New cross-disciplinary project explores textuality in videogames
With the long-awaited release of Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo III this spring — a game that famously sold over 3.5 million copies in 24 hours — the videogame industry has further established itself as a lucrative business for developers, digital artists, software engineers and computer scientists.
Yet, a lesser-known and exceedingly important team of individuals, whose work determines how players understand and experience videogames, is being recognized by Concordia’s Centre for Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG): specifically, the writers whose narratives intrinsically weave each element of a game together.
Under the leadership of Darren Wershler, Concordia University’s Research Chair in Media and Contemporary Literature and assistant professor in the Department of English, TAG will launch a new project facilitated by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) grant for $2.5 million in partnership with the Interactive & Multi-Modal Experience Research Syndicate (IMMERSe) at Waterloo University.
Concordia’s researchers are interested in exploring video game writing according to three areas of study: the craft of writing for games and the developing profession of game writing, the role and status of text in video games, and how players become storytellers in the narration of their own play experiences in the context of everyday life.
“Students want to know what game writers do, how they got their jobs and what these jobs look like,” explains Wershler. “There is this mysterious question of what people who write games actually do – everyone wants to know.”
How does text contribute to the construction of meaning in games? How has the understanding of textuality changed through history and how do players and fans interpret games within their daily lives? These are some key points of inquiry Wershler plans to tackle.
The project will involve faculty members from across disciplines, including Jason Camlot, associate professor and chair in the Department of English, Bart Simon, associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and Sabine Bergler, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering.
“This new grant will allow Concordia to facilitate the integration of students and game research with new and different collaborators,” says Simon.
“For us, this funding means improved support for graduate students in humanities’ disciplines and digital culture who wish to work on videogames. We have already built a fantastic infrastructure at Concordia for all kinds of game creation and research, and now the task is to attract and support brilliant students to work with us and make it all hum.”
• Waterloo University’s Funding News Release
• Concordia’s Centre for Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG)
• Department of English
• Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering
• Department of Sociology and Anthropology