I find it interesting that the recently-linked Joystiq article about a game club at Harvard seems so openly suspicious of (if not hostile to) the idea of academics discussing video games. This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed that kind of reaction, either.
When I was doing participant observation research in arcades, a lot of the people I chatted with (mostly the younger guys) seemed impressed that I was getting graduate credit to write papers about video games. People I chat with at video game conventions seem less impressed. When I told one game developer at the Penny Arcade Expo that I research video games in grad school, he replied, “I’m sorry.” I’m not sure I convinced him that it’s actually a pretty good gig. Perhaps “living the dream” is, for adult gamers, to actually be making games full time, whereas the young gamers who feel stuck in school indefinitely are more likely to see my career path as an acceptable compromise.
That said, I’ve been impressed by how many academic game researchers and critics attend the same conferences as game designers, not to mention those who do some design of their own. Part of what I find appealing about academia is the flexibility to work on a variety of projects, without a corporate master breathing down your neck and diluting your best ideas. Also, I find corduroy jackets very comfortable (best if worn with a fun t-shirt underneath).