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Why do I want a PhD in Game Studies?

I had a Highlander-esque Quickening moment this morning while I was ruminating on why I am pursuing a PhD.

I'm speaking in somewhat general terms, but I do believe that those invested in a PhD-track program do not enter into this journey lightly, and those who may have done so mistakenly may soon find that it is not for them, which is a completely benign thing so long as said folks can transition successfully into whatever else is best for them.

Now, more specifically, for those of us who decide to remain with the quest, for those of us who don't flinch as often when we hear the phrase "the ring must be destroyed"--for those people, I feel that we are constantly in the process reevaluating our decision on a semi-regular basis. This, I feel, is a healthy and normal part of doing anything in life that is arduous. It is an activity that reconfirms known motivations and reaffirms purpose. And if one day, at the end of such an introspection, the answer is a simple but truthful "no," then may that person jump ship safely. Godspeed to all, no matter their respective horizon.

And so, on a personal note, I found that yet again this morning, I am having that very conversation with myself.

"Do you know why you want this PhD?"

In an amorphous yet mostly-positive sense, yes, I have always known why I want that. But this morning I was able to internalize that a bit more specifically.

Why seek a PhD in a field that is brand new, whose central focus of study is a young medium which carries the inherent stigma of goofing off and is therefore disadvantaged from conventional funding? Why seek to enter a job market that is fundamentally small, one which you are already several years late to?

Because when considering the gameplay and narrative of the game which is my life, I have realized that that is the very best way that I can help.

What is the PhD to me?

It's a license to apply for a position which would allow me to help and enable the next generation of game scholars. It’s my passport to potentially becoming an enabler.

I have benefited very much from the great enablers in my own life--from my parents who enabled me constantly and endured the worst of me, knowing that I needed to just go through the asshole phases (yes, plural) of being an idiot know-it-all manling until I actually became a capable person, to my teachers, past and present, whose number and deeds are too numerous to recount, who didn’t force me to be the best I could be, but instead showed me who I could be and allowed me to strive for that on my own. To those who in ways both known and unknown helped me to realize a quest and allow me to embark on such quests, I am eternally grateful.

I’ve never seen anything more noble and generous in my life.

How could I NOT want to be like that?

In truth, a PhD is not required to become an enabler in that sense. But for me, it is the way in which I have decided to become the enabler I believe I can be.

I want to be a communicator of the wonders and merits of this field. Like Neil Degrasse Tyson and how he is a communicator to young people and a galvanizer for Astrophysics, so too have I been striving in Game Studies.

I think I might be able to pull that off.

Yeah, I want that.

In closing, as I had mentioned prior, this internal dialog of asking oneself why the pursuit of the PhD is necessary--it’s a recurring activity, and rightfully so. I know that the next time I ruminate on this, the answer will likely be silent and internal, but punctuated by a real-life head nod of confidence.

Godspeed to all, no matter the horizon.

About the Author

PhD Candidate in Japan, researching Narrative in Games. Responds favorably to Thrash Metal, Karaoke, and Dungeons & Dragons.

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