This month sees the second anniversary of the release of the videogame Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, generally hailed as one of the best games yet made (yes, ok; best after you’ve spent four hours comprehensively modding it for the PC). So where’s the critical and academic literature on the game? Absolutely nowhere, it would seem, from my search of Google, Google Books, Google Scholar, DIGRA, and the main academic search engines. There’s just one PhD blog from Karen Josh Tanenbaum at Simon Fraser University, who’s apparently set to base a thesis around a “close reading” of Oblivion.

In what other form of media than videogames could an industry-bigger-than-cinema release its best-yet masterwork, sell two million copies in the first three months (5 million by now), have it played by perhaps 10 million people, win a truck-load of awards… and then see it completely ignored by cultural critics / academics for the next two years?

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Academic sunset for Oblivion?

Apparently some of the dusty scholars of the medieval romance have noticed that the medieval Fisher King-style epic/quest storytelling form is alive and well and living in Oblivion and its ilk, although almost nothing has been published yet, let alone anything about Oblivion. There is one lonely Nov 2007 conference paper “Social Presence and Cultural Presence In Oblivion (PDF link) although, on reading it, it turns out to be more industry-facing — asking ‘how might we make player interaction with NPCs more immersive?’.