Seeking Truth in Video Game Ratings

I have a new open-access, peer-reviewed article up at the International Journal of Communication, titled “Seeking Truth in Video Game Ratings: Content Considerations for Media Regulation.” This study presents a detailed look at the processes and reform proposals for video game content rating and regulation in the U.S. It’s a follow-up to a paper I presented at the National Communication Association 2007 conference, which I described here some months ago.

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Reflecting on ICA 2008

I just got back from Montreal, where I was attending the International Communication Association 2008 conference. Due to cost and scheduling issues, I wasn’t able stay for as long as I might have liked, but even in the couple days I was there, I got to see some thought-provoking presentations and meet some interesting people. Here are a few things I wanted to make note of before I forget. Find out more information about these panels in the ICA conference program (PDF link).

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Reflecting on PCA/ACA 2008

Last week blogging was a little light as I attended the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association 2008 conference (PDF schedule here). The word “geek” came up way more than I expected, considering that I was presenting on my games research and wasn’t even bringing up geeks there myself.

I thought I’d share some thoughts on a few of the panels and presentations I saw, including the panel I chaired in the Digital Games division. It’s not representative of everything I saw, and sadly, I had to miss several things I wanted to catch, but that’s the way things are at a big conference with lots of interesting stuff going on.

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Notes on David Anderegg’s Nerds

I just read David Anderegg’s new book, Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them. It’s a very quick read—I got through it in two sittings, taking notes—but rather interesting and engaging. I noted in an earlier comment here that it seemed to lack academic references, but in fact these are at the end, with no superscript numbers in the text to indicate which claims have corresponding endnotes. As a result, it reads much more like a journalistic account than an academic book (though the author certainly employs his own observational data and theoretical background). Basically, this book is meant to convince parents to help eradicate the nerd/geek stereotype among middle schoolers, and to give some helpful tips to parents of beleaguered nerds and geeks in the meantime.

Dr. Anderegg analyzes a variety of statistics and cultural objects in attempting to come up with a comprehensive account of what behaviors get kids labeled as geeks and nerds (sometimes reaching conclusions very similar to those of my own dissertation!). This includes discussion of things like nerds’ interest in “magic” and fantasy fiction, but focuses most of all on why kids might feel like they can’t (or shouldn’t) be good at science and math. His strongest arguments, I think, are those that draw upon his direct experience and knowledge as a child psychologist. His discussion of the connection (or lack thereof) between geek stereotypes and Asperger syndrome is the most compelling I’ve read, and all the quotes from conversations with kids and parents really help give a sense of how non-nerds go out of their way not to be seen as nerds.

With the exception of a brief note in the conclusion about a 17-year-old who considers herself a member of a “Geek Club,” the book mostly considers “nerd identity” as synonymous with “the nerd stereotype”—something negative that we need to do away with. This means, perhaps unsurprisingly, that there isn’t really much consideration of geek/nerd identity and culture as something celebrated among adults; it’s something kids mostly grow out of, the author suggests, before they go on to make tons of money. In some ways, though, this was just a necessary limitation in scope, and I’m hoping to help fill in the gaps in this area myself.

If you happen to read this book yourself, I’d be very curious of your take on it. Please feel free to leave comments on this post or shoot me an email at jason at geekstudies dot org.

A Gaming Survey

I got a message yesterday from Nick Bowman, a doctoral student at Michigan State University I met this past year at the International Communication Association conference. He says:

Myself and a colleague, Daniel Schultheiss, are working on gathering gamer data on on-line video game players. At this point, Daniel has a wealth of information on German game players, but he is/we are hoping to expand this subject pool to include gamers from other parts of the world. If you could help perhaps spread the word about our survey, it would be a great help to both of us.

If you could consider forwarding the survey link to your students and colleagues – or anyone else interested in on-line gaming – this would be very helpful to us. The survey link is, and currently there are German and English language versions. The survey should take less than 10 minutes. Subjects who choose to complete the survey are entered into a raffle to win free audio-book downloads (he has something in the neighborhood of 55,000 free downloads he can give away), and all identities will be kept private.

If you have any further questions, please contact me at bowmann5 at msu dot edu.

I bolded the parts I thought might be particularly relevant. Please feel free to take the survey yourself or to pass it along to others. Thanks!

Glancing at the Numbers

I use Google Analytics to keep track of my site traffic. It’s fascinating to me to see who and what brings people here. For the sake of reference, I had about 2,100 pageviews from about 850 unique visitors in the last 30 days, the period analyzed in this data. My biggest month so far was a little over 1,000 visitors. From talking to other bloggers I know, I get the sense that this is pitifully small for a blog that makes money (never the plan for this one), decently large for a blog that you only expected to be read by friends, and maybe still even a bit on the small side for a blog maintained by someone who’s reasonably popular and interesting (e.g., one of the top Emily‘s on Google).

Google Analytics keeps a list of what your top-viewed pages are. These results generally don’t surprise me because they tend to correspond with incoming links from notable bloggers I already knew about. Today, though, I noticed something on the list that seemed unlikely to have garnered about 5% of my total pageviews from such a source: posts tagged as “Apparel.”

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Reflecting on NCA 2007

I spent the better part of last week in Chicago for the National Communication Association 2007 conference. This was my first NCA, and I wasn’t sure how to approach it: It’s big, and, unlike ICA, there isn’t a dedicated group for people interested in game studies. Actually, there were a few gaming-related panels, but they were largely scheduled in conflict with other gaming-related panels, which was a little frustrating. I tried to make it to what I could, though, and I did see some interesting talks that I thought I might reflect on here briefly.

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Assessing Quality in Media Research

A few months ago, I started taking notes for a post titled “Quality Should Not Be a Dirty Word.” This was initially prompted by reading that Ed Norton (an actor whom I like) would be starring in the next Hulk movie (a franchise I think could be fun), but that the movie would be directed by the fellow who did The Transporter 2 (a fairly abysmal movie). The disappointment I experienced made me want to write a blog post, and it seemed geeky enough to fit in here, but then I realized that it seemed somewhat out of bounds for an academic blog: Media researchers aren’t supposed to make evaluative judgments like this. That kind of reaction is for fans—though, when you think about it, it’s not like media researchers’ tastes don’t influence what they write about. Thoughts of the Hulk behind me, I suddenly started taking notes on the relative lack of research and reflection on the how aesthetic standards are formed and applied, including by academics (at least since Bourdieu closed the book on it for many since he described taste in terms of class values).

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