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

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.”

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…

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 arXiv.org 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

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.”