Where does technology help us in our daily lives?
We meet Felix Schniz for an interview in Lakeside Park, in the CD laboratory Athena, building B12B, to learn something about him and his work and why he chose his career. For those who don´t yet know Felix: he is always neatly dressed, has a smile on his lips and is eager for a mutual exchange of ideas and opinions. So, he was quick to accept the invitation to be the first person on a new journey from “People Behind Informatics”. He is passionate about his work and is happy to share his views with us.
Hello Felix, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Please tell me something about yourself, where you come from, and how your professional career has evolved.
I was born in Bietigheim-Bissingen near Stuttgart. I studied in Mannheim, with the focus of my Bachelor’s degree in English and American Studies. For my Master, I specialized in culture in the process of modernity. In addition to literature and film, we also dealt with digitization processes and that’s how I came to the video game area. That was my “unusual entry” into technical sciences. After my Master’s degree, it was clear to me: I wanted to write a doctoral thesis on video games. The academic path is simply mine, and the topic offers many exciting perspectives, as it is still unexplored in large parts. During my research for the right environment for such a research project, I met René Schallegger at a conference in Oxford. We stay in contact. When a vacancy for a university assistant was advertised at the Department of English in 2016, I applied for this position, started my doctorate at the same time and have been here since then.
Such a coincidence, and very lucky that you found exactly what you were looking for. How was your start at the University of Klagenfurt?
I started immediately and also took on the role of the SPL (programme director) of the Master’s degree in “Game Studies and Engineering“, which combines both – humanities and technical aspects. This is also what is special about this programme: the students learn technical approaches to video games and what kind of a role a technical medium plays in society.
What do you particularly like about your work?
I am taken seriously and can combine my passion for technology and humanities. I am very happy to question: What is the reason for that, what is behind it, and what else needs to be considered? I can live that to the full in my work.
And how did your doctorate continue?
In my doctorate, I asked the research question of what a video game experience actually is. It’s not that easy to name and has to be illuminated from many sides. Philosophically – psychologically – sociologically – media science… The path goes from one’s own, personal to the technical implementation. I wrote theoretical basics, worked with content analyses and scientifically processed my own experiences. This gave me a new, exciting field of questions for myself and research on video games – because how can we speak scientifically about the content of the medium when we experience it in such a personal way?
What consensus emerged for you?
Video games help us to get a bigger, better picture of people in the digital age. We have to ask ourselves what kind of influence video games in the future can and should have and need to raise awareness of what kind of responsibility video game programmers have. Programmers should also ask themselves what they want to offer people. The virtual worlds that open video games can offer us a lot, but we have to learn how to deal with them.
In short, I have to ask myself: What do I want to achieve with technology? What role should it play in my life?
Over the past few years, one has been able to follow what role virtual worlds can play in the lives of people. The well-known video game “Fortnite”, for example, was suddenly not just a popular game, but also a much-needed social meeting point, and a retreat for young people, whose social and private spaces were taken away by the pandemic.
Video games can be of great importance for each of us. They can offer us things we need emotionally, socially, or intellectually, or allow us to explore ourselves. This does not mean that the virtual should replace the real world – but it can be a great addition to it. In order to continue to pursue these thoughts in targeted extracts, I also wrote a lot about coping with grief in addition to my doctoral thesis. I am currently working on a book about the spiritual experience of interactive media in general. It will be published later this year.
Thank you very much for inviting us into your interesting area of work. We wish you a lot of joy and success in your favourite research area.