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…

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.

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.

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 and is set in Caltech. According to Jacob this is closer to real life than some other text adventures situated 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 games 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 have spent time in there, 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. You also need several players to get 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: 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 🙂 )

April 2016, Tampere: Money and Games

Website: gamemoneyseminar.wordpress.com

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

Organised by: gamelab.uta.fi

From the website: “It may be the classic view among scholars of play to see games as separate from everyday, and to maintain that nothing of value is created in them. In contemporary perspective, this notion does no longer appear as valid. Games have evolved into commercial, designed products and services, which influence the surrounding economy and culture. Furthermore, although games may be free, games set up endogenous systems of meaning with proprietary monetary systems, virtual economies, that are natural monopolies for the companies that created the games. Yet, even these monopolies have several links to global networks of monetary flows. The game industry is a major player in world economy, and effects like regional tax subsidiaries, playbour performed by participants, and sweatshop work on consoles are archetypical examples of information labour in a network society.

In addition to monetary effects of games at macro level, also micro level effects are significant. Money influences how games are experienced at the individual level of players and games influence players’ perception of money before, during and after playing, for example in gambling games. Games have various currencies and reward systems comparable to money and, on the other hand, money itself can represent these same reward systems, which have also social and cultural meanings for players.

Money and Games is the 12th annual spring seminar organized by University of Tampere Game Research Lab. The seminar welcomes any and all scholarly work on the intersection of money and games.”

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.