JiME: How to Do Things With Videogames
In a widely-tweeted blog post, Ian Bogost recently railed against the tendency within media studies towards what is sometimes called 'aca-fandom': the manufacture of academic publications that do little more than express the author's personal taste in television programmes, videogames, and other mass media products. "There are plenty of fans of The Wire and Mad Men and Halo and World of Warcraft", Bogost wrote, "but we scholars... have a special obligation to explain something new about the works we discuss" (Bogost, 2010). Bogost characterised aca-fans as television fans or hardcore gamers lucky enough to make a living out of their sub-cultural investments; the price of this good fortune, he argued, is a responsibility to write from the position of a scholar, rather than that of a gamer or fan. It was a well-judged argument, but one that inevitably suggests a benchmark against which to judge Bogost's own works. Does How to Do Things with Videogames fulfil its scholarly obligations? To me, at least, it seems that the answer is both yes and no.
How to Do Things with Videogames is a short collection of essays, most of them a little over six pages in length. The title is a throwaway allusion to J.L. Austin's (1962) classic study in the philosophy of language, and in fact provides little clue as to the book's content, which is hard to summarise because the thematic connections between essays are often very loose.