Library Science Filter: Video game citations?
May 29, 2013 3:01 AM   Subscribe

Librarians and academics: How would you go about citing a specific moment or piece of content from a video game?

A confluence of events (finishing a second play through of BioShock Infinite, the recent Anita Sarkeesian post in the blue, among other things) has me wondering if there's an established convention (ie: MLA or something similar) for citing a part of a video game like you would cite a passage in a novel or a specific 30-second chunk of a film for the purposes of academic or critical discussion.

I've been trying to wrap my brain around how this could be done properly. Most of the work I've seen online has been pretty informal, either vague finger pointing at, you know, the thing in the game or, at best, showing an excerpt of gameplay capture. Neither of these things really seems like the equivalent of a "text" or "source" in more traditional critical writing.

So just what is the "text" in a videogame? How would you cite it in an academic/critical work so that a reader would actually know what you're talking about?
posted by strangecargo to Writing & Language (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There's an MLA style here.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:16 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Interesting question. Yeah, you can cite the video game itself, but citing a specific place/time/interaction within the game poses all sorts of complexities. The visual aspects that are not interactive should be pretty simple like the "silver castle's moat", but if you were trying to cite something more complex maybe you could give it an arbitrary name that links to a screenshot or video clip?

A major purpose of citation is to make sure an interested reader can get to the source if she or he is interested. Serious scholars tend to care little about the placement of periods and all the nitpicky details lesser scholars enforce on their students.
posted by mareli at 5:25 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

In-text it varies from style to style, but most citations are just the title of the game in italics or quotes, with a date next to it. APA is usually the title of the game with the publisher in parentheses.

As far as I know there's no standard for citing a specific chunk of time within a game. James Gee's What Video Games Have to Teach us About Literacy and Learning doesn't use anything like that, and he cites specific moments in games heavily throughout the text.
posted by codacorolla at 7:25 AM on May 29, 2013

Can you cite a level? That's like a book chapter or DVD scene.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:51 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is an unsolved problem in current academic writing about games — it's easy to cite an entire game, but often very hard to figure out how to cite a specific sub-part in a way that would make it easily accessible to the reader. (After all, most games don't allow instant access to an arbbitrary part of their content; and sometimes, even worse, one might want to cite an event or object that appeared only in one's own instance of play.) The best practice is clearly to give enough of a description of the specific thing being cited, in the article text or a footnote, that it'd be apparent to any player what thing was being described and/or how to find or duplicate it within the larger game, but there are many obvious possible problems with that approach in any given case. Almost all existing academic game writing just ignores this problem entirely and gives only citations that are totally inadequate compared to the expectations of textual scholarship.
posted by RogerB at 9:00 AM on May 29, 2013

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