Tobias Unterhuber

Dr. Tobias Unterhuber studied modern German literature, comparative literature and study of religion at LMU Munich and at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2018, he earned his PhD with his thesis on the works of Swiss author Christian Kracht. He is a post-doc for literature and media studies at the Leopold-Franzens University Innsbruck. In addition to pop literature, literary theory, discourse analysis, literature & economics and gender studies, his research interests include video game research in the field of cultural studies. He is an editor of the game studies journal PAIDIA.

A magic dwells in each beginning? – Game Studies, its rhetoric rituals and mythos of being a young field

FROG 2021 – Talk

Looking at Game Studies publications at large researchers frame themselves and their studies often very similarly: – Game Studies is a young field and a young discipline. – The research topic is young as well and underappreciated. – This research is the first of its kind. – We happy few are the only ones interested in researching games. And so on. This rhetorical positioning might have been appropriate 20 years ago, when Espen Aarseth declared the Year One of Game Studies (even though there was already a lot of research before). However, in the year 2021 it seems rather strange to still uphold these sentiments. Especially if you look at the amount of Game Studies publications which can make the entrance into the field a rather daring endeavor. These declarations might originate in the structure of Game Studies itself. Game Studies is caught in a paradoxical situation. It is a prolific field, but still lacks the appropriate institutionalization and embedding in academic structures. Therefore, the interest in the study of the history of Game Studies itself is rather underdeveloped, as researchers seem to have to prove their worth repeatedly. Because of this lack of interest, the field lacks a central technique of self-reflexivity and self-evaluation. However, beside these structural problems, there might be a third reason. Keeping the mythos of a young field and of being the first in a field alive immunizes research against certain critiques and creates exclusivity and thus Game Studies’ own magic circle.


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