Experience or Artefact?

Having been driven by my own experiences for the last few years, it somehow feels artificial to try and find the ‘next’ game to play to work on. One of the things that I struggled with was (and still is) defining the scope of my work. I keep struggling with the question of whether I am researching games, or people who play games, or the experience of playing those games. Working with EverQuest (and drawing on my other MMORPG experiences in Dark Age of Camelot, LineageII, Horizons & World of Warcraft) the focus was always about the relationship between the player (basically me) and the game, and the unique elements of the gamespace that influenced the networked process of identity construction.

Now that the primary ideas from that project have been written down (but by no means completely wrapped up) I am not sure what to do. Since the research developed somewhat organically from experiences that were not clouded with a research question behind every click and interaction, the direction it took felt natural. But now that I am supposed to be moving on, trying to figure out what is next, I cannot imagine ‘picking a game’ to play based on a set of research criteria to seek answers to the questions that came out of my thesis. It feels forced.

I am still passionate about finding the answers (or developing answers) to the questions that linger, but I am unsure of how to unearth them in a way that does not feel like I am setting up the labratory to find what I am looking for. I mean, how is selecting a game based on your research questions any different than the lab coat research I am so critical of?

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One thought on “Experience or Artefact?

  1. I think that I might understand what you are going through right now. When I wrote my MA thesis it felt like the thesis was writing itself. I felt so strongly about my topic and I had so much to say that it felt like I couldn’t type fast enough to get it all out and down on paper. When my thesis was written and defended I felt drained. Although I had new questions I had nothing left to say and I was unsure of which direction to turn in order to find the answers to my new questions. However, it seemed that everyone around me had an opinion about how I ought to proceed. “You can’t study games unless you play games – ethnography is just not a credible research method”, “You can’t study games unless you make games – analyzing games you’ve played isn’t enough”, “You ought to study the – insert next hot thing” “Don’t study that! Everyone else is on that bandwagon already” The best advise I received was “allow yourself time and space to just be”. Immerse yourself in the literature, play some games, watch, listen and contemplate. I think that your sense that your research can’t be forced is right on. Actually it probably could be forced but where is the passion and joy in that? You may as well get an office job and make real money if you are not able to give yourself the time and space to become inspired. So Kelly, my suggestion to you is to savor the journey. “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” I bet if you just hang out, read wildly, play the games you feel like playing and write on your blog the game/space/direction you need to pursue will emerge organically – or you could put a bunch of games in a hat and pick one 😉

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