Visiting Associate Professor
in Communication Studies
It won’t insult Alexis Pulos, a visiting associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies for the 2019-2020 academic year if you accuse him of playing games. Pulos plays all sorts of games — video games, board games, card games. When he moved to the Bay Area from his home in Cincinnati, he had to pack up his collection of 200 board games. Pulos has been playing games since he was a child and studying them as a media text — just as others study film or literature or other cultural artifacts — since he was in grad school at Colorado State University.
Whether it was playing board and card games while camping with his family or wearing out the new Nintendo or PlayStation with his brother, “For me,” Pulos says, “games were the focus of quality time with people.” At CSU he got some pushback from a professor about whether games were important enough to warrant a field of study. Nevertheless, he did his thesis on video games. “I really tried to explore the ways that games are just like any other cultural artifact, and they have deep, rich cultural meaning built into them,” Pulos says.
At The University of New Mexico, where he got his Ph.D. in 2013, Pulos wrote his dissertation on two very different games, FarmVille 2 and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim—one concerned with farming and one concerned with fighting. Pulos looks at dominant trends in game design and analyzes them as frameworks for understanding a player’s self and the world. Gaming is one of the largest entertainment industries in the world and part of the lives of billions of people. And, Pulos says, “Games historically have been a significant resource to understand the world around us. They’re as significant as any other cultural artifact that society produces.”