Tag Archives: game studies

Did I Paint Myself Into a Corner?

In 2011 I wrote about the educational path I had chosen and whether that choice actually meant I had painted myself into a corner.

Performance artist Keith Haring painting himself into a corner - almost like me!

Performance artist Keith Haring painting himself into a corner – almost like me!

Now I’m fully graduated, I hold an IT degree which usually makes people vastly overestimate how skilled I actually am at programming and fixing all kinds of computer problems, because well… I did study computer games, but not exactly how to make them. Because it comes across as an extremely narrow thing which doesn’t scream usefulness the same way studying fx. medicine does, people translate my education into “some IT”.

The Keith Haring performance piece was basically the feeling I had as I was progressing through my education. I had previously experienced unemployment with “only” a bachelor degree in communications and psychology, and finding a job at that time was very difficult. I perceived myself as a jack of all trades, master of none. I was never the perfect candidate for any job, and it bothered me.

The consequence of this experience became that I wanted to be more specialized, I wanted to read a job advert and think “I’m perfect for this! How could they NOT want to hire me?”. So I chose games studies.

The fear of not being able to find the right shelf was still bothering me, and the closer I was to graduation the more I started looking at my time at the university as a few really brilliant years, which probably wouldn’t amount to anything special later on. Because of the recent economic crisis, newspapers were (and still are) flooding with stories of lay offs and at times it robbed me of my motivation to work on my thesis. It felt like it was meaningless anyways, I would have no chance at building a career in a society that was in economic turmoil, so what was the point?

Keith Haring painting into corner2

Look! He made it!

Thankfully, I feel a lot more qualified than last time I was in this situation and I’m not as low as I expected I would be. Now I nag at myself for not enjoying the thesis-writing process more, instead of worrying about the future. If only I knew then, what I know now.

With that in mind, I’ve had to remind myself of what Søren Kierkegaard once said:

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”

(For the Danish speakers, the original quote is a lot more elegant: “Livet forstås baglæns, men må leves forlæns“)

Not long ago I attended a job search meeting, with a lot of other recent graduates and a few who had been in the work market for years, but had just lost their jobs. At some point we were instructed to introduce ourselves to the others around the table. Besides me, there was an art historian, a sociologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist, a biologist and one who did something with health care.

The subsequent conversation revolved almost entirely around me and what my education was about. They were all so positive and I got so many references and tips. It was such a strange experience, I had longed to be like them, studying something tangible like psychology or sociology, with a simple title that people understand and yet here I was being treated like the special butterfly.

Nobody inquired the sociologist nor the anthropologist. I guess people assume they know what that is about. My strategy of going for something more narrow in terms of education, but perhaps also unusual, worked in the sense that people got curious. I’m hoping this will help me in my future endeavours.

Afterwards the two older women at the table (the biologist and psychologist) pep talked me for half an hour and showed so much interest in my current situation (I’m telling you, I have a strange appeal to women in their 50’s, they always like me a lot).

So I ended up leaving that meeting feeling like the most successful unemployed person in the world – A walking oxymoron!


Update on the Trip to the Games Conference (DiGRA)

This gallery contains 22 photos.

I’m late with this update, much more late than I wanted to be – but it’s here! Coming home from a trip that is scheduled to go off right in the middle of everything, means there’s a burden of stuff-that-needs-to-be-dealt-with … Continue reading

If I Had Started Playing in Cataclysm

How much would be (hypothetically) different if you had joined the game later? Would you have made a different main? Picked a different server? Focused on a different aspect of the game? Or would everything be the same, only shinier? Or if you started playing in a later expansion, what would have been different if you started play sooner? Let me know in the comments!

This is the final paragraph in Mishaweha’s post at Me, Myself … And All of Them. She asks for comments, but I decided to reply here as my answer is a little too long.

"Welcome to all new students"

If I had started playing in Cataclysm my entire life would be different in several ways.

Most likely I wouldn’t be actually studying games, which I am right now.

The MMO genre (largely WoW) inspired me to eventually go in the direction of game studies. I had been studying psychology and communication until then, but felt like a change. At that point my education had been very broad, leaving it up to me to direct what specializations I wanted and instead of having a goal in mind, I just had fun with it, making choices out of pure interest. Because I never knew what I wanted to do with my life, I made sure the trip to getting a job eventually would be something I enjoyed, hoping that this would shape up to an equally enjoyable career. I’m not sure life is that generous and straightforward. Now that I’m getting closer and closer to that point, I have to spend some serious time this year figuring out how I can use my game studies background or whether I essentially painted myself in a corner.

It’s silly really, sometimes I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into. My parents were nice and supportive when I told them I had enrolled, but they found it difficult to explain to friends and family what it was I actually did and with what purpose. Not that I can easily answer that myself.

"The History of Video Games" by SteveO526 on Deviant Art

What is even more silly is that I’m not even sure how much I identify as a gamer. Looking at the picture above of the excavated GameBoy Color meant to give an impression about the lineage of video games while also reminding us where it all started, for most of us anyways, maybe at least I had some training.

I didn’t own a GameBoy Color, my parents got me the earlier version, a red brick sized early generation Gameboy. Does this earn me at least a little gamer street cred? I loved this machine and cried when the kid of some friends of my parents deleted my saved file in Wario Land. It was embarrasing, the kid was much younger than me and I was too old to cry over something like this, but I had specifically instructed him NOT TO use the BOMB icon (duh) to explode my saved file, and the kid did it anyways, not out of disgruntlement but pure stupidity, so I wept.

Comparing myself to the other students, most of whom have played videogames extensively since forever, I fall horribly short. I knew it would be like this when I started back in August, but I told myself that I would just have to be strong and have some faith in myself and my strengths, easier said than done when my lack of geekyness is often exposed, or when I’m branded as “the WoW-player”. The latter has been impossible for me to escape, even when I’ve made an effort to accentuate my other gaming interests, fx Minecraft. It’s even worse when the WoW label becomes a derogatory and the stigma echoes within the circles that in theory should be the most inclusive and supportive. As they themselves must have had their passion ridiculed and trivialized by the mainstream, you’d think they wouldn’t be so hell-bent on me being the petty WoW-player, but no.

While I can convey my story as a lifetime gamer too if I wanted, I can also be honest and say that gaming isn’t any more interesting to me than say psychology and sociology, studying games just allows me to combine both.

I’ve not been forthcoming with linking this blog to my study mates, in fact I’ve kept it mostly secret, although I’m not sure how long it will remain so given how often gaming nicks are shared between us all. Then again, I’m not sure they would care, but if they did, I fear it would not be for the better as this isn’t an academic blog. Furthermore, the fact that one of my bigger influences in taking the direction I have, is my history with WoW dating back to vanilla, is not something that will legimatize my choice any further nor something tout-worthy amongst my study mates.

If I had started playing in Cataclysm, I would barely have thought of myself as a gamer, I wouldn’t have raided and probably never would either, I would have stayed at an extremely casual level and eventually quit. I would have been studying something completely different, perhaps the other line at my university called Digital Design and Communication, which I originally thought of applying to. When I went to the student advice office about a year ago to talk about the Digital Design and Communication line, I mentioned gaming and MMO’s to the advisor and he caught the moment and told me about the game studies line. He was not enrolled there himself but talked about it without bias and disparage and treated it as a completely valid choice for a master’s education. This was a revelation to me and I felt like my interest in WoW and more broadly social games and game communities were actual options I could pursue, so I went home and mulled about it.

I knew the biggest challenge would be myself and my insecurities, trying to fit in and not be singled out even though I would be walking around with a huge hunter’s mark above my head. A Robin amongst Batmans.

As a happy ending I can say that I’m glad I started playing in vanilla and took the path I did. Despite the fact I’ve probably painted a rather unpleasant picture of the social atmosphere at my univerisity, this is not the case. The people I study with are extremely nice and surprisingly good at initiating and organizing events for everyone, bursting the antisocal gamer stereotype, they are the most social bunch I’ve had the pleasure of studying with.