My academic workload has gotten more intense since the start of the year, as I move toward confirmation, and also taught in a class this semester. But one of the things my advisors made me do is to write out my whole thesis, as I envisage it at this point, in one sentence for each chapter. This was a really useful exercise for me, and helped me start figuring out the progression I have to go through across the whole thesis. I’m posting it here because it illustrates something of my current thinking about my research:
Despite the differences between the space of video games and that of the real-world, some players describe a sense of the spaces of games that bears many similarities to the sense of place associated with real-world spaces, and this thesis suggests that examining how this place-like sense of game spaces functions could cast new light on theories of place in relation to the real-world, and that examinations of game spaces can draw on an understanding of real-world sense of place.
Particular viewpoints prescribed or encouraged in many games frequently constitute a literalisation and/or explicitisation of theory around totalising perspectives and reveal the way that the sense of mastery of the space these perspectives can produce is illusory in the sense that these perspectives elide specific details of the space, often literally presenting a different game space from that which the perspective purports to present, but also how these perspectives serve as useful abstractions that reveal with greater clarity the context of space that is a necessary foundation for a sense of place.
This context provides a foundation of meaning for the paths the player travels through the space in the service of user- or game-directed goals, and it is these trajectories that bring the player into more direct contact with the specific, concrete characteristics of the space that contribute heavily to the development of a place-like sense of game spaces, but which totalising perspectives only hint at or suggest.
The player’s engagement with these concrete characteristics is always mediated, however, by their own entanglement in a massive and complex web of existing engagements with other spaces via other media or their own personal experiences, one that often provides the player with a vital hook or framework for making sense of the space in terms of place.
These mechanisms of perspective, trajectory and mediation can produce this place-like sense of video game spaces even in environments where one would not typically expect a sense of place to arise, because they provide a framework for players to engage with these spaces on a place-like basis.
I’d recommend every PhD candidate do this exercise, regardless of what stage you’re at, and I’m sure I’ll do it again as I go through the process of researching and writing my thesis.
The rules are:
- One sentence per chapter
- It has to at least be readable, and sort of flow from one sentence to the next
Obviously you’re going to end up with 40-80 word sentences like mine, and it’s going to be rough, and not read very well at all. But still, it’s worth doing.