Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Ultimately, it isn't a significant textual concern whether Chell's mother-daughter relationship with GLaDOS is literal or metaphorical.

Note: this article contains spoilers.


If you were to step onto an average gaming forum’s discussion thread of Portal 2, you would in very short order encounter some debate about Chell’s parentage. We can hardly evade this theme with the prominence it takes on in the second game (although GLaDOS takes a potshot or two in the original Portal as well), not simply in the main dialogue but through the themes of lineage—in its many forms—taken on in the overarching story.


Tagged as: portal, portal 2
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Tuesday, May 3, 2011
The ways gamers customize their gameplay and then document that play has the potential to significantly affect how certain titles and their surrounding culture of players are perceived.

Today marks the final of four articles expanding upon my “Interactivity by Proxy” paper delivered in early April at Rutgers’s Game Behind the Video Game conference. Previously, this series looked at vectors for audience engagement and three of the four major taxonomic categories of Let’s Play walkthroughs, the Expert and the Chronicler and the Comedian. We wrap up today with discussion of the last major LP type and arguably the most contentious from a social sciences perspective, the Counter-Historiographer.


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Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011

Today marks the third of four articles dedicated to fully unpacking my recent paper for Rutgers School of Communication, presented earlier this month at the Game Behind the Video Game conference in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Our previous articles focused on vectors for audience engagement and two of the four major taxonomic categories of Let’s Play walkthroughs, the Expert and the Chronicler. We continue our taxonomies today with discussion of the third major LP type, the Comedian, before concluding next week with our final type and an overarching discussion of Let’s Plays as a fan practice.


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Tuesday, Apr 19, 2011
Today we look to Let's Plays themselves to start drawing connections between performance and viewership behaviors as well as fan practices.

This week we continue unpacking the details of my recent conference paper on Let’s Plays, multimedia videogame walkthroughs, presented earlier this month for Rutgers. Last week offered an overview of the two main motivators behind game watching, creating types I called the Spectator and the Passenger. Today we look to Let’s Plays themselves to start drawing connections between performance and viewership behaviors as well as fan practices.


A standard text for this series in understanding the role of Web 2.0 in media sharing is Henry Jenkins’s Convergence Culture (New York University Press, 2006). I would also recommend Sports Fans (Daniel L. Wann, et al, New York: Routledge, 2001) for more about spectatorship theory as it pertains to both competitive and non-competitive sports, a connection direly critical to understanding certain aspects of online and offline game spectatorship.


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Tuesday, Apr 12, 2011
Let's Plays are just a small component of the overarching practice of collective gaming consciousness, to which I would add social media sites, review aggregators, game stores and other physical and digital spaces that affirm, check, and remix gaming knowledge along with other fan practices.

This past weekend I was given the honor to present a paper at Rutgers School of Communication’s inaugural games studies conference, The Game Behind the Video Game. The conference was broken down into business, law, and society tracks, with a fascinating spectrum of subjects across those subjects. My presentation, held on a society panel along with Ren Reynolds of The Virtual Policy Network and Burcu Bakioglu of the University of Indiana, focused on a particular prosumer subculture known as Let’s Play.


Let’s Play are multimedia videogame walkthroughs. While the Let’s Play community is just one of many out there who marry production of web assets with fan activity, they are an interesting case in their own right for testing the threshold of transformative works.


I find Let’s Plays worthy of talking about from an academic standpoint because they change the meaning of play. I’ve always believed the true proof of legitimacy with any fan practice is simply if people enjoy it. And since LPs are popular, something about them must strike a chord even among those who prefer to play and experience games on their own. What remains is coming up with a framework for the hows and whys of game watching, which is what this series will be doing.


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