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Teaching Video Game Theory, Part One: What Academic Study Can Do for Video Games

By Chuck Caruso, Ph.D.

 

This past spring I presented an academic paper on spatial representation in the video game Portal at the annual Textual Studies conference, along with fellow panelists’ discussions of early modern maps and the social and natural spaces in Sebold and Thoreau. The juxtaposition of our various analyses provoked a lively audience discussion. But as we jostled out of the room afterwards, I couldn’t help overhearing one of the curmudgeonly older professors grumbling, “I can’t believe there was an academic paper about a video game!”

But why not? Was I squandering my mental energies and straining my peers’ patience with a topic beneath scholarly attention? The more I considered the issue, the more important it seemed that I continue studying video games. In fact, I “doubled down,” as they say. I’ve already presented another conference paper on the video game L.A. Noire‘s adaptation of the detective genre, and this fall I’m attending a semiotics conference to discuss the paradoxical fantasies of military first-person shooter games. Not only that, but this summer I’m proud to say that I’m teaching Marylhurst’s first ever Video Game Theory class.

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