July 2018, Turin: The Game is the Message

Website: digra2018.com

“Games have long since moved out of the toy drawer, but our understanding of them can still benefit from seeing them in a wider context of mediated meaning-making. DiGRA 2018 follows Marshall McLuhan, and sees games as extensions of ourselves. They recalibrate our senses and redefine our social relationships. The environments they create are more conspicuous than their content. They are revealing, both of our own desires and of the society within which we live. Their message is their effect. Games change us.”

July 25-28 2018, Campus Luigi Einaudi, Università di Torino, Turin, Italy.

The websites of DiGRA, the Digital Games Research Association, and DiGRA Italia.

“We invite full papers, 5000 – 7000 words plus references using the DiGRA 2018 submission template (http://www.digra.org/?attachment_id=148233), extended abstracts (from 500 words, maximum 1000, excluding references), and panel submissions (1000 words excluding references, with a 100 word biography of each participant). Full papers will be subject to a double-blind peer review. Extended abstracts will be blinded and peer reviewed by committees organised by the track chairs. Panels will be reviewed by the track chairs and the program chairs. General inquiries should be addressed to Riccardo Fassone – riccardo.fassone AT unito.it. Artist contributions, industry contributions, performances or non-standard presentations should be addressed to Matteo Bittanti – matteo.bittanti AT iulm.it.

Submission will be opened December 1st, 2017, and the final deadline for submission is January 31st 2018. The URL for submissions is https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=digra2018.

Program chairs are
Martin Gibbs, martin.gibbs AT unimelb.edu.au, University of Melbourne, Australia
Torill Elvira Mortensen, toel AT itu.dk, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Important dates:
Submission opens: December 1st, 2017
Final submission deadline: January 31st, 2018
Results from reviews: March 1st, 2018
Early registration deadline: March 15th, 2018
Reviewed and rewritten full papers final deadline: April 15th, 2018″

Further details regarding the call for proposals are on the website of Frans Mayra.

April 2018, Tampere: Making Games

Website: makinggamesseminar.wordpress.com

“The seminar welcomes contributions relating to all types of games and game making. Traditionally, games have been situated in the public domain – communally created and played – and even today, games are not only created by commercial game studios but also by independent developers, game jammers, students, enthusiasts, experts, and amateurs. In addition, we can identify a wide network of intermediaries ranging from commercial enterprises to non-profits and government agencies that actively shape the ecosystem of game making.

We are seeking submissions from scholars studying different aspects of game making. Prominent work is done in many fields ranging from design research and organizational ethnography to production studies and political economy. We hope that the seminar can address some of the theoretical and methodological approaches that will help us to start to bridge the hitherto disconnected fields.”

24-25 April 2018, The Finnish Museum of Games, Tampere, Finland.

Organised by: gamelab.uta.fi

“Making Games is the 14th annual international spring seminar organized by University of Tampere Game Research Lab. The theme changes each year, as do the expert commentators. The Game Research Lab Spring Seminar is the longest running game studies seminar.”

As I’ve happily said before (several times), the Game Research Lab at Tampere University are also a friendly group of pro-active researchers; the best conference I have ever attended and presented at was their 2007 Gamers in Society seminar.

A Twitter account move

Twitter is a social media/networking … thing … that I’ve had a long love-hate relationship with. Great for quips – and at its best during Eurovision – and amplifying very simple messages; awful for nuanced discussions, readability, privacy and safety. My first account was within a few weeks of the service going live, but I gave up on it shortly afterwards due to a lack of networking with other people. But, come November 2008 and at a conference in Chicago, I found myself surrounded by people tweeting and so picked it up again. Over the many years now I’ve had various accounts – geoshore, joe_librarian and wordshore were three of many – and not all of of them were completely serious.

But now I just have one – solstraler. This used to be the twitter account for the 2007-12 Virtual World Watch project, but it was overhauled while largely keeping the existing small follower/following base. Hence it was created some time ago, but the content in there is relatively recent (unless you are reading this post several years from now).

The name? This is Norwegian for (roughly) sunbeam or ray of sunlight. The idea is that it is positive, and it’s something I try and get a lot of in real life by doing the “going outside and wandering around” thing. And, most importantly, it’s to do with shining a little light on certain things that are work-related, but more of that another time when other content elsewhere has been created. In the meantime, the solstraler account is heavily focused on games, games in learning, EdTech (education technology), various cultural things, and the odd meme and joke. Much less focused on heavy stuff, or politics, or grim things as you can get those (waves at the TV, the Internet, the shops, people talking outside) anywhere else.

So, if you were following me on a different twitter account, then you may want to consider following me there. Or, not. At the end of the day, it’s just short text messages.

Rejoining DiGRA

Today I rejoined DiGRA, the Digital Games Research Association. This feels appropriate.

Sweden

What does DiGRA do? It’s easiest just to look at the website, but basically it’s a standard organisation for – as it says on the tin – people who research games. There’s the usual executive board, mailing lists (most communications thankfully done online), and a major conference somewhere in the world, which used to be every two years but is now annual. An OA journal, plus a few special interest groups, covering player experience, game accessibility and role-playing studies, are also supported as is a bubbling community of younger researchers and students.

It’s an interesting organisation; though not a huge one, it’s been slowly growing over the years as the quantity of games research, and researchers, increases across not just academia but other sectors. There’s a slight Nordic/European tilt to DiGRA, but they have members, and conferences, in other places. In the UK there’s plenty (and last years conference was held in Dundee), and there’s more than a few in the US. DiGRA also has chapters in a gradually increasing list of countries, such as China, Israel, Italy and Japan.

I was a member for a while in the early days, and presented at the first DiGRA conference, in Utrecht in 2003. It was a small, but friendly and positive, conference. My paper and presentation were … not very good … and it’s very unlikely that an equivalent quality of paper would be accepted now. That is a good thing: the niche of games in learning has moved on a lot, my own personal research and writing have also hopefully improved, many more game researchers makes for (hopefully positive) competition and quality threshold increases, and the standard of content at DiGRA events is a lot higher.

I haven’t been back since, and dropped out of DiGRA after a while. Several major life changes, relocating and moving to various places and countries (an island with no proper broadband for five years didn’t help), and non-gaming work opportunities meant I drifted to only doing game-based research occasionally. Despite this, I’m still regularly startled to see – and have mixed feelings about – some of my publications of that time continuing to be heavily cited. But, despite being otherwise busy over the last nearly fifteen years or so, I’ve kept in touch with some DiGRA members and other game researchers (social media helps with this tremendously), as well as popping up to attend and speak at various events, predominantly in the Nordic countries and the USA.

Now, I have a sort-of plan for the medium term which is very much focused on games in learning research and work activities. Whether it works is dependent on a little luck, and a lot of hard work. Therefore, it seems sensible to plug into various relevant networks, and I’m pleased that DiGRA is not only still around but flourishing. So I joined earlier today, and I’m hoping to attend, possibly even present, at some future DiGRA annual conference – and therefore maybe set a record for the longest gap between presenting at two such events. It’s good to be back.

The lead picture? Today is Sveriges Nationaldag, so I thought I’d choose a picture I’ve taken there. This has nothing to do with games, but what the heck – going around the Stockholm archipelago on ferries was one of the most enjoyable days of travel I’ve ever had. Happy National Day of Sweden!

Violet

This is a text adventure where you have to force your character to overcome writer’s block and make progress on your dissertation while there is still time. Not just to complete the thesis, but also to save your disintegrating relationship. Though it’s a few years old, it has contemporary resonance for current-day students.

The game is played through an online gaming website (you’ll need Flash enabled) which unfortunately is one of those with distracting and garish ads and icons across much of the screen estate. If you can block those out of your vision, it’s a standard text in visual appearance and operation. Alternately, if more technically minded you can possibly download and install the game onto your own PC or Mac.

Sample of gameplay from Violet.

From the website:

The problem? You’re a graduate student working on your dissertation, but you haven’t gotten any writing done in months. Your girlfriend Violet has put her life on hold, waiting for you to finish, and she’s getting fed up. If you don’t get a thousand words written today, your relationship is over and she flies home to Australia. Unfortunately, your office is full of every kind of distraction, from the window overlooking campus hijinx to the computer on your desk, always ready to show you the latest blogs and web comics instead of your chapter-in-progress. So you have no choice but to shut out everything that’s causing you distraction so that you can turn in a few hours of solid work for once.

The game is the winner of the 2008 Interactive Fiction competition, has won several other awards, scored highly in reviews and gets regular (positive) mentions from the academic press and PhD students for both its accuracy, and as a suitable distraction from completing your thesis in real life.

Gameplay from the text adventure Violet

December 2017, Lisbon: Games and Learning Alliance

Website: conf.seriousgamessociety.org

5-7 December 2017, Lisbon, Portugal.

The past editions of the conference. The deadline for abstracts and submissions is usually sometime in the summer before.

From the conference website: “The Games and Learning Alliance conference (GALA 2017) is an international conference dedicated to the science and application of serious games.

The conference aims at bringing together researchers, developers, practitioners and stakeholders. The goal is to share the state of the art of research and market, analysing the most significant trends and discussing visions on the future of serious games. The conference also includes an exhibition, where developers can showcase their latest products…

…The GALA Conference 2017 Proceedings will be published on Springer Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS) and the best papers in a special issue of the International Journal of Serious Games, as the previous years.”

July 2017, Manassas: Serious Play

Website: seriousplayconf.com

18-20 July 2017, Virginia Serious Games Institute, George Mason University, Manassas, Virginia, USA.

This is an annual conference dedicated to the wider applications of games and play. Consequently, there is less of an academic focus on “serious play”, but more of a cross-sectoral range of discussions. The speakers, drawn from all manner of fields and sectors, demonstrate this.

This year’s conference program.

From the conference website: “Serious Play is a gathering where creators and learning professionals can have critical conversations about game design requirements and share their knowledge with peers. The focus of the conference is exploring opportunities, challenges and the potential of game-based learning.”

October 2017, Graz: Games Based Learning

Website: www.academic-conferences.org/conferences/ecgbl/

5-6 October 2017, The FH Joanneum University of Applied Science, Graz, Austria.

This is a traditional academic conference, with a predominantly European field of speakers. Papers submitted to this particular series of conferences are often reproduced in several publications, and there’s been some interesting works concerning the evidence and proof of effective game use in learning within these.

The abstract submission deadline is 16th March 2017.

The 2017 conference will also host the 5th International Educational Games Competition.

From the conference website: “ECGBL is generally attended by participants from more than 40 countries and attracts an interesting combination of academic scholars, practitioners, game designers and individuals who are engaged in various aspects of games-based learning and serious games. Among other journals, the Electronic Journal of e-Learning publishes a special edition of the best papers presented at this conference.”