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Games Academics Play


Games Academics Play

by Kenneth Lyen

Oxford University did not introduce business studies until 1999, which is very late compared to all other universities. There was fierce opposition, in part because the private funding came from Wafic Said, who was at one stage rumored to be involved in arms deals. But there was also a small group of academics who objected because they did not consider business to be suitable as an academic subject.

When film studies was first introduced as an undergraduate subject to other universities, once again some dons raised their eyebrows because they did not think watching films was academic. Indeed any new university course of study always draws scorn from intellectual snobs.

Thus when the BBC reported on 21 October 2004, that computer games, like Doom3, are the subject of serious research at The Center for Computer Games Research at Copenhagen's Information Technology University, even my eyebrows started elevating incredulously.

"You’re joking," I said to myself, "you’re paying university professors exorbitant salaries just to play computer games?"

Superficially, it does seem to be a bit of scam. Yes indeed the report goes on to say that you can even get a PhD playing video games.

It explains that playing games such as Doom3 or Super Monkey Ball, enables you to gain insight into the psychology of competition, rivalry and aggression. More complex games, like the Sims, where you create a simulated human being for you to manipulate and follow from birth to death, allows you to study virtually the entire gamut of human behavior. Wow!

And it goes without saying that one can better analyze video games if you had a very expensive, giant, flat screen television with state of the art surround sound speakers. Money obviously well spent.

Do I sound condescendingly sarcastic? I better watch myself. After all, business and film studies are now well entrenched in academia. Who knows, given time and a few publications in Nature or Science, or better still, being awarded a Nobel Prize, Video Games will achieve academic respectability and eventually, even orthodoxy.

Hey, I want to do a PhD in video games too!

Post script: Singapore is sponsoring players to represent our country in international video game competitions. Hopefully one day it might even become an Olympic sport!