This edition of the Newmediastudies.nl magazine features a collection of papers and articles on serious gaming, games as a serious research object and games studied from a serious perspective. With contributions from students, journalists and alumni this edition provides a broad overview on the seriousness of games.
Although articles and papers on the subject have been published on this website in the past, creating an entire magazine on games was long overdue. Our department at University Utrecht is home to professors, researchers and the occasional designer and journalist specializing in games and play, which consequently are important research areas in the Master New Media and Digital Culture. At least two courses revolve around games and play, allowing students to delve into every concept, theory and study even remotely related to the cultural artefacts (both analogue and digital) so many of us engage with on a daily basis. It is logical therefore to devote a magazine on games. But where to begin?
Not with articles emphasizing how important it is to study games. We believe this has already been proven by academics over ten years ago, in an era when computer games were still hard on normal mode, in-game 3D-graphics looked like abstract art and Duke Nukem Forever was in its early stage of development. The articles in this magazine, written by both students and journalists, no longer need to argue that games are serious research objects. In fact, they serve as examples of just how natural it is nowadays to research games seriously. And with 'games' we mean every possible form of play out there.
Since we hope this is just the first of many magazines on newmediastudies.nl focusing on games - don't worry future researchers out there: topics not related to games remain equally important to this website - we had to limit the scope of our theme somewhat. We initially decided to concentrate on serious games, a subject which not only ties in neatly with the recent MA course Serious/Game/Play, but is also very much relevant in current scientific and social economical projects outside our home base Utrecht University.
This became a dilemma as we received a lot of suggestions from enthusiastic writers which had little to do with serious games in the traditional sense. We even had to turn some articles down, not because they lacked quality, but simply because we had too many and we wanted to make a selection of articles which wholly related to our subject.
Therefore, in addition to the articles which actually are on serious games we have added articles loosely associated with the subject by concentrating on what we would like to call 'serious gaming': playing a game or undertaking playful research which results in a serious reflection on the object played, the act of playing itself or related cultural affordances and implications. Which is mostly an excuse to publish everything, but in our opinion still leaves plenty of room for future magazines. Enjoy!
Master student Michelle Oosthuyzen explores the correlation between play and seriousness in her paper "Pervasive games: een intens(iev)e spelervaring" (Pervasive games: an intens(iv)e play experience), where she points out that pervasive gaming extends our understanding of play, play experience and daily reality. Master student Guan van Zoggel analyzes Japanese dating simulation video games and argues that they can be considered as serious games in his paper "Serious ‘techno-intimacy’".
Jesse Zuurmond, previously an intern at Stichting Toekomstbeeld der Techniek, shows how serious games and gamification can improve management practices in his internship report "Serious Games, Playful Business". Along with literature research, he conducted several interviews with experts. Serious games can benefit not only management practices, but other fields as well. Journalist Jerry Vermanen followed a course on making games at Gamescool and made a prototype ‘journo-game’. In his article "De journo-game vertelt, verzamelt en verdient" (The journo-game reports, collects and profits) he argues that games can improve journalism.
Researching games and handling them as a serious object, or from a serious approach, can be very insightful. In his paper "The Gamer Dead Point", master student Thomas Boeschoten explores how players lose their interest in a computer game they were previously very devoted to. Alumnus Tom van de Wetering examines how recursion in the video game Red Dead Redemption can discard the traditional title connotation of the notion of play in his paper “Red Dead Recursion”.
Another recurring theme in this magazine is philosophy: games with serious content that refers to philosophical or religious ideas. Theology student Erwin Vogelaar discusses apocalyptic literature and compares the game El Shaddai: Ascention of the Metatron to the Jewish Book of Enoch in his article "El Shaddai: Joodse apocalyptiek als spel" (El Shaddai: Jewish apocalyptic literature as a game). And last but not least: in his article "Deus Ex: 2011 Revolution", freelance journalist Robert August de Meijer describes how the game Deus Ex: Human Revolution mirrors the oppression of "the precariat" (as described by Guy Standing) with a possible future tool of oppression: transhumanist technology.
All papers and articles show that games are serious objects: they can be used in different fields and improve various branches, but they can also change the way we think about play, play experience and daily reality. Games can contain, or portray, philosophical works and ideas that may influence our perspective on society, or life. Gaming is serious business.
All the contributors (including writers whose article didn't make it, we hope to see your work published in a future magazine), our contributing editor Guan van Zoggel, everyone involved with this website.
Special thanks to
The hard working programmers and designers who keep this website up and running.