September 4, 2004

Wikipedia’s Entry on Game Studies

by Nick Montfort · , 10:17 pm

I’ve been fascinated by the 18th-century French Enlightenment project, teleported into contemporary times and grafted onto the Web, that is Wikipedia. Although my contributions have been limited to a few minor and pedantic edits, I’ve not only looked up entries, but have also read some of the very involved discussions behind the articles. They can be quite interesting. What a crazy and fascinating plan: sum up the world’s knowledge by having anyone who wants edit or add anything at any point in time; keep the revision histories public; let controversy resolve itself through public discussion; keep a neutral point of view. And require that contributions be unencumbered by traditional intellectual property claims, available to all under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Ahem, well. My excuse for mentioning this is that there’s a reasonably recent, short article on game studies, highlighting the dread ludologist vs. narrativist debate and mentioning a few of the usual suspects — but not the prominence of formalism, any of the many programs in or conferences about the topic, First Person or Rules of Play. On the other hand, Britannica seems to lack a similar entry altogether. Of courst, I could go dink the existing game studies entry in Wikipedia a bit — but I mention it here because, so could you. Have at it, if you like.

13 Responses to “Wikipedia’s Entry on Game Studies”

  1. nick Says:

    Also, Dennis recently discussed Wikipedia and its supposedly untrustworthy nature. Turns out, anyone in the world can edit Wikipedia at any point in time, so it’s not an authorative source, according to Susan Stagnitta of the Liverpool High School library and Al Fasoldt, staff writer for the Syracuse, New York Post-Standard. Whew! I’m glad the authorities saved us from an otherwise certain mishap.

  2. Jill Says:

    I saw the games studies entry recently too, and was impressed – sure there could be more, but compared to any “official” encyclopedia this entry is awesome. I also needed stuff on situationism – and while this isn’t one of the MOST familiar art movements, it surprised me to find not a single word in the twelve volume art encyclopedia at the library. The Wikipedia has a really useful summary with lots of links to further reading. I’m impressed.

  3. Rob Says:

    This is very topical – Wikipedia has been all over /. today. :)

    I like the idea of the Wikipedia, but is anyone else troubled by their policy of maintaining a neutral point of view? E.g., “that we should fairly represent all sides of a dispute, and not make an article state, imply, or insinuate that any one side is correct”? By definition, it requires giving equal credence to every opinion, no matter how unreasonable or unfalsifiable, merely because it exists!

  4. nick Says:

    My reaction stops short of being troubled, but the policy certainly sounds like a quirky one. Does a neutral point of view on physics mean that the views of the Time Cube guy should be represented in the article on physics? (Actually, the article on Time Cube touches on this issue, suggesting little connection to physics and giving the crackpot theory a nice, full, and rather neutral-sounding discussion…) The number of “sides” to an issue quickly approaches the number of people on earth, and even an enumeration of facts about some issue must determine which facts to include and which facts to leave out.

    However, I’m starting to think of the NPOV as more of a stub than an article: in reality, most Wikipedia entries I look at, even ones on controversial issues, are quite good as resources for helping me to understand a topic. So, the real workings of Wikipedia are somehow not leading the system to get stuck in the shortcomings of this policy.

  5. mark Says:

    It’s hard to precisely define, and a constant source of contention (who could possibly agree on what “neutral” is?) but I’ve edited a few thousand Wikipedia articles, so it starts to make sense after a while. The basic idea is that ideas should be given at least brief mention if they’re known at all. The TimeCube guy isn’t mentioned in the physics article because he’s obscure and has basically nobody else who agrees with him, but more widely followed “crackpot” theories should be mentioned, albeit with appropriate notes that they are only accepted by a small minority of scientists.

    The idea is that you don’t have to say “this is a crackpot theory” when you can more accurately say “so-and-so believes this, but his small group at [blah university] is the only one that agrees.” What Wikipedia *doesn’t* want to do is fall victim to rigid academia-style orthodoxy, where if it’s not represented at the current Big Conference in the Field, it’s automatically purged of all mention.

  6. greglas Says:

    I was just talking to my class about Wikipedia last week. Imho, it’s in many ways a microcosm of the Web itself, with all its benefits (e.g. it’s a ton of free information) and all its shortcomings (e.g. it’s not vetted by people who are credentialed experts). Like the Open Directory Project, or Linux, or FreeDB (formerly CDDB), or any other source of massively co-authored information (e.g. the Web), the quality tends to bubble to the top, if the authoring structure and policies are organized correctly. However, if you want a firm guarantee that your information sources are vetted by credentialed experts (who can be held accountable, to some extent, for major factual errors), you’re likely to favor Britannica.

    Tangentially, Dan Hunter and I have an article coming out that looks at amateur vs. professional content creation and whether there are implications for the copyright system.

    Tom Coates wrote an off-quoted blog entry that is a lot shorter, non-legal, and less copyright-centric.

  7. mark Says:

    Well, it’s obviously written from a biased point of view, but Wikipedians have been responding to the “Britannica is more authoritative” argument by compiling an ongoing list of mistakes and omissions in Britannica that are remedied in Wikipedia:

    As far as credentialed experts, I sort of like that aspect of Wikipedia. Credentials aren’t any guarantee of accuracy, and there’s a long history of credentialed crackpots (not to mention that insistence on credentialed experts tends to enforce a more rigid orthodoxy of opinion). Interestingly, though, the subject came up just recently on the Wikipedia mailing list, and there are plans to have experts review Wikipedia articles for accuracy and give their stamp of approval, so a future Wikipedia article on Quake might say “reviewed by John Carmack”.

  8. CubicAO Says:

    April 14, 7PM: Time Cube lecture at Georgia Tech! Time Cube is Ineffable Truth. Check out Cubic Awareness Online for additional Cubic explanations. You must seek Time Cube!

  9. nick Says:

    I must have been educated stupid, but could you explain where on campus the lecture is going to be, so that those who can’t procreate alone and who deserve banishment to a barren planet can know where to go? And, will the lecture be given by the Greatest Thinker and Wisest Human to ever live on Earth himself? Finally, give a listen to “Time Cube,” by Honest Bob and the Factory-to-Dealer Incentives.

  10. scott Says:

    I was completely unaware of the relationship between the time cube, white supremacists, and the wikipedia article on Games Studies until just now.

  11. nick Says:

    Well, you worship cubeless world, Scott.

  12. michael Says:

    Here’s a recent article on Digital Universe, an open-content collection of web portals and encyclopedias. The main difference between Digital Universe and Wikipedia is that the information is vetted by experts.

    It’s no surprise that the Digital Universe is scarcely mentioned in the press—or in conversation—without the word “Wikipedia” trailing closely behind. This happens not only because “the contrast with Wikipedia turned out to be a valid one,” as Digital Universe Foundation president Bernard Haisch now points out, but because Larry Sanger, the Digital Universe’s director of distributed content, was a co-founder of Wikipedia, and actually found his way to the Digital Universe after Haisch read Sanger’s now-famous online essay, “Why Wikipedia Must Jettison Its Anti-Elitism.” But the Digital Universe family tree extends back farther than the relatively recent Wikipedia.

  13. mark Says:

    Another main difference is that Wikipedia has a lot more information on nearly every subject. =]

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