August 9, 2006

Ill-Fitting Smarty Pants?

by Andrew Stern · , 4:41 pm

Steve Meretzky may see The Escapist as one of the few brights spots in gaming / game criticism these days, but frankly it sometimes misses the mark (1 2). Witness this week’s impressively unnecessary anti-academic tirade. Either the editors are desperate for material, or have a worrisome misunderstanding of how academic study operates. So much for the idea of well-informed journalism.

(Note, my primary gig is not as an academic, so this shouldn’t be interpreted as a defensive statement.)

I will say, way back when, before I educated myself and kept up with, and participated some in, academic research in games, AI, etc., I was wary of the value, or at least the stance, of academic research. After all, I am an industry person making games (well, fringe games); developers like me should know more about this than anyone. And while there’s some truth to that, there’s also some truth that 1) developers are rarely good at communicating or explaining in clear terms what they’re doing or what they’ve done, or 2) if they are, they rarely have time to communicate it, and 3) there are a lot of smart people in the world, and some decide to devote their energies to carefully understanding and analyzing something, rather than conceiving, designing or building it, and finally 4) some manage to find the time to do both practice and theory, including many in this corner of the blogosphere.

And, of course, there will be some academics who are mediocre at what they do, or act pompous. Same goes for game developers, and every other profession in the world that requires thinking. Journalists too, obviously.