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!

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.”

July 2017, Melbourne: DiGRA 2017

Website: digra2017.com

3-6 July 2017, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia.

(Text below from the conference website)

DiGRA 2017 will bring together a diverse international community of interdisciplinary researchers engaged in cutting edge research in the field of game studies. DiGRA 2017 is supported by Swinburne University of Technology, RMIT University, the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne.

The conference welcomes submissions on a wide range of topics associated with studies of games and play, including, but not limited to:

  • Game cultures
  • Games and other cultural forms
  • Communication in game worlds
  • Gender and games
  • Games as representation
  • Minority groups and games
  • Games and childhood
  • The games industry
  • Independent games
  • Games criticism
  • Gaming in non-leisure settings
  • Game studies in other domains
  • Hybrid and non-digital games
  • History of games
  • Game design
  • eSports and spectatorship
  • Platform studies
  • Game production studies

Further information – including registration information – will be available on an expanded conference website by mid-January.

Submission Types

We welcome a range of contributions to DiGRA 2017. These include full papers, extended abstracts, panel and workshop proposals, and doctoral consortium participation, as well as proposals for events and other activities that fall outside the academic tradition.

Full papers will be peer-reviewed, published on the conference website and published in the conference proceedings available via open-access through the DiGRA digital library.

All other submissions will be reviewed by a panel of track chairs and the conference organisers for suitability for DiGRA 2017. These submissions will be published on the conference website, but will not be included in the conference proceedings published through the DiGRA Library.

April 2017, Tampere: Spectating Play

Website: spectatingplay.com

24-25 April 2017, Game Research Lab, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland.

Organised by: gamelab.uta.fi

“Spectating Play is the 13th annual spring seminar organized by University of Tampere Game Research Lab. The seminar welcomes any and all scholarly work on the intersection of audiences and game/play.” More on this as well on the blog of Frans Mäyrä.

As I’ve happily said before, 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.

It’s also rather pleasant to publish this post on the 99th anniversary of Finland’s independence; I think I have a good idea where there will be an excellent party exactly a year from now…

January 2017, Wrocław: Matters of Construction

Website: enmattersofconstruction.wordpress.com

12 January 2017, Institute of Journalism and Social Communication, University of Wrocław, Wrocław, Poland.

From the conference website: “…an open seminar devoted to the subject of world-building in video games.

Video games available on the market today are introducing abstract worlds and implementing advanced mechanisms that enrich the interactive entertainment, transforming it into a unique medium possessing its own poetics. However, regardless of their size, budget or complexity, video games possess common formal features, one of which is the virtual world around the player.

Virtual landscapes, depending on the genre and platform in question, can have either marginal or crucial importance for the player, facilitating the process of immersion and further expanding the narrative sphere. Importance of the game world is even more vital when considering productions spanning several titles and platforms. Thus, importance of research dedicated to the process of world-building in games is becoming more important as creating games is further complicated by such factors as developer’s decisions, marketing factors, consumer demands, cultural texts and social trends.

Hence, we would like to focus our attention on the subject of world-building in video games. In particular, we intend to explore existing game worlds, world-building techniques, mechanics, theories and methods for analysing the aforementioned components in order to deconstruct utilized game-building methods and decipher why virtual worlds are so alluring to players.”

November 2016, Kraków: Games and Literary Theory

Website: gameslit16.wordpress.com/

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.”

July 2016, Chapel Hill: Serious Play

Website: seriousplayconf.com

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

Website: glsconference.org

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.”