For better or worse, I’ve been getting a lot of requests to peer review lately. This comes on the tail end of co-editing three special issues of journals (one on “The Undead Arcade” for Reconstruction, one on “Teaching With and About Video Games” for Syllabus Journal, and one on “Games, Gamification, and Labour Politics” for The Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds). Peer review, in general, is part of the bizarre mass of invisible labor that makes up so much of academic work. Much of that invisibility in this case, is by design. There have been efforts to try new models, like the open peer review policies used by Ada and Hybrid Pedagogy, but much of peer reviewing is still anonymous and largely unacknowledged — double blind.
I don’t necessarily want to get into the politics of peer reviewing; many people have written thoughtfully about this, and the types of alternative models proposed by journals like those mentioned are part of this ongoing discussion. Rather, I wanted to acknowledge something I often forget in my own grousing about the often thankless labor of peer reviewing, which is the pleasure of it.
It is nice to sit and read carefully the work of others in my field. It is nice to be able to do so and get any credit at all, even the tiny tiny credit of a minor bullet point in the “service” section of my C.V. It is encouraging to be reminded by the requests to peer review that I am visible and valued and my field, and it is exciting to have the opportunity to offer constructive feedback to other scholars, especially junior scholars. At its best, peer review is another form of mentoring, a means of encouraging and teaching each other to produce the best scholarship that we can.
So, I try my best, as I go through peer reviews, to be thoughtful and to be kind. To think of myself as someone who is tasked with ultimately helping more than gatekeeping. That doesn’t mean I push every paper to publication, but it does mean I take the time to write out carefully what it would take for the paper to be its best.