Studio Studies

Ethnographies of game development

A lot of my writing revolves around the “work of making play”.  In general, I’m fascinated by the people who create the software and hardware that we take for granted – from the user interfaces on our smartphones to the options on our productivity software, to the privacy settings of Facebook.  I also love games.

So, it made sense to not only play games, and read about game development processes, but to actually start researching how games are made, the people who make them, and the “soft and squishy” social aspects of creating culture. I call this work “Studio Studies”, which is also a big part of the work of other researchers like John Banks, Casey O’Donnell, Olli Sotamma, and Aphra Kerr.

I began small: starting with interviews of game developers, then moving to short embedded ethnographies during the summers (see Voodoo Software), and from November 2012 to November 2014 I was fortunate enough to carry out an extended embedded ethnography of Execution Labs, a first-of-its-kind launching pad for independent game studios.  There, I was able to work with a number of development teams and really understand the struggles and success of working in the game industry.

I’m currently working on a book that details some of these experiences.