Hometown: Stony Point, New York
Primary research interest: Play, gamification and immersive media
Favorite bike: Cannondale CAADX
According to one of our newest professors, games are interwoven in our culture — often in places you might not expect.
Maxwell Foxman earned his Ph.D. in communications at Columbia University and has come to the SOJC as an assistant professor of media studies with a focus on game studies. His dissertation analyzed early adopters, developers and content creators of commercial virtual reality and other immersive technologies. He also researches how games and play are used in non-game environments, including politics, social media and the news.
We got the chance to sit down and talk to him about his background and research.
Why did you decide to come to the SOJC?
First, I’m very excited to be teaching and researching game studies at a university. In particular, I was delighted to hear about the new directions the university is taking the curriculum, including furthering research into immersive media, which has been the focus of my dissertation studies for the last two years. I thought it was a really good fit, and it is a rare opportunity to shape and be on the ground floor of such developments.
Another reason I was so eager to come was the school itself. I like how collaborative it is. I saw many opportunities to work with fellow faculty at the SOJC.
Also, the idea of working in a large public institution that is able to engage with so many students is very appealing. I’ve been teaching since I completed my undergraduate degree, and I’m always keen to develop new courses.
What do you hope to accomplish while at the SOJC?
I want to explore using computer graphics for storytelling. I’m looking forward to teaming with faculty to find ways to incorporate games and play into courses because I see games pretty much everywhere I go.
I also have some shorter-term projects of my own. I’m working on a book about games journalism and getting my dissertation published.
How did you come to study games?
My interest in games and game studies started with my master’s, where I happened upon a video game theory class. After taking it, not only was I drawn to the methods in the class, but I saw games and play within so many aspects of everyday life. I wanted to understand what drove people to play — not so much from a design point of view, but from a cultural one. And that’s what led me down the path of thinking of play as an integral part of society.
What do you see as the value in studying games?
I think games studies is increasingly pertinent because much of emerging digital media has been influenced by decades of computer software development and game design. There are many different ways we play, and apprehending them is valuable for any communications scholar.
If we understand something is a game, does that change the way we interact with it?
Absolutely! Games have positive and negative connotations in our culture. A lot of people associate games (incorrectly) with frivolity. But also they are associated with fun! As a consequence, games can allow for easy barriers of entry into new subjects and aid in learning.
However, for other topics and professions, they sometimes just seem to not quite fit. For instance, it is very hard to associate hard news stories with games, and yet one of the best documentaries on the Iranian revolution I have ever encountered is the game 1979 Revolution: Black Friday.
Why is it important for professional communicators to be “games literate”?
Simply put, games are becoming a bigger part of our world. You find that almost any major profession related to the SOJC has dabbled or fully embraced gaming — from branded advertising in games to journalists making use of game elements in news quizzes. Beyond that, the culture of gaming is increasingly mainstream. We are all playing games on our phones, in our homes and at all ages. Understanding how they work, where they come from and what they mean to society is vital!
What do you like to do in your free time?
I’m a fairly avid cyclist. I try to bike as much as I can when the weather is good. That’s something I do whenever I can tear myself away from my computer.
Eric Schucht ’18 recently graduated from the UO School of Journalism and Communication with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, a minor in multimedia and a certificate in film studies. He was an intern for the SOJC’s Communication Office for a year, interned at the alternative The Inlander this spring, and worked for the Roseburg News-Review as a Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism reporting intern this summer. He has also written for the Daily Emerald, Around the O, The Cottage Grove Sentinel and The Creswell Chronicle.
Randy Newnham, a senior majoring in public relations in the UO School of Journalism and Communication, would rather be pulling espresso shots and playing board games. But the world needs at least one more social media manager, and Randy has risen to the challenge. Together, with the plucky band of underdogs that is his family, Randy fights dirty for social justice. Randy can be found on Twitter, Instagram and in various coffee shops around Eugene.