04.06.07

Video game sequences as sources

Posted in Wikis at 1:47 am by Erik

People often make fun of Wikipedia’s obsession with pop culture. While it’s mildly amusing to look at the wiki bureaucracy surrounding, say, Pokémon related articles, this obsession has made Wikipedia a most unusual publication that takes a scholarly approach to topics that are not typically treated that way.

Currently, the article about the video game Devil May Cry is a candidate for featured article status. Looking at the article, one thing I had never noticed before is that dialogue from the game is used in footnotes to back up particular statements about the plot.

How does one reference a segment within an interactive resource, taking into account also the typically increasing difficulty and dependency on prior interactions in video games? This demonstrates the degree to which Wikipedians explore scholarly approaches even in areas of culture that are shunned by traditional academia (but which will without doubt be of great interest to the historians, sociologists and psychologists of the future). I suspect that the ideal solution for this would involve savegames or even memory dumps. Certainly, it is an easier problem to solve in the context of open source games, where the reference can go directly into the source code. I haven’t seen examples of that yet, though I would expect the NetHack article to eventually be full of such source code references, perhaps directly to the code line numbers in a particular version.

By permitting anonymous contributors and adopting an egalitarian editing model, Wikipedia has forever condemned itself to researching and documenting even the tiniest facts in its most obscure articles. Credentials count for nothing, and unreferenced statements can be removed. The implicit commitment to collaborative research by volunteers on an unprecedented scale will surely bring interesting new challenges and could redefine what it means to cite a source.

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