My dissertation focuses on knowledge-making practices in game studies. I came to this project after my friend Emma Vossen asked me if I’d seen any data on gender in game studies authors. I collated some data after Dr. Vossen contacted me, but returned to the project after reading an issue of Games and Culture offering a retrospective of the field. Too many questions remained, questions that eventually became my dissertation: We Are Building Histories: Game Studies and Intersectional Perspectives on Inter/Disciplinarity.

My dissertation is a mixed methods approach to challenging assumptions, and I cannot think of a better one-line summary than that to describe my entire research agenda.

Dissertation Abstract

Throughout its short disciplinary history, game studies has been a frequent site of debate; inter- and multidisciplinary games researchers have argued everything from methods and frameworks to the very definition of “game” itself. Ask ten game studies scholars to describe the field, and you might get ten different answers, but the recent turn to scientometric and bibliometric research methods for interrogating game studies has helped make clear the results of those long debates by demonstrating what has been most frequently privileged by editors of game studies journals and conference organizers. These metrics studies reveal the research methods, frameworks, and themes that have built game studies. 

But games research stretches across many fields, from media studies to gender studies to computer science and psychology, and traditional metric researched focused on game studies publications and conferences can only reflect, never explore beyond predetermined boundaries—and in game studies, those predetermined boundaries have often meant meant research grounded in feminist, queer, and critical race theory have been pushed to other disciplinary spaces. This exclusion reveals the shortfall of traditional metric research: it can only reveal what has been included in a given field, not what has been historically excluded. An inter- and multidisciplinary field, particularly a fraught, changeable field like game studies, requires instead a multidimensional, mixed methods approach to studying boundaries and lines of connection. In this project, I propose a method of metric tracing to find games research wherever it may be located, to establish a more inclusive view of the knowledges and practices scholars have built around games. 

Metric tracing does not end with traditional metric research, but rather uses that data as a starting point in following interdisciplinary scholarship. For instance, a scientometric study may reveal a set of keywords common in game studies—but what happens when we take those same keywords and apply them to wider searches? Do we discover the same themes and approaches? Tracing games research in this way means breaking through the hard boundaries of game studies, and allows instead for organic discovery of games research. Instead of discovering what researchers are publishing in games studies journals, this method allows a vision of what all scholars are publishing on games, and offers a way to make visible previously undiscovered commonplaces in games research.

For this project, I build on previous metric studies of game studies journals and conferences by adding data obtained through metric tracing. This data includes gender identity information, keyword clusters on themes beyond traditional game studies, such as information on race or queerness in games, and data on scholars who publish inside and outside of game studies journals. This form of expanded, intersectional metric analysis will allow for a more inclusive view of games studies than current studies provide.

With this work I hope to shed light on publication and knowledge-making practices in games research, particularly within game studies itself, in order to make visible and tangible the boundary lines developed over the field’s short history while also developing a flexible research methodology that can be similarly applied to other inter- and multidisciplinary fields.