From freshmen to tenured faculty, UNCG gamers bond over shared interests, exchange ideas, and bring scholarship to the broader community, thanks to the new Network for the Cultural Study of Video Gaming.
Associate Director Dr. John Borchert says the network, known as the NCSV, was founded in fall 2021 with the goals of fostering scholarly research, education, and outreach about gaming.
“What’s really innovative about what we’re doing is the integration of education and research,” Borchert says. “This gives students and faculty a well-rounded approach to game cultures and Esports.”
Innovation in the Classroom
Within the classroom, students and faculty are delving into curricula that connect gaming to well-established fields, from sports broadcasting to digital animation.
In the network’s first year, faculty have developed 12 new courses.
“The expertise that our faculty bring is incredibly diverse,” Borchert says. “When we already have such a robust research interest on campus, we can harness it within these courses.”
Examples of these new classes include CCI 108: Playing Games and the Ancient World, ENG 237: Monsters & Heroes: Race and Gender in Video Games and Literature, and REL 380: Game Over: Video Gaming and Death.
“These courses offer a new avenue for student interest and for faculty exploration of new horizons in their research agendas,” Borchert says.
The network is building on this momentum by launching the Videogaming and Esports Studies minor, which will be available to students beginning in Fall 2023.
“Students in the minor will have a unique combination of critical thinking and applied skills,” says Borchert, “to engage in all aspects of the gaming and new media industries ranging from production, broadcasting, journalism, scholarship, and event and recreation management.”
Diving into Esports Research
Students in the NCSV can also engage with faculty members one-on-one through undergraduate research. Sophia Rosenberg, a sophomore double majoring in anthropology and religious studies, conducted an ethnography of players of the survival game Valheim with Dr. Gregory Grieve, who studies morality and gaming.
“I am a gamer myself, and I love studying people who play games,” Rosenberg says.
Their project won first place at the 2022 UNCG Thomas Undergrad Research and Creativity Expo in the humanities category.
“Conducting research with Professor Grieve was something I never expected, but I would not trade it for anything else. I’m so happy I got to do it,” Rosenberg says. “For me, it solidified what I want to do in my future career.”
Rosenberg hopes to attend graduate school and become a user experience researcher specializing in gaming. In the meantime, they are active in outreach events through the network on campus, including this month’s Winter Welcome Arcade Event at the Esports arena.
“It’s exciting to connect with students and show them a different, more playful side to academia,” Rosenberg says.
The NCSV engages in a range of outreach events to connect gamers. For example, the network collaborated with Enrollment Management and Recreation & Wellness on the inaugural UNCG Esports & Gaming Summer Camp for 9 to 14 year olds.
The network is also fostering conversation on campus around diversity in gaming through the Ashby Dialogue series. The yearly discussion group, funded by the College of Arts and Science, brings together about 20 faculty and students across disciplines for focused inquiry. This year the Ashby Dialogue topic is identity and queer culture in the popular video game Zelda.
“Games in general have always been a space for the marginalized to find a sense of empowerment, expertise, and a community,” says Borchert.
Both Rosenberg and Borchert say they have seen a diverse community forged through the network.
Rosenberg remembers two students arriving separately to a welcome event and returning to the next event together as friends. “Students have told me, ‘I feel seen here. I feel like there’s a community for me here,’” Borchert says. “Gaming is for everybody.”
To learn more about the Network for the Cultural Study of Video Gaming (NCSV) and upcoming events you can get involved in, click here.
Story by Rachel Damiani
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications
Video Shot by David Lee Row and Grant Evan Gilliard, University Communications
Video edited by David Lee Row, University Communications
Scripting by David Lee Row and Avery Craine Powell, University Communications