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.”

Nostalgia, and Zelda day

Nostalgia is a double-edge sword. It can reawaken memories, make you happy, give focus to your life, or remind you to find about about or contact that long-lost friend. Or it can make you yearn, or grieve for something past or gone, or take up your time and prevent you from living in the here and now. Perhaps nostalgia needs a warning label: “Best used sparingly and selectively”.

Digital games are little different, and nostalgia pervades the sector. Retro was, and is, a major part of the gaming landscape. More than a few of us in middle age, and older, were gamers in previous (multiple) decades. Long-forgotten sequences, screenshots, tunes and songs have an often strong pull. More so than most other media, arguably; rather than just passively absorbing the images and sounds, being an active player has probably embedded the coda of what we experienced more firmly within our neorology. [I really should be a good academic researcher and find several weighty scientific works to give credibility to this, but it’s early morning and this is still coffee number one]

Today is November 21st. That doesn’t mean much in history. The Plymouth Colony settlers signed the Mayflower Compact in 1620. Thomas Edison announced his invention of the phonograph in 1877. The Flag of Estonia was formally adopted as the national flag of the Republic of Estonia in 1918. The first permanent ARPANET link was established between UCLA and SRI in 1969. Some other things happened.

But this day, and tomorrow, are the days when Nintendo often release a major Zelda game. In 1991 it was The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

And on this day in 1998, Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I’d recently acquired a Nintendo 64 as I eased myself back into gaming after several nyears of little playing, and I bought Zelda: OoT on a whim, being only partially aware of the back history of the franchise. However, it then took up most of the conscious part of two months of my life. I regret nothing.

Unlike many others who rushed through it with the primary or sole aim of completion, I wandered around the landscape, poking at various things and trying other things out. Hence, the two fulfilling months of experimentation, and my mind thinking “Oh! You can do X. So, maybe, you do Y. And not necessarily just in this game, but in other places.”

Is or was it my favorite game? It’s up there, but probably not (Shenmue on the Dreamcast for various long-form reasons is a more likely contender). Or the one that had the most influence on me? Again, it’s up there, but Phantasy Star Online (also on the Dreamcast) was pretty much a life and career changer.

However, for soundtrack it wins (Halo being a close second). Therefore, there is little surprise that the net contains thousands of reinterpretations of the many tunes. This post contains several of Gerudo Valley, the point in the game where I realized I was slowly approaching the end and Zelda: Ocarina of Time was, and still is, one heck of a cultural achievement. Enjoy.

October 2016, Jyväskylä: Play Cultures

Website: www.jyu.fi/hum/laitokset/taiku/play-cultures/cfp

10 October 2016, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland.

Abstracts are accepted in English or Finnish. Extended abstract should be 500 words, excluding the bibliography. In addition to the abstract, submit a 50 word biography. The deadline for submissions is 7th August 2016.

From the conference website: “The increased visibility of play and games in society has affected areas outside the core areas of videogames and toys. Videogames are one of the biggest sectors of commercial media. Playing with and collecting toys is increasingly acceptable for adults. Gamification and different kinds of playful approaches are becoming part of everyday life and work.

How are gamer/player cultures changing? What kind of new play cultures are emerging? How is the growing economic significance of games and related media affecting the cultural meanings attached to games and play? What kind of roles are play and games being given in education? Can playing and gaming improve and maintain well-being? Has gaming become more culturally accepted?

The conference will address themes such as:

  • videogames and gaming in media
  • subcultures of play
  • streaming and Let’s Plays
  • gamification in different cultural contexts
  • ludification and playfulness
  • eSports cultures
  • playfulness in learning and well-being”

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.”

The importance of play: what universities can learn from preschools

There’s a nice piece in The Conversation, by Professor Nicola Whitton, titled as above. It’s not a long read, though the final third has some interesting links you may wish to explore for a while.

July 2016, Manchester: Playful Learning

Website: conference.playthinklearn.net/blog

13-15 July 2016, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, England.

The conference is being chaired by Mark Langan, Alex Moseley and Nicola Whitton

Call for papers: conference.playthinklearn.net/blog/call-for-papers

From the website: “Playful Learning is pitched at the intersection of learning and play for adults. Playful in approach and outlook, yet underpinned by robust research and working practices, we’ll be providing a space where teachers, researchers and students can play, learn and think together. A space to meet other playful people and be inspired by talks, workshops, activities and events. Based in the heart of Manchester, we’ll also be exploring some of the city’s playful spaces with evening activities to continue the fun and conversations after the formal programme ends.”

(I’m on the conference committee and therefore officially endorse this event 🙂 )