Why Can’t Video Games Be Intellectual?

In my video essay, “Rhetorical History 2.0: Toward a Digital Transgender Archive,” I argued that a broad range of online materials, including blogs, videos, and online forums, should be considered historical as long as their purpose is to create a historical record of transgender experience (3). This argument — that if online materials exhibit a deep investment in the past, those materials should be treated as historical — is important to reiterate here because cyberspace isn’t yet treated as a viable site of historical record making (4).

The last footnote in this excerpt from Transgender Worldmaking in Cyberspace makes a distinction between digital and digital-born practices, or in other words, media that originated on the internet rather than being adapted for it. My interest is in the process of adopting or preventing adoption of a given medium as a viable possessor of intellectually legitimate content. While there’s certainly market pressure at play in what media are accepted by academic circles, I’ve begun to wonder about the involvement of political structures as well. Broadening out from the discipline of history into larger intellectual exchange, would accepting the decentralized and hierarchically flat forum of the internet as a medium for exchanging intellectual ideas pose a threat to the ideological structures of power that currently exist in academic and professional communities? In other words, does the political status quo have an incentive to rebuke digital-born media as meaningful means of expressing intellectual ideas, as once these media are accepted, so must transgender histories be accepted? Does legitimizing digital-born media pose a threat to the status quo’s narratives? I believe both forces (illustrated below) exist to some extent, the bigger question being what proportion of influence each holds.

When consumers turn to video games for entertainment rather than learning, video game producers have a clear monetary incentive to create entertaining games rather than educational ones — this cyclically reinforces the idea among consumers and professionals that the medium can/should only be used for entertainment. However, how much of a role does political motivation play in the acceptance of/refusal to accept digital-born media as intellectually legitimate?

It’s important to also address the valid reasons to be wary towards towards online mediums of exchange, notably their potential for involvement in post-truth practices. I want to believe that this particular concern could be offset by simply maintaining the same standards and processes that exist offline — advising, peer review, etc — but then again, what if it’s the institutional structures embedded in these processes that are creating opportunities to silence legitimate ideas?

Inspired by Transgender Worldmaking in Cyberspace: Historical Activism on the Internet.

Like what you read? Give Sean McMahon a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.