Journal of Games, Self, & Society: Issue 1

By iThrive Games
July 30, 2019

Research, Conversation, and Community 

Kelli N. Dunlap & Susan E. Rivers, Editors-in-Chief 

This blog is an adaptation of the Introduction to Issue 1 of the Journal of Games, Self, & Society.

Our peer-reviewed journal, the Journal of Games, Self, & Society, is officially available! This journal highlights work that is focused on the way games, game design, and gameplay contribute to a deeper understanding of personal growth, learning, relationships, health, and humanity. Each piece was reviewed by two or experts from the fields of game design, game studies, education, or psychology. With the Journal of Games, Self, & Society, we intend to encourage multidisciplinary research, conversation, and community that centers around games-related scholarship.

The first issue is a wonderful collection of papers that span fields of study from political science to health and safety to STEM. Each piece shares learning and insights in the realms of education, game development, physical health, relationship safety, and mental well-being. And you can download your copy at no cost here

Here's an overview of what you'll find in Issue 1.

Edward Castranova, Ph.D., a professor of media at Indiana University, is the author of the first paper, American Abyss: Simulating a Modern American Civil War. This deep-dive into the design and dynamics of the game American Abyss provides details of the process of creating this game and insights for deploying it in educational settings. Castranova discusses the game as a tool in the classroom and beyond to help make accessible some of the complex systems and forces underpinning modern geopolitical conflict in the United States. In his article, Castranova writes,

"The goal of the simulation, and the paper, is to allow players to experience what such a war would be like and provide enough insight, one might hope, that players and readers alike might dedicate themselves to preventing this unhappy thing altogether." (p. 3)

Next up is When the Mind Moves Freely, the Body Follows - Exergame Design, Evaluation, and the Curious Case of Pokémon GO co-authored by Matthew Lee, R.N., M.S., co-founder, and creative director at AFK studios as well as a Hillman Scholar for Nursing Innovation, and Kathleen Yin, BPharm, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Health Innovation at Macquarie University, Australia. This article is an overview of the health benefits of exergames as well as design principles for maximizing self-motivation. In it, they analyze Pokémon GO as a case study and examine the potential health impact of games that get us moving.

When asked what her hope and vision are for the future of the gaming industry, Yin said,

"Games [are] very unique as a medium that allows direct participant involvement, provides feedback, and allows for the player to reflect upon their actions as well as the game itself. It is an ideal tool for learning and I hope games can be increasingly seen as a valid method to further personal growth and scientific development, other than simple entertainment."

In JGSS' third article, Using Games to Support STEM Curiosity, Identity, and Self-Efficacy, Lindsay Portnoy, Ph.D., and Karen Schrier, Ph.D., analyze game design practices for creating games that encourage and support students' STEM learning. Portnoy and Schrier explore how supporting and developing social and emotional skills is critical to future performance in STEM fields. They write, "The game's design should help the player feel a sense of purpose—such that they need to solve a STEM-related problem, but also that their actions and contributions personally matter" (p. 85). Portnoy is co-founder of the games studio Killer Snails, an author, and a lecturer at Northeastern University; Schrier is an associate professor of games and interactive media, director of the Play Innovation Lab and the Games and Emerging Media program at Marist College, and a Belfer Fellow with the Anti- Defamation League's Center for Technology and Society. 

Finally, you will find an article by Ruud Jacobs, Ph.D., assistant professor in communication and technology at the Department of Communication Science at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, and Jeroen Jansz, Ph.D., and Julia Kneer, Ph.D., both faculty members in the Department of Media and Communication at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands. In Playing Against Abuse: Effects of Procedural and Narrative Persuasive Games, Jacobs, Jansz, and Kneer compare the effectiveness of narrative versus procedural mechanics at shaping player attitudes toward teen domestic violence and suggest methods of examining similar effects in other games and contexts.

After the publication of JGSS, Jacobs reflected on his vision for the field, 

"Primarily, we would like to see the field mature to the point of mass acceptance. A day will come where pointing out that someone who did a horrible thing was playing video games will be equally abnormal as it would be to blame spicy foods for their behaviors. Only from that time on can we truly study the interplay of games with people (mostly) free from effects of novelty, resistance, and tribalism. JGSS can be a great factor in normalizing that games are just a medium, albeit with certain unique properties that warrant revisiting media psychological theories of their uses and influences."

The Journal of Games, Self, & Society is intended to be an outlet for the exploration of how games and gameplay reflect and foster the intersection of self and society. We do not know where this road will take us, but we know that our companions on this journey necessarily include scholars, designers, educators, scientists, and players learning, playing, thinking, and innovating together, across disciplines and spaces. This work requires that we engage in the very concepts we hope to explore in this space, concepts like collaboration, empathy, civil discourse, compassion, forgiveness, courage, and creativity. We brought this journal into being to encourage and inspire multidisciplinary research, conversation, and community, and to foster greater connection amongst us in the development and use of compelling games that put humanity at their core. 

The scope of the journal is still evolving. We invite people in a wide range of disciplines and research areas to submit for future issues and to suggest topics for special issues where the general scope of the journal may be focused on specific, or timely, concerns in the various communities we commit to support. If you would like to submit an abstract for our second issue, you can find all the information you need to do so here.  

We look forward to the journey ahead as we continue along the quest of advancing the way games advance us.