Club Highlight: Video Game Journalism Club

July 24, 2019

The UMD Video Game Journalism Club was started by student Michael Cutler, and is a new, up-and-coming video game club option for students who are interested in reporting on gaming news. The club's rising publication, Gaming in a Shell, is aiming to become the community's central news source for all things gaming related.

The club's aim is to unite fellow gamers around campus and allow them to express their passions through news articles, podcasts, and gaming events. It is a perfect avenue for those interested in careers in media. Members can cultivate skills in writing and editing, production, and web design. 

In this interview, Misael Yanes and Michael Cutler discuss the relationship between video games and literature.

--

Misael Yates (Interviewer): I want to talk about how storytelling has evolved in the video game medium. Video games have changed so much in the past couple of decades. If you look at the original Super Mario Bros. and something like Uncharted side-by-side, it’s like night and day. Video games are more than just gameplay, they encompass storytelling, music—basically anything tied to cinema. 

Michael Cutler (President and Founder of VGJC): Yeah—like you were saying about the storytelling aspect—I think the emphasis on storytelling nowadays has really established video games as an art form. It’s very similar to how cinema has evolved in history. In the past, movies were just seen as a regular pastime—basically just entertainment—but as movies progressed they became more of an art form. Directors are regularly putting more themes and artistic elements in their work. Movies became almost like books—literature, in that you can analyze them.

Yeah, and video games can basically be movies now—interactive movies.

Absolutely. Look at God of War, the effort put into their cutscenes is amazing. The voice acting and facial expressions are so real; it really brings a lot of emotion to the game. I consider video games an art form just like cinema, music and literature—they can be analyzed for their artistic merits.  

Going off how video games are an art form, I was wondering—do you want or do you think it’s even possible to establish video game courses at universities?

I think there is still a stigma towards video games, that they are just a “child’s toy,” and I think that is what’s really holding it back. Especially because of the late 90s where parents and news outlets were saying that video games cause violence—even though that’s not true. But I think it's going to change soon, there’s this growth.

Yeah, I think it’s one of the fastest growing industries.

Exactly, it’s one of the fastest growing industries. But I think we’re reaching a golden age. I’ve actually been requesting the University to incorporate more video game studies. Some universities have already done it—I think University of Central Florida and Southern California have studies relating to it where they study the history and analyze certain games. 

Yeah, I hope that UMD can get some courses like that—especially considering the English major. You know, the English program encompasses a wide variety of mediums, not just traditional literature anymore. It’s become more of a broad field of study. Students aren’t just limited to standard teaching jobs or publishing, because now they can study scriptwriting and other media aspects. So, I’m wondering if video games can be a part of the media studies track of the English degree. I think that would be really cool. 

I hope so, I know Dr. Ferguson taught an English course about video games last fall and—is he teaching it again? 

He is, I was actually looking at that for my next semester. (More information about Dr. Ferguson's upcoming course can be found here).

I highly recommend it, Dr. Ferguson is a really cool professor. 

Before we wrap up, I have just some quick questions. What’s your favorite video game?

It would have to be Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland. It’s all nostalgia for me—the music, the graphics, the gameplay just makes me feel so happy. 

And for the book nerds out there, what’s your favorite book?

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I love sci-fi.

--

Anyone is welcome to join the Video Game Journalism Club. For those interested, member applications can be made here, by logging into Orgsync. For more information on the Video Game Journalism Club and Gaming in a Shell, find them on Facebook and Twitter.

This interview was conducted by Misael Yanes. Misael is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland. This interview has been lightly edited for accuracy and clarity.