Games as Mischief Machines
I am currently a Ph.D. intern at Microsoft Research New England. I feel incredibly lucky to work with people like Mary L. Gray and Nancy Baym. As an intern, my goal is to design and complete a project related to social media. My project is focusing on the ways people use virtual environments of video games to create physical humor.
Taking clues from theories of humor and Tom Gunning’s and Henry Jenkins’ work on early silent comedy, I am trying to find out what it is about the physical engines of certain video games that makes them lend themselves to performance of physical humor – the glitches, the inaccuracies and deficiencies of their physics engines that push them into a cartoon-like territory. The results are “funny” fails, collisions, accidents and slapstick-like action. I’ve done several interviews with people who have made popular YouTube video montages of “funny moments” from games like Skate 3 and Grand Theft Auto IV.
I have also started a tumblr together with my friend Andres Lombana, a graduate of the MIT Comparative Media Studies program, who wrote his M.A. thesis on animated slapstick comedy. Check the blog out to see my progress! The project will finish with a paper that will hopefully get published in a new media or game studies journal.