June 21, 2005

DiGRA05 in Pictures

by Andrew Stern · , 5:33 pm

What follows is a visually-guided tour of one particular path through last weekend’s Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) conference in Vancouver, BC. There we so many parallel tracks of talks (8+ at times) that I’ll only be offering a sliver of what went on, but the other GTxA’ers in attendance, Mary and Michael, as well as several other bloggers out there, will surely fill in more detail and show you more images.

Before we begin, I should say there was a game studies person sorely missed at the conference (note I’m avoiding the L-word), who tells us he was off cavorting in Paris at the time and couldn’t attend. However his spirit was in Vancouver with us nonetheless, and in fact as you browse this series of pictures, I invite you to play a little game I’d like to call, “Where’s Gonzalo?”

The setting was quite nice — here is the view of north Vancouver from the lobby of the conference rooms.

The opening evening keynote was from T.L. Taylor of IT University of Copenhagen, also a Terra Nova contributor, speaking about “moogs” (one way to pronounce MMOG’s, I learned). No picture, sorry.
 
 

The next morning Janet Murray gave a keynote with two parts: part one was “The Last Word on Ludology v Narratology” (pdf) in which she hoped to put the debate to bed, or at least reframe it into two distinct components, the ideology “game essentialism” and the methodology “computer game formalism”. There’s some fun images referring to the debate last January between Espen Aarseth and Henry Jenkins in Janet’s slides. The main part of her talk, “The Future of Electronic Games: Lessons from the first 250,000 years” (12MB powerpoint), part of a new book she’s writing called Inventing the Medium, suggests game playing as the missing link between pre-humans and humans-with-language.
 
 

Jesper Juul presented a short paper summarizing his thesis, “Half-Real”. Jesper I think successfully chooses to think about fiction instead of narrative in relation to games, and I enjoyed his formulation about the activity that players undertake when they go back and forth between being within the fiction of the game and the reality of playing the game itself.
 
 

Just after Jesper, Timothy Burke, another Terra Novan, gave an interesting talk on what emergence really means, and its value to gaming. I was pleased when he invoked Facade as an example of an approach to combine the power of emergence and drama-managed directedness. (I wish Facade offered even more emergence than it actually does, but anyway…)
 
 

Ian Bogost (who I learned goes by the nickname, pronounced in a robot monotone, “IANBOGO”) presented a short paper Frame and Metaphor in Political Games, in which he references cognitive linguist George Lakoff’s argument “that political frames in the US reflect metaphors of family management — conservatives frame political issues as ‘strict fathers’ while liberals frame them as ‘nurturant parents'”. Among other things Ian described how he realized how brilliant the Republican National Committee game Tax Invaders really was.
 
 

One of my favorite sessions was what I’d call the Design and/vs. Theory panel, organized by Aki Järvinen. Aki, Espen Aarseth, Eric Zimmerman and Staffan Björk each presented varying perspectives on doing theory alone, theory plus design/development, theory to support design, etc. (This panel was a nice segue to a following session where Michael and I presented “Build It to Understand It”, arguing that building games needs be a necessary part of game studies). There was some good tension in the room during the panel — good because I think it helps all involved when they are pushed a bit on, or by, each other, it challenges you to make the research better. Eric (interviewed here in Gamasutra, btw) made a good point that those doing theoretical work should not tack on extra slides at the end of their presentations justifying their works’ value to game designers; it’s unnecessary, and a distraction. Espen said that we need to realize that we’re only 5 years into this new wave of game studies, and that it could take 50 years for it to mature, and that it’s premature to judge the value of the theroetical work this early in the game. Some said, but we’re creating curricula to teach this stuff now… Mary suggested it’s problematic to study games outside the context of who is playing them, how they’re played, etc; Eric suggested those pursuing formalist approaches need to be aware of the limitations of formalism. When asked why are formalists appearing to seek a totalizing formal theory of games, Espen replied, there will be multiple totalizing formal theories of games.
 
 

Michael and I tag-team-presented a long paper (nominated for best paper at the conference :), which I think is one our better ones, “Build It to Understand It: Ludology Meets Narratology in Game Design Space“. I briefly described the paper in my pre-DiGRA post; but I didn’t mention that the paper, as far as we know, is the first to apply the concept of “wicked problems” to game design, as Jesper notes in his amusing comment on our talk. Additionally, one of the main points of our talk is that we believe an important thread of the ludology vs. narratology debate never got resolved — that of agency in narrative — or at least the current equilibrium by game studies scholars reached is not, in our estimation, correct, which concerns us.

The talk was held in this excellent large round coliseum / U.N. like room, the Wosk Center for Dialog (see wide-angle picture below). We wanted Janet and Espen to battle it out in the center ring while talked, coliseum-gladiator style, but that didn’t happen.
 
 

I caught a few minutes of an panel on how different groups from around the world are approaching game studies.

Later in that room was a great extended panel on interdisciplinary perspectives on game studies, moderated by Eric; panelists included Bart Simon with a sociology perspective, Robin Hunicke with a compsci/AI perspective, Richard Smith with a communications perspective, Rikke Margnussen with an education perspective, etc. Among other things they played a game where they gave pitches for research to a granting committee assembled from the audience, in charge of awarding an imaginary 1M euros. The panelists making their pleas were informed by their experience playing World of Warcraft before arriving at the conference (for some, it was the first video game they had ever played). A bit more on it here from Robin.
 
 

Several folks from industry, some local to Vancouver, were invited to a panel to engage with the mostly-academics at the conference, moderated by Jason della Rocca. Being an industry person I didn’t gain much, but I think others in the room learned something about the perspective of the industry. I assume we’ll get a summary on Reality Panic at some point.
 
 

There was a small-ish collection of alternative games running in a room off the lobby. Ian, Jane McGonigal (one of the developers) and I had fun playing Organum, as described here by Robin. Also at the show was JFK Reloaded, which I found to be an excellent, excellent game. I also played Orgasm Simulator by Molleindustria, which was fun.
 
 

The final plenary session where the future of game studies was debated, and several litres of ice wine and a Finnish log-throwing game were awarded. A major theme this year: interdisciplinariness. (wait is that a word?)
 
 

Okay, now on to the documentation of the hallway, eatery and drinkery socializing.
 
 

Robin Hunicke, Uli Spierling, Mirjam Eladhari, Charlotte Sennersten
The real reason to go to these conferences is to talk with such intelligent, beautiful game scholars.
 
 

Wait, scratch that. Jesper and Eric debating after Jesper’s talk. Later they were to be seen pounding each other with rubber balls.
 
 

Andrew (me), Michael Mateas and Greg Costikyan. Earlier Greg had presented a strangely-non-confrontational paper, “Game Styles, Innovation, and New Audiences: An Historical View“. (Ah, wait — that’s more like it. Too bad he missed our talk.)
 
 

Borut Pfeifer and Isaac Barry of Radical Vancouver, with Robin Hunicke
 
 

Ian, Michael, Jesper and their gadgets
 
 

Ian, Janet Murray and Greg
 
 

Eric with someone I’ll call Trinity, dueling in the hallway with the free rubber-ball-on-string everyone got in their conference bag.
 
 

Tracy Fullerton of USC, enjoying the company at the final evening of bar hopping.
 
 

Uli and Andrew
 
 

Ian and Lizbeth Klastrup
 
 

Greg, Michael, Janet, Ian
 
 

Glamour shot: Katherine Isbister and Mary Flanagan.
 
 

The world through Mary’s eyes. Wow.
 
 

Eric and Mary
 
 

One night I led a group to a pretty good Chinese seafood restaurant nearby.
 
 

Cheers to finishing our presentations and being able to relax.
 
 

Geska Andersson of the Swedish Trans-Reality Game Lab made us order the Spareribs and Strawberries. It wasn’t bad actually. Next to her is William Huber of UCSD.
 
 

William, Geska, Mirjam, Andrew
 
 

Here’s a pieced-together panorama of an insane sushi dinner we had the final night — 18 people crammed into a little square room meant for 10. It was all-you can eat. Note Mary Flanagan fed up with Eric’s antics.
 
 

(scroll right ——->)
We played a game where you have an alien on your face and you chuck it across the table to splat on other people.
 
 

Espen, Ian, Michael and Andrew preparing to put away pounds of sashimi. And we did it.

There’s a 360-degree panning celphone video of the table that I’ll link to when it goes online. And there’s at least one good comprimising shot of Eric reverting to 3-year old behavior in his hotel room to add to this collection, so come back in a day or two.

(Update: Found — as part of Mirjam’s extensive collection at Flickr.)

33 Responses to “DiGRA05 in Pictures”


  1. Walter Says:

    Looks like a great time was had by all/many! And William has long hair!

    I found Gonzalo, but I’ll avoid mentioning the answer so others can find it for themselves (STRAWBERRY RIBS).

  2. Gonzalo Says:

    Yes, I am dressed as an ice rhino! It’s one of my world-famous Uruguayan Maffia costumes! I did miss you guys, too but don’t worry, I’ll make it up for you, somehow. I noticed William’s long hair (it must be a SoCal thing).

  3. andrew Says:

    Hopefully Gonzalo doesn’t mind me ribbing him a little bit for not being there. We really did miss him.

  4. andrew Says:

    Jason Rhody of misc is the largest category has blogged a few DiGRA talks: T.L. Taylor’s keynote, Janet Murray’s keynote, and the Theory and Design panel.

  5. Isaac Says:

    Was nice to meet you folks though sad to miss Jesper and Staffan and the chance to meet Gonzalo.

  6. ArC Says:

    “for some, [World of Warcraft] was the first video game they had ever played”

    Am I missing any mitigating factors? I admit I’m no game academic, but this sounds… kinda poor.

  7. andrew Says:

    Am I missing any mitigating factors?

    Yes, those particular panelists were brought in from fields outside game studies (with the exception of Robin, who is from computer science), to take a look at games, and offer their fresh perspectives on it.

  8. ArC Says:

    OK. Phew.

  9. mary Says:

    nice pics andrew. and thanks all for links to other blogs and summaries of events, everyone; will catch up on other povs!

  10. Reality Panic Says:

    Viva Vancouver!

    Wow, it has been a hectic June! A big contributing factor was my recent jam packed trip to Vancouver (arguably one of the largest game-development cities on the planet). While in town I participated in Vidfest, DiGRA and a local…

  11. andrew Says:

    Timothy Burke’s paper on emergence can be found via this post-DiGRA Terra Nova post.

    William Huber’s notes on DiGRA can be found at Ludonauts.

  12. nick Says:

    The ceasefire may be in trouble: Narratology and ludology are engaged in fisticuffs once again at Greg Costikyan’s blog.

  13. nick Says:

    Also, man, I wish I’d been at DiGRA. If one day I manage to get a new media/IF/video game studies post, I’ll be able to go…

  14. Jason Scott Says:

    I really have to work out why I feel so squicky about these sorts of events. I’m probably not the only one. There’s just something about a bunch of academics talking about theory behind video games in a multi-day conference held in a massive conference center that just puzzles me. (I just spent some time going over the DiGRA website, just so I could speak from a vaguely informed position.)

    I see some of these panels and I feel like it’s 1982 and someone’s spent six months writing a thesis called “Eat or Be Eaten: The subtle interplay of digestive economics of Pac-Man”. I look at an abstract like http://www.gamesconference.org/digra2005/viewabstract.php?id=90 and I want to punch myself in the face until the hurting stops. Especially with the citations: the phrase “Echo Chamber” comes to mind. http://www.gamesconference.org/digra2005/viewabstract.php?id=368 is a study on girls and video games; welcome to 1985! Also, keep her away from http://www.gamesconference.org/digra2005/viewabstract.php?id=50 or we’ll have a fight on our hands.

    I suspect this is why I never did well in academia (2.1 GPA from Emerson College, baby!) is because I see a lot of this as enormous wheel-spinning. Until game companies are actually hiring R&D think tanks to redefine their game plans as opposed to “make Mortal Kombat and Doom again”, I don’t know what the ultimate “get” is. Improve game design? Expand the grip of Electronic Arts to new audiences? Cull back the number of games whose primary plot line is “and then he beat the shit out of and shot everybody nearby”? Help me here.

  15. ErikC Says:

    Jason, Aristotle wasn’t a king but he taught Alexander the great how to be one. I could go to a conference on the topic of WWII but I don’t expect to learn how to invade Russia with german tanks (and successfully). The market is not just for game designers, to learn and explain how to build greater games. The aim is to also understand games, not just from the point of view of designers or even gamers. Games are more valuable than immediate commercial gain. And as the field is new, there are still many methods and terms to argue, to work out a field, or, a nexus of related fields. I am afraid this takes time, and a great deal of textual redundancy.

  16. nick Says:

    Good thing we can’t pick industry-produced video games out of a barrel as easily to shoot ‘em down.

  17. Jason Scott Says:

    EricC, you strike right at the heart of my misunderstanding and end up strengthing my point. Alexander the Great was being taught by Aristotle, that is, he solicited and chose to take in Aristotle’s works. But also, Aristotle didn’t really teach Alexander to be a king either; he taught him some basic schools of thought that enabled Alexander to integrate into the business of being a king. In the case of this game conference/game industry, I just wonder how much the industry itself would be paying attention, and, if in fact as you indicate, that’s not entirely the point, than what the point directly is. Remember, I’m coming from way way out over here as just someone who’s been doing video games and general games since about 1978; so you would think I’d be all over this like white on an egg and I’m wondering why I’m not.

    I’m also questioning how new the field is; I’ve seen academic and similar studies going back into the 80’s, but maybe by new you mean less than a couple decades old. Either way, Chris Crawford’s been making “whither gaming” noises for at least 20 years that I know of, and the paper wargames guys have been at it for half a century, discussing how to go about it, approaching it academically in articles and magazines….

    Likely, a lot of this is just a functionality of the Internet’s ability for guys like me to jump through a lot of pages and get a lot of information on a lot of events/work that, ultimately, is likely redundant but previously wasn’t so easy to find. It didn’t matter if two people were working on the same patch of ground or that a third guy had eclipsed both their efforts, because they weren’t as likely to stumble on each other.

  18. Jason Scott Says:

    Nick, I’m assuming you’re being sarcastic. At this point in time the intellectual and moral vacuum at the center of the gaming industry is so well-established that there’s not even a market left in writing about it. They’ve actually ascended to talking about how it actually breaks laws in labor and salary in the process of daily business (institutionalizing “crunch time”) for example.

    I will be the first to admit I am an errant huckleberry in this context, wandering into a cinematic forum wondering what the big hullaballo is about these discussions about the “Bi-joo”. Take my questions as they are; someone who has just seen an enjoyable album of many people gathering together, in a very nice location, to spin an awful lot of wheels at very high speed for a sustained period of time.

  19. ErikC Says:

    Jason I wrote my first game around 81/82, but it wasn’t commercial, and even if it was, that is not my point. The industry may be x years old, but the “academic industry” that is about games, is not. Last year how many reviewed and refereed conferences and journals were purely about games? This year? How old are the current Games Studies departments? How many chairs in Games or Gaming?
    As to Aristotle and Alexander, we could end up arguing about analogies which is always dangerous. My intended point was simply that the fruits of knowledge are not always immediate. In response to you, being a king means understanding things that don’t at first seem to be kingly. These DiGRA people also play games, so if they aren’t talking about games in the way that commercial games companies don’t find useful, does that mean the DiGRA people/gamers are the ones who are totally irrelevant? Could they not be a missing or misunderstood market? Niche markets can be more profitable than mass markets, if understood and serviced appropriately.
    As to people enjoying talking to each other, yes DiGRA was that. It was also about people learning that they could enjoy and understand talking to each other. As a speaker said, there were many disciplines, with many POVs but they all had a sense of what each other was talking about. And this was a find. A kind of meta-conference, since you seem to follow Ancient Greek.
    So it was not focused, it did not lead to FPS epiphanies, but it gave people an idea of if and where there may be common links, a bit like Greg’s work, trying to find a methodology to talk about games in a shared and useful way, and _then_ hopefully to get back to the games themselves. Caveat: I don’t speak for the official DiGRA line.

  20. nick Says:

    Jason, my point wasn’t that video games themselves are so bad, even lousy video game scholarship is better than they are. I don’t think crummy games justify crummy academic papers.

    Rather, I was trying to say that I don’t think it’s useful to judge the merits of some artistic or intellectual endeavor – video games, video game studies, science fiction, blogging, etc. – by pulling out the silliest-sounding or worst-seeming examples and pointing to those.

    I haven’t looked over the DiGRA papers a great deal, but I’ve read Jesper Juul’s dissertation, on which his talk was based, so I can point to his short paper as one that makes a pretty obvious contribution, describing how computer games differ from previous sorts of games and how the rules and fictional worlds that constitute them interrelate. This helps to explain particular puzzling things about computer games and how people engage them. Will Wright no doubt already knows this fundamental idea or something like it intuitively, but there’s still value to articulating it precisely so that others can figure it out as well, and so the theory can be further developed in the future.

    But yeah, my point was mainly that reverse-cream-skimming doesn’t help you figure out whether a particular field or practice is worthwhile. I haven’t looked over the papers you cited and wouldn’t judge them myself, but some video game studies papers being bad (or perhaps “hard to learn much from,” as I would say) doesn’t mean that writing such academic papers at all is worthless.

  21. Espen Aarseth Says:

    There is nothing wrong or bad about the three papers pointed to above. And more importantly, no valid criticism of them has been made here.

  22. andrew Says:

    Ren Reynolds, another Terra Novan, wrote up a Digra summary for Gamasutra. He links to several game design oriented papers (but not ours :( )

    The ceasefire may be in trouble: Narratology and ludology are engaged in fisticuffs once again at Greg Costikyan’s blog

    Actually in the Greg Costikyan section above in my original post I had linked (perhaps too subtly) to Greg’s post when it first went live. But an extra explicit link is good to have, although I’m not terribly pleased by Greg’s latest comment in the comment thread, “if the conflict produces interesting intellectual sparks, shouldn’t it continue? Peace can be dull.” He’s being sarcastic? Here’s someone fed up with it all, including GTxA.

    Again I’ll say I wish Greg had come to our talk, where we attempted to make progress on at least one aspect of the L. vs. N. debate.

    Also, man, I wish I’d been at DiGRA. If one day I manage to get a new media/IF/video game studies post, I’ll be able to go…

    Go on the cheap, as I did! while registration was a bit of a hit at $250 (I requested a starving artist rate, no luck), otherwise I took the train/bus there ($100 r/t from Portland), and while most attendees had posh rooms at the conference hotel, I was a 20-minute walk away in a youth hostel, staying in a 4-bed shared dorm, for $20/night. Turned out to be perfectly fine – actually I was the one in the role of the annoying person going to bed after everyone was already asleep and making noise. (Admittedly the room would’ve been awful had it been in a different part of the building, next to the all-night disco.) And the 20-minute walk was a nice one, considering it was June. Total cost, about $500. Nick, you’d have had to pay more to get yourself to the west coast of course.

    Jason writes, I see some of these panels … and I want to punch myself in the face until the hurting stops.
    I see a lot of this as enormous wheel-spinning. … I don’t know what the ultimate “get” is. Improve game design? Expand the grip of Electronic Arts to new audiences? Cull back the number of games whose primary plot line is “and then he beat the shit out of and shot everybody nearby”? Help me here.

    There are multiple motivations behind the attendees at Digra (and it was interesting to compare and contrast them there). Some to purely better understand the nature of games and how they operate (while that’s been going on for quite a while, there’s a lot to understand, so we all should welcome this big new wave of effort), some to inform game design, some to study the culture of game players. Eric Z suggested we should start studying the culture of game developers (which I’m sure would help us better understand the all-too-common skeptical attitude of developers towards academic game studies ;-)

    Note I’m guilty of occasionally aggravating well-meaning game studies folk myself.

  23. Jason Scott Says:

    Let’s take this from another tack. A quick search for academic game conferences reveals:

    FuturePlay: The Academic conference on the future of game design and technology
    http://www.futureplay.org/
    Michigan, October 13-15, 2005

    International Conference on Computer Games: Artificial Intelligence, Design and Education
    6th International Computer Games Conference: CGAIMS 2005 Louisville USA, July 2005
    7th International Computer Games Conference CGAMES 2005 Angoulême, France November 2005
    http://www.scit.wlv.ac.uk/~cm1822/cgaide.htm (Two in one year!)

    Playing the Past: Nostalgia in Video Games and Electronic Literature
    The 1st Annual University of Florida Game Studies Conference
    Gainesville, FL
    March 18-19, 2005.
    http://www.academic-gamers.org/gsg/index.shtml

    Game Design & Technology Workshop 2005 (8/30/05; 11/8/05-11/9/05)
    8-9 November 2005
    Venue : Liverpool Mariott Hotel
    Queen Square, Liverpool, L1 1RH, UK
    http://www.cms.livjm.ac.uk/gdtw/GDTW2005/CFP.htm

    GAPPP Workshop
    19-21 AUGUST 2005: GAPPP Workshop
    IT University Copenhagen, Department of Digital Aesthetics & Communication
    (DiAC), Denmark
    http://igw.tuwien.ac.at/gappp05/

    The Education Arcade Games in Education Conference
    Sunday, 15 May – Tuesday, 17 May 2005
    Los Angeles Convention Center
    http://www.educationarcade.org/

    ….come ON. The herd is way too thick; this is just the stuff I found as low-hanging fruit and I’m sure there are a dozen more out there. The air is awash in people talking about, regarding, tangentially to gaming. Again, I am a non-academic huckleberry who is possibly asking fundamental questions as one who attends a truck rally goes “why are they crushing those nice cars”. But from out here, I see a lot of minds doing a lot of work that is redundant.

    Do you seriously want me to go after those three papers I cited, Espen?

  24. Ian Bogost Says:

    Jason — pointing to the quantity of conferences as evidence of their redundancy or lack of value is like pointing to the quantity of videogames (or films, or novels) as evidence that no more ought to be created. If you look at the links you just posted, you’ll see that all of them take on rather specific topics, from education to artificial intelligence. What exactly is your objection?

    Andrew is always much nicer than I’m inclined to be, probably a testament to his better character. But I’m with Espen here — if you want to read those or other papers (all the papers are online) and make specific objections or commentary, this is a great forum for it. If you just want to point to the existence of the papers and the conferences and object to them on the principle that their very existence is flawed, then I’m disinclined to listen.

    Andrew — I’m not terribly pleased by Greg’s latest comment in the comment thread, “if the conflict produces interesting intellectual sparks, shouldn’t it continue? Peace can be dull.” He’s being sarcastic?

    Isn’t he saying that we shouldn’t squelch intellectual debate on the grounds that the debate should be “resolved?” I’m not sure why you’re bothered by this sentiment?

  25. andrew Says:

    Isn’t he saying that we shouldn’t squelch intellectual debate on the grounds that the debate should be “resolved?” I’m not sure why you’re bothered by this sentiment?

    I (over-?) interpreted it as “let’s keep fighting about this because conflict is fun, even we come up with some solutions”. While I don’t think the community has come up with complete resolutions or anything (and so I agree the debate / tension will probably continue, to some extent, for quite some time), I found that statement on the surface to suggest we should keep the debate alive for its own sake. That doesn’t make sense to me.

  26. andrew Says:

    And now Game Matters’ Scott Miller wonders what all the hullabaloo is about.

  27. Jason Scott Says:

    Ian, my entire commentary was simply someone from the outside going “Man, I don’t quite get the point.” And then giving some reasons. Of course, I would expect that most people reading this entry/weblog/site would go “well, duh, there’s plenty of point” and wave a flag. Well, I hope so, anyway.

    “It’s an academic gamer thing, you wouldn’t understand.” is a perfectly valid response to “I don’t get it.”

    I still don’t get it.

  28. nick Says:

    Jason,

    I think it’s useful for academics to explain what they do and why it’s important. But I still don’t know exactly why you object to there being lots of game studies conferences, or to those papers you mentioned.

    What would you say to someone who said,

    This guy did a five-episode documentary on some thing called a “bulletin board system” that people used to do with their computers years ago! I want to punch myself in the face until the hurting stops. Five episodes is way too many. The air is awash in people talking about, regarding, tangentially to bulletin board systems!

    ? I mean, presumably this hypothetical person has some objection to your endeavor, but you can’t really tell what it is from hearing complaints such as these. What’s the issue — that bulletin board themselves cause self-aggression for this person? It would be okay if there were four episodes, but not five? Why?

    I don’t think anyone minds explaining the point – computer games are of major cultural importance and we should try to understand them, as we try to understand the rest of our culture. To do that, academics study them in principled ways and develop theories that neither the R&D branch of EA nor the popular press are going to come up with. And of course academic study doesn’t accomplish all the things that corporate R&D and popular writing does. So what’s wrong with the papers you mentioned or with the conferences you listed?

  29. josh g. Says:

    Jason:

    Ian, my entire commentary was simply someone from the outside going “Man, I don’t quite get the point.” And then giving some reasons. Of course, I would expect that most people reading this entry/weblog/site would go “well, duh, there’s plenty of point” and wave a flag. Well, I hope so, anyway.

    How does Andrew’s reply fail to answer your question?

    There are multiple motivations behind the attendees at Digra (and it was interesting to compare and contrast them there). Some to purely better understand the nature of games and how they operate (while that’s been going on for quite a while, there’s a lot to understand, so we all should welcome this big new wave of effort), some to inform game design, some to study the culture of game players.

    I see games study asking some really excellent questions about where games have been, what they’re doing now, and what they might do in the future if we look beyond the local maxima of our current commercial success function. Not all of the viewpoints that academics are studying games with will necessarily interest me, but many of them do, and even the ones I largely disagree with sometimes end up asking interesting questions along the way.

    And besides that, I don’t think game studies exists solely to further the creation of better games, although probably it’s a healthy side-effect. Not everyone who studies literature writes a better novel; not everyone who studies history ends up changing it. But if no one studied them at all, I’m pretty confident that they would both degrade rapidly.

  30. Jason Scott Says:

    “What would you say to someone who said, This guy did a five-episode documentary on some thing called a “bulletin board system” that people | used to do with their computers years ago! I want to punch myself in the face until the hurting stops. Five episodes is way too many. The air is awash in people talking about, regarding, tangentially to bulletin board systems!”

    First of all, I’d correct him about how there’s 8.

    But beyond that, I do in fact get that level of commentary; I have scripts that check referrers to the bbsdocumentary.com site and the other sites, and I definitely have that initial “shell shock” or “back away in horror” reaction.

    What I do in those cases is study who is having this reaction, find out why as best I can, and either change my copy and explanation of the work so it suits them, or realize they represent an unconvertable group (possibly a majority) who won’t “buy in”.

    I’m still not “buying in” over here. But again, people should either consider my unconvertable, or consider if they want to change whether they want the perception to change to include more people like myself. I don’t know.

  31. nick Says:

    First of all, I’d correct him about how there’s 8.

    Well, true. But I didn’t say exactly five.

    We’ve given you plenty of new copy — if you want to consider yourself unconvertable, go ahead. But you still haven’t answered my questions about what it is that is wrong with those conferences or those papers. You’ll have to articulate what the atrocity is before we can offer any more in the way of explanation.

  32. The Ludologist » Blog Archive » DiGRA Roundups Says:

    […] DiGRA Roundups A collection of DiGRA impressions and roundups: Grand Text Auto with pictures. Greg Costikyan on L vs. N. Miscellany. David Thomas at Denver Post on my ta […]

  33. Dominic Arsenault Says:

    Hello Jason Scott, and thanks for your interest in my paper abstract. I’d be very interested to know why it makes you want to punch yourself in the face until the hurting stops.

    I’m willing to admit it’s a poor abstract – because it isn’t really that close to the paper’s content. (by the way, not all citations were used, those were the references I thought I would need before writing the whole thing) I’m assuming you only read the abstract. If you read the whole paper, then I am completely puzzled. Through a study of Diablo, Morrowind, Splinter Cell and Knights of the Old Republic II (no 1982 there), I am showing how those game systems are different, and why they need corresponding narrative aims. The fact that a game released for christmas 2004 failed to succesfully match narrative aim and game system shows that it’s a relevant issue in modern video game development. Maybe you already know this stuff intuitively, but clearly some developers don’t. (as nick said with his Will Wright example)

    By all means, give me your comments. They will either be going into my Master’s Thesis (as the comments of Eric Zimmerman) or in my trashcan (can’t say that happened very often, so go ahead).

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