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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Press Start to (Re-)Design Your Research Framework: Game Design as a Method of Knowledge Production in the Field of Japanese Studies

 April 2023 - ongoing

Presenting results and data in book publications or research papers is a crucial part of academic everyday life. While written text is the predominant mode for research output, reflections on how this form of representation influences the actual content remain scarce.

However, critical voices in the humanities and social sciences increasingly put this preference into question and call for a broader understanding of publication possibilities in academic contexts. These approaches emphasize how the scholarly written text is one particular way of communication that undoubtedly brings along specific advantages, but nevertheless consists of a rigid framework that limits how the presented research is shaped and, consequently, what potential outcomes and knowledge(s) may be produced. Accordingly, academic writing is understood as a research method; the contents we are able to communicate are strongly shaped by the forms we choose to represent them in. Thorough reflection on favoured, but also unusual and alternative methods of communication, is thus necessary.

Against this background, this project aims at applying these approaches in the field of Japanese Studies, where they are (as in many other research areas) still only rarely taken into consideration. As a case study, I choose to develop a digital game to examine how research processes and potential results are influenced and reshaped through this shift of perspective.

I expect various potentials from this approach. Digital games have been defined as multimodal media forms that convey their messages not only through written text but also by using audiovisual elements as well as game rules and mechanics. This opens up the potential for multidimensional storytelling in which procedures, temporality and spatiality among other phenomena may be experienced, which may also be applied to descriptions of research processes and findings. In addition, games have been described as chaotic, as their contents are often portrayed in non-linear ways, influenced by failure and coincidence, while being strongly dependent on the player’s actions. In this regard, they strongly differ from the academic text, which traditionally features a linear, well-ordered and ‘clean’ structure, but may share certain characteristics with e. g. anthropological approaches.

Representing research as a game thus allows for focusing on elements that are usually excluded from representations in academic writing. The academic text provides a specific perspective that clearly distinguishes which parts of the research process will be accounted for in the publication, while alternative representation methods may open up ways for additional and unusual viewpoints. It is therefore crucial to explore the possibilities of academic publishing. However, this project is not merely a test run for an alternative publication form; more importantly, it reexamines fundamental views on research that have long gone uncontested, focuses on processes of knowledge production and ultimately aims at scrutinizing what the field of Japanese Studies consists of.