The MLA style team often receives questions about how to cite digital games. As part of an ongoing academic project concerning game citation, Stefano Gualeni—associate professor at the Institute of Digital Games, University of Malta—asked us about our approach to documenting digital games.
SG: How did you go about setting a standard for citing digital games?
MLA: The eighth edition of the MLA Handbook reconceptualizes documentation for the digital age. Instead of providing separate instructions for every type of format (book, journal article, website, and so on), the new MLA style offers a universal set of guidelines that can be applied to any source. These general guidelines focus on core elements—such as author, title, and publisher—that are shared by most works. The new approach helps writers apply the elements to various sources, including games of all kinds.
SG: Why have you published posts on the Style Center about citing games?
MLA: Users submit questions on a wide variety of sources to our Ask the MLA feature on the Style Center. We often receive questions related to citing games—How do I cite a video game? How do I cite dialogue from a video game? How do I cite a game handbook?—so we have posted answers in response to our users’ needs.
SG: Are you planning on standardizing a way of citing board games and hybrid games, including both digital and physical game components? If you are, what differences are you expecting to see between citation standards for digital games and those for analog or hybrid games?
MLA: We invite the gaming community to send citation questions, with examples of sources, to Ask the MLA. We’re happy to provide sample citations showing how our universal approach can apply to those sources.
SG: Why is the MLA the only publisher with a set standard for how to cite digital games?
MLA: Other publishers, such as the University of Chicago Press, publisher of The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association, offer standards for how to cite games, though they categorize these citations under larger topics such as apps or software. One of the advantages of the MLA’s new approach is that it gives writers the tools to craft a citation for any type of source. This has two benefits: One, it allows writers to tailor citations to their specific needs. Two, it means that as new technologies and gaming conventions emerge, the style can accommodate them.
SG: Discussions of game citation often try to tackle the problematic and shared authorship of games and digital games. What motivated your decisions concerning authorship in digital games?
MLA: We generally recommend listing collaborative works, such as games and films, by title, since it’s often unclear which creators have overall responsibility for the work. Various contributors to a collaborative work may be listed after the title, depending on whether they are the focus of discussion in the writer’s paper. If the writer focuses mainly on one person’s role, that person could be listed as the author at the start of the entry, as we show in our post on how to cite the handbook for a role-playing game such as Dungeons and Dragons.