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We Are Building Histories: Game Studies and Rhetorical Metrics
What is game studies? What separates that inter/disciplinary space from a larger notion of games research—and who decides? In recent years, scientometric research within game studies has increased as scholars have attempted to more concretely define a field which has been volatile since its formal origins in the early 2000s. But a recent controversy between scientometrics and gender studies (Lykke, 2018) has revealed a potential shortfall with relying on metric studies alone. Metrics can reveal which theories, themes, and scholars have been most privileged within a discipline, but only within predetermined boundaries, a limitation in a multi-disciplinary field which begs the question of who gets to determine those boundaries. Games research draws from many fields, from media studies to literature to computer science and psychology, but unless that work makes it into game studies journals, it will never be included within a metric analysis of game studies. In many fields, these boundaries may arise organically to create disciplinary lines. In game studies, however, anecdotal evidence indicates such boundaries have historically excluded work grounded in feminist, queer, and critical race theories. This project therefore employs a mixed methods approach to metrics research that allows for a broader view of not just game studies, but games research. This mixed methods approach, which I call rhetorical metrics, utilizes contextualized metric data to create a rhetorical approach to the scientometric measurement of a field, thereby providing empirical data underscoring anecdotal knowledge of exclusions in game studies.
In this project, I build on previous metric analyses of game studies by thickening data with additional perspectives. This data includes gender identity information, keyword clusters on themes beyond traditional game studies, such as information on race or queerness in games, and data on scholars who publish inside and outside of game studies journals. By revealing where different types of scholarship on games appear, and where certain knowledges are privileged (or not), this form of expanded, intersectional metric analysis allows for a more inclusive view of games studies than current studies provide, and results in a flexible research methodology that can be similarly applied to other inter- and multidisciplinary fields.