August 13, 2019

How to Reference a Digital Game (DiGRA2019)

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The question of what constitutes a game as a social object is famously problematic. The alleged impossibility of formulating a complete analytical definition for what constitutes a game is perhaps the most evident symptom of that difficulty. One expression of this problem that has been entirely overlooked by academia is the scholarly practice of referencing games. The paper linked in this blogpost (and its corresponding, short video explanation) was written by IDG's own Prof. Stefano Gualeni together with Dr. Riccardo Fassone (University of Turin, Italy) and Prof. Jonas Linderoth (University of Skövde, Sweden). It was presented at the 2019 Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) international conference in Kyoto, Japan (August 6-10, 2019).

Digital Humanities Methods: A Discussion on Referencing

The FULL PAPER is available here:

'How to Reference a Digital Game' addresses game referencing as a practice that is implicated with- and constitutive for- the ways in which we conceptualize and assign cultural value to games. Focusing on the conceptual framing of games, on game authorship, and on the historical dimensions of both, we will discuss referencing games as an act that is inevitably political. On these premises, we will provide foundational guidelines for thinking about one’s decisions concerning referencing and about the meaning and relevance of those decisions.

A short summary of the stylistic recommendations in the paper:

RECOGNIZABLE AUTHORSHIP STYLE: Author. (Version, Year) [Year of original release if different]. Title [Platform]. Digital game developed by developer, published by publisher.

RECOGNIZABLE AUTHORSHIP EXAMPLE: Blow, J. (v. 1, 2016). The Witness [PS4]. Digital game developed by Thekla, Inc., published by Thekla, Inc.


DISTRIBUTED AUTHORSHIP STYLE: Developer. (Version, Year) [Year of original release if different]. Title [Platform]. Digital game directed by director, published by publisher.

DISTRIBUTED AUTHORSHIP EXAMPLE: Blizzard Entertainment. (v. 2.4.1, 2008) [2007]. World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade [Microsoft Windows]. Digital game directed by Rob Pardo, Jeff Kaplan, and Tom Chilton, published by Blizzard Entertainment.


Additionally, should the scholars need to reference a specific figure (or figures) in relation to a component of the digital game in question (say, for instance, the composer of a particular score), our recommendation is to refer to their work in the form of an extended in-line citation. As an example for this referencing solution, we suggest to attribute the writing for the cinematic sequences of World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade to Chris Metzen as follows: (Metzen, C. in Blizzard Entertainment, v. 2.4.1, 2008).

Game Citation in MLA Style: Prof. Gualeni discusses with the MLA Style Team

The Modern Language Association (MLA) is a referencing style used throughout the humanities, especially in English studies, modern languages and literatures, comparative literature, literary criticism, media studies, cultural studies, and related disciplines. In April 2020 Prof. Gualeni had a discussion with the MLA Style team about what they consider when setting up formats for referencing games, including considerations in collaborative works and future plans of the MLA Style team. We recommend you check out the full interview if you're interested in understanding the process of how the MLA views referencing games and aspects they find tricky.

The Digital Humanities Research Group

Prof. Stefano Gualeni is part of the Digital Humanities Research Group at the Institute of Digital Games. The Research Group tackles topics at the intersection of digital technologies and subjects in the humanities, such as philosophy and literature. This crossroads is the natural home of digital games, as they are – by their very nature – multidisciplinary, combining art, music, writing and design with cutting-edge digital technology, and engaging with philosophical, literary and aesthetic concepts in the language of computation. As such, game scholars often find themselves doing research at exactly the crossroads referred to as “digital humanities”.

Games and Culture

Videogames are one of the key forms in today’s cultural landscape, taking their place alongside more established forms like theatre, film, TV, literature and performance art. Their impact is something we take seriously at the Institute of Digital Games. The Digital Humanities Research Group examines what games are, what they do, and how we experience them. Current research threads include tracking and mapping the differences in representation between traditional fiction and virtual reality, the player-avatar relationship in games, architecture and the built environment in game worlds, music and musicking practices in games, and the use of videogames as philosophical tools.

Game Studies University: From Digital Humanities to Artificial Intelligence

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