What is First Person Scholar?
Since 2013, First Person Scholar has delivered timely and accessible game studies scholarship each week as the most visible public-facing outlet of the University of Waterloo’s Games Institute. With a wide international readership bringing together the foremost academics in the discipline, games industry professionals, journalists, and the wider public, FPS has provided and continues to provide a respected and highly visible platform for young scholars and especially marginalized writers to make an impact on game studies discourse.
The articles published by First Person Scholar encourage players—be them developers, scholars, critics, or enthusiasts—to consider alternatives to popular interpretations of games, game play, and games culture. Through this discourse FPS seeks to establish and sustain a critical conversation amongst those producing and playing games, demonstrating in the process that the player is a figure capable of enriching and challenging our understanding of games and what they are capable of.
"FPS advocates for a new dynamic, one in which we demonstrate our relevancy through timely, rigorous, and accessible criticism that challenges all players to engage in what Mary Flanagan calls critical play." - FPS
FPS commands a stable readership of roughly 5000 unique monthly visitors and growing, with large international followings in India, Brazil, China, countries in the Middle East, and more. We have at least 1,000 active readers in 27 different countries, and readerships in the hundreds growing in more than 50 other countries. Our commitment to publishing rigorous, accessible, and inclusive research was also recently recognized by the Ivy Plus Libraries Confederation; FPS is part of the Digital Gaming Communities Web Archive, which sees our work included in the library collections at Brown, the University of Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, MIT, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale.
FPS has proven to be an organization that provides mentorship to Arts students on multiple levels. First, students have access to an international community of scholars through FPS; the site is known the world over for its inclusive, quality, and accessible content that pushes and expands the boundaries of the field. Second, students who have the opportunity to serve as an editor gain professional-level experience in the digital publishing industry. But perhaps most importantly, many Arts students have written pieces for the publication, which presents research from the University of Waterloo’s Arts students to scholars across the discipline. The chance for students to not only publish their work, but gain experience and comfort with academic editorial practices and expectations, is invaluable to students striving to mobilize the knowledge and skills they learn as Arts students.
FPS and the field of Game Studies
The publication was formed in response to two large-scale problems in the study of games. Firstly, gaming has an inclusivity problem. Numerous writers (Alexander 2014, McGonigal 2011, Flanagan 2009) note the increasing ubiquity of both video games and players, yet games and their wider culture face serious problems of inclusion and representation. Mainstream journalists and publishers remain largely silent in the face of bigotry, unwilling to alienate a perceived white-male player base (Alexander 2014; Cross 2014). This status quo is unsustainable and harmful, as evidenced by 2014's emergence of antifeminist, antiacademic hate group GamerGate, which explicitly targets women and their allies in game development, journalism, and academia for harassment.
However, academic game studies is also part of this problem. The misinformation GamerGate capitalizes upon is exacerbated by a lack of open access to game scholarship produced within academia (Chess & Shaw 2014, Mortensen 2016). Barriers in public access to this knowledge are compounded by barriers that limit academic authorship and institutional forces that act to silence and exclude diverse voices (Gray 2017, Murray 2017, Ahmed 2017). Financial precarity, both within academia (Luka 2015, Neff 2017) and within games development (Vossen 2016, Alexander 2013, k 2017) further limit who can participate in publicly accessible critical discourse on games.
FPS also responds proactively to an ongoing lack of diverse representation in games culture generally and games academia in particular. Over the years, we have been involved in the organization and publication of several series of special issues bringing together the work of specific underrepresented communities, including collaborations with the Different Games Collective and disability scholars. Our most recent series of 3 special issues, funded in part through a successful SSHRC Connections Grant, consists of an issue on queer game design published in Spring 2019, an issue on Indigineous survivance to be published in July 2020, and an issue bringing together queer and transgender authors of colour to be published in the upcoming academic year.
List of References
Ahmed, Sara. Living a Feminist Life. Duke University Press, 2017.
Alexander, Leigh. “'Gamers' don't have to be your audience. 'Gamers' are over.” Gamasutra, 28 Aug. 2014 www.gamasutra.com/view/news/224400/Gamers_dont_have_to_be_your_audience_Gamers_are_over.php.
Chess, Shira, and Adrienne Shaw. “A Conspiracy of Fishes, or, How We Learned to Stop Worrying About #GamerGate and Embrace Hegemonic Masculinity.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 59:1, 2015. 208-220.
Cross, Katherine. “‘We Will Force Gaming to Be Free.’ On GamerGate & the License to Inflict Suffering.” First Person Scholar, 8 Oct. 2014, http://www.firstpersonscholar.com/we-will-force-gaming-to-be-free/.
Gray, Kishonna L. “#CiteHerWork: Marginalizing Women in Academic and Journalistic Writing.” Kishonna L Gray, 15 Dec. 2017, lachezbippy.kinja.com/citeherwork-marginalizing-women-in-academic-and-journ-1748501738.
Harvey, Alison and Tamara Shepherd. "When passion isn't enough: gender, affect, and credibility in digital games design." International Journal of Cultural Studies 20:5, 2016. 492-508.
k, merritt. “merritt k on changing your path.” The Creative Independent, 28 Mar. 2017. https://thecreativeindependent.com/people/merritt-k-on-changing-your-path/.
Luka, Mary Elizabeth, et al. "Scholarship as Cultural Production in the Neoliberal University: Working Within and Against 'Deliverables'." Studies in Social Justice 9:2, 2015. 176-196.
McGonigal, Jane. Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. Penguin, 2011.
Mortensen, Torill Elvira. "Anger, Fear, and Games: The Long Event of #GamerGate." Games and Culture 1:20, 2016.
Murray, Janet. Hamlet on the Holodeck: the Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. MIT Press, 1998.
Neff, Ali Colleen. "On Academic Precarity." Ali Colleen Neff, PhD, 8 Nov. 2017, http://www.alicolleenneff.com/blog/2017/11/8/on-academic-precarity.
Vossen, Emma. “Publish or Perish? Or Publish with Purpose?” First Person Scholar, 6 Apr. 2016, http://www.firstpersonscholar.com/publish-or-perish/.
FPS publishes new content weekly in these categories:
Emma Vossen is a former Editor in Chief for FPS