Time Right for Gaming Journal?

Has video gaming arrived? A field that started with a little yellow ball chomping around a maze now has its own journal of critical study.

“Games and Culture: A Journal of Interactive Media” kicked off 2006 with its first quarterly issue and a defining question: “Why Game Studies Now?”

The inaugural issue provides the answer – or answers – with 22 commentaries by scholars in fields ranging from art history to economics.

Douglas Thomas, associate professor in the USC Annenberg School for Communication, started the journal to provide an outlet for the growing body of critical articles on gaming. Until now, he said, such articles fit awkwardly in journals mainly devoted to engineering, media studies or social psychology.

“What this journal really tries to do is look at the relationship between games, game playing and game culture, and broader sociological questions. It’s the first journal to actually look at cultures of new media in the context of games,” Thomas said.

The spring issue will feature the journal’s first critical essays, leading off with a paper by noted video game researcher Edward Castronova on economics and social modeling in virtual worlds.

With an average of four essays per issue, Thomas expects to have material for a long time to come.

“We’re getting a tremendous number of submissions, probably 45 or 50 so far. There’s a real kind of niche for this work,” he said.

Editing a new journal in a new field carries a particular responsibility. Thomas hopes to begin building a vocabulary and theoretical literature that will provide a foundation for gaming studies. Eventually, he hopes the journal will help to guide and define a fledgling discipline.

As a result, Thomas said, every decision to forward an article for peer review is a comment both on the paper’s merit and on the boundaries of the field.

Submissions are peer-reviewed by the journal’s 35-member editorial board, which includes Henry Jenkins, director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Douglas Kellner, holder of a chair in philosophy of education at UCLA; and Toby Miller, media scholar and professor of English, sociology and women’s studies at UC Riverside.

Thomas expects academic essays to predominate in the journal’s pages, but said he is open to publishing empirical studies.

“Games and Culture” is published by Sage Publications. For a summary and subscription information, go to http://www.sagepub.com/journal.aspx?pid=11113.

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