Tag Archive: game studies


Friend and colleague Timothy Welsh is organizing the latest installment of the Games and Literary Theory Conference Series, to be held at his home institution of Loyola University in New Orleans. The call details are below:

# International Conference Series in Games and Literary Theory Third Annual Conference

Hosted by Loyola University New Orleans, Department of English & School of Mass Communication

New Orleans, Louisiana USA

November 20-22, 2015

The Games and Literary Theory Conference Series addresses the scope and appeal of interdisciplinary approaches to the study of games and games’ impact on other fields in the Humanities. It began in 2012 as a PhD seminar and workshop arranged by the Department of English at the University of Malta in collaboration with IT University of Copenhagen and subsequently expanded into an annual conference. The inaugural Games and Literary Theory conference convened at the University of Malta in 2013 (https://gamesandliterarytheory.wordpress.com/); the 2nd annual conference was held at the University of Amsterdam in 2014 (http://www.uva.nl/en/about-the-uva/organisation/faculties/content/faculteit-der-geesteswetenschappen/shared-content/events/conferences/2014/11/games-and-literary-theory.html).

The 3rd annual Games and Literary Theory conference is scheduled to meet in the USA at Loyola University New Orleans during November 2015.

We are particularly interested in digital game modalities and how these might be seen as reconfiguring and questioning concepts, practices and orthodoxies integral to literary theory (i.e.

textuality, subjectivity, authorship, the linguistic turn, the ludic, and the nature of fiction). The conference will also explore the ways in which theoretical discourses in the area of game studies can benefit from critical concerns and concepts developed within the fields of literary and cultural  theory, such as undecidability, the trace, the political unconscious, the allegorical, and the autopoietic. Likewise the conversation about narrative and games continues to raise questions concerning the nature of concepts such as fiction and the virtual, or indeterminacies across characters, avatars and players.

The Games and Literary Theory conference has adopted a single-track format allowing all attendees to attend all presentations and discussions. The organizers of the Third Annual International Conference invite proposals that focus on issues related, but not limited to, any (or a combination of) the following:

– Textuality in literature and games

– Rethinking fiction after with digital games

– Characters, avatars, players, subjects

– New forms of narrative and games

– Games and the rethinking of culture

– Genre study and criticism

– Digital games, literariness, and intermediality

– Digital games and authorship and/or focalization

– Reception theory, reader experience, player experience: New phenomenologies for critique

– Gender in games, literature, and theory

– Digital games, literary theory, and posthumanism

– Representations of disability in interactive media

– Possible Worlds Theory and games

– Digital games in literature

For earliest consideration, please submit abstracts of 250-300 words as the body of an email with a subject line “GamesLit15” to Timothy Welsh (twelsh@loyno.edu) by April 1, 2015. The organizers will review proposals and confirm acceptances beginning May 1, 2015.

For information and updates, please refer to the conference website

(gameslit15.wordpress.com) and twitter feed (@gameslit15).

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The Secret Lives of Objects

Time is scarce these days, but I finally finished my first play-through of an indie game called The Novelist, developed by Kent Hudson. The game is essentially an interactive drama that chronicles the lives of one family during a summer on the Oregon coast, revealed from the viewpoint of some kind of spirit (a.k.a. you) that inhabits their vacation rental home. Dan Kaplan, the father, is a writer struggling to complete his latest book. Linda, the mother, is an aspiring painter. And their son, Tommy, is a young boy having a tough time with school, his parents’ evident preoccupations, and the isolation of their temporary summer place. As one learns, Dan has brought the family to this beautiful but secluded location in order to dislodge his writer’s block, so as each chapter of the game unfolds, he must make difficult, often heartbreaking choices between the demands of his career, his marriage, and his child. Each narrative episode permits only one primary desired outcome (Dan’s, Linda’s, or Tommy’s), as well as one subsidiary compromise–in other words, one family member will always be disappointed, and another only partially mollified. Though the exact options shift from segment to segment, Dan always faces the same basic dilemma: work on his book by sacrificing quality time with his wife or his son, or not.

NovelistScreen1

Dan Kaplan ponders the imponderable as he looks out at the Pacific Ocean. Screenshot from thenovelistgame.com.

First, let me say that this game hits uncomfortably close to home for me, having just moved my own family across the country for my career as an academic. Like Dan, I often feel paralyzed by fears of mediocrity and the inevitability of letting others down. (SPOILER ALERT) Frankly, when the last decision Dan must make was revealed as whether or not to accept an assistant professorship in literature, which would require relocating his family and thereby squelching his wife’s painterly ambition and his son’s tenuous progress in school, I nearly groaned aloud.

I could take issue with the game’s ruleset, or its assumptions, of course–why must life be zero-sum, with someone always gaining via someone else’s losing? Should I experience a certain schadenfreude now that fathers can apparently join mothers in the murky depths of career-family negotiation? But I understand that the game’s constraints are designed to wound. They are inflexible to the extent that deadlines, schedule conflicts, and human potential itself require us to pick and choose. Though we might like to reassure ourselves that, were it us, WE would find the time to tutor Tommy between insanely productive bouts at the typewriter, while also helping Linda with her art show, this game renders its choices starkly. We could even say that The Novelist is foremost a resource-management game, if we consider Dan’s attention the scarce resource in question (something that Kate Hayles has argued is a feature of our contemporary media- and technology-saturated environments).

Perhaps most interesting to me is less the game’s branching textual structure or dramatic content than its use of matter and environment. Ordinary objects take on numinous significance, including a whole host of documents (diary entries, letters, shopping lists, post-it notes, magazines, books, etc.), images, and personal belongings. Some of these are manifestations of the creative process, like Dan’s scrawled ideas for plot points or Linda’s half-finished canvases. Others are prized possessions, like Tommy’s favorite toys. Some are conduits for particular activities, like firewood for a campout on the beach; and still others are almost threats, like the whiskey Dan begins to overindulge in as his deadline draws closer. Many of these are actionable, their glowing or flickering forms indicating to the player that they may be read or otherwise inspected. Often, the window of their narrative efficacy is short–a single chapter–so at all other times they lurk in the background as evidence of decisions already made or still-to-come. The story advances when, in each section, after exploring all the available options and discovering each character’s preferred outcome, you select an object that will set in motion the outcome you deem best (e.g. Dan’s jogging shoes, instead of the whiskey bottle, if you want him to lay off drinking and revert to a healthier lifestyle).

NovelistScreen9

An epistolary game. Screenshot from thenovelistgame.com.

As the presiding player-spirit-author-voyeur, you may quickly roam the house by “possessing” lights or choose to “emerge” from the nearest incandescent bulb to creep about. The game can even be played in stealth mode, so that the family members can actually spot you during their peregrinations.

While The Novelist isn’t an ecological game, since the player-as-spirit stays resolutely bound to the home, it is arguably an environmental one. Beyond the clear metaphorical importance of the game’s isolated forest setting and spectacular but also eerie coastal bluff views, it is because the game emerges through the hidden lives of objects, rather than explicit conversation, that it seems to celebrate the nonhuman. The characters’ default verbal exchanges verge on the inane, but in their memories and thoughts, and the emotional and historical residues of the property, surprisingly profound situations unfold. In fact, though the story is ultimately a human one, The Novelist might qualify as an example of speculative realism, or object-oriented ontology.

Want to try it yourself? It’s on Steam.

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

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”

This fall’s SLSA conference will take place September 27-30 in Milwaukee, WI, on the theme of the nonhuman. Since nonhuman agency or an ethics of digital interaction with nonhuman entities (environments, organic and inorganic processes and forces, our world conceptualized as data) is an important component of my work on games, I can’t help but appreciate the organizing concept. (Bruno Latour and Donna Haraway, among others, undergird my criticism in often implicit ways.)

Furthermore, Patrick Jagoda and Stephanie Boluk have assembled another fabulous proposal for a critical game studies stream, panels below (I’m listed in #5). Game studies truly has some traction, now. It should be a great start to the year!

1. Virtual Worlds and Procedural Stories
Chair: Priscilla Wald
– Stephanie Boluk/ Patrick LeMieux: “Dwarven Epitaphs:
Procedurally-Generated Storytelling in Dwarf Fortress”
– Victoria Szabo: “The City Talks Back: Traversing Annotated Landscapes”
– Katherine Hayles: “Mapping Daemon : Geography, Power, and Mixed
Reality in the New World Order”

2. Aesthetics of Play
Chair: Patrick LeMieux
– Patrick Jagoda: “Games of Failure: Thresholdland and Transmedia
Aesthetics of Play”
– Mary Flanagan: “Playful aesthetics”
– Eddo Stern: “The design philosophy behind Darkgame”

3. Family Resemblances and Videogame Histories
Chair: Patrick Jagoda
– Ian Bogost: “Bone of My Bones and Flesh of my Flesh: The Genesis of
Ms. Pac-Man”
– Zach Whalen: “A Counterfactual Historiography of Three Game Platforms”
– Nick Montfort: Three Family Reunions and Some Black Sheep”

4. Simulation and Its Discontents
Chair: Stephanie Boluk
– David Golumbia, “Game of Drones”
– Ed Chang, “Gaming the Posthuman”
– Luke Caldwell and Tim Lenoir, “Reality is Expensive: Making a Better
Military-Entertainment Complex”

5. E-Cologies and (Post)human Nature
Chair: Mark Marino
– Lisa Nakamura, “Sexual Harassment and the Discourse of Indigeneity
in Digital Game Culture”
– Timothy Welsh, “The Vitality of the Digital: Bioart and Videogames”
– Alenda Chang, “Playing Nature”

SCMS and our new AirQuest Promo

It’s been a hectic week trying to squeeze all I can out of this year’s Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) conference in Boston, while fielding requests from the other coast in the lead-up to a grant deadline for our AirQuest game. The good news is, there’s been a substantial game studies line-up at SCMS this year, with one rather unexpected highlight being a presentation by Ralph Baer, the developer of the first video game console and the well-known game Simon, as well as the Video Game Studies Scholarly Interest Group’s celebration of Baer’s 90th birthday with a cake in the shape of a Magnavox Odyssey:

The raw and the cooked? The actual Magnavox Odyssey and its tasty simulacrum.

The Motorola empowerment grant is also in, and the short video that went with the application shows some of the interviews and other footage we recorded on our last trip to the San Joaquin Valley (in early March). It’s great to see some sort of product come out of our crazy stops on the side of freeways, our tour of the cogen/waste incineration plant in Stanislaus, covert stops at dairy farms, and months now of building relationships to Valley communities, including students, educators, air officials, air-quality advocates, medical professionals, families and more.

Please watch and pass it on–the more views and feedback the better!