LinkedIn is surprisingly useful

LinkedIn is one of the (many) networks or social media websites where I created an account years ago and quickly lost interest. The interface seemed underdeveloped, and still does (though this is not isolated just to LinkedIn; I’m looking at you, Flickr). And at the time, there was not the critical mass of people in the educational games, games in education, and games research sectors signed up to it, so it felt like a “lonely researchers club”.

I’ve returned to it of late; largely because of needing to sort out my entire online work presence, but also because there was a sudden ticking over of “connection requests”. And I’ve found it – now – to be surprisingly useful from a work perspective. Rather than bumble around on university websites looking to find actual research and researchers – which is increasingly difficult as universities become relentlessly commercial and non-profit activities become buried under layers of other stuff (often non-academic stuff) – it’s been easier to home in on directly relevant research, and researchers, through this service.

In addition, the suggested connections algorithm of LinkedIn has been throwing up a lot of directly relevant researchers who I did not know existed. True, there’s also some misses in there, and some suspicions about where LinkedIn is pulling all of the primary data from (I suspect various places on my laptop it perhaps shouldn’t be nosing in). But the hit rate for interesting – from the perspective of work – people has been usefully high. It also doesn’t take long before getting a sense of the main centers of games in education research and academic activity, especially the University of Wisconsin in Madison, the University of Skövde in Sweden, the IT University of Copenhagen, and Tampere University in Finland. Putting the names of some of the suggested people straight into Google Scholar has thrown up quite a few articles and papers of completely direct use that I also was not aware of and hadn’t come up in previous literature searches.

So, despite the 2003-style interface and the fact that LinkedIn may be quietly harvesting my entire laptop and wider social network for data (really, why else does it suggest my solicitor for connecting to?), I’m finding this particular service useful. If you do similar research or work and want to hit me up, I’m at:

https://uk.linkedin.com/in/silversprite

October 2015, Ann Arbor: Gender and Gaming

Website: www.lib.umich.edu/events/university-michigan-gender-gaming-symposium-2015

24 October 2015, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.

From the event website: In the past few years, issues of gender have become prominent in the discussion around gaming, both as relates to the games themselves and in the larger gaming culture. This symposium aims to critically engage these ongoing narratives, explore how gaming culture can impact broader social spheres, and indicate how gender relations in gaming can be improved going forward through two keynote talks, a series of roundtable discussions, a panel discussion of student gamers, and a game gallery of significant texts. Attendees can expect to participate heavily throughout the day and leave with a deeper understanding of game culture, its social significance, and what its future might entail.

Keynote Speakers:

  • Rabindra (Robby) Ratan, assistant professor, Department of Media & Information, Michigan State University. “Avatars for Empowerment: A research trajectory aimed toward reducing social disparity in education through avatar use”
  • Adrienne Shaw, assistant professor, Department of Media Studies and Production, Temple University. “Representation Matters: Reframing arguments for diversity in digital games”

Sponsored by: University of Michigan Library Computer and Video Game Archive; University of Michigan Library Diversity Council; University of Michigan Institute for Humanities; Ann Arbor District Library.

August 2016, Dundee: DiGRA/FDG

Website: digra-fdg2016.org/

1-6 August 2016, Abertay University, Dundee, Scotland.

(From the blog of Frans Mäyrä)

Abertay University is the home of the Europe’s oldest computer games program and the UK’s first university Centre for Excellence in Computer Games Education, offering undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in games technology, game design and production management, and computer arts. The city of Dundee has been a major hub for game development since the release of Lemmings in 1991 by DMA – now known as Rockstar North.

Dundee is less than an hour away by train from the city centre of Edinburgh, and the 2016 conference will be held in the week immediately preceding the Edinburgh Festival (including the Fringe), the largest annual cultural festival in the world. Abertay also hosts the Dare Protoplay festival, one of the largest indie games festivals in the UK, and the Dare to be Digital game design competition, which will be held just before the conference.

(Updated information, from the DiGRA website)

For the first time, the Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) and the Foundation of Digital Games (FDG) will partner in an unprecedented gathering of games researchers. We invite researchers and educators within game research, broadly construed, to submit their work.

DiGRA/FDG aims at being a venue for game research from all research disciplines. In line with this, it accepts and encourages submissions in the following six tracks, on a wide range of subjects including, but not limited to:

  • Game design: Design techniques, practices, methods, post mortems, etc.
  • Game criticism and analysis: Close readings, ontologies and frameworks, historical studies, philosophical explorations, and other humanities-informed approaches
  • Play studies + Interaction and player experience: studies of play, observations and interviews of players, and research based on other methods from the social sciences; game interfaces, player metrics, modeling player experience
  • Artificial intelligence: agents, motion/camera planning, navigation, adaptivity, procedural content generation, dialog, authoring tools, general game playing
  • Game technology: engines, frameworks, graphics, networking, animation
  • Game production: studies of game production processes, studio studies, software studies, platform studies and software engineering

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the DiGRA/FDG conference, authors and reviewers alike will be required to describe their research background and field of study as part of the submission process. The intention for this is to help reviewers be conscious of when they are reviewing work outside their own field as well as making clear the proportions of contributing fields.

May 2015, Lüneburg: Diversity of Play

Website: projects.digital-cultures.net/digra2015

14-17 May 2015, Leuphana University, Lüneburg, Germany.

The conference aims to address the challenge of studying and documenting games, gaming and gamers, in a time when these categories are becoming so general and/or contested, that they might risk losing all meaning. Given this, what concepts do we need to develop in order for our research to be cumulative and how do we give justice to the diverse forms of play found in different games and game cultures?

DiGRA2015 is an event ONLY for DiGRA members. All participants are required to have a valid membership for the conference. If you do not have a valid membership, please choose “for non-DiGRA member” in order to get the required membership.

The final program and the conference leaflet.

Particle Clicker

From last summer, Particle Clicker (PC) is a resource accumulation game in the same mould as Cookie Clicker – but this time with particle physics research, academics, and funding. Click repeatedly on the collider to generate data. Turn data into research to gain funding and increase your reputation. Spend your funding on human resources and upgrades – don’t forget to buy beer to keep your research students happy, and coffee to keep them awake!

Clicker games are, in functionality, about as simple as you can get. There’s usually not many decisions to make (Particle Clicker has more than most), some clicking to do when you feel like it, and things happen in the background whether you click or not. In essence, you accumulate some attribute that is measured purely numerically. As you gain more of this attribute, you can decide what to spend it on; often, these are elements which increase the rate at which the attribute accumulates. And that’s it. There’s usually no end goal or target; you just accumulate more and more of whatever the base attribute is, and you stop playing when you lose interest.

One of the aspects of Particle Clicker which makes it more interesting than most clicker games is the technical/content accuracy within; the game was developed at the CERN summer student webfest by physics students. Expand (ironically, by clicking on it) this screenshot which was taken a few minutes into a new game:

Particle Clicker screenshot

In the centre is the particle collider, the thing you click on to get more of the ‘data’ attribute. In the left-hand column are technically accurate physics concepts; expand on these and you can read more detailed information, often with links to academic papers. In the right-hand columns are essentially power-ups which you can attain to increase attribute generation; as you can see, these are sometimes a satirical nod to academic physics research. Here’s some screenshots – [1] [2] [3] [4] – from when the game has been played/left running for a while.

Particle Clicker is free and online, and is instant and about as easy as you can get to play. You just … click. It’s a neat way to both slide some optional knowledge about physics under the noses of players (in effect, your rewards for leveling up are access to this knowledge), and to make some remarks about the academic research process. Give it a go.

p.s. as an amusing side-point, one comment about playing Particle Clicker was:

“There is something inordinately depressing about procrastinating by fake doing the things that I should be real doing.”

May 2015, Tampere: Adult Play

Website: adultplayseminar.wordpress.com

11-12 May 2015, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland.

adultplay

Organised by: gamelab.uta.fi

This is an interesting conference to attend, or present at. The Game Research Lab at Tampere University are also a friendly group of pro-active researchers; the best conference I have ever attended was their 2007 Gamers in Society seminar.

(And yes, the seminar cover photo is a little scary)