First, I want to say thank you to my readers. When I began this series, I had no idea if anyone would read it. Honestly, I did not care. Okay, I did, but I was writing my “Road to the Ph.D.” series as a means of reflection. The series would serve as a reflection of my experiences, but I would allow the world to have a preview of my life. Eventually, colleagues of my mine took interest, read them, and applauded my bravery. I did not think I was courageous, simply breaking the silence of the opaque space that of the academy.
I know I did not write a reflection for year four, and by the end of Spring 2021, a year five post should have been out.
Who can forget the blunder of Assassin’s Creed: Unity (2014), a 4-player co-op mission which sprawls through the 18th Century Paris environment? I was hyped when I saw this E3 co-op video. As you hop through one window, your pals are ready to strike from the rooftops. As you run through the halls of a large mansion, your friends leap through windows taking out templars. 2014 was the same year I bought my Xbox bundled with Assassin’s Creed: Unity (2014). When AC: Unity was released on November 11, 2014, articles and videos began circulating, pointing out the many glitches. One Polygon article shows a now infamous picture of a major face glitch in which there is no face. It’s creepy. Here you go. I bought my Xbox around Christmas and so did my friends. We thought at least with a whole month and some weeks since AC: Unity‘s launch it would be enjoyable. And it was—mostly. We were disappointed with the lack of 4 co-op missions for a game marketed as being this visceral badass 4 co-op experience. In 2019, a friend and I played it again just for my friend to die and spawn in complete whiteness. Somehow the game glitched him so far underneath the map he could barely see my player icon above him.
I suck at lying. Specifically, I am not well-versed in the art of deception. So…alright, I lack such a skill for one main reason; honesty is the best policy. Also, whenever I lie, I get caught in the lie almost immediately. Let me be clear, I have lied a couple times as a kid and have done some deceiving things as an adult. Don’t judge me! At least, I am honest.
As a videogames researcher, I am fascinated when the gaming industry engages with sociopolitical topics not just within their games, but in reality. Specifically, the forms of communication showing support for a cause. Three years have passed since Insomniac Games published a video condemning president Trump’s Immigration Policy. The video was quite moving because of the many people standing behind Founder and CEO, Ted Price, as Price candidly spoke against the policy. As a Black man in America, reading about the games industry from scholars who discuss the lack of Black representation within games and game production, I feel saddened. While feeling saddened, I log on to play a game, and the first thing I see is the “n-word.” It is a reminder that my Black body comes with terms and conditions in digital and physical spaces.
Inside the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at the National Harbor
As I sat in a black Nissan on the road back to Bloomington, Indiana, I began to reflect on my time at MAGFest 2020.I remembered the conversation I had with my co-panelist, Alexander Mirowski, the last night of the convention about why I believed cons are a good place for game studies folk to attend and share their work. I remembered expressing to him how pivotal conventions have been to my life both as a fan of anime and games as well as an academic. For why choose between fandom and professionalism, if you can have both at the same time. Of course, there is a little bit more to it. This will be my focus for this post. I wholeheartedly believe anyone who studies videogames should attend anime and gaming conventions, if not for the many events and cosplayers there, then to connect and share one’s work and gain new perspectives, especially from folks who are outside of the academy.
How dare you!? You had the gall, the nerve, the boldness to have created an event in which black folk can engage in laughter and geekiness. How dare you for the third time now, turn a boujee hotel with cucumber and lemon water into a space in which black and nerdy folk can walk around displaying their best cosplay.
From a melanin-popp’in Magikarp to a #blackjoy version of the Power Rangers, BlerDCon you had the audacity to hold yet another annual event condoning this expression of being #BlackandCareFree. Well here is what I have to say to all of this.
Before I begin this year’s reflection on the tumultuous wave that is graduate school, I want to dedicate this to my friend, Tivana “Vanny” Stepney. Outspoken, courageous, honest, humorous, and black excellence at its finest. Tivana had such a presence that her energy, language, and passion for social justice made you pay attention, think, and take a few notes to become better allies and advocates. It was in September of 2018 that I got wind of her passing. Honestly, when I heard the news that she was no longer walking this Earth, I did not want to believe it. So, I didn’t. It was not until I spoke with friends of mine that knew her…my heart sunk and my mind blanked. The world did not deserve her light, and the folk that knew her should be forever grateful to have known Tivana. I dedicate this piece to you, Dr. Tivana Stepney. Rest in Power.
I have been waiting a very long time to write this reflection. Too long. I have been anxious to write because so much has happened since my last reflection, which you can read here.
So far, each convention I have ever attended, I have always left with a smile on my face. Each con has made me wish I had more time to meet more people, to see more cosplay, and had more money to spend on the wonderful art from artists. MAGFest 2019 was that and more.
MAGFest 2019 was held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center located in Oxon Hill, Maryland. It took place between January 3rd to 6th. This is a 24-hour festival full of people playing live music at every corner (not a joke, very serious), cosplay, workshops, and panels. I was scheduled to hold two talks; Ethics and Videogames: An Overview of Ethical Considerations and Implications of Videogames and Gamifying Blackness: A Discussion on African-American Portrayals in Contemporary Videogames.
On Thursday, November 29, 2018 at around 5:20pm, a fighting match for the ages was held within the bustling environment within my Informatics department. I, Javon Goard faced off in a best of 7 against Professor Norman Su in Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition. Su versus Goard. Ohhh, what a match it was. The crowd was wild! The caster was calling out all the moves as fast as he could see them. Norman and I set the room ablaze with the friction of our hands thrashing against our respective controllers. Ohhhh, it was a sight to see to. Once the battle concluded, there was nothing left. The room was scorched. The crowd wiped out from existence from too much excitement. The caster laid lifeless in his chair with a lose grip on the mic. Time stood still.
“Woah! Woah! Woah! Why are we running?”, the event staffer exclaimed. “We are looking for our panel and we are already late.”, Iris said. “Oh. Well all the meeting rooms are on the other side. You’ll take a left and go down on the elevator.”, the staffer said. “Uhhh…”, retorted Iris and I.
Unlike past blogs, in which I merely reflect on my overall impressions of a convention, I will be telling a story in this one. The story of how my friend, Iris, and I ended up sprinting to our panel at Gen Con. So, let’s begin.Continue reading →