When the idea was put to me to write an article about the idea of Gaming Studies – or studying video or computer games as a subject, I was a little dubious. What are the values of games? Surely they’re what people play in their bedrooms, furtively attempting to blow each other’s brains out on Call of Duty, or crash into people on Grand Theft Auto.

When one looks into games, however, even myself, whose gaming expertise is limited to Professor Layton on the old Nintendo DSLite, can see that the idea of a subject focusing on gaming could be interesting.

”If we can feasibly study film, exploring its narrative and the filmic techniques used to create meanings, can’t this also apply to games?”

Take my newly coined ‘Gaming Studies’ as a module. I’m an English student, and on my course I’ve had the opportunity to study The Hunger Games (movie and book), comic books and their film adaptations, such as V for Vendetta, and a variety of Shakespeare films ranging from Silent to Bollywood.

If we can feasibly study film, exploring its narrative and the filmic techniques used to create meanings, can’t this also apply to games? The storylines are created in great detail, with many different variables taken into account. The characters are well thought out and in many cases extremely lifelike, just like characters in cartoons (even more so if we compare them to The Simpsons). Therefore, the complexity of games, alongside the filmic-esque techniques used, are well worth studying further in my opinion.

”Students can also link with studies in Sociology, and look at the gender balance and how girls played Nintendogs, whilst boys were still obsessed with Crash Bandicoot”

Even as an entire subject, ‘Gaming Studies’ still appears to hold its ground. A variety of topics can be explored. For example, students could look at the different companies that create games and how the styles differ from country to country. The tie-ins to films (Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 was a particular favourite of mine), and now film tie-ins to games (Assassin’s Creed featuring Michael Fassbender comes to mind) surely lend themselves to further study.

Students can also link with studies in Sociology, and look at the gender balance and how girls played Nintendogs, whilst boys were still obsessed with Crash Bandicoot. That ever-prevalent question of whether games should have an age restriction, and whether five-year-olds playing Grand Theft Auto do actually turn into car-jacking, sexualised demons by the time they’re six due to the dreadful effects of these games also should be explored in further detail.

”I know that I certainly can’t press B and toggle at the same time without having a meltdown”

Overall, a closer look into the world of video games does show their worth. As stories, players become enthralled in the world of the game, whilst as challenges, completing a certain level is mentally stimulating. Little Big Planet was incredibly difficult for a novice like myself, proving this to the full. Gaming may also improve coordination. I know that I certainly can’t press B and toggle at the same time without having a meltdown.

Hopefully, the inspiring message and beneficial arguments for studying games this article conveys will have filtered through to university officials by the time of the new academic year. So when the University of Nottingham’s new School of Gaming Studies opens, don’t be surprised, just warm up your thumbs and get exploring this overlooked subject.

 Amy Wilcockson 

Image Credit: Sean MacEntee via Flickr

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