Within the realms of the gaming industry, I’m sure you’ve heard the terms “game studies” or “game scholars” thrown around without fully comprehending what these terms mean.
Don’t worry, unless you are a game developed or a researcher, you aren’t likely to come across these terms often. But when they are brought up, it’s best you are fully aware of what exactly they are talking about.
In this article, we will breakdown what both game studies and game scholars are.
One of the most common terms when it comes to research that is thrown around in the gaming industry is game studies. What are game studies?
Game studies, also known as ludology, is the act of studying games, cultural impact, cultural innovations. This study includes looking at the socio-cultural and political-economic impacts of specific games, platforms and communities.
In essence, it’s the research looking at various elements of a particular game’s design, the community and players of that game and the overall role that game plays in society.
This isn’t limited to just video game studies, the study is also compressed of board games, sports and any other form of involved competitive entertainment that could be defined as a game.
That being said, video games have been a major drive and caused a lot of development for this particular field of study due to gaming’s unique natures and concerning social-economic impacts on the world.
Those concerns mostly stemmed from first-person shooters (FPS) being played by young children between the ages of 8 to 16. People were concerned that there may be a correlation between individuals who play FPS games and the shootings that have taken place.
This was added by US’s increase of shootings and growing popularity of video games with a concern of correlation, causation or neither.
The Most Important Factor of Game Studies
But the most important aspect game studies include is the game’s impacts on the political, social and economic spheres. That includes how it may positively or negatively affect a game community, why it does what it does and what causes these impacts on their lives.
In addition to the effects of game videos on a population’s ability to learn and function in everyday life.
These issues in the previous decade were major concerns in society, which really increased the demand for game studies.
A Challenge in Game Studies
As you can see, game studies are going through the full process of not only asking the questions and finding the answers to those questions, but also connecting the dots and distinguishing coloration and causation of data.
This can be a challenge at times to distinguish between collaboration and causation, but that’s part of the work that game scholars need to go through to determine exactly what is what and why. In the past, it has been very detrimental when researchers claim a correlation when it was causation.
Game Studies Example – League of Legends
To help you further understand how game studies would apply, we can look at a game like League of Legends. If you are a league player or a gamer, you must be aware of the peculiarities and uniqueness of League of Legends.
League of Legends (LoL) is a game created by the North American company Riot Games (now a subsidiary of China’s Tencent) in the latter part of 2009. Even since then, League of Legends has had the largest viewer base for their Worlds Finals from all other esports.
This goes to show that League of Legends clearly has popularity, but popularity isn’t the only factor that goes into it. What about the League of Legends community that makes people want to watch the Worlds Finals?
What is the overall persona of a League of Legends player? LoL players are known to be very toxic, why is that? Why would people that play league be more toxic in chats versus other games? What impacts does that bring to those individual’s lives and their community?
What are the demographics of League of Legends players? Why are those the demographics, what elements of the game or the growth of the game caused the demographics to be as such? Has the demographics changed at all over the years, why or why not?
This includes the economic, social, location, race, family size, history, physical inabilities, mental inabilities, etc.
League of Legends is also known as an addictive game, why is that? What about LoL makes players need to come back and play it over, over and over again?
Riot Games previously have said after they release and end the URF events, their player base reduces in overall number. Why is that? Does that have any coloration to their demographics or why players get addicted in the first place?
What are Game Scholars?
Game scholars are a less-discussed terminology, but it used in books such as Watch Me Play and countless other research literature. What are game scholars?
Game scholars are researchers who facilitate game studies. Meaning, game scholars research and study socio-cultural and political-economic impacts of specific games, platforms and communities. Game scholars, such as Kurt Squire, are known for the literature they have written in regards to various games and gaming platforms in relation to the effect of their specific userbase.
Game scholars are those who advance the data we have on game studies and gaming’s overall effect on all things we do.
Take Kurt Squire for example, who has written over 75 scholarly publications on the context of gaming in education. Some of his papers include the Education Arcade and Augmented Reality Gaming Project.
These game scholars are funded by universities, businesses with special interests and government grants to help society and fully understand how different games work (mostly to determine how they impact the users and who are around that user).
The number of game scholars and their line of work greatly increased in the last decade. Let’s dive more into why that is.
Why Game Scholars Increased in Numbers
To put this a bit more in perspective, in September of 2000, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a paper showcasing that media companies, including video game companies, were specifically promoting and tailoring their content to young children with violent entertainment which was actually content intended to be consumed by adults.
According to the FTC, almost every game that was investigated that was promoted to young children were M-rated games (M meaning mature or for children the ages of 16 or above).
Situations such as this one had civilians worried about the negative impact playing video games, specifically violent ones, caused on a child’s ability to learn, interact, socialize, work and… well, not commit violence.
Game Scholar’s Conclusions on Video Games and Society
Nowadays, the data shows that video games actually have a negative impact on increasing violent acts committed, meaning they actually reduce it.
Researchers believe that what video games provide is an outlet to release your frustration and tension, rather than educate children to commit real life violence.
In addition to giving many people, not only children, a way to escape everyday life to do incredible things in an environment that takes you away from daily stresses and worries.
Many studies have shown that young children that frequently play violent shooting games don’t even want to fire a real gun when provided the opportunity (as you’d expect a young child to react when hearing real gunshots).
What is the difference between game studies and game scholars? Game studies in the field of study and game scholars are those who facilitate and contribute data to that field.
Without game scholars, we would have no game studies in the first place. And without game studies, game scholars would sit around and play video games all day.
Now that you know what both of these terms mean, don’t be intimidated the next time someone starts mentioning something about game studies… or league of legend’s community!