In 2012, my friend Rodrigo Gusman and I were studying a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Communication at the National University of Córdoba. We signed up for the Final Project Seminar (or Thesis Seminar, I don’t really remember what it was called) to take it together after a long time without having taken a subject together.
Honestly, I don’t remember when the first day of school was, but if I could send myself a message back in time, I would tell myself to write that date down as one of the most important dates of my life.
I’m not exaggerating: that day we decided to do our thesis together, and we decided to do it on Video Games.
I leave you the link to download my Thesis if you came here just to look for it. Anyway, I invite you to read the anecdotal part, so you can take with you a little piece of my story in addition to the study material. (Only in Spanish)
We had already spent half of the course raving and fantasizing about how interesting and cool it would be to do a thesis on games, but we never thought about actually doing it. That first day of classes at the Seminar, I had planned to do a paper on popular science (my area of work at the time).
It was Rodrigo who, in front of the whole class and to my surprise, proposed that his thesis topic would be an analysis of one of the GTA (I think 3 or 4), taking as a basis the theory of the habitus of Pierre Bourdieu. It doesn’t matter that they don’t know who this guy is, what matters is the anecdote of how different his initial approach was from what we ended up doing.
And what had to happen happened. What seemed to me a brilliant and novel proposal, seemed absurd to many. Even to the professor who was teaching the class. Far from motivating Rodrigo or helping him in his proposal, the professor (whose name I choose to omit on purpose) just smiled and said a disastrous phrase: “That thesis you want to do cannot be done. It is impossible“.
Then he went on to make a lot of excuses as to why that thesis topic was not feasible. But I was hardly listening to him.
My blood was boiling. Not only for mocking and humiliating my friend but for scorning a brilliant thesis topic just because “the little games” seemed silly to him. The word “impossible” had been burned into my head.
When the class ended, we went out together with Rodrigo and he had a face of disappointment mixed with anguish and a little bit of anger. On those same benches that you see in the background of the photo, we sat for a minute and I remember I said something like: “Fuck my thesis topic, let’s do it on video games. I don’t give a fuck what [professor] says”.
I can’t tell you how hard it was for us to move forward with our thesis topic. To begin with, we looked for a professor whom we admired very much to be our director, Roberto Von Sprecher. But, of course, when professors have a long track record, everyone wants to do their thesis with them. Indeed, Roberto was with more than ten thesis papers at the time, but he still gave us the best advice of all: “analyze video games with a subject of your chosen specialization”. It was great that he found our thesis topic interesting and pushed us to move forward.
So, we agreed to choose Semiótica, a discipline that we both liked very much. And between conversations, we decided to compare the discourse of two games that were of the same genre but diametrically opposed in their subject matter and their richness of content: BioShock y Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
To sum up, we spent a year working without a thesis director. The professors we were interested in were either very busy or they were not interested in the topic, or they did not feel like directing research on video games.
Finally, Professor Belén Spoz put us in touch with Sebastián Gago, who agreed to help us with our work. Sebastián had graduated with a degree in Social Communication a few years ago, and at that time he was dedicated to research.
After much work, many coffees, many debates, we realized that Sebastian had directed our thesis without realizing it. We are proud to say that our thesis was the first one that Sebastián supervised. I am proud to be one of his first thesis supervisors.
I want to say that it was a pleasure for me to be able to receive my degree analyzing Video Games; even more, analyzing one of my favorite games (BioShock). At that time, it was not in my plans to dedicate myself to Video Game Design and Development; it seemed a distant dream for when I was forty or fifty and had already published a book worthy of being turned into a game.
I never thought of being a Game Designer, and yet, here I am. I am fascinated by my thesis and I am even more fascinated that there are people from other countries who have asked me to read it and use it for their own research.
That’s why I put it here at the disposal of anyone who needs it. It is not my intention to dedicate myself to academic life (yet), but if I can help others to continue analyzing video games, it will be a great victory for me.
In part, I think we should thank [professor] for installing the word Impossible in my head. Obstacles, unintentionally, sometimes help us grow and move forward.