Designing the Ultimate Tool[Kit] for Studying Videogames

Pac-ManScholarly disciplines usually have a consensually recognizable array of tools they use to study the primary materials of that discipline. Most often in the humanities it’s simply books and other documents, along with something to write with, although of course the digital humanities are bringing exciting new computational tools to bear on more traditional material.

In this session I want to sketch out a package of existing tools—and better yet, come up with an original, ultimate tool—that videogame studies scholars can use as they research individual games, specific platforms, entire genres, and various playing contexts. The field of film studies provides an instructive example of the kind of tool(kit) I’m describing. There’s the Cinemetrics database, Stephen Mamber’s use of thumbnail databases and timelines, the Film Study app, and a host of other ways to analyze, study, and make sense of cinema using digital tools.

In a similar fashion, let’s think of tools for studying videogames that go beyond screenshots and video capture. Imagine we’ve been awarded a grant of $50,000. What would we build? What would the ultimate digital tool for studying videogames look like? What would it do? What new modes of knowing might it enable? What new modes of knowing do we want to enable?

UPDATE: The collaborative notes for this session are online.

Pac-Man photograph courtesy of Flickr user joyrex / Creative Commons Licensed