comments, for example:

  1. “Why would I watch someone play a game?”
  2. “There are too many things on the screen.”
  3. “The chat is scrolling too fast I can’t see it.”
  4. “Why are there so many heads in the chat?”
  5. “Why doesn’t the player respond to their questions?”
  6. “Is he going to talk about something on his program?”
  7. “Is he allowed to vape like that?”
  8. “Where are the other players?”
  9. “He doesn’t seem very good at the game. Why would I watch him play this game?”
  10. “Wait, why are people giving him money?”

One bright spot, though, has consistently been T.L. Taylor’s scholarship, including her recent book, Watch Me Play. I’ve included a copy attached to this post. If you get a chance before Thursday, take a look at Chapter 6, LiveStreaming as Media.

IT IS FOR USE BY MEMBERS OF THIS CLASS ONLY. Do not steal copies of this book.


Monday 20 April

Updated with one of two audio files, see below.

It is a beautiful Monday morning in Oxford, Ohio, and it will be 63F today. Also: The roof of the house we rent seems to be full of roofers and their hammers, which is both surprising and loud. Let’s consider that a bonus feature of today’s audio recordings.

I’m still editing the first two recordings for today: Look for those later today.

Update: Here’s a short talk that reprises some of our themes, namely that (1) the forms and methods we can use to talk about technologies like games are often surprising; and (2) that we need to remember that “technology” isn’t a box of wires or a chrome-plated artifact or a snippet of code from a program: It is a means whereby humans extend themselves through space and time. The alphabet, the electric light, the combustion engine cannot be understood insofar as we reduce them to dumb products on a shelf or drawings in a book.

music intro, outro: brad mehldau

Meanwhile, by a stroke of luck, our consideration of streaming is actually very timely: Be sure to take a look at the clips below, and if you are able (and willing), consider signing up for Facebook’s service and spend some time on one or more streams. What do you think of what you see? How does it compare to Twitch, Youtube’s services?

Articles on Facebook's new platform from CNBC and the Verge are OK, but mainly cover news from NYTimes.

Finally: The reports on streaming from Q1 were out on 1 April: The consultancy Streamlabs provides interpretation of raw figures captured by Stream Hatchet. Reports like this one are now the de facto source of popular analysis of these mind-boggling data.

fieldnotes Synthetic Worlds

Fieldnotes (example)

This is neither a particularly good nor especially enlightening entry from an old field notebook (from work in World of Warcraft, probably 5 years ago or so). In that way, it is fairly typical. These notes really pay off in the aggregate.

method Synthetic Worlds

Doing virtual ethnography

If you’ve ventured into your virtual world and found yourself bored by the tedium and appalled by the low-brow silliness of your surroundings, you may find yourself asking: Why am I doing this?

Soooo close. But a little more work is required.

That’s good! You really should understand why you’re doing something before you do it. It makes for the most meaningful learning, but it also makes for better worlds: If human beings had done this from the start, we might have skipped over millennia of brutality and stupidity.

But since you asked, here are two reasons why this matters.

Innovation Ain’t Easy

That’s why a lot of folk admire the work that the ethnographic method encourages: It is very open-ended, very outcome-agnostic. It leaves open the possibility (no matter how small) that during your fieldwork in Fiji, or in the Maldives, or in Athens, or even in Warcraft’s Azeroth, you are witness to something no one has seen before. It doesn’t insist on that, but it does allow for that remote possibility.

That’s why virtual ethnography works so well, I think: It allows for novelty in our research, but also for predictable outcomes. In any event, it is hard, it is work, because the ethnographic tools we bring with us try to stay out of our way: There is scant room for theories or conceptual frameworks. There is just you, your notebook, and a lot of strangers.


Digital research of any sort is a challenge because it involves computers, software, and long, frustrating periods of troubleshooting and repair.

It has always been this way, and it will continue to be this way for the foreseeable future. That is the nature of consumer-grade computation. If you are interested in digital environments, digital toolsets, or both, then you must accept that frustrating software and unpredictable hardware are part of your future.

method Synthetic Worlds

The science of ethnography

You don’t have to read these two chapters, but (1) they are concise and well-written, and (2) they go a long way to justifying some of the digital research methodology we’re adopting this semester. If science (or the human sciences) are an important part of your worldview, I think you’d find the short articles especially interesting: Boellstorff (who used to be the President of the American Anthropological Association) and his colleagues have a lot of well-reasoned arguments to make about the scientific nature of ethnographic research.

CH2 & CH3 from Boellstorff et alia, Handbook of Ethnography and Virtual Worlds Research. Not for distribution.