Tag Archives: university

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 another 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.

(quietly hopes nice and suitable positions become available when I emigrate)

Old school text adventures. Set in old schools.

Online searches often turn up interesting text adventures, either new or – from more technologically simpler times – historical. Pleasingly, a query in late 2014 revealed some text adventures from a quarter of a century or so ago, which were set in academia.

From 1988, Dudley Dilemma is set in Harvard University. From the screenshots it appears to be a basic and standard text adventure. From even further back in 1987, Infocom themselves released the acclaimed Lurking Horror, which though initially set in a large MIT-like American university, soon veers off into somewhat unsettling horror.

Two other text adventures from back in the/that day I’ve been playing of late are Save Princeton and Ditch Day Drifter. Both of these can still be played by using a TADS-compatible interpreter (I’ve been using Splatterlight on my Mac).

The former of these, co-authored by Jacob Weinstein who also provided much of the information in this note, is unsurprisingly set in Princeton University. This is an “exaggerated, slapsticky version of life as an undergraduate”, where the aim of the adventure isn’t immediately apparent. A screenshot from near the start:

Screenshot from Save Princeton

Ditch Day Drifter, on the other hand, was developed in 1990, set at Caltech. According to Jacob this is closer to real life than some other text adventures set in a university, since it portrayed Caltech’s “Ditch Day“, which is basically a big real-world adventure game. Another screenshot:

Screenshot from Ditch Day Drifter

Both of these are quite enjoyable to play and, as you do with text adventures, experiment with to see what the parser recognises, allows and acts on.

Secret Sartre

Games about human life are often interesting, and for those in academia, or who survived academia, games about university life specifically can hold a special fascination. From Scandinavia, here’s the introduction to a card-based game (complete with the card designs). Secret Sartre:

In Secret Sartre, the faculty members of an unnamed university department battle for ideological supremacy. A fragile alliance of upstanding rationalists, logical positivists, empiricists, liberal humanists, scientists and other fetishizers of the Enlightenment must work together to stem the rising tide of postmodernism. Watch out, though – there are closet postmodernists among you, and someone is Secret Sartre.

At the beginning of the game, each player is secretly assigned to one of three roles: Science, Postmodernism, or Sartre. Sartre plays for the postmodern team, and the postmodernists know who Sartre is, but most of the time Sartre does not know who his fellow postmodernists are. The Scientists are far out on the autism spectrum and don’t know who anyone is.

The scientists win by enacting five rational policies or having Sartre fired. The postmodernists win by enacting six postmodernist policies, or if Sartre is elected Head of Studies late in the game. As postmodernist policies are enacted, the Department Chair gains new powers. Even scientists may find themselves tempted to enact postmodernist policies that help them control the table and assassinate their enemies.

From the rules, how the cards appear:

Secret Sartre cards

This isn’t a quick game to pick up; the rules need a bit of figuring out, and a familiarity with card games, and academic research philosophy, helps somewhat. You also need several players to make the full benefit of Secret Sartre. But even if you don’t play, the description of the rules is amusing, and it’s an interesting way of comparing and contrasting academic and research positions.

July 2016, Manchester: Playful Learning

Website: http://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: http://conference.playthinklearn.net/blog/call-for-papers

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 🙂 )

April 2016, Tampere: Money and Games

Website: https://gamemoneyseminar.wordpress.com/

18-19 April 2016, Game Research Lab, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland.

Organised by: http://gamelab.uta.fi

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.

Virtual World Watch

It’s taken a bit of time but the files for the Virtual World Watch (VWW) service are now all back online. The introductory and index page is elsewhere on this website.

Though now a fading memory, VWW took up a chunk of working life for several years towards the end of the last decade. It kicked off when Andy Powell, ex-colleague from UKOLN and then the Director of Research at the Eduserv Foundation, spotted I was spending some time in Second Life, wandering around the various education sites. He got in touch and asked if I’d like to do a report for them on this subject.

Which I did. The response to the report was somewhat unexpected. Lots of academics in UK universities and colleges appeared out of the woodwork and got in touch, some using the report to justify what they were doing to their peers, others using it as leverage to obtain either internal or external funding to continue their research, or to find peers doing similar work, or having similar views, in other UK universities and colleges.

Further stand-alone snapshot reports were commissioned by the Eduserv Foundation. Then, they went full-in and funded a more holistic service – Virtual World Watch – for a few years. As well as the snapshot reports, this included:

  • A bundle of conference presentations, especially in 2009.
  • Podcasts where I interviewed UK academics who were using virtual worlds.
  • Tweets, Facebook postings, the usual social media.
  • Several articles in academic journals and other media; for example [1] [2] and [3].
  • And, of course, collecting data. Lots and lots of lovely data.

Thankfully, we quickly moved away from VWW being solely about the contentious virtual world Second Life, though throughout the life of the service SL remained the predominant virtual world in UK academia.

This was a good time for research into this particular technology; as well as the Eduserv Foundation funding VWW and a variety of other virtual world projects, Jisc also supported several projects across various programmes. There was a lot of activity – at one point every UK university had someone using this particular technology for research or formal/informal learning, with some institutions (more the newer ones) using it across courses and departments, sometimes over several academic years. This led to some spreadsheets containing lots of that lovely data – for example:

VWW snapshot data spreadsheet

…all of the data of which I (thankfully) archived away.

However, the data collection and dissemination was definitely not problem-free. The range of funding for this against for other EdTech research, a dislike of virtual worlds (or anything that looked like a game) in academia, and the (very unhelpful) over-the-top hype in some parts of the media over Second Life contributed to a Marmite-effect, with more than a few vocal academics being entrenched in either near-evangelical advocacy or near-hatred of the technology. Interesting times, though sometimes weary on social media.

The high-point for this specific generation of technology interest, funding, use and discussion in UK academia was probably around the spring and summer of 2009. The keynote at the Jisc RSC Northern conference on virtual worlds in April of that year was especially fun to do – and a big event (side point: even back in 2009, 23 of the 25 speakers at that event were tweeting). The slides from it are probably the best summary to come out of the Virtual World Watch project:

After several years, things were wrapped up with VWW. All of the snapshot reports, plus three other reports I wrote under my own steam, are online and free. Between them they contain a large amount of data, much of it deliberately unedited (and sometimes frank) survey responses. Do use, but please use responsibly, attributing authors and using their text responsibly.

Overall it was an interesting experience, though it feels somewhat unfinished. It’s good to see that quality research has been continuing elsewhere in this field in UK academia (example), though with the significant changes in technology, funding, practice and all manner of other attributes, things seem startlingly different to even just half a decade ago.

Now, deep into 2015, there’s two pieces of contemporary research I’d like to do if or when funding becomes available:

  1. Another snapshot of virtual world use in UK academia, which would also include a comparison of the data to that of the previous snapshot from several years ago. I’ve kept all of the contact and other data from the VWW service, so that’s one starting point.
  2. A clear-headed analysis of the (still) contentious reasons for and against the use of virtual worlds in education, possibly involving interviews with pro- and anti- academics from back then, and now.

I’ll see what happens (and if you are a potential funder then please do get in touch); it would be interesting, and hopefully useful to the education technology community, to be able to provide an enlightened and unbiased retrospective.

October 2015, Ann Arbor: Gender and Gaming

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

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

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 & Video Game Archive; University of Michigan Library Diversity Council; University of Michigan Institute for Humanities; Ann Arbor District Library.