News/Research

Getting a Game Studies PhD: A Guide for Aspiring Video Game Scholars

31 Oct, 2016

Getting a Game Studies PhD: A Guide for Aspiring Video Game Scholars

Bonnie Ruberg, BCNM graduate, has co-authored a "Guide to Getting a Game Studies PhD." The guide, posted on her website - Our Glass Lake- hopes to help aspiring scholars navigate Game Studies -- and even gives BCNM a shout out!

Bonnie is a Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Southern California, where she works in the Interactive Media and Games Division (IMGD) where she works on issues of gender and sexuality in digital cultures. She received her PhD in Comparative Literature, New Media, and Gender, Women, and Sexuality from UC Berkeley in the summer of 2015. Bonnie got her start in digital cultures more than a decade ago writing the groundbreaking blog Heroine Sheik!

As you might have guessed, Game Studies is not a traditional field and and can be slightly tricky. To quote Bonnie, herself, "At present, there are no Ph.D. programs in North America that grant degrees (or even official secondary emphases) in video games." Encouraging yes? However, there are many ways to engage in Games Studies in the US, primarily by either (1) picking a Ph.D. program with game studies faculty, (2) picking a Ph.D. program that ties to a game design program, or (3) picking a Ph.D. program that supports interdisciplinary digital scholarship. A Designated Emphasis in New Media at UC Berkeley is an example of the last option.

Some excerpts from the post.

"Game studies is the scholarly field dedicated to exploring digital games, analog games, and play. Though some of the early texts that have become foundational for game studies come from the early- and mid-twentieth century, game studies as an academic field got started in the 1990’s. Over the past two decades, game studies scholars have produced a rich array of work that address questions like how to define games and why players play. In another sense though, game studies is still a relatively new discipline. Many scholars from other fields are surprised to hear that there is an entire corner of academia dedicated to games.


"Most recently, game studies has taken a turn away from its formalist roots and toward issues of culture and social justice. Some of the most vibrant areas of game studies today include scholarship on video games and LGBTQ issues, race, ability, identity, and diversity.


"There has never been a more exciting time to study video games, or to make a career out of researching games and their players. The medium of games is growing and changing, calling for new voices and a wider range of critical perspectives. Game studies is poised to become an increasingly important academic field. Many universities are hiring faculty in this area, and it seems this number will continue to grow. To thrive, game studies needs a vibrant next generation of scholars."

Read the guide here.