Eli Smith | Keywords in Play, Episode 5


“Keywords in Play” is an interview series about game research supported by Critical Distance and the Digital Games Research Association.

This episode we have a departure from academia; a different approach to the creation and transmission of knowledge. We interview Eli Smith, Traditional Music Consultant for Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption 2. In our first COVID-19 recording (you may hear some sirens), we discuss the American music archive both as living tradition and recording technology, and the ways in which these interface with the virtual space of a digital game.

Eli is a folk singer, banjo player and guitarist who grew up in New York’s Greenwich Village.  Smith has recorded for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and regularly performs as a solo musician and with the string band the Down Hill Strugglers http://elismithmusic.blogspot.com/

As a joint venture, “Keywords in Play” expands Critical Distance’s commitment to innovative writing and research about games while using a conversational style to bring new and diverse scholarship to a wider audience.

Our goal is to highlight the work of graduate students, early career researchers and scholars from under-represented groups, backgrounds and regions. The primary inspiration comes from sociologist and critic Raymond Williams. In the Preface to his book Keywords: a vocabulary of culture and society, Williams envisaged not a static dictionary but an interactive document, encouraging readers to populate blank pages with their own keywords, notes and amendments. “Keywords in Play” follows Williams in affirming that “The significance is in the selection”, and works towards diversifying the critical terms with which we describe games and game culture.

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Production Team: Darshana Jayemanne, Zoyander Street, Emilie Reed.

Audio Direction and Engineering: Damian Stewart

Double Bass: Aaron Stewart