Wednesday 23 September 2009


A nice commentary to the gamers' space project: An artist has designed a WoW-pod where the gamer has everything needed for the gaming session.

Thank you, Kristine!


Today there's a Norwegian research network meeting, in the group JoinGame, here in Volda. The group is pitching plans for future research, and I am going to use this project as an example of something I want to take further and go deeper into. I have not had a chance to analyse the material collected in this project yet, but it's going to happen in the middle of October. I want to use that as a base for an application for a much larger project, as what I have seen of the responses so far are very interesting and useful.

Friday 19 June 2009

Physical playspace

Today, at State of Play at the New York Law School, I am presenting over the work from my gamer's space project for the first time. I am however not using the quantitative data, which I haven't had a chance to look through yet. I am using pictures from The Gathering, both mine and those belonging to Luca Rossi and a couple of the pictures that my wonderful respondents sent me.

I am contrasting these with pictures of "rånere" - a very loosely organised subculture which is centered around tinkering with, using and playing with cars. There's an interesting article (in Norwegian) on "rånere" in the journal Samtiden, written by an ex-råner now academic. This inspired me to (loosely) compare these groups, showing how there are certain practices of technology use which are fairly independent of technology.

For those who might be particularly interested, comparing these two groups might fit in very interesting ways with Jessica Enevold's argument about mobility in games.

I don't know if my quick 10 minutes presentation will be available online, but State of Play have been publishing video streams in earlier years,and may still do so. If you're really curious, check the website in a few weeks - if it is to appear it should be up by then.

Monday 25 May 2009

Research delay

Due to unfortunate circumstances, my work on this project has been delayed. For you guys that just means that any contributions you'd like to make are still very welcome!

For those of you who were very curious about when you might see some results: The new timeline includes me working on the material in week 27, and using the material for a presentation in Leipzig July 30th. Hopefully I'll be ready to start sending this out to journals in September, but the process from there is out of my hands, and I can't foresee a publishing date.

Friday 17 April 2009

Thank you to the Gathering!

It's a while ago now (feels like an eternity, here back in the land of mundanity), but I interviewed a very nice group of people at the gathering, 8th of April. Sadly I did not find all I was looking for. Some had not arrived, some were absent each time I came looking for them, and some were in rows where the music was so loud it was impossible to ask people about anything at all! Thanks to all who participated though, and thanks to those I never found, for being willing to be part.

I have just written out the interviews - short, as I just wanted to find out a few things - and now the work starts with sorting pictures. This will be an interesting experience, as The Gathering is such a rich arena for creativity. Luca Rossi from the University of Urbino was there as well, and I will use some of his pictures for this part of the process.

The survey will be available out this month, then I'll start processing the data I have received. So far the most data comes from the survey, which has had a decent amount of respondents, and from pictures at the Gathering. The emailed pictures are rare, as I suspected they would be, and I made a limited amount of interviews. However: the pictures and the interviews have some of the most interesting data!

So thank you all again, to the organisers who let me have access, to the people who wanted to participate, to the ones who did take part, to all who have answered by email or on the survey, and to those who will be doing that in the next few weeks.

Friday 3 April 2009

Media attention

A short interview in NRK 2, the Norwegian state broadcasting, Thursday 2nd of April. I talk about my research, what and why I am doing. In Norwegian.

Wednesday 1 April 2009

Research interviews

I have had a lot of very friendly and generous responses already, particularly from the crowd going to The Gathering. However, I think I need to apologize to some of them, as I may not have been sufficiently clear about what a research interview is.

In research interviews, while the individual and his/her responses are very important, the aim of the interview isn't so much to expose or focus on the individual, as to gain deeper understanding of a topic. This means that while each and every response is very important, as they carry and reveal knowledge about the society, they are not journalistic interviews. Respondents will be anonymized, which means this is not a place for publicity. Also, the final article is a complex piece of work, and it is rarely built heavily on just a few interviews. The responses from interview subjects tend to be put into a much larger context, and between the process of protecting the subjects from unwanted attention through anonymizing and the fact that often only a few comments are used, the research interview isn't where individuals become reknown. Also, academic articles are mostly published in places read by a very select few. Potential targets for my article are the journals Games and Culture and Gamestudies.

I hope this information will encourage those who might feel shy about being part of this research, without discouraging those who might have hoped for a portrait in the newspapers. I need a varied set of interviewees, and to me all are equally important.

Friday 27 March 2009

Banned from boards for advertising?

I am meeting a surprising problem with getting this survey through to gamer communities. I just had my account at gamespot banned due to advertising. I created a post asking people to participate in this survey, and added a link. When I looked back into the forum, my account was banned for advertising.

I have to admit that I thought the rules about advertising had to do with people actually making money from a product. This is not-for-profit research, I am doing the job the Norwegian state is paying me for, but I am not selling the results anywhere. If I publish them, the publishers don't pay a dime. Academic writing only pays when you write fat textbooks that everybody need to have on their reading lists, or you edit very well selling anthologies. For the rest, nothing but glory.

For future reference, if others think I am selling a product or selling this research:

This is non-profit research. The participants are self-selected, and anonymous. While I understand that rules need to apply in order to keep boards spam-free, please consider that I am not selling or soliciting, I am not trying to trap the unwary, and I am quite upfront about what the information is to be used for.

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Gamers at The Gathering

Part of this project includes a visit to one of the largest LAN parties in the world, The Gathering. This takes place each year during Easter, in Hamar, Norway.

Wednesday 8th of April I'll be at The Gathering in the afternoon, together with the Italian researcher Luca Rossi. I'll be looking for gamer groups, guilds and individuals, in order to interview them and take pictures of their computers and their presentations of their own spaces.

The reason for this is to see what gamers consider important when they are together with other gamers and computer users in an event where the computer, the network and the digital culture is in focus. This is the space where the machine, the play and the use of computers is more important than any other considerations, where the conflicts are not about whether there should be technology or potted plants, but about whose technology needs more space and power.

I hope to meet many nice and eager gamers there, to be permitted to take pictures and have some answers to my questions. Feel free to contact me if you see me walking around, as I will be looking to talk to people.

Thursday 19 March 2009

Sharing pictures

If possible, could you please take a picture of your favourite place to be while playing games and mail it to research dot game at gmail dot com. Either mail the full picture, or mail a link to where you have uploaded the picture. The pictures will only be used for research purposes, unless you give specific permission for other use. I may use the email address to ask for permission later.

It’s only fair to exchange pictures.
Here you can see my favourite spot, where I sit to play World of Warcraft on my trusty, but aging, dell xps m1210. In the black fake leather ottoman I store spare cords, cardreaders, digital cameras, reading glasses, WoW walkthroughs, different chargers, headsets, pens and paper, and a lot of other things I feel I need to have close while gaming.

And this is me, in the same spot, checking to see if I have had any responses from you all!

There’s tea in the cup on the table, and when I am lucky, a cat on the blanket next to my spot.

Thank you for participating in this project. For updates about this particular project, check this weblog, The Gamers' Space. For general updates on my research and work, check Thinking with my fingers.

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Gamers' Space - the researcher

My name is Torill Elvira Mortensen, and I am a gamer. I mostly play multi-user online role-playing games, and the last four years my main kick has been World of Warcraft. I play around with most things I get my hands on, but the last years I have tended to return to WoW. When I don't play games I teach Public Information at Volda University College, or work on research projects such as this.

I published my first work on digital games in 1997, and since then I have published several articles and written a book about games. Some examples are:

"WoW is the new MUD, Social Gaming from Text to Video", Mortensen, Torill Elvira, in Douglas Thomas (ed): Games and Culture, a Journal of Interactive Media, Volume 1, Number 4, Sage Publications October 2006.

“Humans Playing World of Warcraft: or Deviant Strategies?” Mortensen, Torill Elvira, in Hilde Corneliussen and Jill Walker Rettberg (eds), Digital Culture, Play, and Identity, MIT Press 2008

Perceiving Play: The Art and Study of Computer Games, Torill Elvira Mortensen, Peter Lang Publishers, 2009.

If you need to contact me with questions or comments, use research dot game at gmail dot com, or use the comments field on this weblog. I also maintain a weblog named thinking with my fingers. When I am done working on this project that is where my I will keep blogging about my research, teaching and life in general.

The Gamers' Space - the project

Digital games are still finding their place in our society, and while there are a lot of assumptions made about games and particularly gamers, we know very little. What we do know is that gamers are not a homogenous group. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the game producers interest organisation and their facts about the industry:
The average game player is 35 years old and has been playing games for 13 years.
The average age of the most frequent game purchaser is 40 years old.
Forty percent of all game players are women. In fact, women over the age of 18 represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (33 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (18 percent).

Different research projects come up with different numbers, but the trend is the same. Gamers are not predominantly teenage boys lacking in social skills, but range from young children to aging adults, and are pretty much average on the social skill scale. Also, more women play than previously known.

In order to learn more facts about who the gamers are, I would like to look at where they play. Are gamers isolated from their surroundings in a separate room, or do they play in large, common spaces? Is the game machine the "bad conscience" of the house, the messy machine that doesn't deserve to be seen by guests, or is it a prodly displayed mechanical wonder which is frequently used by gamers and their gaming families and friends? Is there a certain game aesthetic in how gamers decorate the space where they spend so much time, or is there no trace of the game activities outside of the machine?

This project consists of three parts.
1) An online survey, where the links are posted on several different boards for game discussions and game communities across the internet. This survey is open for one month, from March 25th to April 25th 2009. If you wish to participate, use this link while the survey is active.

2) Pictures from volunteers of their game space, showing how the game machine is positioned in the room. If you would like to participate in this part, such pictures should be mailed to research dot game at gmail dot com.

3) A visit to The Gathering at Hamar 2009, one of the largest LAN parties in the world. During this visit I expect to take pictures of gamers and how they set up their machines and organise their space in a context where the computer is the most important piece of furniture. I will also talk to gamers about their use of the machines at home, and ask much the same questions in face-to-face interviews as in the online survey.

The research will be used for an article discussing gamers and the status of digital games in everyday life in 2009. More updates on the writing and possible publication of the material will be available on this weblog.