I guess it’s about time for an introduction and a first post by the PhD-student in the GTA-project. I slithered through the cracks in early October 2015, and have spent the last three months attending conferences, finishing up old projects and simply getting started. My name? I’m Kristian A. Bjørkelo, I’m in my mid-thirties and I have a master’s degree in folkloristics. For the last ten years I’ve worked as a freelancer, administrator and university teacher. I’ve researched and written on a multitute of subjects, but I tend to gravitate towards topics surrounding popular culture, cultural history and political extremism. I’ve published a book on blogging and this year I’m publishing a book on extremism. I’ve kept busy.
I’m very happy to have the opportunity to contribute to the GTA-project. I not only have a long-standing relationship with and interest in games and gaming culture, I have always been drawn to subversive and transgressive cultural expressions. My interest is always peaked when rules and expectations are broken. This also applies to games and art. As such I have followed the GTA-project from the start, and was very keen on lending my skills to it.
My contribution will ground itself in my background in folkloristics and ethnographic field work, as well as my forays into online culture. In short, I will perform an ethnographic study of a select group of online gaming communities, with a focus on how they themselves discuss “transgressive content” in games. What do the gamers themselves find problematic? How do they relate to outsiders referring to game content as problematic? Data will be collected in stages, and through both passive observation as well as particpating in discussions trying to illuminate the topics. If time allows I will follow up with in-depth interviews with gamers.
The fun part of it is that I have no idea what I’m going to find. This is the beginning of a project that will continuously evolve for almost three years. I expect to be surprised, motivated and disheartened in equal measure as I grapple with the theory, method and fieldwork, and I’d be disappointed if I’m not forced to redirect my enquiries from time to time. The fun part of a project like this, is that I don’t have all the answers. If I have any at all.
I hope to contribute to this blog with thoughts on my project, but I will also make an effort to post comments on particular games and gaming in general. Since gaming has been a large part of my life since the eighties, I might be considered a gamer, and this presents me with some challenges as a researcher, as much as the project might present a challenge for my pre-conceived notion about being a gamer. You can expect a blogpost or two about gamer identity and gaming in the future, but here’s a brief history of my gaming career: My first computer was an Amstrad CPC464, followed by a Commodore128, Commodore Amiga+ and then PC. And I was loyal to the PC as my favoured platform for digital games, up until a few years ago when I acquired an Xbox 360, and recently an Xbox One. The reasons for me ignoring consoles for so many years are many, and better left for another time, but as of now I am officially a couch gamer and loving every moment of it.
But that’s only digital games. I seem to love every kind of games. Board games, war games, role playing games and everything in between. They have been a part of my life in various degrees for as long as I remember, and my favourite social activity is still getting together with friends for a game around a table. I discovered role-playing games in my teens, and was quickly delegated the responsibility of being the gamemaster of our Middle-Earth Role-Playing campaign. Over the years, I’ve played and GMed more games than I can count. I even have a World of Darkness campaign going since the mid-ninetees. That is a really long time, people. I even got my first break as a freelance writer making RPG-supplements for Victoriana.
And now I’m a game scholar. Approaching games and gaming culture from a new angle.
Thank you for spending the time reading my introduction. I’ll let you get back to whatever you were doing, and you’ll hear from me again soon.