I gave a guest lecture for an introductory class on popular culture today. The subject, as longtime readers may have guessed, was video games. More specifically, it was game studies; I went through the general history of the field and the important approaches As I See Them. That meant starting with narratology and ludology, then moving into platform studies, paratextual studies, procedural rhetoric, ethnography, and gender studies. And since I basically know nothing about gender studies, that mostly consisted of me explaining how misogynist a lot of gamers are, and a lot of people in the industry. I started things off with a video of an EVE Online super battle that happened a few days ago, to demonstrate both how involved games can be (the fight cost over thousand players approximately $20 000 worth of damage, and destroyed months of work for many of them) but also to demonstrate how difficult it is to study games in an authoritative way; to get the point where you'd be able to say you're an expert scholar studying EVE Online, you'd have to spend literally hundreds of hours embedding yourself in the community and mastering the system. Other highlights included a compare and contrast between early NES commercials and Wii commercials; a very long, rambling story about It Came From the Desert and the struggles of small town geologists; and more examples than I cared to think about concerning how a lot of videogame players are pretty miserable human beings.
I've interacted with the introductory pop culture class a few times, with different sets of students, and it's always a bit of a crapshoot. Sometimes, you get students who are really thrilled to have a chance to talk about the things they watch and play everyday; sometimes, you get students from every discipline except the humanities, and they're there because they assumed it'd be an easy course, and they're not going to talk without a figurative gun to their head. There's nothing wrong with their critical skills, I hasten to add; some of the best students I've ever had the pleasure of teaching come from other critical disciplines. I think the problem is that the discussion format that the humanities try to encourage is a very different mindset than the more lecture-based class, and sometimes the adjustment from one to the other doesn't go smoothly. This group didn't talk a lot, but I got a few responses, when I waited long enough.
The other problem as far communication goes, much as I'm loathe to admit it, is the subject area. I'm so immersed in game studies and video game culture that I sometimes forget there are people were really don't care about videogames at all. For some students, they're not engaging because it's a subject matter that, right off the bat, just doesn't interest them. Games--or at least certain kinds of games--are niche. But that's the good thing about doing these lectures; it reminds me that there are more points of view than the ones I'm situated in. That's one of the big advantages of teaching undergraduate classes that have such a wide range of students--there's a chance, even if it's just a sliver, that you'll learn something too. ....That's a pretty sappy note to go out on. Still true, though.