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3:20pm on Saturday, 21st June, 2014:



I'm on the editorial board of several games-related academic journals, and am regularly called upon to peer-review papers that have been submitted for publication.

In 2007, the game S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl was released. Over the next two or three years, I must have read a dozen papers on it. I still see the occasional one even now.

Last year, The Last of Us was released. I'm now seeing increasing numbers of papers about it.

It's weird how this happens. I'll see occasional papers about particular games, then suddenly a game will come out that attracts lots of them. They're almost invariably readings of the game, sometimes with reference to a particular way of reading film or theatre, sometimes not. I don't know why this is, but my guess is that there are certain games that are particularly compatible with existing theories from other media, and these are the ones that are picked up. This doesn't mean that other games aren't worth analysing; rather, it means that the analyst would need tools to do so. They don't have those tools, so they only write about the games upon which the tools they do have can be applied. Sometimes, this takes into account the fact that the game is a game; more often than not, it only pays lip service to the game element and concentrates instead on narrative, atmosphere and character development.

I'd like to see more articles that looked at games from the perspective of their being games, but until we have a usable framework that's not going to happen.

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Copyright © 2014 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).