“After completing my Master’s in English Literature, I worked for some time while preparing for PhD entrance exams. This break between my studies was important because it helped me realize that traditional research on literature did not excite me. I wanted to do something that was more path-breaking. I soon started thinking along the lines of how narrative media had evolved over the centuries and how stories were told today through video games. My research focuses on how video game-worlds are experienced and how they tell stories, especially in non-aggressive indie video games.
Even though I liked playing video games as a child, I lost interest in my teenage years. I fell back in love with them in my early twenties and eventually made a career out of it. The gaming world is primarily male-dominated and as a woman, it was initially hard for me to find, play, and research the kind of games I felt comfortable with.
Through my research, I have been bringing awareness that gaming is more than just an outlet to release pent-up rage. The stigma associated with video games being violent is largely owed to the big labels that make these violent and aggressive games. There are plenty of cerebral and emotional indie video games, with great narratives, social messages, and aesthetics that are overshadowed by their toxic counterparts. Indie games are a viable solution for people who do not want to play the current variety of popular but aggressive games in the market. With more representation from female game designers and developers in the creative process of video games, there is a shift in how the gaming industry works today, but there is still a long way to go.
My PhD journey has been quite a ride. When I started off, I was very excited but did not know where to begin. I was the only person at my university who had embarked on a PhD with such a novel topic. The Internet became my virtual supervisor of sorts, and it took me about a year to come up with a reading list. My real supervisor, although very supportive, couldn’t help too much as this was way out of his realm of expertise. Soon, I started reaching out to the big names in my field and they all turned out to be incredibly helpful. I got unspeakable amounts of support, collaboration opportunities, and guidance. Once I started attending different game studies conferences, I realized the importance of community, which eventually led me to co-found the “Game Studies India” initiative with Dr. Souvik Mukherjee, a globally-renowned game studies scholar.
The initiative was developed to start a meaningful dialogue between gamers, game studies scholars, and game developers/designers. We planned on taking the conversation beyond just hardware and software aspects of gaming and interact more from a Humanities-informed perspective. Videogames are a powerful tool that may help bring important social issues to the foreground and it’s rather sad that they are not taken seriously even today. We don’t have dedicated video game studies departments in the country as of now, but hopefully, we will soon. It’s always been fun to explain my research to the general public, my peers, my teachers, and my family. I love seeing people’s reactions when I tell them I research on video games.
To conclude, I would ask anyone interested to do a PhD to reach out to people. You never know what might come out of it.”
-Poonam Chowdhury, PhD in Indian and World Literatures, The English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad
Editor’s Note: Here is a link to Game Studies Indian initiative https://www.facebook.com/gamestudiesindia