June 7, 2006


Unfortunately, due to comment spam I've had to start relying on a CAPTCHA - one of those funny image/text verifcation systems (this plugin is SCode). I am well aware of the issues they cause, especially for those with vision problems. Currently, however, I'm just not sure any better way to stop the spam, which has shut our servers down several times in the past weeks. I welcome comments on the change, either through the normal comment feature or via email, which is always accessible: jcrhody AT umd DOT edu. Fellow herders - I sent email around detailing how to implement the plugin. I ask that you choose some effective way to moderate spam (TypeKey, SCode, etc.).

Posting has - and will remain - relatively light for the next several weeks, for a variety of reasons. Once I give it a good spellcheck, I will probably post the talk I gave at Georgetown a few weeks ago. The talk, which I gave alongside Michelle Roper and Mark Sample, was well-attended and enjoyable. After about 50 minutes of presentations, the forty or so audience members, who hailed from GW, Georgetown, UMD, UVA, and George Mason, ran us through our paces with about 70 minutes of Q & A. All in all, a great conversation and enjoyable afternoon.

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January 11, 2006

CFP: Reading Code

The Media & Literature discussion group is arranging the following session for the MLA meeting in Philadelphia, December 2006:

“Reading Code”

Papers on the aesthetics, politics, and poetics of code; machine translation; relations between natural languages & programming languages; codework; protocols; genetic code and biomedia; operational text.

Abstracts and brief CVs by March 17 to Rita Raley, raley at english DOT ucsb DOT edu

[via Matt K]

Posted by Jason at 7:06 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 6, 2005

DAC 2005

The Digital Arts & Culture 2005 Conference program is now available. The selection of papers looks intriguing, although what I find quite ... interesting? odd? ... is that for all of the papers on computer games, the only title of a game mentioned in *any* of the papers is Facade.

That was after a quick glace through the PDF, so maybe I missed something. And I understand that DAC isn't just about games, so maybe it's just a quirk of this particular conference.

In any case, it looks like a great event. A travel budget - yet another reason to finish the dissertation and work towards the tenure-track.

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September 12, 2005

Game Writers Conference

Game Writers Conference October 26-27, 2005 in Austin, Texas

A great line-up of speakers.

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July 13, 2005


KF of Planned Obsolescence is circulating the following CFP for a panel at next year's Society for Cinema and Media Studies in Vancouver:

Database/Narrative: The Forms of Digital Media

Critics including Friedrich Kittler and Lev Manovich have posited, in so-called “new media,” the replacement of narrative by the database; other theorists and practitioners, including Marsha Kinder’s Labyrinth Project, have imagined the future of media as developing precisely in the nexus of narrative and the database. This panel will explore, across multiple media forms, the intersections and divergences of narrative and the database in the contemporary media ecology. Papers might address a range of topics, such as recent experiments in documentary production, the role of narrative in digital gaming, or the structures of such forms of social software as wikis and blogs. Such an exploration might help bridge the apparent gap between traditional narrative forms such as film and more recent technologies such as the Internet, creating a useful dialogue between “cinema” and “new media.”

Alas, my kingdom for a travel budget. If you have a paper that would fit, send it in. Vancouver is beautiful to visit, and KF is a hoot to hang out with.

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June 18, 2005

DIGRA - Best Paper Presentation

Shadowplay: Simulated Illumination in Game Worlds by Simon Niedenthal provides a wonderful exploration of the use of light in game environments. The full paper is available here.

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DIGRA - Bridging Theory and Design

This roundtable generated quite a discussion, which I wasn't able to capture in my notes. My notes of the four panelists' opening statements follow:

Aki Jarvinen
Three processes/purposes for research: Research into design (traditional humanities- and social-style research), research through design (project based), research for design (game design, develop methods)

Stephen Bjork – stepping stones between design and theory
Focus on games (not gamers and gamer communities), focus on designed gameplay (not emergent; game with authors w/ intended gameplay) – “Game play Research” as type of interaction design; artifact and/vs activity. Test theories through design.

Design and Theory
Design – supported by methods, directed by theories
Methods – tested by designing, motivated by theory
Theory – validated by designs, applied by methods
(fluid shift between the three types)

Pirates! game example, where the team shifted between the 3 as they created the game.

Eric Zimmerman
Questioning Game Design + Theory
3 questions:
Game design as master discipline? Should research be relevant for game design? Or should scholars focus on their own field in relation to games without worrying about making sure that the ideas are relevant for game design?

Why the prevalence of formalism? The idea that games can be “known” and formally described. The “essence” of games. What does it leave out? Why this renewed structuralism? Why no ethnography of game design process or game designers?

Design as theoretical investigation? The academy as a possible space for games that would be avoided by the risk-adverse industry.

Slides soon available at: www.ericzimmerman.com

Can’t design, won’t design. On one hand, there is the idea that if you haven’t made a game, you don’t know what you are talking about. On the other hand, academics sometimes see designers as anti-intellectual, which is false as well. Advocate pure theory – long term, few specific goals, (anecdote: “where are you going with this?” “If I knew I wouldn’t take another step in that direction”). Practical projects as clutter – disrupts distance from object. Storytelling – no good explanation of the relationship between games and storytelling. Hasn’t been solved by design. Necessary to have a group that isn’t invested in design, but interested in dialoguing with these groups. 3 main channels of communication: pure theorists and designer. Design theorists and working designer. Pure theorists and design theorists. Request to all bloggers that all blogged comments be attributed to “the other Aarseth.”

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June 17, 2005

DIGRA - Janet Murray Keynote

Janet Murray – The Future of Electronic Games: Lessons from the first 250,000 Years

The last word on ludology and narratology – showdown at HUMlab Jan 2005 – Jenkins and Aarseth. Ludonauts.com – aarseth “as far as narratology is concerned, there was nothing to engage in. As Jenkins himself points out…, he is not a narratologist. … The real iron is that virtually all the so-called ludologist are trained in narratology. Hopefully there will be some strong “narratological” position paper at digra, where the ‘ludologist’ are met with rational counter-argument… and games are shown to be stories.”

What this quest for the phantom narratologist?
What is ludology? A methodology, an ideology – we need two different terms (one for each).
Methodology: Computer Game Formalism (CGF) – based on premise that games can be described as a discrete category with stable descriptors; uses methods derived from structural narratology; Phantom opponent “narratologists”: want to put games into the colonial grasp of narrative by denying their unique form [the colonialist myth]

Game (Studies) Essentialism (GSE or GE)
Defines the field of games studies as concerned ONLY with those formal elements unique to games; insists on the irrelevance of other approaches

Aarseth test – ref. The First Person article and the debate between aarseth and moultrhope regarding the importance of lara croft. There is no single orthodox reading of a game. Formal and cultural approaches are both valuable.

Did games make us human?
How did we become human?
New research in cognitive science examining the problem of how human beings got so smart so fast.
Merlin Donald – cognition linked to culture; our culture and brains co-evolve. Progress of hominoid cognition:
Mammalian: episodic awareness: self-awareness, event sensitivity, recognition of individuals
Hominid: mimetic gestures: social bonding via imitation of bonding
Homo Sapiens: symbolic communication, narrative, mythic framework
Human culture: external symbolic media
Mimesis --> Language

Are games the missing link? Merlin Donald is challenging the language model. Human children play rule-governed games by imitation; they invent games without language. Test chimps v. baby by playing games. Chimp loses interest in synchronized tasks. “Zone of proximal evolution” Apes can almost play advanced games, but not quite.

Michael Tomasello – culture ratchets
Awareness of other’s minds; awareness of shared consciousness – human babies aware at 9 months. Tomasello would argue that causal thinking develops at this time as well. Develop causal narratives. Mark Turner – small spatial stories that are the basics of grammar.
Joint Attentional Scene resembles a game. Shared limited focus; witnessed intentionality; symbolic communication. Which leads to: self in relation to others; perspectival thinking; develop basis for intentional instruction.

Carol Eckerman (Duke U) – Toddler-Toddler Imitation Games. Reciprocal imitation. Reflect pleasure in the intentionality and mirroring of behavior. Synchronize. This leads to language. Pleasure in shared pattern. Hellen Keller initially thought of the hand signals as a new game, until finally making connection to meaning. (Merlin Donald – Origins of the Modern Mind)

Wittgenstein: there is no essential game. Murray wants to put Ring Around the Rosie in the same league as chess, Tetris, etc. Synchronous participation, mimicry, pleasure. The “quintessential mimetic game”

Is our pleasure in and propensity for games a driving force of our evolution (cultural, biological, social)?
Types of games in cognitive development
Mimetic contests (follow the leader) – dance dance revolution
Abstract cognitive patterns (knucklebones) – counting, sequencing, etc – Tetris (What happens when we replace the human consciousness exchange with computer consciousness?)
Abstract social patterns – turn taking, contest, betting
Emotional social patterns: performing, spectatorship, cheating, risk-taking

Senet; Book of the Dead. Games direct attention to the symbolic nature of representation.

Games in a procedural medium: where are they leading?
Reintroducing mimetic task into the ‘larger village that we live in”
Reference to Façade – having to reinvent the joint attentional moment
Gonzalo Frasca’s Madrid – game as ritual; mimesis of coordinated action
Ian Bogost “Take Back Illinois”
Will Wright “Spore” – meta-mimetics of shared procedural creation; recreating that sharing and mimicking

If mimetic games make us human, then what kind of games do we want to play and make?

[please see Notes on Notes]

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DIGRA - TL Taylor Keynote Notes

TL Taylor – Contemporary Play: How MMOGs Can Inform Game Studies

Everquest info recap, for the three people in the audience who were not familiar with EQ (the advantage of game conferences).

The act of play includes play with indeterminate rules; malleable gameplay
EQ as “boundary objects” – Bowker & Star, Sorting Things Out (1999) – “objects that both inhabit several commuities of practice and satisfy the informational requirements of each of them… plastic enough to adapt to local needs and constraints of parties employing them, yet robust enough to remain a common identity across sites.” Example EQ communities of practice: designers, players, legal departments, marketing, customer services, etc

One is not born an Everquest player, one becomes one (riff on De Beauvoir) – unpack how people become players:
Formal rules of the game

Layers that we learn play (what makes up how we play beyond the formal rules):
Technological: interfaces & controllers, system requirements & use knowledge, avatars, communication structures, open/closed architectures
We configure systems, systems configure us back. Science-Technology studies.
Value notions implied in each of these (e.g., avatars as gendered value notions).

Institutional: EULAs & TOS, “essence of the game,” game management & customer service, dispute handling/protest, subscription & distribution models, IP law
WOW: Warrior Protest – when the protest occurred, a system wide message from admins: “Attention: Gathering on a realm with intent to hinder gameplay is considered griefing and will not be tolerated.”

Communities: play styles and strategies, reputation & social capital, group affiliations, distributed & collective intelligence, player identity, ? of legitimate out-game “intrusions”
Train – pulling a ton of monsters; no mention in the manual but player community create rules or norms [JR: or ethics?]; make sense of trains only through community; as points of humor, memory, and community feeling
Guilds and social organization: social labor; reference EQ + Sopranos paper (trust, responsibility, and reputation)
Argue that it is crucial to the play of the game
The Collective Intelligence (Jenkins?) of EQ (3rd party websites, etc.) Alakazam website.
TL argues that the game is unplayable without 3rd party sites. High-end play heavily relies on these kinds of sites. Change of game rules proper in response: e.g., maps now present in EQ.

Heterogeneity of play:
Powergamers v. casual, family and friends, play histories and competencies, technical resources and skills.

Fundamentally different ways to play even among ‘power’ players.

Socio-technical artifact – encoding not only forms of play, but player subjectivity itself
Boundary object – game is constructed and enacted among multiple actors

[see post on Notes on Notes]

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DIGRA - note on notes

Just a quick note on the notes I post regarding DIGRA presentations. They are very rough approximations of what the person said, the mistakes are mine, all of the good ideas are theirs. I suggest you visit the conference website to see their full paper, which should be available there. [My personal notes are usually in brackets.] Thanks

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June 16, 2005

Time Travel

Time travel has never been easier. You only have to sit in a narrow tube with people who seem to have three elbows to jab into your ribs for the duration of your journey, and suddenly you are three hours in the past. I arrived in Seattle yesterday with little trouble, though as someone who has never been an avid fan of flight - mostly because of the numbness that sets in after hour two - I was glad to be off the plane. The view of Mt. Rainier from the window almost made me forget the pins and needles. The mountains of the western coast never fail to surprise me, as I grew up navigating the smooth slopes of the Appalachian and thus have little familiarity with the sharp edges of the Rockies, Olympics, and Cascades.

My friend and old roommate B. picked me up and took me on a driving tour of downtown Seattle before we settled at The Palace Kitchen, a restaurant run by some well-known chef that many of my friends may recognize (if I could remember the name). I have no talent for this kind of knowledge or recollection, though I do know a good dinner when I taste one. This was a good dinner. Halibut on a bed of "bread salad" - a concoction of bread, olive oil, peas and beans, with goat (?) cheese. The service was kind, present but not rushed, and the open kitchen and pleasant acoustics provided a wonderful atmosphere. An amazing meal - B's generous introduction to his Seattle lifestyle.

This morning B. dropped me off at the train station, laden with coffee and doughnuts from the local shop. On the advice of B. and S. (B's wonderful girlfriend), I had booked "business class" Amtrak tickets, which afforded a very comfortable ride up the coast towards Vancouver. If ever I was to recommend a train ride in North America, this one currently tops my list. The ride is scenic, with the gently lapping waves of the Sound matching the lull of the train. There are few spots along the entire trip that do not beg for a photograph, and the temptation to just look out of the window won out enough that I only saw about half of the "in-train movie": Million Dollar Baby. These were nice enough distractions when I wasn't tweaking my presentation for tomorrow.

I'm booked in at the Ramada downtown, which is right around the block from one of two conference venues. After slightly overshooting my stop on the AirTrain (the local Metro), I finally made my way to the hotel, which seems to be in a slightly less tourist-laden part of town. Local pizza shops are scattered around (a high student population, perhaps, eating the 97 cent slices of pie), and there are enough used book stores within 100 meters to keep me occupied during downtime. Since the Ramada is about half the cost of the other hotels I looked at, it seems like a pretty good deal.

Vancouver seems like a great city so far. Walkable, with adequate public transportation, and residents who have been nice enough to direct a wayward tourist. After I stop by the registration desk, I plan to grab a quick bite to eat and take a short walking tour before the 7pm keynote.

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June 15, 2005

DIGRA - Taking Off

I'm just about ready to catch my flight to the DIGRA conference. I leave shortly for Seattle, where I will meet up with an old friend for the night. I take the train to Vancouver in the morning, and I suspect I will poke around the city for a short while before heading over to TL Taylor's (of TerraNova fame) opening keynote address. The conference has a great line-up of speakers, and I hope to be able to put faces to some of the online personalities I've met over the past few years. I will try to blog some of the sessions, depending on the availability of wi-fi.

If any fellow bloggers want to get together for a drink, just drop me a note here, send an e-mail (jcrhody AT umd DOT edu), or look for the bearded fella wandering around Vancouver.

Posted by Jason at 10:14 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 10, 2005

Digging In

While my paper for the DIGRA conference has long been done (Game Fiction: Playing the Interface in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Asheron’s Call), I'm still putting together my PowerPoint, since the 12 page paper certainly will not fit in the 12 minute time slot each person is allotted (not to mention that outside of English departments, conferencing seems to switch from "reading a paper" to "clicking a PowerPoint"). I'm looking forward to the trip, recalling the rejuvenating effects gained from my last major conference (AoIR 2003 in Toronto).

At the same time, this is lining up to be the Month That Won't Stand Still. The days slip by, much as my daughter did the other day, shrieking with joy as she danced and sprinted her way through the aisles of Office Depot. There's nothing more enjoyable than a row full of staplers, except perhaps for those metal-frame staircases that linger about, dangling signs that read "Employees Only." Those signs mean little to a 17-month old who has that dangerous combination of illiteracy, no sense of danger, and a love of climbing.

While the eBay spam at my "day job" might seem to be the most pressing issue, based on the frequency those emails seem to visit my inbox, we have a deadline looming at the end of the month, making my trip to Vancouver less convenient that it possibly might have been otherwise. There's also the unfortunate aspect of leaving behind my family, and missing the wedding of a cousin. Our household will be split three ways for a short while next week, and this is an unfamiliar occurrence. Toss in a few other obligations and hopeful aspirations with a looming deadline and I feel like I'm running, wishing for some wind at my back.

As my wife reminded me, however, as we sat watching the lightning bugs rise from the grass in our backyard, once the plane takes off and heads towards Seattle, I'll lean back and relax. A visit with two very good friends bookends my trip, and I get to revisit Seattle briefly, which I loved the last time I was there, and see Vancouver for the first time (I've been to Victoria on Vancouver Island, but never on the mainland proper). By this Sunday, my PowerPoint should be finalized. I'll have a laptop and about 4 hours on the train from Seattle to Vancouver to just get some other work done. The month isn't over yet - I just need to stop feeling like it is.

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May 25, 2005

Serious Games Summit DC 2005

The Serious Games Summit DC 2005 is slated for October 31 through November 1st in Crystal City.

Posted by Jason at 2:52 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 19, 2005

DIGRA Done... for now...

Misc. has been pretty quiet the past week or so, as most of my waking moments not spent at work were dedicated to finishing my DIGRA conference paper. Here is the revised title and short abstract:

Game Fiction: Playing the Interface in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Asheron’s Call

Videogame play requires the negotiation of multiple synchronic points-of-view enabled through the use of cameras, avatars, interfaces, and vignettes (the cut-scenes, dialogue, and other attributes normally attributed to the “story”). Concurrent mastery of these points-of-view contributes to the game field of play and enables a greater possibility to complete the game’s goals. Using Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Asheron’s Call as examples, this paper examines the interface as one of the various mechanisms that establish and control the player’s point-of-view in videogames. By understanding the use of point-of-view as one of many components that establish game fiction, we can theorize the imaginary inventions that shape games, even those that do not resemble more traditional narrative forms.

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April 5, 2005

Sell Your Soul for E3

The Xbox.com Apprentice Contest

Your essay is due by April 15. How can you pass up the opportunity to fetch coffee during the industry's hottest floor show? I really like how they appeal to women candidates by suggesting that you can spend your free time "ogling booth babes."

Posted by Jason at 5:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Games, Learning, Society Conference

The Games, Learning & Society Conference [is] to be held June 23-24, 2005 in Madison, Wisconsin ... Sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education and the Academic ADL Co-Lab, the GLS Conference will foster substantive discussion and collaboration among academics, designers, and educators interested in how videogames – commercial games and others – can enhance learning, culture, and education. Speakers, discussion groups, interactive workshops, and exhibits will focus on game design, game culture, and games’ potential for learning and society more broadly.
Posted by Jason at 5:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 20, 2005

text-narrative-image conference

Show & Tell: Relationships between Text, Narrative and Image
is a conference at the University of Hertfordshire (Hatfield, UK)
on September 12th, 2005.

Posters, paintings, guidebooks, films, computer games and other digital environments are just some of the cultural artefacts in which text, narrative and image intersect in particular ways. Art historians, design historians, material culturalists, practitioners of cultural studies and others are invited to reflect on their sources, the issues mobilised by articulating images and objects with language and the ways in which their talking and writing conditions understanding of cultural artefacts. Show/ Tell: Relationships between Text, Narrative and Image is the first conference in a biennial series.

Hopefully some papers or notes will be available.

Posted by Jason at 10:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 18, 2005

DIGRA 2005 List of Papers

A list of the DIGRA 2005 Presenters, Abstracts, and Papers, including my abstract: "Who’s on First? Competing Points-of-View in Computer Games."

Posted by Jason at 2:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 29, 2004


Abstracts for DIGRA's Changing Views: Worlds in Play conference are due tomorrow, November 30th.

The conference is in Vancouver from June 16 to 20, 2005. Also note that this year, conference fees are reduced for graduate students:

A greatly reduced conference fee ($100.00) for student delegates makes participation more accessible.

As someone who couldn't afford to give his paper last year, I was quite pleased to see that.

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October 19, 2004

[Serious Games] Finally Wired

Finally found the wireless hotspot thanks to Torill's handy guidance. The conference has been an interesting mix of academics/educators, corporates, feds, and military. The diversity is found both in the audience and the panels. Overall, I've been pleased with the panels and have been taking copious notes, which I will post (unedited, for the most part) until I can work them into an overall conference report.

Was glad to meet Torill and Dennis yesterday. We enjoyed lunch on the hotel balcony. After the panels, America's Army hosted a reception to highlight their latest games and simulations. Open bar and tasty food. Dennis and I also met Matt last night for Greek dining and beer in Dupont Circle, where we discussed teaching interactive fiction and playing wargames.

More complete panel notes to come later. Almost time to go scavenge for my box lunch.

Posted by Jason at 12:22 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 20, 2004

DIGRA: Changing Views: Worlds in Play

The next DiGRA conference CFP is available. Abstracts due November 30, 2004.

Posted by Jason at 6:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 18, 2004

Serious Games Summit DC, Take 2

In case you were wondering, there is no student discount for the Serious Games Summit in DC this coming October.


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July 22, 2004

Serious Games Summit DC

Serious Games Summit DC
October 18-19
Washington DC

Serious Games are applications of interactive technology that extend far beyond the traditional videogame, including: training, policy exploration, analytics, visualization, simulation, education and health and therapy. These applications are allowing immersive training and modeling on a scale never before possible.

The Serious Games Summit DC gathers the leaders in this space to study successful applications of interactive technology, understand the fundamental process of building a game, and build relationships to work together on successful projects.

Public and private sector project leaders, policymakers, contractors, military personnel, government administrators, educators, and leading game creators are expected to be the primary attendees of this conference.

Register online at http://www.seriousgamessummit.com and use priority code:GFH4 to get an additional $25 discount on your pass.

Posted by Jason at 7:52 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 21, 2004

IDC 2004 @ UMD

At UMD's very own HCIL:

Interaction Design and Children 2004 (IDC'2004)


1-3 June 2004

University of Maryland, HCIL, College Park, Maryland

Online Conference Registration is now open... Register before the early deadline of 30 April 2004 for discounted fees!

Papers, tutorials, workshops, demos, posters, and more will present...
-emerging new technologies for children
-the impact of these technologies
-the process of innovating with children

**Opening Keynote Panel: Marvin Minsky (MIT), Alan Kay (HP), and Seymour Papert (MIT/U.of Maine)

**Closing Keynote Panel: Alice Cahn (Cartoon Network), Henry Jenkins (MIT), and Alice Wilder (Blue's Clues)

Moderator for both Panels: David Kestenbaum, National Public Radio

Sponsored by: ACM SIGCHI, NSF, IMLS, Fisher-Price, LeapFrog, & Organa

Posted by Jason at 5:12 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 14, 2003

Game Studies Levels Up (thoughts on conference recaps)

I've been following the Level Up! conference reports with great interest. Lisbeth Kalstrup details some of the issues at play in the (so-called) narratology/ludology debate. Lisbeth draws attention to the important distinction between "narrative in games," rather than "games as narrative" - a distinction I hold a great deal of affinity for. At the recent AoIR conference, the 'gaming group' got together for a "Birds of a Feather" meeting (at 8am, no less), and as we did the normal round of introductions, I explained my interests with a similar disclaimer - "I'm interested in narrative in games ... which is not to say, games as narrative." Sighs of relief seemed to penetrate the friendly chuckles around the table.

Which is odd, because I've never had to say, "narrative in books, not books as narrative," "narrative in drama, not drama as narrative," or "narrative in films, not films as narrative." Apples and oranges? I'm not sure, but it certainly seems telling of some issue, perhaps akin to media confusion when dealing with something like a William Blake print. Is it text or image? Both and/or neither? When you surgically remove the words from their illuminate state, what happens? Can you really - as some claim - pull a narrative from a game, without any real consequence to the game itself?

Anyone up for a rousing game of ProgressQuest?

Gonzalo Frasca, of newsgaming.org, provides his assessment of the conference, where he describes his talk as an attempt to move past the "narratologist/ludologist" debate, in which he claims:

such debate never took place and was based on a series of misconceptions and unfounded accusations of radicalism (at least between its main protagonists). . . Right from the start, the first paper ever published on ludology, clearly stated that its goal was "not to replace the narratological approach, but to complement it". Clear as water, right? I would have rather used my article to explore some of my recent research, but I decided to try to tackle this issue and put a final nail on its coffin. Sadly, the issue seems to still be appealing to many of the newcomers, so I am afraid that this issue would keep haunting us for a while. Luckily, all the people I discussed it with (including Aarseth, Juul, Murray, Mateas, Jarvinen and Eskelinen) consider the matter as just a detail in the field's recent history and are ready to get past it.

Andrew of GTA shares his thoughts about the conference, and likens Gonzalo's assertions to Rodney King's "Can't we all just get along?" An interesting choice, since I'm not sure why there is the perception that serious debate needs to be codified as hostile (and I'm not targeting Andrew here; I think he's just picking up on the vibes at play in The Debate itself - or perhaps the debate about The Debate?).

I am looking forward to Gonzalo posting his paper, because I'm hoping it will include a fairly detailed discussion of what he sees as the progression of The Debate. Call me crazy - or maybe I'm just one of the "newcomers" that "sadly" refuses to give up on the issue? ;) - but I actually find the legitimizing process involved in developing an academic field rather interesting. I'm also hoping to see why this is an issue to get past, rather than an issue to build on; in other words, what good came out of The Debate, if any?

As to looking towards the future, Lisbeth details what she believes is necessary for the "narrative in games" crowd:

I believe, what 'we' (those interested in narrative aspects in games) need to focus on now, is the concrete use of narrative devices in specific games, not looking at these games as narratives who should produce the same kind of emotions we know and expect to be rewarded with when we read narratives in books or on screen, but contemplating how narrative devices can be used inside games for the purpose of creating good gameplay and in order to produce a desire for the completion of the game (i.e. how narrative devices can help create "an anticipation of completion" and not retrospection, perverting Peter Brooks a bit).

Lots of great thought in this statement, although I think a lot of work also remains to be done to detail the relationship of story to any media. In fact, as I argued in my paper at AoIR, I think that one of the most radical ways to legitimize the field is to show how study of games can transform previously established academic methodologies and theories (just as hypertext helped reinvigorate - and popularize - scholarship about 'the Book').

Other recaps of Level Up! include:
Jason Della Rocca (with pictures)

EDIT: Here's an excellent conference evaluation by David Thomas of Buzzcut.

Posted by Jason at 7:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 5, 2003

Level Up in Progress

Here's a link to the print Proceedings of the Level Up DiGRA Conference [PDF].

And here's wishing I could have gone ... sounds like a great line-up; some of the folks I met at AoIR, and they were great. I've read the work (and blogs) of many others. And I was really looking forward to having an excuse to finish my paper.

I haven't found much blogging about the conference yet, so if you see any details, please post the URL in the comments.

EDIT: Florence Chee's paper made it into a Reuter's story (link via Yahoo!).

Of course, the paper is about addiction to Everquest. The press loves this stuff. Heck, even Oprah loves it!. The article mentions the "world's first interdisciplinary games conference" (which I think is slightly inaccurate, but whatever), but fails to mention Level Up! by name. The only reason I made the connection? The location listed at the beginning of the article: "UTRECHT, Netherlands (Reuters)."

EDIT #2: Wall Street Journal article on the conference

Posted by Jason at 6:56 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 19, 2003

Exhale AoIR

Just got back from Toronto - 6:30am flight.

Exhausted, but very satisfied. Paper went well enough (more later). Got to meet some fantastic people (including fellow bloggers Kathleen and Liz), saw some thought-provoking panels, and hung out with a few old and new friends. Rad.

Now, to recover.


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October 16, 2003

AoIR (Thurs)

Arrived around 12:30ish. Bus from airport took a while, but the driver was kind, and met another conference attendee on the way. Finally got to my hotel, which is nice enough, after a rather long jaunt from where the bus dropped me. Dropped my bags and zipped over to the conference, where I caught the last bit of the 2:00 panel. Went to the 3:45 panel on blogging afterwards - you can find my inquiries about that on Liz's post (in the comments).

A little social gathering afterwards, where I mingled for a while before retiring for this hasty blog post.

Apologies for the curt reporting - burning time on a hesitant network, so trying to post before gettting booted. The little iBook I'm typing on, however, makes me want to buy one (which is probably why Apple supplied a bunch for the 'conference lab'). Quiet keyboard, small but useful screen, and a built in linux terminal. Everything I'd need for a portable (games are meant for desktops...)

Now, time to find some dinner, having realized that I haven't eaten since about 6am...

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October 15, 2003

Coming Up for AoIR

I'm all packed. Not sure how much blogging I'll get done while there, since it looks like there's a lot of great stuff to hold my attention.

My paper is pretty much done. I'm sure I'll tweak it a little here and there before I present on Saturday, but I think it'll do.

Unlike most folks, I travel light. No laptop. Not even a PDA. A notebook, some pens. A digital camera. I just hope my leather jacket and a sweater will keep me warm enough. I think I'll bring a hat...

To those who will be at the conference, see you in a little while!

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October 14, 2003

aoir conference program

AoIR Conference Program (PDF)

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October 9, 2003


Like Liz, I am taking care of final details for my trip to Toronto for the AoIR conference. I finally have my plane tickets, and a buddy and I found a room at the Bond Place Hotel - not the height of luxury, but affordable for two graduate students.

(And, like Liz ... no, my paper isn't done yet, but it will be before I leave!)

I tried signing up for a Birds of a Feather gathering on gaming, but (I'm almost embarrassed to admit ... well, not even almost) I couldn't figure out their not-so-intuitive message boards, which kept wanting a username and password that I didn't have (and couldn't figure out to sign up for). If anyone wants to grab a drink and talk about blogging and/or gaming, I'd happily meet.

[EDIT: looking over the program, I'm bummed to discover that I'm going to miss some really awesome talks Thursday morning. I'm looking forward to, one day, having travel funds so the decision to save a night's hotel cost by flying in the morning of, rather than the night before, is an easier one. At least I found a 7am flight, so I can catch the afternoon panels...]

Also, just got word on the Level Up! game conference program, which looks really great. I was slated to give a paper there as well, but I had to withdraw, due to costs. With international travel, and only a few hundred dollars travel budget for graduate students, I just couldn't afford it. Needless to say, I was disappointed that I would miss out. Hopefully it will get some blog coverage!

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September 29, 2003


I'm writing my paper for the AoIR conference. The process has been somewhat daunting - everytime I look at my proposal, I experience something akin to what Liz describes as writer's amnesia.

What the hell was I thinking when I wrote this thing?

I have a feeling the final version (personal deadline: draft due tonight) is going to look remarkably different from my proposal. My outline sure looks different.

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September 22, 2003


Papersinvited, self-proclaimed as Call for Papers - Largest listing of call for papers in all areas of specialization. Definately need to check this out when I have some time. [via Liz]

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June 24, 2003

Level Up Conference Fees

Well, I just looked at the conference registration fees for Level Up - the student rate of 80 euros (approx $92 US) is only for BA and MAs. The fees for PhD students - 250 euros (that's after joining DiGRA for 30 euros). That translates to about $290 US (plus the $40 or so for joining DiGRA).

The conference dinner is another 60 euros (around $70 US?) on top of that. So, total just for registration is around or just below $400?

I'm really curious - do PhD students make more in Europe than they do in the US? Does that seems to be a lot of money for conference fees to anyone else, or am I just behind the times? Do European PhD students get travel and conference funds?

I think we can apply for a one-time $300-400 travel grant in my Dept., but with those fees, that means all other expenses - airfare, hotel, food, etc - are straight out of pocket. Ikes.

Note: Realizing that tone of voice is difficult to discern at times, I am asking these questions with sincerity... I'm really curious what kind of support is offered to other grad students both in and out of the US.

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June 23, 2003


Just found out that my paper - All Thumbs? Ergonomics, Materiality, and Gameplay - was accepted for the Level Up conference sponsored by Digra (check out the program). Now I just need to, um, save money for a plane ticket to the Netherlands. And, um, to the a(o)ir conference in toronto (blogged about earlier here.) Hmm.

Oddly, I haven't received written notice - I just saw that GrandTextAuto posted that the conference proceedings were up, so I looked for my name.

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April 24, 2003

Oh, to be accepted

Just got word that a conference panel on multiplayer gaming that I co-authored with D. Synder was accepted for aoirtoronto: broadening the band. The conference runs October 16-19. The AoIR (association of internet researchers) maintains a very active listserv - great for people interested in that sort of thing.

P.S. I'll get back on the Materiality conversation after the weekend (in response to George's comment below).

P.P.S. George sent me a nice read on the local Kansas City comic scene.

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April 14, 2003

Power Up: computer games, ideology and play

Of interest to the game research community:

Power Up: computer games, ideology and play

You are invited to participate in a two day seminar on Computer Games
Ideology and Play on July 14th ? 15th 2003 in Bristol UK.

Please see our call for papers below. There will be approx 20 papers or
presentations (of a 20 minute duration) over the two days. We anticipate an
audience of 40 delegates, the event will be single strand ?round table? with
plenty of room for exchange and interaction.

Abstracts and RSVPs should be submitted by Fri 16 May ? notification will be
at the start of June. Please also send expressions of interest if you wish
to participate but not to formally present.

The cost of the symposium will be £100.00 , to include lunches and one
evening meal, but excluding accommodation. Accommodation will be booked
separately by delegates ? notification of locations will follow
confirmation of your place.

Please reply by email to Helen Kennedy

Power-Up: call for papers

New theoretical frameworks and approaches are needed to study computer
games. These games are at once new media, new technological forms, and new
activities with distinct positions within everyday life. Yet, computer games
circulate within existing economic, cultural, technological and social
networks and forces that underpin the contemporary world. As such their
study offers unique insights into emerging relationships of consumption,
play, new media technologies and structures of social and economic power.

The Play Research Group within the School of Cultural Studies at the
University of the West of England in Bristol invites you to explore the
implications and possibilities for studying games and play as part of a
changing world and its power structures. The symposium will be organised to
maximise the possibilities for debate ? there will be a limited number of
papers, workshops on specific issues and debates, and the space (and
provisions) for the convivial and informal exchange of ideas. We encourage
submissions of abstracts for papers, proposals for panels, workshops,
suggestions for posters or online / interactive presentations of ideas and
research. The symposium will be of interest to those concerned with playful
popular culture or new media in general and not only with computer games.

The symposium will address and explore ?ideology? as a contentious and
contested term, and will use it to focus on key issues in the study of
computer games and play:

? How might we rethink relationships of production: for example, the
production of computer games through modding networks or differences to a
similarities with other forms of a global cultural production?

? How do we understand the consumption of computer games? As everyday lived
and embodied practices of play? Do they invite us into cyberspace ? Are we
participating in a commercial ?liminoid? cultural economy? offering an
illusion of escape or transgression from everyday life ? Or are we
participants in a psychological or cultural ?third space? - at once part of
and separate from the real world?

? What are the politics of gameplay? How do we theorise its interactive
dynamics? For example: is the relationship between player and game rules
analogous to the relationship between subject and cultural order? Are we
playing with the rules?

? How are power relationships encoded within games, and how are they
challenged, or played with? Is the player ever more fully interpellated by
dominant social forces, or can games and gameplay offer any ideology
critique ? any knowledge, or mapping, of the power structures and dynamics
of the world today?

The list below indicates some possible headings for contributions ? these
are suggestions only:
- subversive pleasures
- playing by the rules
- rethinking ?effects?, effecting thinking.
- cheating
- the politics of simulation
- neoliberalism and interactivity
- allegories of information
- cybernetic play: control or communication?
- commodified play: theorising the liminoid
- technological imaginaries
- games as critical discourse, games as art
- talking power: the status of ideological critique in Cultural and Media
Studies today

Abstracts (200 words) or expressions of interest by May 16 to

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March 26, 2003

Cyberculture/Cyberpunk Conference

1st Global Conference Visions of Humanity in Cyberculture,
Cyberpunk and Science Fiction
11 to 13 August 2003, Prague, Czech Republic
Call for Papers
(Please cross post where appropriate)
Marking the launch of a new annual conference, research
and publication series, this inter-disciplinary and
multi-disciplinary project aims to explore what it is to be
human and the nature of human community in
cyberculture, cyberspace and science fiction. In
particular, the project will explore the possibilities
offered by these contexts for creative thinking about
persons and the challenges posed to the nature and
future of national, international, and global communities.

Papers, short papers, and workshops are invited on
issues related to any of the following themes:
* the relationship between cyberculture, cyberspace and
science fiction
* science fiction and cyberpunk as a medium for
exploring the nature of persons
* humans and cyborgs; the synergy of humans and
technology; changing views of the body
* human and post-human politics; cyborg citizenship and
rights; influence of political technologies
* bodies in cyberculture; from apes to androids -
electronic evolution; biotechnical advances and the
impact of life, death, and social existence; the impact on
* gender and cyberspace: new feminisms, new
* electronic persons, community and identity;
cyberspace, cybercommunities, virtual worlds,
and home worlds
* nature, enhancing nature, and artificial intelligence;
artificial life, life and information systems, networked
* Cyberpolitics, cyberdemocracy, cyberterror; old
conflicts, new spaces: elections, protest and war in
cyberspace; nationality and nationalism in cyberculture;
the state and cyberspace: repression vs. resistance
* cybercultures: the transnational and the local
* boundaries, frontiers and taboos in cyberculture
* cyberculture and orientalism
* religion and spirituality in cyberculture, science
fiction and cyberpunk
* old messages, new medium: cyberspace and mass
* cyberculture, cyberpunk and the near future:
utopias vs. dystopias
* technology vs. the natural? cyberculture and the green
Papers will be considered on any related theme. 300
word abstracts should be submitted to the Joint
Organising Chairs by Friday 9th May 2003. Full draft
papers should be submitted by Friday 11th July 2003.
Send proposals to:
Christopher Macallister, University of Kent at Canterbury
Rob Fisher, Inter-Disciplinary.net

Papers should be sent as an email attachment in Word,
WordPerfect or RTF; abstracts can also be submitted in
the body of the email text rather than as an attachment.
All papers accepted for and presented at the conference
will be published in an ISBN e-Book. Selected papers
will be developed and published in a themed hard copy
Further details and information about the Cyberworlds,
Virtual Reality series of projects can be found at
For specific information about the conference, please go

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