#Gamergate – Journal update and League for Gamers

2780068426_9fa8e8d844_oThere simply hasn’t been enough interest in a new journal to make the effort worthwhile. While there have been a few enthusiasts and a couple of entrants there isn’t sufficient interest to make the effort worthwhile.

This is, needless to say, disappointing. I believe there is a genuine need for some genuinely academic and scientific insight into games and frankly, that’s for selfish reasons. I want my game designs to be informed by facts and useful information and strategies.

Here though, I’ll have to admit defeat.

As such I suggest people redirect their efforts to League for Gamers, which is in the process of setting up an academic body and which I am involved in as an interested party (President, not that it means much at this stage and I intend to flee the position as soon as things are up and running).

L4G has a higher profile and more opportunity to make something happen from a better starting point. Still, things are going to be an uphill struggle for any attempt to get this done for some of the following reasons.

  • Gamers have lost all faith in academia. The ‘losers‘ ‘study’ may have been one of many death blows. It’ll take a huge amount of effort to win that trust back. As bad, if not worse, than the situation with gaming media.
  • There is genuine research going on in the existing structure, it’s just drowned out by bullshit. Many genuine academics and scientists don’t understand or see the need for an alternative or – more admirably – don’t want to cede ground.
  • Devs don’t seem to care much either. Happy doing their own thing and product testing from the looks of it. It’s a shame as it means public money tends to support spurious research in this area (loser study) while private research and effort largely ends up staying internal.
  • I haven’t had the ability to get enough exposure to the right kinds of people to get things off the ground. L4G should be able to.

TL;DR – Forget this effort, sign up to League for Gamers and talk to the other academically inclined people therein.

Popular Ludology: Clarifying the Peer Review System

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I seem to have not expressed the peer review process we’ll be using well enough as some people seem to not understand. This must be my fault so I’ll clarify with reference to the previous post, and I’ll tighten up the language more later on for reference.

When you submit a paper it will be examined by the editorial staff and those who have previously submitted and had their papers accepted. It will be accepted or rejected on the basis of a simple majority (with 50% being a pass). Either way you should be informed.

This is not part of the review process. You could call this a simple ‘smell test’. Does this paper look/sound/smell like bullshit? Do the person’s credentials check out? The vote should only be necessary if there’s any strong objections to a particular process. This is not really any different to a single paragraph dissertation, written in crayon on toilet paper being rejected. Just more formalised.

If your paper is accepted you will be invited to the Popular Ludology email group. You do not have to accept and participation is not mandatory, but it will allow you to participate further as the journal and effort – hopefully – expand.

This group will form a democratic/meritocratic basis for organisational/journal level change in the future. That is its primary aim, to provide a pool of qualified people to vote on procedure etc.

A month will be given for papers to be accepted.

And please do submit. While the ‘theme’ for issue zero is defining and classifying games, any submissions on any game related topic are welcome. I’ve seen and read some interesting things from less conventional scholars and developers over the last ten months and would love to see some of their work more formally published.

At the end of that period the accepted papers will be collated and published in an ‘alpha draft’.

This is the point at which the actual review process starts.

This alpha draft will be made available publicly to anyone and everyone for open review, criticism and objection.

This is the peer review part.

We’re going with an open peer review for several reasons.

  1. It encourages participation.
  2. It encourages non-academic participation.
  3. It reflects a commitment to openness.
  4. There are many existing criticisms of the blind review process (not least that in the digital age it’s hard to keep).
  5. It’s potentially much, much more rigorous.
  6. It allows the authors to directly participate in the process and with their critics.

You should monitor this feedback and, as you feel may be necessary, make changes, clarifications and extensions to your paper over the following month.

Hopefully writers of papers will examine the feedback that they get and make amendments and improvements accordingly.

The final version of the journal (with any amendments, additions, retractions etc from review) will then be published. Papers may only be forcibly withdrawn against your will if 75% or more of the editorial and previously published authors agree in a vote.

This is where, I think, the confusion arises. This is intended more to be a meta-review process. Examining the criticism and seeing whether it is valid and then acting as a qualified group to remove papers that do not hold up, if the author cannot or will not do so themselves.

Voting procedures will be made public in the journal itself.

It should also be noted that we are aiming for a more rigorous scrutiny than currently exists within organisations like DiGRA, and which appears to have let through many papers and presentations that do not seem to hold up to basic standards. It’s also well established, but denied, that there is a great deal of hostility towards the concept of peer review in some of these groups and that what passes for peer review in the humanities is not at all what most people consider that term or procedure to mean.

I’m sure there’ll be lumps and bumps along the way and that idealism will have to give way to pragmatism at various points, but there’s no harm in aiming high from the start.

A great number of objections received so far seem to be based around the idea that this will be rejected by the existing academic structure or that it needs to be changed to be more in line with existing journals and organisations. Given that a central premise behind the setting up of this journal and in seeing a need for it is that there are severe problems with game studies and game studies groups and structures it would seem to be counter-productive to replicate those same issues for unneeded approval, while trying to fix their problems.

The aim here is not to replicate the efforts of DiGRA etc, but to do something different and useful and while I’m sure material good enough for academia will be produced, their approval is not especially wanted. As a pragmatic and practical resource, developer and designer approval and interest is much, much more important.

#Gamergate Building a DiGRA Alternative, Part 2

2613913-doktor_sleepless_m__001_000aHad some useful and interesting feedback from people, so let’s lay down some slightly more concrete proposals and begin to prepare to make this ‘a thing’.

It has been made pretty clear to me from a bunch of people that they’re unwilling to cede the ground of coming up with a new term other than ludology/game studies and that they would rather see the term being somewhat reclaimed away from crit/lit theory.

So, OK, what the hell, why not 🙂

First a reiteration…

Goals

  1. Preserving and communicating practical game-maker experience and examining it.
  2. Providing objective, scientific, academic, statistical and experiential insight into aspects of game design and experience.
  3. Providing an alternative to the current ludology/game studies paradigm of literary/critical theory fixed intently on practical and useful analysis, study, information and investigation.
  4. To foster a practical and pragmatic space for the exchange of useful and confirmed information for game design.

Speaking for myself, I just want to get this started and then step back. It’s my hope that groups like League for Gamers, and various websites, may take on, store, present and replicate what’s produced and that it can eventually become a respectable source of useful information for developers, academics and interested consumers.

I recognise that I don’t have the academic chops to make this into a respected enterprise, but hopefully do have enough ‘oomph’ to get it going. My intention will be to hand off to someone else in the future.

This will also have to break free of Gamergate, but GG has provided the impetus and illustrated the need.

Base Principles

The journal needs to be established on some principles to ensure that it doesn’t easily fall into the same problems as other outlets have. We don’t want it to be an ivory tower, an echo chamber or a positive feedback loop. We also want to make the contents as accessible as possible and as supportive as possible.

As such I think principles of openness would need to be core.

  • Open source.
  • Open to commentary and engagement.
  • Open processes.

All, at least, so much as is practically possible anyway.

The most important principle is that it should be fixed upon providing practical, useful information and insight, applicable to creating games. Better games. Videogames, tabletop games, LARP games, card games and more.

The Process

So here’s how I envision things working.

  1. Day 1: The editor puts out a call for submissions on a selected topic.
  2. Submissions are accepted relating to that topic (or rebutting on previous articles), either from developers/designers speaking from experience (confirmed commercial release) or academics with appropriate qualifications (this being more to do with the process and discipline than specifics).
  3. Submissions are subjected to basic scrutiny (Is it well written? Do citations lead anywhere? Does it pass the smell test? Does the author qualify?)
  4. Day 30: The selected articles are consolidated in a relatively easily transferable format (RTF?) by the editor and put out publicly wherever it can be – the personal outlets of contributors to start with.
  5. The material is then open for review, correction and challenge – openly, by anyone and this feedback is discussed and any necessary corrections have the opportunity to be made over the following month.
  6. Day 60: With corrections and changes made the journal proper is ‘published’, in much the same way as at day 30, but in a finalised and corrected form to be archived and kept.

Feedback has been incredibly useful so far, so let me know what you think. I realise much of this is unconventional, but I think that’s part of the point. The way things are being done isn’t working.

Also, what about Popular Ludology or Practical Ludology as a title?