NEWS

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March 4, 2011

Video games studied from all levels

Members of the Videogame Studies group have switched the once solitary act of gaming into multi-player mode.

Thirty students and faculty members gathered to play Starcraft 2 and Risk in Cobb Wednesday in the name of political thought. Funded by the Department of Political Science, the games were chosen to encourage thinking about political economy and strategy.

The tradition of Game Night began last fall when English Professor Patrick Jagoda and cinema and media studies students Ian Jones (Ph.D.’14) and Clint Froehlich (Ph.D. ‘14) organized it to create a community among gamers and foster academic discussion on gaming.

Wednesday’s attendees reflected a diversity of classes and majors, facilitating interdisciplinary discussions. From first-year undergraduates to sixth-year graduate students, students represented departments ranging from anthropology to computer science.

“I don’t think any single discipline, on its own, is adequate for making sense of video games and computer games,” Jagoda said.

The event attracts not only frequent gamers, but also non-gamers interested in thinking critically about video games.

“A number of undergrads know these games intimately and have more immediate experiences with them. But graduate students and faculty who participate in Game Night introduce theoretical terms and critical vocabularies to which undergraduates might not yet have access,” Jagoda said.

“It’s an energetic community, and we meet very informally. It’s not a working group. It’s not a reading group. There’s no assigned reading. One participant who’s a relative expert introduces the game. During the gameplay presentation, people at the periphery are discussing the game in question and gaming culture more generally,” he said.

Each Game Night is thematic, and sponsored by a different department. The first Game Night last October was a collaboration with the English department, and featured a discussion on the aesthetics of gaming. The second, sponsored by the cinema and media studies department, focused on the cinematic aspects of video games.

Wednesday’s event was sponsored by the political science department, and examined the bridges between games, politics, and political economy.

Jagoda said video games provide insight into all different aspects of life. “Video games are a way of thinking and knowing, and so I just think of this as an extension of what we do in the classroom, but in a playful way.”

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