arXiv vs. snarXiv

This isn’t a game set in an academic location, but as it’s a game about academic publishing and research I’ll just about include it here.

You can play arXiv vs. snarXiv online. It’s quite simple; guess which one of the two paper titles presented is the real one from the e-Print archive. And try not to pick the one which has been pseudo-randomly generated.

It’s slightly worrying (but also personally comforting) that, looking at some of the accumulated scores, many papers have a success rate of only just over 50%. Maybe hardly anyone from the world of physics has played this game, making the quotients of plays mostly guesswork. Or, maybe a lot of physics academics do play the game and they are just as confused as the rest of us; I don’t know.

arXiv vs. snarXiv

Anyway it’s good fun for a while, until I finally remind myself that I am completely guessing and any feelings that I am applying intelligence on my part are delusional and false.

November 2016, Kraków: Games and Literary Theory


18-20 November 2016, Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland.

From the conference website: “Games and Literary Theory is an annual conference for scholars of literature interested in expanding the scope of literary theory, and game scholars concerned with adapting the methodological and theoretical approaches of literary theory for the study of games…

This year’s conference will focus on practices of interpretation and close gaming. We understand literary theory as a discipline engaged in general approaches to literature as a practice and as an institution, along with the production and enhancement of reading techniques. Many such reading techniques have successfully been applied in game studies (i.e. semiotics, pragmatics, hermeneutics, formalism, rhetoric, feminism, postcolonial studies), and continue to offer productive critical tools for exploring both games and literary texts. At the same time, however, interpretations of games often serve as case studies that demonstrate the validity of theoretical reasoning, while taking little interest in games in their own right.

Therefore, this year Games and Literary Theory encourages participants to use existing tools for presenting theoretically coherent and intellectually productive close readings and interpretations of specific games. We also welcome proposals that address topics in theory, or more general issues that may be instrumental in bringing together literary theory and game studies.”

Four academic game vacancies in Europe

It’s another sign of the growth and health in academic game studies that every day seems to bring a new advert for a position in a university. Here’s four, from universities in Europe, spotted in the last few days. In no particular order:

First up, via a tweet from Petri Lankoski, a post for a senior lecturer in games at Södertörn University in Sweden. Swedish not essential, but it helps.

Second, in Bergen, Norway, via a tweet from Kristine Jørgensen, a postdoctoral fellowship in the Games and Transgressive Aesthetics project.

Next, via a tweet from Frans Mäyrä, a tenure track professorship position in gamification shared between Tampere University of Technology and the University of Turku in Finland.

Finally, via a Facebook post from Richard Bartle, a vacancy at Brunel University London for the position of Lecturer in Game Design.

October 2016, Paisley: Games Based Learning


6-7 October 2016, The University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, Scotland.

This is a traditional academic conference, with a 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.

Keynote Speaker Outlines.

From the conference website: “Welcome to the 10th anniversary of the European Conference in Games-based Learning. For the 10th anniversary we return to where ECGBL started, Scotland. Over the last 10 years, we have explored and debated different aspects of games-based learning. While we know more about the use of games in education and training since ECGBL started, there are still many open research questions and there is still a dearth of empirical evidence and, in particular, longitudinal studies.”

Making Sense of Games

Congratulations to Espen Aarseth, the Principal Researcher in the Center for Computer Games Research at the IT University of Copenhagen, on securing a significant grant from the European Research Council.

Making Sense of Games will begin in November 2016 and will create four PhD positions and four postdoc positions during the five-year project period. This will add to the already considerable expertise and research output produced by the Center, as well as giving more credibility to the academic cross-discipline study of games.

The Center has been around for a while now (it’s often a surprise to people, especially academics from other disciplines, to discover that this discipline has been an active field of research for decades, not years). The BBC published an article on it in 2004, and I did a short and enjoyable course there back in 2003 which was co-ordinated by Espen. It was pretty good, I picked up some ECTS’s, and I’m still in touch with several of the others on that course. It had the added bonus of being in Copenhagen in December, and it’s always great to visit a Scandinavian city in the run up to Christmas.

Espen himself has been a stand-out person in the field for a long time, and is the Editor-in-Chief of Game Studies, an Open Access journal of high quality writing that’s also been around a long while now.

There’s an interview with Espen in Motherboard, and Gamasutra have a piece too.

July 2016, Chapel Hill: Serious Play


26-28 July 2016, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 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: “The Serious Play Conference, now in our 6th year, is a leadership conference for professionals who embrace the idea that games can revolutionize learning. Speakers, who come from all parts of the globe, share their experience creating or using games in the corporation, classroom, healthcare institution, government and military and offer tips on how to move game-based education programs ahead.”

August 2016, Madison: Games+Learning+Society 12


17-19 August 2016, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.

This is, without much doubt, the main annual conference for games and learning in North America. Madison itself has been a centre for games and learning companies for a while now; this, and GLS, are somewhat by-products of the games research undertaken there.

This year’s schedule.

From the conference website: “The GLS Conference is the premier videogames and learning event. Now in it’s twelfth year, our event continues to be one of the top destinations where the people who create and research high-quality digital learning media can gather to discuss and help shape the direction of the field. GLS is best known for its high quality program, top notch attendees list, and playful atmosphere. Each year, we foster in-depth conversation across diverse disciplines including game studies and culture, game design, learning sciences and education research, industry, and policy. Our aim is to connect, learn, and explore.”

Microsoft purchase MinecraftEdu

As reported in a thousand newspaper articles, a million blog posts, and seemingly a billion edtech tweets, Microsoft have now bought MinecraftEdu, the, well, education version of Minecraft. They seem happy, TeacherGaming seem happy, edtech commentators and journalists have something to write about, and future uses of Minecraft in schools especially seem more likely.

As the website now says:

Microsoft will release an entirely new version of the game called Minecraft: Education Edition that will have many features inspired by MinecraftEdu. Microsoft will also use their impressive resources and reach to bring Minecraft into far more classrooms than ever before. We believe that Minecraft’s educational potential has barely been explored and that there are exciting times ahead.

THE journal digs a little deeper on this and mentions the enhancement of OneNote to make development within Minecraft a little smoother. Which sounds like a good thing; one of the enduring problems with game, simulation and virtual world use in classrooms is the fragmented timetable, and lesson blocks of an hour or even less. The pupil or student needs to be up and quickly progressing with something on-point, relevant and constructive, rather than spending a significant proportion of each lesson block undergoing initialization routines, or using laborious tools and routines that suck time away from useful activity.

How will Minecraft sit within the roll-call of digital games, environments and simulations used within education?

Thankfully, we should be getting a clearer picture by now. The early days of speculation-oriented writing on the use of this specific technology have given way to an increasing proportion of articles, papers and reports containing data of Minecraft use in formal and informal learning situations. I’m looking forward to seeing quality research and meta-analysis of these works over the next few years.