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10:00-19:00 Session 1A: Doctoral Consortium

The PhD Consortium is a space where PhD students can present their on-going research, while getting detailed and insightful feedback from their peers and from senior colleagues. Participants share their research in advance before meeting in the room and their allocated time is used for questions and discussions. It is meant to be a friendly, participative environment the improve their projects, seek for guidance, and consolidate the strong points of their work.

Location: Room 010
Doctoral Consortium Introduction

ABSTRACT. Initial talk of the doctoral consortium, explaining the event and stating ground rules

Beyond Escapism: How do Players Use Games to Cope with Stress?

ABSTRACT. The abstract describes a multi-stage, mixed methods research programme investigating how players select video games to help them cope with stress, the motivations for play in stressful circumstances, and the effectiveness of particular game genres for fulfilling particular emotional needs in a naturalistic context.

The Impact of Cultures and the COVID-19 pandemic on Gaming Motivation

ABSTRACT. Are the motivations to play Animal Crossing New Horizons a culturally universal phenomenon with the COVID-19 pandemic? To answer this question, there is a major problem with game studies from psychological perspectives. It is the virtual absence of cross-cultural research regarding all of video game titles. This study examines the role of national cultural values, as defined by Hofstede (2001), in trans-national differences in the motivations. The research is an absolute ‘first’: no other program has considered the implications of (Hofstede’s well-known model of) cultural dimensions for international variations in game play motivations: there are also obvious commercial implications that the applicant is well-placed to exploit.

Video Games and Architecture - Towards a Common Spatial Analysis

ABSTRACT. The proposed project aims at studying the relationships between architecture and video games. The reciprocal contributions of these environments are already existing and relevant. Our research hypothesis is to confirm a real potential to link the two fields in an even more shared and continuous way. Beyond the unilateral contribution of one discipline to another, the essence of the project will be to consider a mutual study through common criteria of space analysis and spatial design. From the architectural view of a selected video game corpus, we will show how methodologies and knowledge of architecture can support video game design and how architecture could benefit from these video game analyses in return. The proposed research methodology will use the mutual references invoked either by the architectural project or video games to fill the gap between the two fields.

Need Frustration in Video Game Play and in Daily Life

ABSTRACT. This extended abstract describes my ongoing PhD research around self-determination theory's concept of need frustration, both as it is experienced in games (and potentially impacts well-being), and as it is experienced in daily life (and potentially impacts how people engage with gaming). I hope to have the opportunity to share and build upon these ideas with colleagues at the PhD consortium at DIGRA, and to also be able to learn more and share ideas about their research as well.

Seeing Without Sight: Alternative Methods for Digital Interaction

ABSTRACT. Exploring alternative methods of sensory interaction in digital space through game design, creating a non-visual, audio-only game which attempts to refine the control mechanisms and mechanical gameplay of the genre, rather than focusing on story, as previous successful titles may have in an attempt to question accessibility in digital space.

Highlighting the lack of accessibility in digital space as a whole, and the focus on visual first experiences, aiming to create new, user friendly mechanisms for interaction using research through design.

Doctoral Consortium Lunch Break

ABSTRACT. Lunch Break of the Doctoral Consortium

Cuteness and the Popular Aesthetics of Videogames

ABSTRACT. Many aesthetic theories have regarded the videogame from the perspective of a modernist theory of art. Jagoda’s (2020) rich analysis of videogames as experiments on neoliberalism, Flanagan’s (2009) Critical Play, Kirkpatrick’s (2007) reception of Adorno’s modernist aesthetics, and the numerous texts on the so-called ‘art-game’ suggest that the aesthetic quality of the videogame is found in its avantgarde or critical potential. Such an understanding however marginalizes a large portion of videogames often poorly labelled as ‘mainstream’ and tends to forget the richness of aesthetic experiences a producer like, e.g., Nintendo provides. Taking seriously Henry Jenkins’s (2007, 21) plead that “something was lost when we abandoned a focus on popular aesthetics”, the goal of my project is to investigate the specifically popular aesthetic qualities of the videogame through one of its most recurrent judgments of taste: cuteness.

What Drives Primary School Students to Play Fortnite?

ABSTRACT. In this work, we analyze the typical Fortnite (Epic Games 2017) player profile for primary school students in Lucca. To this purpose, we exploit pooled data from an experiment, called the Blutube Program, which involved nearly 1800 different students from the province of Lucca. The Heckman selection model (Heckman 1979) provides 4 main results: i) students are more likely to play Fortnite with their male friends; ii) they like to defeat their opponents in games, iii) they are less likely to play Fortnite if they play board games and practice sports and, iv) prosociality is not statistically significant.

Developing Moral Engagement Through Systemic Play

ABSTRACT. Authored branching narrative or scripted game design is a popular method for developing narrative for serious games. In this, the designer presents dilemmas, within a domain, as choices to the player to develop non-linear narrative structure. However, the player can experience a disconnect or disengagement as the player’s expectation of the choices or outcomes of a choice are reflection of the designer and not the interpretation of the player. As such, this project propose a systemic model of narrative design. In this systemic method, the narrative development relies on concepts of “atomicity of choices” and “aggregation of choice” allowing for the player to develop their own interpretation of the narrative and experience choices which are a product of the interaction between the elements of one/multiple gameplay systems.

Barriers to Learning in Play: Hegemonic, Negotiated, and Oppositional Use of Digital Games

ABSTRACT. This work in progress research is centred around the question of barriers in learning and play as activity. Specifically, barriers towards learning are a concept of three different processes that may happen in any given learning situation. This extended abstract frames these three processes towards play as an afforded activity in digital games, where imagined affordances create grounds for hegemonical, negotiated and oppositional use. Learning through play is thereby situated as not only an interaction involving encoded meanings and decoding processes, but also an uneasy relation in which affordances may be both understood and used far from the original intention. Further, that these use-cases should perhaps not be seen in the light of encoded meanings, but rather in the light of the practise of play itself. This work is still very conceptual, but the PhD Consortium would be a good place to discuss the concepts further.

Avant-Garde and Games: on Connections between Avant-Garde and Contemporary Digital Games

ABSTRACT. The main aim of the ongoing PhD project is to identify and analyse connections between avant-garde and games. Two problems will be important here. Firstly, ludic elements present in the historical avant-garde creations will be analysed through the categorization derived from game studies. Secondly, presence of various "avant-garde elements" in the contemporary digital games will be interpreted, through the analysis of the three proposed layers of a game: discourse, aesthetical content, and mechanics.

Making Sense of DualSense

ABSTRACT. In this abstract I introduce and briefly sketch out some aspects I plan to cover as part of my dissertation. I am primarily concerned with the pre-installed PlayStation 5 game and tech demo "Astro's Playroom", and with the question of how we can productively think of it as a paratext helping make players sense of the DualSense controller as well as of the PlayStation 5 as a gaming platform.

Virtual Contact Hypothesis – How Game Characters Impact Players’ Attitudes Toward Out-Groups

ABSTRACT. It has been postulated that games should depict more diverse characters. At the same time, most research examining contact with in-game characters that belong to minorities reported negative impact of such contact on attitudes. This research project was aimed at reconciling these notions within the framework of Intergroup Contact Hypothesis, a theory well established in social psychology. Robust research on the topic to date confirms the positive impact of real-world intergroup contact on attitudes and specifies multiple factors that influence the effect.

The studies in the project were conducted to examine intergroup in contact conducted with characters in video games. Results of the correlational study confirmed that both quality and quantity (diversity) of intergroup contact in games were connected to more positive attitudes toward minorities. These relationships were stronger for contact with real-world minorities represented in a game than for contact with fictional races. Violence and negative interactions did not have to be absent for positive effects to occur. Subsequent experimental studies demonstrated that contact with Black NPCs in a very simple game could improve players' behavior and attitudes toward the real-world out-group (Black people). Several factors known to contribute to the outcomes of real-world contact similarly determined the effects of contact with NPCs (e.g. cooperation, shared goals, establishing a common identity and in-game norms of segregation or lack thereof). Positive affect evoked by playing a game contributed to positive effects suggesting video games are an enviroment especially suitable for intergroup contact to result in attitude improvement. 

The research was conducted as part of the Polish National Science Centre Grant "Attitude Change as a Consequence of Outgroup Contact in Virtual Realities" No. 216/23/N/HS601590

Cultivating the Play Community: Live Action Role Play in Melbourne

ABSTRACT. The City of Melbourne in Australia is home to a growing community of live action role play (larp) enthusiasts. Exemplary of this community is Swordcraft, which self-reports as the largest battle-larp in Australia. Swordcraft runs both a weekly battle game that regularly draws between one hundred and three hundred players, and week long freeform role playing events in regional Victorian camp sites which draws over six hundred players from all over Australia. All the players collaborate to maintain this imaginary world, and practice many crafts in service of this virtual reality, including costume making, writing characters, combat training, and performance.

Metareference in Videogames: Theory, Typology, Analysis

ABSTRACT. As the fourth-wall breaking experiments in Metal Gear Solid (Konami et al. 1998– 2015) or the self-ironical writing of the Monkey Island series (Lucas Arts/Telltale Games 1990–2010) show, self-reflexivity, irony, and experimental design have been going strong in videogames at least since the late 1980s. However, we are currently witnessing a striking increase in the use of playful but also explicitly critical metareference in “AAA” and especially indie games. Meta games such as Undertale (Toby Fox 2015), OneShot (Future Cat LLC 2016), or Inscryption (Mullins Games 2021) explore questions of their own mediality, draw attention to hidden rules and conditionalities encoded in their system, and expose the fictionality of their gameworld.

10:00-19:00 Session 1B: WORKSHOP: The State of the Avatar

“Avatar theory,” or the study of avatars and related phenomena (player figures, playable characters, player-controlled components, etc.) is continuously expanded as scholars dive deeper into the configurations of interaction with and within digital games and the worlds they project. The topic has been approached from a variety of perspectives, ranging from theoretical investigations rooted in phenomenology (Klevjer, 2007; Vella, 2015; Kania, 2017) and game design (Jørgensen, 2013; Willumsen, 2018) to theatre and puppetry (Blanchet, 2008; Westecott, 2009; Georges, 2012) and player engagement (Linderoth, 2005; Bayliss, 2007; Lankoski, 2011), to name a few. Research from psychological and social-scientific angles (Waggoner 2009; Ducheneaut et al 2009; Yee 2014) has also considered the significance of avatarial engagement on personal and social identities. At the same time, the term has been criticized for being a cultural appropriation of a Hindu object of worship (de Wilt et al., 2019), and the expansive nature of the avatar, as indicated by the great diversity in theories, suggest that it might be time to organize existing theories to be able to compare and discuss whether and how the term can be productively used in future studies of digital games.

Thus, the workshop will bring together different researchers interested in exploring the avatar and related concepts, to examine, compare, and debate the uses and applications of the different approaches and how the community of scholars studying games may best handle the present challenges to avatar theory.

Location: Room 011
10:00-15:00 Session 1C: WORKSHOP: Politicizing Agency in Digital Play After Humanism

Guided by the pragmatism of the feminist eco-humanities, this workshop will deploy theories and consider methods (Hamilton and Taylor 2017) to politicize ways of conceptualizing, designing, and organizing games for agency beyond human centrism. How can critical game scholars address and advocate for more inclusive, democratic, and sustainable forms of play, understood as performative outcomes of an array of interdependencies between humans, environments and non-human entities? As an artistic and economic expression of the mediated technicity of our current age, videogames crystalize the conundrum of individual agency that has beset our screens and bedevilled our politics. Videogames also embed critiques of this conundrum that are often ambivalent but occasionally trenchant. How can critical game scholarship on post-human agency intervene in pressing debates about persuasive technologies’ manipulation of human volition and its long shadow over the mechanisms and institutions of collective decision-making that constitute democracy?

Location: Room 017
10:00-14:00 Session 1D: WORKSHOP: Japanese Game Centres as Urban Play Spaces

The game centres of urban Japan in the latter third of the 20th century were the sites of convergence of a playful urbanism with a new design culture, the emerging game industry. This workshop welcomes proposals for work from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives on the social, cultural and industrial histories of the game centre and arcade game industries in Japan from the 1960s to the early 1990s. We are especially interested in design history and urban studies perspectives.

Location: Room 020
10:00-14:00 Session 1E: WORKSHOP: Gameplay Design Patterns Approaches

Gameplay design patterns were introduced as a game design approach in the early 2000s (Kreimeier 2002; Holopainen and Björk 2003; Björk, Lundgren, & Holopainen 2003) with the first major pattern collection published in 2004 (Björk and Holopainen 2004). Since then the approach has gained some momentum in both academia and industry with considerable variation in the details and aims (e.g., Björk and Holopainen, 2006; Barney 2020; FDG Workshop on Design Patterns for Games series.) The authors are planning to release an open access anthology collecting various patterns approaches to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Patterns in Game Design (Björk and Holopainen 2004). The authors are running a series of workshops for developing the contents for the anthology and this would be the first one.

Location: Room 008
10:00-12:00 Session 1F: WORKSHOP: Game Education in Pandemic Times

This 2-hour hybrid workshop aims to address the challenges that game educators have faced during the recent lockdowns due to worldwide COVID19 regulations, and invites them to share the creative solutions, newly invented practices and novel insights that they may have derived from having to teach their game design courses online.

The workshop will consist of two parts: in the first half the workshop coordinators and a number of selected participants will provide 5-10 minute presentations. The second half of the workshop will focus on further dialogue between participants, with smaller groups dedicated to discussing the challenges they have faced during their game courses, as well as solutions, practices and novel insights they may have gathered on those aspects.

Participants are requested to provide short biographical information, explaining their interests and their level of knowledge about this topic, and if possible also 2-3 examples of challenges, solutions and/or insights they consider relevant to share in this session. The workshop is open to everyone working in this field or interested in the topic. Participants who have submitted examples of their own experiences in advance may be invited to give a short presentation at the start of the workshop

The major objective of this workshop is sharing of ideas and experiences, which will ideally lead to a collective publication in which we will present our insights to the broader game community. In this publication, we hope to come up with a number of suggestions about practices of game education that originated during lockdown, but that have also proven to be useful in post-pandemic times.

Location: Room 018
11:00-14:00 Session 2: WORKSHOP: Anthropocene Games

Like other disciplines, game studies is also compelled to confront the impact of the Anthropocene on the production, circulation, and reception of video games: in the economic, material and technological dimension (environmental crisis, biodegradation, material shortages); in the sphere of the political and social economy (collapse of specific consumerist forms and social structures, global migration, environmental impact on societies); and in the cultural dimension (what game texts say about the human relationship with the planet and other species and how they do that, how game-related practices are entangled with the Anthropocenic processes and phenomena). To illuminate these issues, and more, the workshop seeks presentations engaging the various intersections of video games and the Anthropocene.

Location: Room 012
13:00-19:00 Session 3: WORKSHOP: Game Culture In National Context

The aim of this workshop is to critically scrutinize the relationship between digital games and national cultures. We would like to consider the presence of nationalistic game-related rhetoric in traditional media and on digital platforms, as well as the influence of the national cultures over game design practices and game content (e.g. due to both legal restrictions and ideological influence). For this purpose, we identify “national culture” as official cultural policy of the nation-state. This encompasses but is not limited to: official symbols such as the flag, the coat of arms and the anthem; the geography as divided by state borders; the history as presented in schools and public sphere; the literary and artistic cannon; the state-sanctioned language dialect; the officially cultivated ethos; the national stereotypes allowed in the public sphere; and all other cultural factors forming the basis for the imagined national community (Anderson 2006, Bhabha 2013), national mythologies and invented traditions (Hobsbawm  1994, Zubrzycki 2011) and practices of low-key, banal nationalism (Billig 1995, Edensor 2002).

Location: Room 018
15:00-19:00 Session 4A: WORKSHOP: Bringing Together, Diversifying, And Decolonizing Game Worlds

This Diversity Working Group workshop will promote current and emerging research on diversity in game studies, including but not limited to race, gender, sexuality, class, caste, disability, nationality, decoloniality, and other related topics. Workshop presenters will share their work with an audience of colleagues and experts, and participants will discuss current trends and network to better support diverse work in game studies. Presenters and participants will also help guide future initiatives and planning for the DiGRA Diversity Working Group, and will have the opportunity to propose new projects and collaborations.

Location: Room 020
15:00-19:00 Session 4B: WORKSHOP: Looking For The Endgame: Re-Envisioning The Role Of Senior Professors

Research on games is a relatively new field, but still sufficiently established that the original trailblazers now are well-established researchers and scholars, swamped by university and community service, with major responsibilities to students, colleagues, organisations, employers, and society. Simultaneously this group is still so young that there are very few true seniors, emeriti professors, who might act as inspiration and support for scholars deeply embedded in the wide range of activities of an academic who is the most senior in their field at their institution. In the time-poor lives of senior academics, inspiration, innovation, and space for further growth is rare and precious, and this workshop aims at finding ways to share the tips and tricks our fellows use.

Location: Room 008
15:00-18:00 Session 4C: WORKSHOP: Incorporating Emotional Transition Pattern Graph in Metaphor-Based Game Design: A Practical Experience

Game design is a process used for creating games. Some authors create games by using as a reference another well-done game and adjusting its metaphor (Battistella & Wangenheim, 2016). However, such games lack detailed information related to the method used and the way the method was implemented for creating the new game incorporating emotional design (Gomez, 2010; Marfisi-Schottman et al., 2010; Ahmad et al., 2014; Zin et al., 2009; Morales, 2015). We propose the Metaphor-based Game Design (MBGD) as a method for creating games by changing the metaphor of an existing game and creating a new game with a new theme (Begy, 2010). Such a method was represented by using the quintessence kernel including a description of the practices, activities, work products, activity spaces, game design phases, roles, and competencies required for accomplishing the method activities (Henao,2019). In addition, MBGD comprises an emotional design by incorporating the emotional transition pattern graph (ETPG) based on narrative events (Kim & Doh, 2016).

Location: Room 012
16:00-19:00 Session 5: WORKSHOP: The “Plumbing” of the Metaverse

As global media industries continue their push towards “metaverses” of persistent, real-time networked 3D environments, game engines and their attendant data infrastructures are becoming increasingly entangled throughout our media ecosystem. In response, engine development companies such as Epic Games and Unity Technologies are investing more money and development labor to integrate databases, file formats, web protocols, and translational algorithms into their engines to allow media platforms to share data and media assets seamlessly. Some of these efforts are institutional: Epic and Unity, for example, have spent billions acquiring technology companies that can enhance easy asset portability across platforms, including photogrammetry company Quixel and Weta Digital’s tech division, respectively. Other efforts are technological: graphics company NVIDIA’s “Universal Screen Description” (USD) file formats promise interoperability among various 3D design platforms, including game engines, VR/XR renderers, and web-based spatial graphical interfaces. NVIDIA has described these hybrid technical-institutional partnerships as constructing the “plumbing” of the metaverse (NVIDIA 2020). Our focus on “plumbing” mobilizes games researchers to interpret and intervene in the techniques, technologies, and practices that enable massive real-time 3D digital spaces to flow and transact. Interrogating these platforms through the problematic of “plumbing,” this workshop invites games researchers to understand how digital systems are designed to regulate technical interoperability, to map how power and capital become centralized and distributed throughout the back end of the metaverse, and to politicize how social practices and subjectivities are negotiated through technological architecture. The workshop will be structured around presentations of position papers around the following themes: (1) Realism—how race, gender, orientation, and ability will be computationally rendered; (2) Platforms—how game engines undergird the metaverse’s assemblage of play as sociotechnical tools that consolidate power; (3) Vignettes of metaverses as an exercise in future-thinking as a counterpoint to corporate prognostications of the metaverse. 

Location: Room 017
20:00-23:59 Warm-Up Party at Cybermachina

After the workshop day of the conference, we invite you to blow off some steam in a place well-known to all regulars of Kraków game studies conferences: Cybermachina pub at Stolarska 11. There you can either chill out over drinks (that’s on us!), or play one of multiple digital games available, solo or with friends. 

Due to the limited space the attendance might be limited as well: please check availability and register for the event at the reception desk!