Well, Christmas is almost here and I am excited to be taking a break. I’ve got flights booked to see the family and am hoping it all goes to plan, so it’s likely that today marks the final day of study for the year from me. Of course, I couldn’t end the year without giving one last update on where I am. So here it is.
So, last post I talked about the theoretical frames I’m considering using, and I think it’s fair to give a brief update there. The update is… nothing has particularly changed. I’ve finished Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism and would recommend it. It’s dense in places but it is a pretty compelling picture of the state of things that is well worth your time. I’m not sure how much it will end up influencing this thesis, but I’m glad to have touched it and broadened my horizons anyway. As it stands, my theoretical frame is mostly the same. It’s how I incorporate it with the methodology in my writing which is important now, which brings us to the next point…
So, one of the big questions surrounding this project (and any PhD) is “How will you get your data?” It’s a fair question, and it’s one which we don’t necessarily have an absolutely confirmed answer to at the moment. That being said, the plan which we are working with at the moment is hoping to do a lot of the primary research using a collective case study approach—using and comparing multiple individual cases to gain a greater understanding of the fields these shows occupy. I’ve had some people express interest in being involved, which is great (and if you haven’t yet but are keen, drop us a line).
The big challenge here is figuring out how to write or justify methodology choice in the work that I’ll ultimately submit. I believe a case study is the right choice… but most of that came from my gut. The past couple of weeks I’ve been focusing on doing reading and research to figure out of this is the right fit and if I’ll be able to justify it.
The good news is… it seems like the answers are yes and yes.
Much of what I have read about the “case study methodology” emphasises its ability to work as an investigative tool for exploratory study, and where the focus is on descriptive analysis rather than causal analysis. Both of these things are part of what this project aims to do, and amongst other highlight why we hope this approach will be helpful in this field.
Of course, a case study isn’t as simple a methodology as spinning a wheel and seeing what case we end up studying. Steps will need to be taken in order to assume the viability and suitability of the cases we examine. At the moment we are hoping to cover cases with a variety of different approaches in terms of show content, and with a variety of diverse backgrounds when it comes to creators. Then there’s the problem of how to anonymize the cases, if indeed anonymising them is the ideal approach. Plenty more work to be done, though that’s mostly for the new year.
What else have I been working on?
Another task I’ve assigned myself is the creation of a typology of gaming podcasts. While this isn’t intended to be a rigid model, I believe it may be a helpful tool when it comes to discussing the ways that these podcasts can distinguish themselves from each other. At the moment it has three axis: the background of the creators, the format of the show, and the production design elements.
It’s been an interesting challenge crafting the typology. There’s a fine line, it seems, between making a useful tool and an overly complex one. Other issues like the diversity of the creators and the monetization practices are things we considered including (and will be in the project proper) but ultimately threatened to over complicate the typology. The plan is to present a draft of this at DiGRAA2022, so hopefully that goes well.
I think that’s the most important updates related to the thesis, though there’s always more to discuss of course.
Games (that I have seen or played recently)!
One of the biggest game related things of the past month is obviously The Game Awards. While I tend to skip them, I did watch this year while writing some notes, and I have to say it was a depressing affair. A lot of people have more eloquently enunciated their issues with the ceremony—from the way it seems more focused on the future than the games it celebrates to the lack of credit or due time given to many of the awards presented, or the extremely underwhelming response to the ongoing scandals regarding workplace practices and harassment in the industry—so I won’t bore you with my thoughts on those things. There is however one aspect which I found particularly curious and prompted some discussion with some colleagues, and not just because it involved what I thought was one of the night’s biggest upsets.
This was the award for Best Indie Game. I mentioned in a previous blog that I’d been playing Inscryption and I’ve now finished it. Naturally, it may well be my game of the year, and I like others assumed it was a shoe in for the category. So it came as a surprise that Kena: Bridge of Spirits won—though I was even more surprised that it was nominated for the category in the first place.
Now, I don’t say this to knock the game. On the contrary, I’ve only heard decent things about it and assume I’d enjoy it (if I could procure a PS5 before they sell out…). But it doesn’t strike me as a particularly indie game. I was thrown for a loop when in their acceptance speech they cited the help from both Sony and Epic Games. Indeed, it seems that the game, while primarily developed by Ember Labs, did receive help from some support studios. And while the team was small, it consisted of 15 core members in the base team and an unknown number in the support.
I’m not trying to define an arbitrary size or limit for indie game teams, but it highlighted an interesting dilemma which I’ve seen raised recently: has the term indie game lost all meaning? It seems that increasingly the way games are discussed they fall into two categories. There’s AAA games and then anything that isn’t one of them is an indie. Of course, this isn’t really how the industry works, but I worry that the flattening of the term indie may end up strangling coverage of truly indie games in favour of the more mid-tier games which are also lumped into the label. I’m not sure I’d consider Kena, great as it may be, an indie game—especially when it has funding and support from two of the biggest names in the industry in such a direct manner.
Of course, I’m not the only one who thinks this. There’s a great IGN article going more in depth to it which you should read, but I really raise the question as it’s one which I think The Game Awards brought up once more, but I thought got lost in the rest of the discussion. If you have any thoughts on it, feel free to let us know.
Beyond that, I obviously finished Inscryption (it’s great). I’ve also been enjoying Halo Infinite’s Multiplayer (also great) and Campaign (great gameplay, frustratingly plotted) and finished Disco Elysium. It’s be a good month for games, though I’m looking forward to maybe slowing down a bit and doing some more reading for pleasure over the break. Speaking of which, I’ll see you next year.