Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology

Medium Difficulty: Game analysis website goes global

April 06, 2012

Guest post: Karl Parakenings is an MA student in the department of English, while Nico Dicecco and Kyle Carpenter are pursuing their PhDs in the same program. They launched the gaming criticism website www.mediumdifficulty.com on February 27, 2012. (Send us your guest post.)

We were sitting in Karl’s office in the English department, talking about video games. Kyle suggested that we should start a blog where we write about games in a critical way. Nico said we should secure a domain name, because — let’s face it — this is exactly the sort of thing that we might put off indefinitely. Five minutes and ten dollars later, Medium Difficulty was born.

That’s when Karl did some heavy lifting in creating the site and its vision. Rather than implementing a limited, personal publishing platform, Karl realized that we would have more influence, and more impetus to stick with it, if Medium Difficulty were opened to the public as a curated centre for criticism. This insight opened a number of possibilities: for one, this was no longer a personal pet project for academics — it was a way for interjecting academic insight into a public discourse.

For another, it offered us a way of developing our own ideas in conversation with a general public, forcing us to avoid the specialist language that contributes to the academy’s reputation as an “ivory tower.” This vision focuses on community engagement and conversation, while also allowing us to note trends in public discourse and giving us a site to present our research.

Karl developed this model with his longtime friend D. McDowell, an internet community organizer based in Windsor, Ontario. Kyle took on the work of editing submissions, while Nico structured our workflow processes and performed administrative duties. We fell into these roles naturally and easily, and what we have been delighted to discover is the range of skills we have all developed individually, both in and out of our academic careers. In other words, Medium Difficulty has given us an opportunity to recognize, apply, and further develop, nascent skill sets.

We view Medium Difficulty as performing the role and responsibilities of the public intellectual, as well as a pedagogical opportunity; this is our chance to reach a broader audience than that afforded by academia.

We found our audience quickly, when an article we published entitled “Call of Apathy: Violent Young Men and Their Place in War,” was picked up by social media outlets. Because of this, and other interesting and polemical articles such as "How I Helped Destroy Star Wars Galaxies", our site garnered half a million page views in its first month. Since then, our articles have become widely circulated within the gaming press, reaching aggregators on a weekly basis. In short, we are in the public eye.

As the site continues to develop, we are honing our voices as public intellectuals, while guiding popular discourse towards a more focused critical discussion. We invite members of the SFU community with an interest in video games as a medium, as well as their surrounding culture, to contribute to this conversation.

If you're interested, we welcome proposals or 1000–2000 word articles at submissions@mediumdifficulty.com. Please include “SFU” in the subject heading so we know how you found us!

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