Learning by Playing: The Art and Music Library’s New Video Game Collection

Learning by Playing: The Art and Music Library’s New Video Game Collection

November 7, 2016

The video game industry currently pulls in more revenue than the movie industry, which serves as a clear indication that video games have become an important cultural phenomenon. As a result, video games are now attracting growing academic attention and are treated as a serious field of study.

Anticipating the growth of academic interest in video games, the Art and Music Library recently purchased over 180 games in a wide variety of genres to start the River Campus Libraries’ video game collection. In doing so, it has joined a number of other leading institutions that have realized the importance of supporting gaming scholarship.

“The first video games we  had in our collection,” says Stephanie Frontz, Head of Art and Music Library, “were pirate games purchased around 2012 for Professor Michael Jarvis’ Introduction to History class, where student used them to think about history and how it is told.” However, the decision to start a collection occurred in the winter of 2016, and was driven by Kristana Textor, a Warner School Ph.D. student, whose research uses video games extensively.

“Games are very powerful learning tools, and one of my missions as a researcher is to figure out how learning occurs during gameplay and in the social interactions surrounding games,” Textor says. She noticed that by observing players in action, a researcher can learn a great deal about motivation, engagement, flow, and tenacity. According to Textor, “these are valuable lessons that could be later applied in the classroom.”

Iskandar Zulkarnain, Mellon CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow in Data Curation for Visual Studies, also agrees that video games can be a very effective tool for research. His current project focuses on how video games, among other digital media formats, have portrayed Indonesian digital identity. Zulkarnain considers video games cultural artifacts worthy of studying in the same way as print media, film, radio, music, or television. He argues that “by exploring the production, distribution, and consumption of video games, we can examine how historical, geographic, racial, ethnic, or spatial contexts influence the design and development of video games.”

Both Textor and Zulkarnain find the Art and Music Library instrumental to their research and teaching. “I am excited to see how the new collection of video games evolves,” says Textor. “We are just beginning to understand the power of games, and the library is helping us build that knowledge. I think there will be exciting work generated around this collection, and I look forward to seeing what projects come out of it in the future.”

Zulkarnain is planning to use the collection for his “Global Video Games: Cultures, Aesthetics, Politics” course that he will be teaching in the spring. “I think that establishing and developing a video game collection in the Art and Music Library is an important and much-needed initiative, given the worldwide phenomenon of video game culture,” he notes.         

The Art and Music Library will be hosting a video game open-house event on November 10, 3:00-4:30. Please stop by to hear presentations by Textor and Zulkarnain about their use of video games in their research and teaching.



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