This project is part of a broader initiative at the The Museum for Engineering and Technology in Stockholm which is launching a new collection and documentation project to work with digital gaming. The aim is to highlight a broad approach to digital games based from both producer and user perspectives. By studying actual gaming practices we can understand games themselves as cultural objects and the current use of games, and ultimately how these must be studied together to create a picture of how contemporary games influence culture and society. Games are no longer a marginal phenomenon; rather the opposite is true with gaming a mainstream activity. Gaming is a central aspect of entertainment culture, integrated in most peoples’ everyday lives. Digital games attract people of all ages, regardless of gender and social background. Furthermore, smartphones and tablets have opened up new arenas for both game creators and users. While use increases exponentially, there are now many concerns raised about the role of games; that they interfere with children’s school work, social life and skills, that they are addictive and affect young peoples’ values through skewed representations of gender, power and violence, and that they use unpaid immaterial labour and payment models that individuals sometimes have difficulties controlling and benefiting from.
The concerns stated above pose a core issue for how to exhibit games in museums—what to actually exhibit? Are the games themselves the only focus, do they need to be playable, how do we work with violent games in a context where children are present, how do we deal with aspects such as immaterial labour or negative gender representations? These are questions the project is striving to answer. In order to identify and develop knowledge about the most relevant issues four respective sub-studies are being pursued:
Players: Who are the ones playing digital games today and how do they do it? The study foremost focuses on gaming as a social activity in different contexts.
Gaming culture: The social context of gaming today with focus on Youtube culture and the Let’s Play scene.
Games: Interaction with games and the stories games present and what the player brings to the mix; focus is on processes of co-creation.
Games in Museums: Working with games in a museum, foremost, how to exhibit games as interactive cultural objects. How can the lessons from the first three aspects of gaming be drawn on in working with games in museums?
This research project is funded by the Swedish Arts Council and hosted at The Museum for Engineering and Technology in Stockholm. Games Research is an interdisciplinary field and research is conducted in a wide variety of subjects and disciplines, for this project at the Museum three researchers from different disciplines research video and computer gaming—digital gaming—with the overall aim to study the social use of games and explore the possibilities of working with digital games in museums. The researchers are Lina Eklund, a sociologist, Björn Sjöblom a youth scholar, and Patrick Prax a media scholar.
More info can be found (Swedish only) on the Museum’s web-page: www.tekniskamuseet.se