The recent Ph.D. HarviainenI am a bit late on catching up on recent game-related dissertations (including Markus Montola who defended more than a month ago). Since I happen to have J. Tuomas Harviainen’s thesis at home, that’s the one that will make it into this blog first.
J. Tuomas’ thesis is about larp, and larp only – a perspective that makes it rather unique. Coming from a background in cognitive perspectives on religion, his thesis lies firmly in the domain of information studies. He shows how larp can be described as information systems, and how larping can be characterized by its information-seeking behavior.
How then, can I begin to summarize the thesis? Let me start with a warning: this is a very clever text. If you want to thoroughly understand what he’s writing, it takes time and I have not penetrated it all. But I find treasures everywhere. The methodology article on role-playing analysis is a gem (although I think that the argument on treating action as text would need more space), and I am also extremely happy for his lucid description of play-space as a “resignification zone”, something he is not the first one to do but by far the clearest. The article where he compares games with rituals is also very illuminating.
J. Tuomas is the most well-read role-play researcher that I have met – I think that he’s read every scholarly text there is to read about role-playing games, and most there are on games in general. His interpretation of this vast landscape of references seems a bit eclectic, but his own contribution remains hermeneutic and at least partially self-ethnographic (J. Tuomas is a well-established larp designer); an approach that is becoming more or less standard in game studies. For this reason alone, I believe that many Ph.D. students in the game domain would benefit from picking up this thesis to read its methodology section – J. Tuomas presents you with the references you need to understand what it actually is that you are doing.
I know that J.Tuomas is planning to pursue his research towards a ‘docent’ – which means that he will have to write a book. I already look forward to reading it!