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  1. Legitimizing video games within the academy Jim Whitehead Associate Professor, Computer Science Univ. of California, Santa Gaming as a Course of Study

  2. Some media form academic disciplines • Fiction • English Literature • Newspapers & magazines • Journalism, Communications • Movies • Film Studies, Cinematic Arts • Television • Television Studies, Cinema-Television • Hypertext/Web • Web Engineering, Web Conference, ACM Hypertext By hans_s, Flickr

  3. Other media do not • Telegraph, Telex, Fax • Telephone, cell phones • Citizen’s Band radio • Instant messaging • Email • Board games • These have all been the focus of substantial academic study… • … but have not led to the formation of focused academicdisciplines • Why? By get directly down, Flickr

  4. Understanding ourselves • Media that create academic disciplines: • Are mass media • Tell stories (fiction and nonfiction) that allow us to reflect on the human condition • Help us understand ourselves • Are deeply embedded in culture • Are modes of cultural production • Video games share these traits Persuasive Games, 2008

  5. Forming a discipline • Video games share qualities of other successful media focused disciplines • As a highly interactive media, allows direct engagement with people • Tremendous potential for powerful, transformative experiences • By comparison, other media are more passive • How is a legitimate new discipline formed? • What gives it staying power?

  6. What is legitimacy? • Legitimacy is the state of being legitimate • Legitimate (Merriam-Webster Online) • In accordance with law, lawful • Word derives from Latin legitimus, from leg- (law) • Conforming to recognized principles or accepted rules and standards • That is, meeting social norms of a community • Born in wedlock

  7. Who confers legitimacy? • Legitimacy of an academic discipline is a distributed decision making process • Academic disciplines • Creation of journals, conferences • Institutions • Creation of positions, curricula, departments • Accreditation of programs

  8. New disciplines emerge from existing ones Cinema Arts Computer Graphics (SIGGRAPH) Communication/New Media Studies Video Games (theory & praxis) Artificial Intelligence(AAAI) Digital Media Human Computer Interaction (SIGCHI)

  9. New disciplines emerge from existing institutions Video Games Universities(Schools & Departments) Industry Professional Societies Funding Agencies

  10. Problems of interdisciplinarity • Video games are highly interdisciplinary • Bridge arts and engineering • Multiple tensions • Inside universities • Hiring & tenure • Creating academic programs in existing departments (or cross-departmental programs) • Inside professional societies • Publishing in existing conferences & journals • Inside funding agencies • No targeted programs

  11. Benefits of Legitimacy • Resolves problems of interdisciplinarity • Specialized departments • Faculty hired & promoted in discipline-specific department • Academic programs offered in tailored department • Specialized disciplinary home • Focused conferences & journals • Dedicated funding opportunities • Funding decisions focus on merit within discipline • Reduces need to justify focus of inquiry

  12. Achieving Legitimacy by meeting needs of Industry

  13. Vocational Training • Engineering education has always been pragmatic • Traditionally more vocational than liberal majors • Students keenly interested in good job opportunities post graduation • Hence, training students for industrial jobs has appeal • Games industry is large, and growing • Good high-paying jobs

  14. Potential for mismatch • Industry has short term focus • Academia has timespans of decades+ • Reward structures differ • Universities reward novelty • Industry rewards risk aversion, innovation within a genre • Lack of understanding of how research can lead to dramatically different game experiences

  15. Industry: Recommendations • Use vocational training as one source of legitimacy • Do not make it the sole source • Universities should engage in long-term research and teaching agendas that may not always mesh with short-term industrial needs • The fortunes of industries change over decadal time spans • Consider the pinball game industry… • Need broader base of legitimacy

  16. Achieving Legitimacy via sources inside Colleges and Universities

  17. Legitimacy inside colleges & universities • The goals of a research university are to • Create new knowledge • Research • Educate students • Courses & degree programs • Perform service to society • To achieve legitimacy, must substantively address first two goals • In a teaching focused university, is often sufficient to address teaching

  18. Universities: Teaching Video Games • Broad success • Multiple degree programs in North America & Europe • Technically focused, interdisciplinary, art focused • Many courses on game making & game studies • Student interest is strong • Degree programs & courses generate strong enrollments UCSC: 100 students in first year of major (Fall 2007), 320 students in intro game design class (Winter 2008) • Enrollments generate resources • Need for specialized faculty

  19. Universities:Research in Video Games • Mixed • Some degree programs lack associated research mission • Courses taught by lecturers with no expectation of creating a research program • Few dedicated research groups worldwide • Small number of multi-person groups • Otherwise, mostly 1 or 2 individual faculty per institution

  20. Universities: Danger of Decoupling Teaching & Research • At research universities, long term survival depends on strong research • Without research, a few bad years of enrollment can lead to a program being canceled • Lack of research mission makes all other aspects of legitimation much harder

  21. Consider Home Economics at Cornell • 1899 conference at Lake Placid • Led to courses (1903-04) • Dept. of Home Economics (1907) • Inside School of Agriculture • College of Home Economics (1925) • But no Dean until 1941! • Marriage course wildly popular • Source of anxiety among more conservative faculty • Post WW-II, as an applied science, at a disadvantage compared to basic sciences for research funding • Applied sciences less prestigious within academy • 1969: Changes name to Human Ecology • Also helps form Women’s Studies program Martha van Rensselaer and Flora Rose, First co-directors of College of Home Economics 1920’s

  22. Pitfalls of Home Economics • Strong focus on vocational training • Not perceived to be as rigorous as other degrees • Knowledge created is very applied • Very practical, but with limited theoretical contribution to other sciences • Strongly gendered • Initially viewed as a way to attract women to universities • Later viewed as reinforcing gender stereotypes women were working to overcome in the 1960’s & 1970’s

  23. Universities: Recommendations • When creating degree programs in research universities • Staff mostly with tenure-track research faculty • Emphasize synergy between research and teaching • Emphasize humanistic aspect of creating computer games – not just vocational training for games jobs • Stress computer games research • Work hard to make programs welcoming to women • Recognize that formation of a new department is a likely outcome over 5-15 year timespan

  24. Approaches for Legitimizing Computer Games Degree Proposals • Internal sources • Support from senior faculty • Gravitas effect • Support from administration • Support from other departments • Engage library • External sources • Emphasize research potential in games • Funding opportunities • Successful programs at other institutions • Power of precedent • Accreditation • Relevance to industry

  25. Achieving Legitimacy via Professional Societies

  26. Attributes of mature disciplines • Conferences • Computer Science tends to follow conference per community model • Major conference under academic control • Mature, transparent peer review process • Multiple satellite conferences & workshops • Journals • At least one journal where best work appears • Top academics in field are editors • Reification inside professional society • SIG within ACM, TC inside IEEE

  27. Video games conferences: where do we stand? • Conferences • GDC • DIGRA • ACM Sandbox • AIIDE • IEEE Computational Intelligence and Games • Future Play • CyberGames • Serious Games Summits • Microsoft Academic Days Computer Games in Education • No first-tier conference covering game studies research and game engineering research (AI, graphics, networking, software eng., etc.)

  28. Video game journals: where do we stand? • No ACM or IEEE Transactions level journal focused on video games • ACM Computers in Entertainment • A magazine (not journal), limited engagement from community • Journal of Game Development • Well organized, needs more submissions • Game Studies • First tier, needs administrative support

  29. Reification inside professional societies: where do we stand? • No ACM Special Interest Group • IEEE has Games Technical Committee • Part of Computational Intelligence Society • Not broadly engaged by games research community • Education SIG inside IGDA • Broad participation of community • IGDA lacks scholarly apparatus • DIGRA • Game studies focus • Not widely known inside Computer Science • Conference, not journal

  30. Professional Societies: Recommendations • Games community needs to decide upon single conference to be the primary research venue • Bringing designers and techies under same umbrella will be tough (ACM Hypertext as model) • Create Transactions level journal in IEEE or ACM for technical work • Move Game Studies to a commercial publisher (but retain openness) • Create an ACM SIG, or broadly engage IEEE Games Technical Committee • OR, develop scholarly apparatus within IGDA

  31. Achieving Legitimacy via Funding Agencies

  32. Attributes of mature disciplines • Successful creation of multiple programs for research funding • Multiple government agencies provide research funding • Broad acceptance of merits of long-term research agenda of discipline

  33. Research Funding: Where do we stand? • Serious Games • Broad resonance within funding agencies • Multiple substantial research efforts in this space • Often an applied science • Kudos to Ben Sawyer and Mike Zyda • No US funding programs dedicated to basic computer games research • Need to seek funding within other disciplines

  34. Research Funding: Recommendations • Start process of creating a basic computer games research program inside one or more funding agencies • US centric ideas: • Computing Research Association • Computing Community Consortium program • NSF workshops

  35. What we must do • Articulate a broad research agenda in computer games • Justification for conferences, journal • Permits reification inside professional societies • Used to justify research funding programs • Justifies depth of research area when hiring new research faculty • Helps justify new degree programs, especially at MS and PhD level

  36. What might a research agenda look like? • Deep procedurality inside games • Adaptive storytelling • Automatic level generation, Procedural art creation • Games that teach • Serious games, K-12, college subjects • Harnessing game reward systems outside games • Understanding the activity of design • Understanding the human/game system • Emotive elements of games, characters • Social dynamics of virtual worlds • Real-time computer graphics • Especially non-photorealistic graphics

  37. Summary • Creation of degree programs is only a first step • Need to create video games discipline • Process of doing so will lead to legitimacy • As we bring in new students, faculty, important to create disciplinary apparatus • Key: developing broad research agenda in video games