Update: The Writing Process (again)

I am pretty sure that I used this title a while back either during my MA, or when I tried to get my dissertation writing going a few months back. Well, here I am again. Facing the daunting task of writing my doctoral thesis. I finished my comprehensive exams last December. It was a momentous occasion – much celebration was had, and I excitedly faced the new year as one that would be filled with lots of deep thoughts and bouts of fervent writing.

Well – that isn’t quite what happened when January rolled around. Daily life resumed; family needs were tended to; small academic projects were intermittently completed, and the most momentous thing that happened to me over the past six months – I seemed to have conquered my fear of public speaking after a series of guest lectures and presentations. Ironically, it took a change in prep and presentation style to fix my fear. Not to say that I do not get nervous anymore, but the abject terror is now gone!

And so – after a busy month of May that ended with a great CGSA (capped by a pretty decent house party ;-)), I am faced once again with the ticking of my PhD clock getting ever closer to my ‘end date’ of fall 2011. I have to start writing. Not simply etching out directions and keeping track of reading notes – but honest to goodness, content building writing. With a (not so) gentle nudge from my advisor (thank you btw!), I have been working on my first piece of cohesive writing since my comps. It has been a challenge with so many distractions (too afraid to unplug my router and ‘disconnect’  in order to fully concentrate) – the sun is hard to shut off as well😉 With that, I will try to post a bit here and there about what I am writing, and how it is going. As always – any feedback on writing process / method is MORE than welcome!

Incredibly briefly, my doctoral work stems directly from my Master’s work. I am using the framework that I developed in my MA (based on MMORPG’s) and expanding the analysis to other genres of games to see to what extent my framework is useful for determining the extent to which the process of ‘hybrid identity’ (an identity that is external to the player AND the player-character / avatar; this is explained in my MA thesis in detail) construction exists (if at all).

After a few months of mulling it over, I have expanded the framework to include three overarching categories (feel free to contact me personally to chat more about this – but until it is submitted, keeping some of this close to my chest until I figure it all out). With these two frameworks in hand, I have finally started my “field work” – playing the games that will be my case studies. I am not aiming to specifically unpack one game or genre in particular, but rather to look at how different genres alter the balance of the framework(s)  and how this alters the possibility for the above-mentioned ‘hybrid identity’ (perhaps someday, I will be able to abandon the loaded term identity all together and find something that reflects what it is I am talking about more explicitly – maybe even INVENT a word! =))

So, I started with Mirror’s Edge. I chose this game for several reasons – one of which is the fact that I look quite a bit like the main character – Faith Connors (well, that depends who you talk to but…) . One of my primary arguments over the course of my research is that identity (at least in the way that I conceive it) is not primarily based in representation and identification. My framework seeks to demonstrate all the other factors that go into it. So – I chose a game with a character that I already strongly identify with and feel connected to on a representational level. It is the most obvious point of departure for me and thought it might help me go through the identification and representation literature so that I can come out the other side and justify(?) my claim(s).

I played Mirror’s Edge in the past. Not necessarily incredibly successfully, but I love the aesthetic and flow of the game. Oddly, I am incredibly bad at the controls this time around (guess that is what happens when the only Xbox360 game you play is Zuma!). I spent almost an entire day getting through the first chapter. I am supposed to be recording my game play- but I can only imagine how many dvd’s would have been filled with a series of 74 pathetic failures of the same 5 moves to get across 4 buildings.  The good side being that I have a lot of play notes, and served as fuel for a small fire of writing.

And so, with this, I enter into a cycle of writing that includes playing, writing, infinite distractions, guilt and more writing.  With that, I guess it is time to get back to work!

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