I have been really bad at blogging since … well, quite some time (last post in mid 2014 oops!). The move to the UK and starting at Brunel has taken most of my mental bandwidth since last fall, but now with a full semester behind me, and only 4 weeks from the end of second term, I am hoping to get back into keeping my digital spaces up to date (or start thinking about shutting them down). First thing on today’s to-do list- update that darn CV!
A bit late, but I successfully defended my PhD dissertation on June 29th! Although it has only been two weeks, it seems like eons ago already. The defense went well, it was a great mix of rigorous exchanges and academic camaraderie. It lasted just over 3 hours and I passed with excellence. A few minor tweaks (the dreaded typo of course!) and it will be submitted to the archives to sit on the digital shelf among the work of my peers. Although many people had said that when I was done, I would not remember much and that I would just want to take a break for a bit, I found myself excitedly recounting every detail for those who could not attend. So many suggestions and directions came out of the defense that all I wanted to do when I got home (besides having celebratory drinks) was to etch out some notes and get to work on the next phase.
Of course, I am not even sure what that really is at the moment, but for now, I am happily working with/for Dr. Mia Consalvo on great research on Facebook games and families, I am reading some work written by a new colleague I am planning to collaborate with in the future, and I am hoping to push beyond my comfort zone and take my research into new directions as suggested during my defense as I work on a post-doc application for the fall (government sponsored post-docs are due in October so best I get started, and find an institution and/or supervisor!). I am also working on some entries for a Video Game Companion (edited by Mark Wolf), and have dreams of reshaping my dissertation into a proper book. It has only been two weeks since the defense, but I have already started on some significant edits thanks to a meeting of great minds in Switzerland last week. Overall, while I don’t have a tenure track job lined up, I have a pretty good to-do list to keep me working happily through the summer as I work on my c.v. and keep my eye on the job market this fall.
All in all, I cannot complain. After 10 years leveling up, I finally made it to the end game, and lucky for me, the expansions keep coming!
It has been just shy of 5 years since I began my PhD, and it’s been almost 8 years since I have been working on understanding that weird ‘something’ that I felt between myself as a player and Velixious, my avatar from way back when. Over the years, the research has shifted from a quest for personal understanding to exploring how others felt about their avatars, shifting notions of identity, and finding ways to deconstruct videogame play to understand if, when, and how what I have come to term as ‘hybrid-identity’ occurred.
And now the time has come to lay it all out on the line and defend my work:
Between Play and Design: The emergence of hybrid-identity in single-player videogames
June 29, 2012
9 :30 – 13 :30
This dissertation examines the complex nature of identity in single-player videogames. It introduces the concept of hybrid-identity and proposes an analytical framework to deconstruct gameplay across genres to distinguish moments of identity emergence. Hybrid-identity is a fluid, at times fleeting form of identity that exists between the player and the player-character which is developed during the networked process of videogame play. It necessarily includes the player (experience, play-context, etc.), the game environment (design, mechanics, etc.), and the mediating technology (computer, console, etc.) that facilitates gameplay.
In order to delineate the different aspects of gameplay that contribute to the potential emergence of different types of identity, a multifaceted framework was devised to isolate specific interactions between the player/player-character, player-character/non-playing character, player/game environment, player-character/game environment, and player/player. This framework was coupled with a secondary frame of analysis which included the examination of the specificities of the individual player and the mediating technologies that facilitated gameplay. A systematic analysis of gameplay and design elements of three different games; Mirror’s Edge (DICE, 2008), Alone in the Dark (Eden Games, 2008), and Fable 2 (Lionhead Studios, 2008) was performed to illustrate the varying degrees of identity emergence in different game structures.
For more details on location etc., please contact me via email.
A (very) brief update today, but I’ve (finally) come up with a title and wrote the formal abstract for my dissertation. After hundreds of pages of writing, one would think that the abstract would not be as challenging as it was. If interested, you can find it here.
I feel a very strange mix of pride and fear as I put this out there. For so many years, I have only talked about my work, while publicly presenting my secondary research interests. In some ways, keeping my primary research close to my chest has kept it safe in my head, but there comes a time when I have to just put it out there, hold my head up and be proud of what I have been working on over the last few years.
I cannot believe that the last time I posted was in July. It has been a busy summer filled with mostly personal challenges. My oldest daughter went away to university in Halifax, N.S. – a good 13 hour drive from home… We dropped her off last Saturday. As we helped her settle into her dorm room, met her roommate, and meandered around the quaint University of King’s College campus, I was reminded how much enthusiasm and energy can come from being on campus with a new group of eager undergraduates. Just being on campus reminded my how much I love what I do. It really reminded me that I am privileged to get to do what I love, no matter how much of a toil it may seem.
With that rejuvenated purpose, I am happy to be working again as a research assistant for the next few months, as I finish my dissertation (crossing fingers for a December deadline), and applying for post-doc funding, it looks like it is going to be a very busy semester. And quite honestly, there is no better way for me!
Trying to get this dissertation all out of my head and onto paper. It is taking longer than I had anticipated – I guess you really don’t know what writing a dissertation means until you are … well … writing one. I thought the experience of writing an Honour’s and Master’s thesis would have somewhat prepared me for this process – I thought working on original research re: conference papers would have been a hint – but there really is nothing quite like creating original research on this magnitude (re: page length + cohesiveness + flow = really hard task!).
So with that said – as much as I hate neglecting this blog – and as much as I really wanted to share the writing experience, and flesh out what I was working on here – I realize that I have to save my brain power for the dissertation.
I remember when I first started university, most people did not have a personal computer, institutional emails were newly assigned in my second semester, but I rarely had the time to go to the computer lab on campus to use it (and realistically, I only knew a handful of other people who used email at that time). My assignments were allowed to be handwritten (as long as it was legible) and professors preferred that students invest in a typewriter to submit ‘clean’ copies. I remember when I could afford a typewriter with a small screen that allowed me to type up to a certain amount of characters before it ‘printed’ onto the paper, which saved me a bit of paper since I could delete as I wrote. It still wasn’t perfect. While I did have an erase function (basically, liquid paper reservoir of sorts that hid the impressed ink), I remember having to throw out entire pages due to some formatting or structural error. So much paper (and ink cartridges) wasted (even if I did have pages and pages of handwritten drafts!).
As I am sitting here today, 17 years later, I realize that I really miss my mounds of yellow legal pads that had paragraphs, notes, brilliant sentences (or so I thought at the time) all organized into manila folders for reference as I tried to piece together my assigned paper. While a lot ‘cleaner’, the folders that are obsessively organized on my laptop are hidden, out of view – and more often than not – out of mind. So many times I have written a paragraph, realized that only half of it fits, so I cut and paste the rest of the phrase onto a new word doc to be saved and filed for later. Trouble is, lately it seems, that I can never seem to find that document with the one phrase on it, or I deleted it thinking it wasn’t useful only to be saddened by the fact that it’s gone when, two weeks later, I find the perfect spot for it…
The idea of digital drafts is a great one – easily manipulatable, cut and paste has revolutionalized the way I write papers, but I find myself losing the bits and pieces and having to start fresh again (adding to the hidden mountain of work). When I really want to know if a chapter works, I still need to print it out, and read it semi-aloud in order to ‘hear’ the flaws in the flow, grammar or structure. I still need to print off umpteen amounts of pages to see if what I am working on “works” – which has got me thinking as to whether or not I should simply print each stray phrase and paragraph and file them in a physical folder on my desk – while I might not save time in having to retype the words, it would surely balance the time lost looking through all my files and folders on my computer.