Category: Games


Spring 2014 Courses at UConn

Thanks to the gracious powers that be, I am on leave this semester, but in the spring I’m offering one section of a gateway literary-theory course for English majors (skewing environmental), and one special-topics course on textuality (skewing new media). These will be some of the first courses to explicitly tackle “the digital” in a department better known for its strengths in medieval studies and children’s literature. I’m still dithering over what primary texts I want to use in each, though I’m leaning toward China Mieville’s The City and the City, Richard Powers’s The Echo Maker, or Geoff Ryman’s Air for 2600, and Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End and Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age for 3623. Suggestions are welcome!

I’m also slated to offer an “Intro to DH” grad seminar in Fall 2014, and as I come more from interdisciplinary new media studies than DH proper, I’m expecting to learn and experiment right alongside my students. I’ll post a tentative syllabus and a compilation of resources sometime in the new year.

Engl 2600  Introduction to Literary Studies

To prepare you for work in more advanced classes, this course will develop your understanding of the discipline of English through a select overview of literary history and the major theoretical schools of twentieth-century literary criticism—among them reader-response, New Criticism and close reading, structuralism and post-structuralism, new historicism, cultural studies, and postcolonial theory. As we will discover, these are not simply theories for theory’s sake, but rather diverse perspectives on what should be included in (or excluded from) the literary canon, the relative importance of genre, author, and audience, and the relationship of literature to broader social and cultural contexts. You should end the semester with a surer sense of the pleasures and pitfalls of different critical approaches to texts, as well as the many subfields and interdisciplinary extensions that “English” encompasses.

In addition to a focus on textual interpretation, this course will also stress research and documentation guidelines and strategies, with special emphasis on changes in the discipline due to digital trends. You will learn, for instance, how to follow Modern Language Association (MLA) citation practice, how to evaluate both print and online sources, and how to make appropriate use of secondary sources while developing an original thesis. Assignments will include several short written responses and a final research paper with annotated bibliography.

Engl 3623  Studies in Literature and Culture

Literature Before and After the Digital

Since the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, a host of areas traditionally grounded in print literary culture—among them storytelling, argumentation, publication, and archiving—have been radically transformed by online and mobile devices and services. In this increasingly digitized postmillennial era, we might therefore wonder how literature and our study of it have been impacted and how to best argue for their continued relevance. Do shifting cultural and technological paradigms demand new texts and critical approaches, or are these seemingly dramatic changes just the latest variations in the ongoing evolution of the literary?

To circle this question, we will consider not only the obvious crossover realms of electronic literature and interactive fiction, but also the application of literary methods and knowledge to non-literary objects. The course will frame the upstart arrivals of blogs, wikis, and e-readers within the centuries-old history of print, while revealing how deeply textual metaphors and practices continue to structure our online interactions. Throughout, we will also ponder whether “virtual reality” transcends any single genre or media category (for instance, video games), and discuss how form and format shape the development and experience of narrative.

Engl 6500  Seminar in Literary Theory

Intro to Digital Humanities

The term “digital humanities” now has an established foothold in our discipline, having generated lucrative funding opportunities from unexpected quarters and alternative academic (alt-ac) career paths for technically oriented scholars. Yet alongside the general enthusiasm, some have voiced a warning (witness the “Dark Side of DH” panel at last year’s MLA convention). So what exactly are the digital humanities? And why do they have a dark side?

This course will serve as an introduction to this burgeoning subfield and its provocations, by exploring its origins in bibliographic and textual studies and literary archival projects, as well as more current initiatives involving gaming, “big data,” and cross-institutional collaboration. Special attention will be given to the challenges of studying and preserving literature now composed, distributed, and read in digital form. Students will not only have multiple opportunities to interact with active DH archives and platforms (Drupal, TEI, Project Bamboo, etc.), but will also be asked to experiment with their own basic, but hands-on projects, preferably related to their existing areas of interest. No previous technical experience required.

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Proposed Game Studies Panels for SCMS 2014

Thanks to the SCMS Video Game Studies Scholarly Interest Group, here is a list of game-related panels looking for participants for the upcoming 2014 SCMS conference, taking place March 19 through March 23 at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel in Seattle, WA.

Proposed panels:
– Animation and Video Games
– Beyond These Walls: Alternative Preservation and Exhibition Practices in Digital Game Culture
– Debugging Game History: Forgotten Histories
– Gender and Video Games: Beyond the Popular
– Play, Space, and Capital
– Small Games
– The Superhero Beyond the Blockbuster
– Teaching Media Literacy Through a Video Game Context
– Video Games and Comedy

More information about the conference can be found here: http://www.cmstudies.org/?page=call_for_submissions

More information about the VGSSIG can be found here: http://www.cmstudies.org/?page=groups_videogames

PROPOSED GAME STUDIES PANELS FOR SCMS 2014

Animation and Video Games
This panel’s theme, broadly defined as “Animation and Video Games,” aims to encourage and foster greater dialogue between these two areas of scholarship. The goal is to broaden the scope of research and enrich the theoretical vocabulary of both disciplines by examining the ways in which animation and video games inform, shape, and constantly redefine each other’s aesthetic landscapes, production modes, and audience participation practices.

This panel seeks to put together contributions which highlight points of intersection between animation and video game scholarship, such as issues of computer animation aesthetics and visual narrative, spectator theories and interactive viewership, exhibition approaches and practices, franchising and fandoms, trends in software development, etc.

Potential topics include, but are not limited to:
Cinematics and video game trailers
Video game art/art exhibits/companion art volumes
Machinima/machinimators
Animation software in game development
Art and aesthetics of independent games
Motion capture in video games
Interactive animation viewership in video games
Simulations, visualizations, and training software
Media franchises (such as Final Fantasy) encompassing both games and animated series

Please send abstracts of 250-300 words and a short biography to Mihaela Mihailova at mihaela.mihailova@yale.edu by July 31st. All submissions will receive a response by August 7.

Beyond These Walls: Alternative Preservation and Exhibition Practices in Digital Game Culture
An increasing number of Academic and Museum Institutions have turned their attention towards the challenges of exhibiting and preserving video game culture.  While these practices are certainly commendable, they have largely focused on reinforcing familiar narratives of technological innovation by canonizing particular game properties among the ‘great works’ of the video game industry.  What has largely been omitted from these discussions are the alternative preservation practices that individuals and groups outside of institutional boundaries have long been engaged in.

Typically framed as aberrant behaviour by the video game industry, this panel will offer an examination of archival and exhibition practices that gaming fan cultures participate in. Rather than the exclusive practices of museums and archives, fan cultures engage in inclusive practices which serve to preserve gaming culture writ large. Focusing on these practices, “Beyond these Walls” will engage in a discussion of issues of ownership, collective knowledge, and citizen scholarship, as a means of uncovering alternatives to the dominant narratives of gaming culture.

We are currently seeking the addition of a fourth panellist to this panel to compliment the three papers already confirmed. Paper abstracts should focus on methods of non-institutional preservation and exhibition techniques in gaming culture, with examinations of fan practice, piracy, online knowledge cultures, independent gaming events, venues and exhibitions being considered.

Please forward a 250 word abstract for your paper to skot deeming at mrghosty@gmail.com

Debugging Game History: Forgotten Histories
Each speaker on this panel will present on a key concept, player community, game developer, or topic. As with last year’s “Debugging” panels and the upcoming Debugging Game Historyvolume, we would like each paper to be given a short title that focuses directly on the historical topic covered.  The goal is to underline participation in a coherent project with two aspects: (1) developing critical terminology in game studies; and (2) fostering a greater sense of inclusiveness in game studies by focusing on neglected or forgotten historical actors, designs, developers, companies, scenes, players, forms of documentation, etc.  Some examples: “Arcade Art” “Clan PMS,” “Purple Moon,” “Jerry Lawson,” “Game Fanzines,” “Multiplayer Gaming before DOOM.”  These made-up examples are just intended to give a sense of breadth and the goals of the panel; we hope to get exciting proposals on any related topic.

The panel might work best if the concepts are at least somewhat related; our suggestion to achieve this would be to focus on people (players, developers) or settings, but a more diverse set of contributions is fine, too. Bottom line: The panel’s goal is to open up terminological discussion in critical-historical game studies and to break a path that opens up game studies to previously neglected histories.

Please submit proposals for panel papers to Henry Lowood (lowood@stanford.edu)  and Raiford Guins (rgun81@gmail.com) by 10 August.

Gender and Video Games: Beyond the Popular
Scholarship on gender and video games tends to focus on top-selling mainstream video games (Call of Duty, Tomb Raider, Grand Theft Auto, etc.). As a result, this research fails to consider the constructions of gender in a range of other games, such as casual or educational games. The accessibility of video games on a variety of devices and the integration of games in a range of settings (workplace, education, advocacy) call for an expanded framework for studying gender and videogames. This panel seeks proposals for papers that examine gender in genres such as:

·      Educational games
·      Girl games
·      Indie and art games
·      Online gaming environments
·      Sports games
·      Casual games
·      Games for social change

Please send a 250 word abstract and academic bio by August 1 to Carolyn Cunningham, cunninghamc@gonzaga.edu

Play, Space, and Capital
This panel invites abstracts for papers that investigate the relationship between play (gaming, fan works, performance, ritual, productive play, parody, and other examples), space (physical space, social space, ritual space, boundaries, event or festival space, localities, and other examples), and capital (production, consumption, “conduction” or “pro-sumption,” structures of accumulation, legality and copyright, etc.). We are most interested in critical and/or qualitative approaches to these phenomena, and structural analyses, case studies, theoretical discussions, and ethnographic or autoethnographic work are equally welcome.

Please e-mail a 250-350-word abstract, along with a five-source bibliography and brief biographical statement, by August 1, 2013 to:  Robin Haislett (robin.haislett@ttu.edu).

Small Games
Casual games, indie games, art games, downloadable games, and mobile gaming platforms have transformed the global video game industry and the media landscape. These types of games often have limited controls, simpler graphics, and smaller worlds, screens, and budgets than prestige console-based games and massive multi-player online games. From Angry Birdsto Phone Story and Dys4ia, small games have expanded both the player and developer communities and altered notions of what video games do and how. This panel seeks papers that reflect on the world of small games and what the study of them lends to the growing field of game studies. I am interested in papers that address how small games are different from “big” games. Topics might include: indie game aesthetics, new modes of distribution, games in galleries, small games and difference (race, gender, sexuality, class, etc.), game-making software, interventionist games, small platforms, etc. Send 500-word abstracts, sample bibliography, and short biographical statements to Aubrey Anable at aubrey.anable@utoronto.ca

The Superhero Beyond the Blockbuster
Over the past decade in particular, the superhero film has become one of the cornerstones of Hollywood’s blockbuster-dependent business model. Its roots in other media ensure a built-in audience and deep cultural awareness, while also enabling spreadability across multiple delivery channels and revenue streams. At the same time that the dominant superhero franchises have extended themselves across every conceivable media platform from cinema screens to Slurpee cups, texts without any ties to big-budget productions have also proliferated and have become a site of genre renewal and critique. This panel seeks to interrogate some of the consequences of the superhero’s ubiquity by tracing the “ripple effect” of the superhero’s blockbuster status.

Possible paper topics may include, but are not limited to:
The transformation of genre markers into gameplay mechanics (e.g. in board or video games)
The politics of the children’s superhero (e.g. in animated television programming)
Balancing comic book mythology with blockbuster-esque aesthetics in television (e.g. Smallville, Arrow)
Parodies of the superhero film (e.g. Mad magazine, porn, CollegeHumor, etc.)
Low-budget (incl. fan films) and/or foreign (e.g. Bollywood, Russian) appropriations of the Hollywood superhero
Transmedia extensions of blockbuster franchises (e.g. Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye comics, viral marketing, etc.)
Superhero toys and LEGO

Please submit abstracts of 250-300 words and a concise bio to Dru Jeffries (dru.jeffries@gmail.com) by August 9. All applications will receive a response by August 16.

Teaching Media Literacy Through a Video Game Context
Although the 2011 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association/Entertainment Software Association ruled against a proposed California law that would regulate the sale of violent video games, the debate over this topic continues.  In fact, the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT has renewed the argument over video game violence, its potential effects on aggression and the question of regulation.  Some lawmakers have called for increased oversight of games, proposed measures such as a “sin tax” on their sale, or even pushed for laws banning the sale of games to minors, the exact type of bill that the Supreme Court previously struck down.

As with many media issues, navigating the various perspectives in this debate can be difficult for students, particularly given the emotionally charged nature of much media coverage.  It may be confusing how, when so many of these laws have been struck down, lawmakers keep attempting to impose new ones.  Students may also find it difficult to understand why, when many researchers do show concern about the impact of video games, these laws are still unconstitutional.

The purpose of this workshop, therefore, is to use this issue, and similar video game controversies, as a launching off point for a discussion about the challenges and benefits of teaching media literacy using video games.  We will explore to key arguments in the field and develop strategies for teaching them to late high school and early college students as a way to increase their understanding of video games while expanding their general media literacy and ability to think critically.

Because this workshop aims to develop collective strategies for video game pedagogy, the traditional panel format would be less effective, given its stronger focus on individual perspectives rather than collaborative discussion.  Audience members will be invited to contribute strategies they have found to be successful, provide feedback on the panel member’s ideas for teaching video game topics and suggest discourses they feel students should explore to gain a full understanding of critical issues in this area.

Bibliographic Sources:
After Newtown, Congress calls for violent video game regulation. (2013). CBSNews.com. Retrieved July 9, 2013, from http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50138860n&tag=api
Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. (2001). Effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, physiological arousal, and prosocial behavior: a meta-analytic review of the scientific literature. Psychological science, 12(5), 353–359.
Brown vs. Entertainment Merchant’s Association/Entertainment Software Association. 564 U.S. 08-1448 (2011)
Hovey, D. An Act Establishing A Sales Tax on Certain Video Games. , Pub. L. No. HB-5735 (2013). Retrieved from http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/CGABillStatus/CGAbillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=HB5735
Phillips Erb, K. (2013, February 17). Newtown Lawmaker Proposes “Sin Tax” On Violent Video Games.Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2013/02/17/newtown-lawmaker-proposes-sin-tax-on-violent-video-games/
Sherry, J. L. (2001). The Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggression: A Meta-Analysis. Human Communication Research, 27(3), 409–31.
Squire, K. (2005). Toward a Media Literacy For Games. Telemedium, 52(1 & 2), 9–15.

Current Workshop Members:
Amanda Cote (accote@umich.edu)- University of Michigan Dept. of Communication Studies
Julia Lange (jglange@umich.edu)- University of Michigan Dept. of Communication Studies
Dimitrios Pavlounis (dpavloun@umich.edu)- University of Michigan Dept. of Screen Arts and Cultures

Call for Participants:
We are looking for two additional participants interested in discussing the key points in this debate (ex. violence and aggression, media self-regulation, the First Amendment) and other significant game-related topics, to explore various industry and gamer responses students should know.  Participants should be prepared to propose strategies and assignments for the pedagogy of video games and media literacy, and to explore perspectives related to teaching game studies in different disciplines and at different levels of education.

If interested, please email Amanda (accote@umich.edu) with your bio and a brief description of what you would like to discuss/contribute to this workshop (approx.. 500 words).  The submission deadline for this workshop is Friday, August 16th.  Thanks for your interest!

Video Games and Comedy
Description: This panel asks for original research on how the forms and effects of comedy are shaped in video games, from sight gags to comedic performance and humorous interactions. How does laughter arise in specific gaming contexts? Do designers conceive certain ways to foster comical situations through the gameplay? How do players adapt their gaming style when they want to make other players laugh, acting as ‘comedians’, instead of winning the game? Are satire, irony or parody suitable terms to relate to gaming culture? Both canonical comedy theories (Bakhtin, Bergson, Freud or Pirandello) and film studies research (Carroll, Gunning, Crafton or Horton) offer interesting tools in order to explore such questions, but do these tools match the specific logics of video games? Contributions reflecting on these -and similar- topics will be welcomed.

Deadline for submissions: August 12th
Contact info: Send a title, a summary no longer than 2500 characters, 3-5 bibliographic sources and an author bio no longer than 500 characters to manuelgarin@gmail.com

For game scholars in the Bay Area or Twitter users, UC Santa Cruz’s Center for Games and Playable Media is hosting another IFOG event, this time at the new Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley:

On May 10th, at the Computer History Museum, UC Santa Cruz will host some of the world’s most exciting thinkers on interactive storytelling for “Inventing the Future of Games 2013” (http://ifogevents.com). Rather than focus on yesterday’s tips and tricks, our focus is on how the future of interactive storytelling is being invented now. There will be talks, panels, discussion, and live demonstrations — including the first-ever public demonstration of a major, not-yet-announced interactive storytelling technology being developed by UC Santa Cruz and multiple partner organizations.

The day will include a keynote from Warren Spector (Deus Ex, Epic Mickey) and closing remarks from Brenda Romero (Wizardry, Train). The first panel will discuss where current practice is going, featuring Clint Hocking (Valve), Kevin Bruner (Telltale), and Richard Rouse (Microsoft). The second panel engages next-generation tools and authorship, featuring Emily Short (Linden Lab), Asa Kalama (Disney), and Stéphane Bura (Storybricks). The last panel dives into immersive and transmedia storytelling, featuring Matt MacLaurin (eBay), Susan Bonds (42 Entertainment), and Tawny Schlieski (Intel) — with interactive storytelling field founder Brenda Laurel as moderator/interlocutor.

Finally, as with the last IFOG symposium, the audience will contain a greater number of exciting thinkers and creators than the speakers list. For that reason the schedule includes lots of time for eating, drinking, and talking — including a long lunch and a closing cocktail party.

Event Link (including registration): http://ifogevents.com

Twitter Info: If you can’t join us, please follow along on Twitter. Event-related announcements will come via @playableUCSC and the event’s hashtag is #IFOG2013

Past IFOG: Videos from the prior IFOG symposium (featuring Will Wright, Rod Humble, Robin Hunicke, and more) are here:
http://games.soe.ucsc.edu/videos-ifog-2011

The official call for submissions is now up for this conference at Berkeley in the fall, organized by several of my current colleagues at the Berkeley Center for New Media. Details below, and at the conference site:

The Queerness and Games Conference brings together academics and developers to embark on an innovative and interdisciplinary exploration of the intersection between LGBT issues and video games. The event will combine traditional paper presentations and panels with design discussions and creative workshops. Main focuses will include LGBT representation in games, LGBT concerns in the games industry, and the newly forming scholarly field of queer games studies.

Academics and game-related professionals from all disciplines are welcome to submit proposals for talks, panels, or experimental sessions.

Submission Deadline is July 1st.

http://www.qgcon.com/

CFP: SLSA 2013 at Notre Dame

Sadly, I’m not sure yet whether or not I’ll be able to make this year’s SLSA, even though the theme of the “postnatural” is right up my alley! Passing the CFP along for others….

SLSA 2013 CALL FOR PAPERS
The 27th Annual Meeting of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA)

VENUE: The Campus of the University of Notre Dame
DATES: October 3-6, 2013

PAPER PROPOSAL DUE DATE: April 15, 2013
NOTIFICATION OF ACCEPTANCE: June 15, 2013

SLSA 2013 Site Organizer: Laura Dassow Walls, University of Notre Dame (lwalls@nd.edu)
Program Chair: Ron Broglio, Arizona State University (ronbroglio@gmail.com)

CONFERENCE THEME: POSTNATURAL?

What does it mean to come “after” nature? In 2012, Arctic ice melted to the lowest level in human history; with ice everywhere in retreat, island nations are disappearing, species vectors are shifting, tropical diseases are moving north, northern natures-cultures are moving into extinction. Acidification of ocean water already threatens Northwest shellfish farms, while historic wildfires, droughts, floods, and shoreline erosion are the norm. Reality overshoots computer models of global warming even as CO2 emissions escalate. Yet none of this has altered our way of living or our way of thinking: as Fredric Jameson noted, we can imagine the collapse of the planet more easily than the fall of capitalism. What fundamental reorientations of theory—of posthumanity and animality, of agency, actants, and aporias, of bodies, objects, assemblages and networks, of computing and cognition, of media and bioart—are needed to articulate the simple fact that our most mundane and ordinary lives are, even in the span of our own lifetimes, unsustainable? If we have never been natural, are we now, at last, ecological?

Proposals and papers on the theme or on any other SLSA-related topic are welcome. Proposed topics may take up any work in literature and science, history of science, philosophy of science, science and art, or science studies. “Postnatural” has been chosen as a theme to organize ongoing conference threads and to invite a range of proposals from various dimensions of ecocriticism and environmental literature and history.

Presentation proposals will be accepted through the SLSA website http://www.litsci.org, beginning in February, 2013. Individual proposals consist of a 250-word abstract with title. Pre-organized panels for consideration can contain an additional summary paragraph along with proposed session title.

SLSA MEMBERSHIP: Participants in the 2013 conference must be 2013 members of the Society for Literature Science and the Arts. For more information about SLSA, please visit the organization website at www.litsci.org.

Critical Game Studies Panels at SCMS 2013 in Chicago

This year’s SCMS will feature another exciting games-related lineup. I’m particularly excited to see more academic interest in game sound as well as continuing meta-level concerns with the state of the field.

Here’s the list of panels officially sponsored by the Video Game Studies Scholarly Interest Group (VGSSIG). My panel is at the end, but I’m thrilled to be writing and speaking about some new material on Journey.

Please note that there are other games panels that may be of interest, including presentations from my brilliant Cal friends and colleagues Irene Chien, Chris Goetz, and Kris Fallon.

B17 (Weds, Mar 6, 12-1:45, Room 17) : Debugging the History of Game Terminology: Critical Studies of Marginal Concepts

Chair: David Thomas
David Thomas (University of Colorado, Denver), “The Serious Problem of ‘Fun’ in Games”
William Huber (University of Southern California), “D-Day”
Audrey Larochelle (University of Montreal), “Graphical Projection in Game Studies: A Hitchhiker’s Guide”
Andrew (Andy) Keenan (University of Toronto), “Cheating: A Critical Exploration of Rules and Subversive Play”

C21 (Weds, Mar 6, 2-3:45pm, Room 21): Platform Studies: Debating the Future of a Field

Chair: Caetlin Benson-Allott
Ian Bogost (Georgia Institute of Technology)
Jonathan Sterne (McGill University)
Steven Jones (Loyola University, Chicago)
Peter Krapp (University of California, Irvine)

D24: (Weds, Mar 6, 4-5:45pm, Room 24): Engaging the Avatar

Chair: Harrison Gish Co-Chair: Jessica Aldred Harrison Gish (University of California, Los Angeles), “Avatar Interactivity: Modifying and Manipulating Play”
Brian Greenspan (Carleton University), “Mass Effects: Believable Avatars and Networked Engagement”
Jessica Aldred (Carleton University), “LEGO My Avatar: Abstraction, Convergence, and the Contemporary Movie-Game Character”
Reem Hilu (Northwestern University), “Embodying the Avatar: Transformative Play in Urban Games”

F5 (Thurs, Mar. 7, 11-12:45): War and Science Fiction in Contemporary Film and Video Games

Chair: Tanine Allison
Tanine Allison (Emory University), “The ‘Good War’… Now with Aliens! Remediating War in the Science-Fiction Blockbuster”
Gerry Canavan (Marquette University), “‘I’d Rather Be in Afghanistan’: Antimonies of Battle: Los Angeles”
Nathan Blake (Northeastern University), “Attack of the Drones: Science Fiction Terror and Combat in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2”
Matthew Payne (University of Alabama), “The Ludic P/remediation of American Empire–From Homefront to Spec Ops: The Line”

G1 (Thurs, Mar. 7, 1-2:45pm, Room 1): Canon Formation in Digital Game Cultures

Chair: John Vanderhoef
Felan Parker (York University), “Prestige Games”
Christine Kim (Ontario College of Art and Design University), “Blockbuster Exhibitions of Digital Games: Art or Spectacle?”
John Vanderhoef (University of California, Santa Barbara), “Retrogame Roadshow: Collecting and Canon in Classic Gaming Culture”
Sean Feiner (University at Buffalo), “Disciplined Design: Games Studies and the Digital Game Canon”

J19 (Fri, Mar 8, 9-10:45am, Room 19): Sound in Video Games and Interactive Media

Chair: Lori Landay
Respondent: Benjamin Aslinger (Bentley University)
Chris Russell (Northwestern University), “The Atari VCS and the Making of Digital Sound”
Costantino Oliva (University of Malta), “Soundmarks in Digital Games Soundscapes”
Lori Landay (Berklee College of Music), “Sound, Embodiment, and the Experience of Interactivity in Video Games & Virtual Environments”

L24 (Friday, Mar 8, 2:15-4pm, Room 24): Debugging the History of Game Terminology: Critical Studies of Key Concepts

Chair: Henry Lowood(Stanford University)
Raiford Guins (State University of New York), “Console”
Henry Lowood (Stanford University), “Game Engine”
David Myers (Loyola University, New Orleans), “Simulation”
Peter Krapp (University of California, Irvine), “Control”

M3 (Sat, Mar 9, 9-10:45am, Room 3): Playing the Past, Playing the Future: Time in Contemporary Video Games

Chair: Jen Malkowski(Smith College)
TreaAndrea Russworm (University of Massachusetts, Amherst), “Gaming the Racial Past into the Future”
Edmond Chang (University of Washington), ““A Man Chooses, A Player Obeys”: Bioshock, Transhumanism, and the Limits of Queerness”
Jennifer Malkowski (Smith College), “‘You’ve Got to Watch Them All the Time’: Games, Cinema, and Looking in L.A. Noire”
Alenda Chang (University of California, Berkeley), “Game Over? Duration, Distance, and Environmental Disaster in thatgamecompany’s Journey”

Slow Violence (link to Ant, Spider, Bee)

The editors at Ant, Spider, Bee recently asked me to pen something about the place of video games in the growing digital environmental humanities, and I’m happy to report that these thoughts are now online. The post is, perhaps surprisingly for those who know my work, strongly inflected by the latest hullabaloo over video game violence following the Sandy Hook shootings in December, as well as Rob Nixon’s rumination on the ecologically disenfranchised in Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor.

Please head on over and let me know what you think!

FarmVille 2: “Capitalism is king”

I admit, after my chapter on farm games was completed, I let the dozens of virtual farms I had once carefully managed languish. But the release of FarmVille 2, in June, couldn’t help but catch my interest, and I’ve now been playing this new, “3D” version for a few months.

If you’re familiar with my earlier grumpiness over the original FarmVille’s lack of ecological aptitude, I’m happy to report that FarmVille 2 makes definite strides in this respect. For one thing, you now actually have to feed your animals in order for them to produce materials, including yes, even the tactfully named “fertilizer.”

Secondly, you now have to water your seeds in order for them to grow. Victory! (If you’ve never played a farm game, and you’re wondering how it’s even possible to farm without watering, let’s just say that wells were purely decorative objects in the original FarmVille.) Zynga has even partnered with Water.org to promote charitable donations toward solving world water shortages.

Of course, in many ways, FarmVille 2 is more of the same. It’s still a paean to pastoral harmony, as well as capital accumulation, spending, and expansion. Even so, I nearly fell out of my chair when I first visited neighbor “Walter” and this speech bubble popped up:

Capitalism is king, they say? It’s fascinating to see the game’s inescapable subtext blazoned so boldly. Meanwhile, FarmVille 2 has already led Wired contributor Ryan Rigney to dub it “the perpetual-motion money machine,” while Stephen Totilo’s New York Times review concludes that FarmVille 2 and games like it inevitably “retain the stench of a casino.” Even Kotaku’s Kirk Hamilton, who genuinely gave the game the old college try, eventually had to bid the game goodbye.

At this point, I consider myself a connoisseur of the cunning reward-and-frustration dynamics characteristic of these supposedly “free,” “casual,” and “social” games, so I’m hardly fazed by the constant temptations to buy and then spend “farm cash,” rather than coins. For now, I’m just happy that watering is now a crucial game mechanic and that it is a scarce, but renewable resource. Consider me temporarily placated.

Upcoming presentations at MLA 2013 in Boston

If you’re going to be at this year’s MLA convention in Boston and you’re interested in what’s going on in the world of ecomedia, please consider attending the following panels. Saturday’s panel is sponsored by ASLE, and Sunday’s forms part of the growing DH line-up at MLA.  I’ll be presenting on both (though note that I’m missing from the official program for the second panel, due to some late-breaking schedule juggling).

Saturday, 05 January

428. Environment and Media

8:30–9:45 a.m., Beacon D, Sheraton

Program arranged by the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment

Presiding: Rosario Michelle Ramirez Matabuena, Florida State Univ.

1. “Visualizing Extremes: Photography and the Representation of Climate Change,” Karla McManus, Concordia Univ.

2. “Playing Nature,” Alenda Chang, Univ. of California, Berkeley

3. “You Are Here: Locative Media and the National Park Experience,” Alison Byerly, Middlebury Coll.

Sunday, 06 January

763. Digital Technology, Environmental Aesthetics, Ecocritical Discourse

1:45–3:00 p.m., Public Garden, Sheraton

A special session

Presiding: Elizabeth Swanstrom, Florida Atlantic Univ.

1. “Decoding the Desert: Reading the Landscape through the Transborder
Immigrant Tool,” Mark C. Marino, Univ. of Southern California

2. “Thoreau in Process: Reanimating Thoreau’s Environmental Practice
in Digital Space,” Kristen Case, Univ. of Maine, Farmington

3. “Networks, Narratives, and Nature: Teaching Globally, Thinking
Nodally,” Melanie J. Doherty, Wesleyan Coll.

4. “Games as Ecomedia,” Alenda Y. Chang, UC Berkeley
For a more detailed rationale and abstracts for this session, visit Lisa Swanstrom’s site.

Mark Sample also has a convenient list of all the digital humanities panels to be found at this year’s MLA on his site.

CFP: The History of Games

I helped host Carl for a talk here at Berkeley last year (regarding his work on gaming and narrative), while he was completing some postdoctoral research at Stanford with Henry Lowood. Though he’s back in Canada now, he and Henry and some other colleagues are organizing the following international conference, and they’re looking for strong representation from the West Coast.

The History of Games International Conference CFP