Peering into the Blackbox [:] the Role of Digital Game Development in Game Studies

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2020-10-01

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Abstract

Digital game development is a critical tool in game studies due to its ability to communicate and its academic value as a mode of understanding the medium. Understanding digital game development and gaining some appreciation of the complexities of development, whether by direct development experience or indirect observation of the process, must be a goal for game studies scholars. Blackboxing, according to Bruno Latour, is when a machine or process runs so efficiently that no one bothers to examine it (Latour, Pandora's Hope: Essays on The Reality of Science Studies, 1986). While this is the goal of any good developer, game studies scholars should seek to look within the black box and understand development. Digital game scholars should understand the fundamentals of digital game development. In my work, I have reviewed the existing literature produced by game studies scholars related to the process of development to explore the ways that scholars have discussed and utilized development. I also examined ways that developers write about and approach digital game development exploring how these related to game scholarship. I studied a strong example of digital game development in scholarship by approaching the text Metagaming, which utilizes development at the end of each chapter. I examined the game Doki Doki Literature Club to further explore how development and development tools are used in the process of play, considering the ways that development itself can become a tool. I then explore The Art of Failure to examine the game developed in collaboration with Jesper Juul to see the benefits of collaborative development. I look at the games Super Meat Boy and Stardew Valley as examples of small team and solo development to better understand how scholars can utilize these development methodologies. I then used the methods of solo development and made a game. I documented the process of developing Game Lab Sim extensively to explore further scholarly development. This work contributes to the growing body of literature approaching digital games as scholarly artifacts. It is the intent of this work to call to game studies scholars to open the black box and engage with the act of digital game development. This work does not intend to engage with other fields or act as a tool of gatekeeping; instead, it is the intention of this work to interact with game studies scholars and development scholars. This work recommends that scholars actively engage with and study the development process.

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Video games, Video games -- Design, Video games industry, Video games in education

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