Skip to content

Making Mess with Method

John L, (2003) ‘Making a Mess with Method, published by the Centre for Science Studies, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YN, UK, at

Law’s work (suggested by my Supervisor) explores the difficulty in disciplining research projects and problems from “messy” reality, into t a research context to find fixed outcomes of truths about reality. This work opens some interesting reflections on the nature of academic research (and has pushed me towards purchasing the book that this paper moves towards After Method: Mess in Social Science Research). The work uses the example of some research that Law and Singleton are commissioned to produce that maps the patients recurring visits to an Alcohol Abuse Clinic and the continuing relapses of patients. Although this paper is slightly abstracted from the core study and it’s usefulness might seem obtuse, it offers interesting reflections on research process and method.

I read this work reflecting on Game Studies and its various dividing lines, those scholars who wish to define the game as a system, and ordered understanding of mechanics and affordances for the player, and those that focus on the player understanding of the narrative system. When preforming a textual analysis of a game, many scholars and students are criticise for their subjective play encounter, writing play journals etc. The game then forms a messy textual encounter, one which we then polish when we try to analyse of reflect on the games meaning, form or narrative. We omit the failings, missed jumps, meanders, glitches, tea-baggings, player produced tactics (like hiding is small spaces where enemies cant shoot to clear the room). We focus on the designed path, the actions which cause the game to progress, the playthrough outlined in the walkthroughs. Maybe Laws work offers game scholars a point of reflection on the methods we use to analyse games as a messy text.

I found Laws writing frustrating as it didn’t offer many answers, but then this is important as Law’s intent is not to tame the mess and offer clean answers to a messy problem.

After Method: Mess in Social Science Research is order from Amazon…

Published inPhD