Guins journal ‘ups the game’ of game histories scholarship
While serving on a panel at the Society for History of Technology Conference in 2015, professor Raiford Guins received a question he couldn’t answer.
“A person in the audience asked, ‘If you could tell me one book to read on the historical study of games that you think is very critical, what would it be?’” Guins said. “And I think at that moment in time, nobody could answer on the panel. I think that was very indicative of the field.”
Following the event, fellow panelists Laine Nooney, assistant professor at New York University, and Henry Lowood, a curator for Stanford University Libraries, met with Guins for a drink. When Nooney pitched the idea of a journal dedicated to the historical study of games, Guins knew they’d hit on something important. From that conversation, ROMchip: A Journal of Game Histories was born.
Guins, Nooney and Lowood are co-editors of the journal, which launched its inaugural issue July 1.
“We felt we have a stake in this,” Guins said. “We’re not just doing something that we’re kind of lackadaisical on. We’re actually invested heavily in this. We want this field to grow.”
ROMchip aims to move beyond the encyclopedia-like entries that are common in the historical study of games, Guins said. The journal welcomes articles on electronic and video games, tabletop games and card games, among others.
“We want this to be a journal that’s devoted to all types of games,” Guins said. “We want to understand that this is a very complex and diverse history.”
For Guins, that also means exploring some of the more difficult issues surrounding the social history of games. Several of the essays in the July issue of ROMchip address these questions.
“Some really important essays to think about inclusivity were included,” he said. “Whose histories are being documented in the historical study of games? Why is the history of games so white?”
In addition to academic essays, Guins hopes other kinds of writing will make it into the journal as well.
“We want to think of this journal also as a repository for oral histories,” Guins said. “We want archivists, creators, collectors as well as researchers and conservators to kind of tell their stories about certain objects and why they’re important and meaningful for historical study.”
In order to be included in ROMchip, a piece must primarily be well-researched and contextually important. Before the idea for ROMchip, Guins said most histories of games were brief chapters in other books that attempted to explore the entire timeline of games, often unsuccessfully.
“We felt that none of this is researched, none of this is rigorous, none of this is critical, none of it is contextual. We want to understand the historical study of games as a rigorous field just like other fields of history,” Guins said. “We want to kind of up the game a little bit by providing a platform, and that’s what ROMchip is.”
The next issue of ROMchip will publish in December.