As podcasts continue to grow as a popular form of media, it is only fitting that the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication would turn to audio storytelling to help highlight its research and expertise.
The new Grady Research Radio podcast, which debuted on Sept. 7, 2022, and is recorded in the podcast studio Studio Not Found, features concise conversations with faculty members at Grady College and shines a light on their research and proficiencies, as well as the College’s labs.
The podcast’s debut episode covered the news of Grady being named one of the nation’s inaugural solutions journalism hubs by the Solutions Journalism Network. It features interviews with Grady faculty and solutions journalism experts Dr. Amanda Bright, Dr. Kyser Lough and Ralitsa Vassileva, who explained what Grady College is currently doing in research, instruction and outreach to advance solutions journalism, what the new designation means, and how students, educators and professionals in the region can get involved.
“There’s so much happening on campus that we never hear about,” said Vassileva. “A podcast that spreads the word across silos could advance solutions journalism beyond what we can achieve on our own. It could spark new ideas for collaboration.”
The solutions journalism episode was soon followed by one on Grady’s Brain, Body and Media (BBAM) Lab, a lab directed by assistant professor of advertising Dr. Glenna Read used to research psychophysiological reactions to different forms of media and messages. In the lab, researchers can attach sensors to subjects to track how they respond to audio and visual stimuli. Many of the studies conducted in the lab monitor participants by using electrodes that measure activity in the heart, movement of facial muscles on the forehead or around the eyes, and electrodermal activity, or sweat glands, on the hands. The lab also uses electroencephalography (EEG) that measures brain wave activity.
Similarly, the podcast’s third episode sheds light on the new Qualitative Research Lab at Grady College, where graduate and undergraduate students can pursue research focusing on qualitative, non-numerical data. It features a conversation with Dr. Karin Assmann, an assistant professor in the Journalism Department at Grady College and the director of the Qualitative Research Lab. In the episode, Dr. Assmann explains what goes on in her lab, speaks about recent studies conducted in the lab, and offers insight into how those interested can get involved.
The fourth and fifth episodes zero in on the 2022 general elections in the state of Georgia. The fourth episode features a conversation with Dr. David Clementson, an assistant professor in Public Relations at Grady College and a political communication researcher, about the state of political debates. The fifth includes a discussion with Joseph Watson, Jr., the Carolyn Caudell Tieger Professor of Public Affairs Communications in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations at Grady College, about political advertisements.
“Grady College has many tremendous researchers who work really hard to run studies and collect data answering tough questions and addressing huge phenomena that affect our lives,” said Clementson. “The Grady Research Radio podcast is a great way for professors’ studies to translate to the general public in a fun, conversational and approachable way. I love listening to the podcast and learning more about my own colleagues who are working hard on impactful research.”
The sixth and most recent episode focuses on the field of game studies and features an interview with Dr. Shira Chess, an associate professor in the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies (EMST), a game studies researcher, and the author of books including “Play Like a Feminist” and “Ready Player Two: Women Gamers and Designed Identity.” Dr. Chess discusses her research, why video games may not get the attention they deserve, and what the future may hold for the field.
Grady Research Radio is hosted and produced by Jackson Schroeder, the public relations specialist at Grady College. It is generally released biweekly, and a complete list of episodes can be found here.
Over the summer, Dr. Chess published an introduction for an article in the journal Critical Studies in Media Communication titled “The future of media studies is game studies,” which shines a light on the significance of video games in the broader field of communication studies.
In the episode, Dr. Chess discusses her writing, why video games may not get the attention they deserve, and what the future may hold.
Below is a transcription of the episode, edited for clarity and brevity.
Grady Research Radio: What is game studies?
Shira Chess: A lot of scholars out there are studying video games and have been for a while now. It’s been an emerging field since around the late 1990s, when games stopped being considered toys and started really increasingly being considered media objects.
Grady Research Radio: You recently published an article titled “The future of media is game studies.” Can you explain what that article is, just a brief overview?
Shira Chess: It was an introduction to a special issue. So, to back up a little bit, one of my academic heroes, Mia Consalvo, and I were talking about something we could work on together during the pandemic. And, you know, things were pretty glum during the pandemic, in general, for a lot of people. We were trying to think of a project that would really get us excited about what it was that we did again.
The idea of the special issue wasn’t just about one specific topic in game studies, but was highlighting the potential in the future and looking to younger scholars and junior scholars to see where they see the field emerging. So, the article that I wrote was largely an introduction to that special issue.
We did sort of have this provocation as the premise, you know, that the future of media studies is game studies. A big reason for that is, what happens in academic conferences a lot of times is that everybody kind of stays in their silos. You go to an academic conference or you read journal articles and you tend to stay in your little silos of what you’ve been studying and what everybody around you has been studying. And you sort of continually look at the same things over and over again.
I’m making some broad generalizations. There are certainly academics who do not do that. But, at conferences, for instance, a lot of times what happens is you don’t end up seeing the scholarship and the changes in a specific subfield because you just haven’t been paying attention.
So, we sort of started teasing out this idea — media studies folks could really learn a lot by stopping and looking at game studies, even if they’re not somebody who studies video games specifically or plays video games. And that is sort of a reflection of a larger problem, something that I’ve studied a lot, which is how people tend to be very dismissive of video games, you know, treat them like they’re a toy and like there’s no content there to study. Really, they are rich with content. They are overflowing with content.
Part of my career has been trying to talk to people about video games, why they should reconsider them, and why we need to expand the market of video games. This article was very much trying to do the same thing within media studies, trying to convince people who are media studies scholars and maybe study television or film or other areas and say, “But wait, maybe you should look at some game study scholarship, some emerging scholars, and take a look at some things they’re doing, because you might be surprised.”
Grady Research Radio: So, why do you think there is this resistance to accepting game studies, or even video games in general, as a viable source of media and not just a game?
Shira Chess: I mean, I think it’s changing. I think, in terms of resisting game studies, it’s just as I said. I don’t know that a lot of scholars are like, “ugh, game studies.” It’s more like, “That’s not for me.”
But the problem is, with the way corporate conglomeration works and with the way that transmedia storytelling works, we all are studying digital games to some extent. Everything has gotten a little bit more fuzzy. That does matter, in the same way that television matters in a different way than it did a decade ago, with the advent of streaming services, right? Television is different than what it was. Video games are different from what they were.
In terms of why people are dismissive of video games — I started off by saying scholarship on games and violence, or scholarship on games and addiction, looking at those sort of salacious things creates a low-level moral panic sometimes. But the reality is that video games are a medium still figuring themselves out, and we’re only really just now starting to see what they are and what they can become.
Grady Research Radio: Absolutely. I don’t want to ask you to speculate too much, but what do video games have to offer that the general public may not necessarily see?
Shira Chess: So, a couple of things that I have written about in the past.
This is not my specific area, but I know a lot of good scholars, such as Aubrey Anable and Katherine Isbister, have written about games and affect. Video games are particularly well situated to get us thinking about the emotions of others and put our subject in somebody else’s body. That’s pretty cool, right? It is in a way that films and television sometimes can do, but that reliance on action puts us in a place where we might empathize differently with different subject positions.
One thing that I’ve written about a bit is video games and agency, or will to act. Video games are training machines. They teach us how and when to act on things and get us to think about our actions.
And then, in general, there are some video games out there that are just aesthetically beautiful. In the same way that books and film and television are beautiful, there are beautiful video games out there.
I am certainly not saying that somebody should dump all of the other media in their lives and replace it all out with video games. That would be ridiculous. But I do think that there are opportunities to play games in ways that will give us moving experiences similar to other forms of media.
Grady Research Radio: Great. So back to the article. You did touch on a lot of this already, but can you go back and explain your argument, the purpose of this article and where it’s all going?
Shira Chess: The argument was basically, “Hey, look over here.” It’s not deep. It wasn’t meant to be deep. It was more like, you know, we’ve gathered together some young junior scholars that do have some interesting arguments, and we think that you should read them.
We specifically asked the scholars to write things that were on the shorter side, to make it a little bit more accessible, to make it a smattering of a lot of ideas, rather than a couple of big thoughts.
Basically, when we approached people, we were like, “What do you think is the future of game studies?” And everybody kind of took that assignment a little bit differently and responded to it in different ways. So, all of these people, collectively, created this tapestry of different ideas and thoughts, which was really what we were looking to do in the first place.
Grady Research Radio: This might be kind of a two-part question. Game studies is a relatively new thing. Video games are relatively new. But, do you believe that it has been on an upward trajectory in terms of people accepting it as a valid form of media? Do you foresee this article, this whole idea, having a positive impact on game studies?
Shira Chess: I think that, in general, people are taking video games more seriously than they have. But I think that’s with a caveat, right?
I think that there are more people playing video games than ever before, because mobile devices make games more accessible. You are hard-pressed to find a person who doesn’t play any kind of digital game, whether that is a console-based game, whether that is Candy Crush Saga, or whether that’s Wordle, right? Once you start expanding your definition of what a digital game is, you realize we should all be in on this conversation about what they can look like and what they can be.
I think, though, that at the same time, it’s brought in new layers of anxieties. For a long time, people would come to me, you know, both inside and outside of academia, and they would say, “Oh you study video games. They’re so violent.” Or somebody would write a journal article talking about violent video games. And my first answer would always be, “Which video games?” Because, you know, I spent a large portion of my career studying Diner Dash and Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Other than some aesthetic violence in Kim Kardashian Hollywood, I would say that that’s not a very violent game, right?
But the problem is, the industry and audiences often centralize the games that are violent, or the games that are big console games. We’re starting to see that breakdown a little bit. And with that comes a lot of anxieties within the industry, because the industry itself goes through phases of free fall, and there have been problems over the last couple of decades. But, at the same time, I would say that some of the anxieties about video games and violence have been replaced with anxieties by video games and addiction.
And that’s not to say that those things aren’t real or not worth talking about. But this medium is still figuring itself out. And by ignoring the product, we don’t get to shape the medium.
Grady Research Radio: Thank you for joining us today.
Shira Chess: Thank you very much for having me here.
Shira Chess, associate professor of entertainment and media studies, has studied video games for two decades and has observed many changes in the gaming industry. She knows how powerful the medium is and where it can grow to better serve society. In her new book, “Play Like A Feminist,” Chess encourages an expansive conversation about video games that includes new people and fresh perspective.
“I want to see more people engaged in the video game industry because the more voices we get, the better this medium will continue to develop,” Chess said.
While surveys and questioning methods can vary, Chess says about half of video game consumers identify as female. She says feminism and video games need each other because human equality must include leisure among its weighty societal issues.
“It is time for a feminism that embraces play, “Chess said. “Video games have so much potential to rewrite leisure practices for those who don’t get enough playtime and to explore issues like agency and identity.”
Chess says more voices in the video game industry only helps the development of game quality because new viewpoints can be expressed.
“Video games are still emerging as a popular culture medium,” Chess said. “The more people that play, the less video games get stuck in the same patterns and ruts.”
The origins of “Play Like A Feminist” were rooted in conversations Chess had following the publishing of her 2017 book: “Ready Player Two: Gamers and Designed Identity.” Readers played games recommended in that book and reported back with pleasant surprise that video games could be works of art and literary experiences.
Chess realized that the discussions in academic circles surrounding video games were not reaching a wider public. She has found community through video games and knows the benefit of that shared experience, especially in a year where many shared experiences have been stymied by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chess’ book specifically proposes the idea of “gaming circles” – small groups of game players that can meet up regularly, like a book club. She argues that these communities are a way to foster novice gamers with recommendations, feedback and banter on communal experiences.
“Adding more play and games into our lives – even when it’s difficult to do with the difficulties of 2020 and beyond – can help us all think differently and see the world in new ways.”
To learn more about the book, see a list of Chess’ recommended games and more tips on building community through video games, visit her website at: www.playlikeafeminist.com
Entertainment and Media Studies faculty Shira Chess and Taylor Cole Miller attended the annual National Association of Television Program Executives Miami Marketplace and Conference.
Attending the conference is more than 5,000 media executives and 1,100 content buyers. This year’s event took place Jan. 16-18.
Pictured with Chess and Miller is Lew Klein, described as a legend of the television industry. Klein is currently on the NATPE executive committee and is president of the NATPE Educational Foundation.
Chess and Miller attended as part of the NATPE Faculty Fellowship Program. It provides selected college and university media faculty with complete access to the sessions and activities of the annual NATPE Miami Marketplace & Conference, with the goals of exposing educators to current television issues and practices, and fostering improved communication and cooperation between educators and the industry.
Lew Klein is the former president of Gateway Communications, former executive producer of pioneering dance show American Bandstand, and one of the founders of NATPE more than 50 years ago. He also oversaw programming for The Triangle Group and was a director of Dick Clark Productions.
The industry veteran also has an active academic career, teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and also the Sorbonne in Paris, France.
Note: Shira Chess will discuss her new book at Avid Bookshop on Prince Avenue, on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. All are welcome to attend.
While society focuses on men playing “Call of Duty” and teens becoming anti-social playing hours of video games, there is a virtually ignored but growing market of women playing video games that provide great opportunity for marketers, according to Shira Chess.
Chess, an assistant professor of entertainment and media studies at Grady College, has studied video games and specifically their relationship to women, since writing her thesis on the subject ten years ago. She now has written a book on the subject, “Ready Player Two: Women Gamers and Designed Identity.”
“When we talk about video games and we resort to talking about video games and violence, or hard-core audiences, or even gamergate, we are only touching on a very small portion of a very large, emerging market that is going to be increasingly important as the century unfolds,” Chess said of her interest in the subject.
“Ready Player Two,” researches the way video games are marketed toward women, as well as the how what Chess refers to as “designed identity” defines women creating an idealized mode of how women are expected to play. The book also examines how gamers and game developers must change their thinking about both women and games to produce better games, better audiences and better industry practices.
“I started watching the organic growth of the industry wherein the games emerged as a market, but the players, themselves, were also a market,” Chess explained.
Chess’ book also explores how video games are designed differently for women than for men. For instance, many console games are made with an expectation of masculine players having large amounts of leisure time, as opposed to the design of mobile games, often for women with an expectation that they will be played in short snippets. These design tactics reflect larger themes of gender and leisure within American culture.
Chess’ research focuses on mobile and computer games such as “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood,” “Candy Crush Saga,” “Mystery Case Files” and “Farmville.” These games, Chess argues, are primarily designed and marketed for an intended woman audience.
Additionally, this market, Chess argues, could be even further expanded. “I feel like a lot of video game companies are missing out on some opportunities right now because there are a lot of baby boomers with mobile devices, that with the right game, could get invested,” Chess asserts.
There is a distinct irony, however, to Chess’ research. While most people enjoy video games for play, Shira Chess plays video games for work. However, she does admit to getting lost in the “wonderful, terrible game” of “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” and says she has played “Hungry Babies Mania” for “years with zero shame.” More seriously, she feels like games like “Monument Valley” and “Broken Age” have the capacity to change the video game market in significant ways, moving away from past gendered expectations of play.
This is also a personal book for Chess since it explores her own tensions and relationships to playing video games. It is dedicated to her mom who she says has an expanded appetite for video games after being prodded for years by Chess about what would make her play more games.
Chess, who was profiled in the UGA Focus on the Faculty feature in September, teaches courses in media studies and media writing. She is also the co-author along with E. Newsom of “Folklore, Horror Stories, and the Slender Man: The Development of an Internet Mythology.”
Shira Chess, assistant professor of entertainment and media studies, focuses her research on what a lot of people enjoy in their spare time: video games and digital culture. In her Focus on Faculty interview, Chess talks about her research, teaching and her new book on the subject called “Ready Player Two: Women Gamers and Designed Identity.”
“I love to teach courses that mix theory and practice, particularly when those practices are creative,” Chess said in her profile. “For example, one of my favorite classes is “The Elements of Narrative,” where students learn narrative theory, but then get to play by constructing what I like to think of as storytelling experiments during class.”
Her course work with Turner Entertainment Networks is one of the highlights of her teaching at Grady College. “I have collaborated with Turner Entertainment Networks to create an annual class where students get to pitch projects and concepts to the TV network based on emerging innovations. It is so satisfying seeing students work on a single project over the course of the semester, and then get to show it off to TV executives.”
Tapping into student creativity is the main objective for Chess. “My goal for them is that they will learn to brainstorm and prototype ideas rapidly, and push the edges of their own creative abilities. I want them to go out into the world with the ability to tell amazing stories in complicated ways.”