Video Gaming in Everyday Lives: A Research Game Plan

Journey: an incredible game and an apt metaphor.

The Raving Gecko is a gaming blog: a space where I can talk about games, review a few of them along the way, share my thoughts on awesome changes in the industry… you get the idea. The other, rather new, side of this blog is my enigmatic research – where I bring to you lovely readers the latest news from my adventures in academia.

While that is great to put into words, it’s not going to be very interesting for you to read about unless you actually know what it is that I’m researching. This post is a little introduction to my PhD project. You’re lucky, you know, I don’t share this with everyone… mainly because people are too scared to ask for fear of me going on for hours, I think. So, without further ado, here is my top-secret* research plan:

While game studies are becoming more defined in the world of academia, I feel that there is an opportunity for research in considering them as an everyday practice within media studies. I feel that it is crucial that we study this rapidly evolving phenomenon as a means of better understanding the technology and, primarily, the players’ experience of it. They are becoming a central part of consumers’ cultural lives, impacting on various aspects of everyday life such as consumption, communities and identity formation; it seems worthwhile to research this growing integration into our everyday lives as video game technologies become more advanced, and more importantly, accessible.

My aim is to develop a distinct piece of research that will hopefully make an intervention in both game studies and, more extensively, in the fields of media and cultural studies. Utilising a variety of key disciplines – such as anthropology, sociology and cognitive science – I believe that my multi-disciplinary approach will generate a unique perspective. I endeavour to analyse the anthropological meaning behind why we play video games and what this signifies in an everyday context; consider cognitive science as a means of explaining the mind’s psychological response to gaming and virtual space; and, finally, consider geography as  a means of defining game-worlds and a player’s traversal of them.

As well as investigating immersion and the development of new technologies that exhibit it, I feel that my phenomenological exploration of virtual reality will offer a new perspective on a tentatively explored topic. As virtual reality gaming becomes more prominent, I feel that it is necessary to investigate it further as more games and ‘experiences’ become available. Overall, I believe that my research will help further understanding of the video game experience and new technologies within the scope of the everyday lives that they are embedded in.

My primary research aims are:

  • To develop a detailed understanding of players’ engagements with gaming technologies and game settings.
  • To focus on lived experiences of gaming in everyday social situations.
  • To investigate the constitution of offline and online gaming spaces, with an emphasis on these particular spaces as being created in and through practice.
  • To seek to develop a methodology that might enable some understanding and appreciation of the practical knowing of gamers.

Through investigating a selection of recent** games, mainly: Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto: V (2013) and Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018), Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed series, mainly their 8th instalment Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (2018) and Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man (2018).

Another metaphor of epic proportions.

I seek to understand the phenomenon and anthropological reasoning behind an immersion into a virtual reality and the effects that this has on the player in their occupation of an everyday space. All of the above games offer dynamic and complex open worlds that the player can virtually inhabit. Their popularity offers a unique opportunity to explore how game technologies are employed to encourage active immersion, engagement and experience within the scope of everyday habits and culture.

Gaming has evolved from a infrequent past-time that we gamers dabble in, to an integral part of some people’s everyday lives. Many gamers will have a set time of day or night in which they will sit down and game and a particular area of their homes that is dedicated to gaming – it has literally became a habit. For some people, gaming has surpassed film and television as their primary source of entertainment. As new technologies such as virtual reality (AR/MR/XR, too), become more widely accessible, what does this mean for the future? Will gaming become what Ernest Cline pictured in Ready Player One? Will we spend more time in a virtual OASIS than we will in the real world? Probably not for another few hundred years if we keep ruining the planet as we are, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Now you’ll either read this and think: ‘Wow, that’s cool,’ or, ‘Why on Earth would you want to do that?’ I love a good research debate so please do let me know what you think and leave a comment below.

*It’s not really top-secret, I had to stand in front of a board and announce it. Forgive me, I like a bit of drama.

**By the time I get around to writing this, I hope to include recent games such as Cyberpunk 2077 (*happy dance*)

Thank you so much for reading this!

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