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10:30-11:00Coffee Break
11:00-13:00 Session 7B: Panel: Practice in Game Studies: Beyond Game Design
PANEL: Practice in Game Studies: Beyond Game Design

ABSTRACT. This is a panel proposal. Practice-based research has always had a place in game studies. From the development of serious games to commercial game development within the context of academic institutions, the processes of making is a critical part of understanding games. In game studies, most of these practices have explored the making of games, that is, the creation of games as instruments for research. In this panel we will explore what lies beyond classic practices of game design and development in game studies. Looking at playful engagements with hardware and software, this panel will present different creative practices that engage with and extend the research methods and scope of practice-based game studies.

11:00-13:00 Session 7C: Panel: Latinx Game Studies: Past, Present and Future
PANEL: Latinx Game Studies: Past, Present and Future

ABSTRACT. How can video games push the limits of Latinx studies, and how can Latinx perspectives emerge from the margins of game studies? Since the earliest video games, Latinx developers—those with Latin American ancestry or who have emigrated personally from the region to English-speaking North America—have made significant contributions to the industry. And today, thriving debates in Latinx studies can shed light on important but under-examined topics within the field of game studies. While Latinx players and audiences are simultaneously experiencing growth in in-game representation and an explosion in player demographics, at the same time they continue to confront marginalization within the gaming community.

This topic will be relevant to attendees of DiGRA because even as game studies continues to grow with analysis from feminist, queer, international and antiracist perspectives (Everett, 2009; Shaw, 2014; Penix-Tadsen, 2016; Malkowski and Russworm, 2017; Gray, 2020; Mills 2022), we have yet to see sustained analysis of the ways video games intersect with Latinx culture.

11:00-13:00 Session 7D: Panel: eSports policies in the Nordic Countries
PANEL: Esport Policies in the Nordic Countries

ABSTRACT. In this panel we would like to discuss the policy recommendation that resulted from of a series of three NOS-HS funded workshops organized by esports researchers at universities in Denmark, Finland, and Sweden with the participation of diverse stakeholders in esports, including civic society organizers, and owner of an esports team, the police, and members of the esports industry and community more broadly. The participating scholars come from disciplines like Culture, Health, Psychology, Sociology, and Game Design and the outcome of the workshop series is a theme issue to be published in the International Journal of Esport in 2023 and a set of policy recommendations which will be the focus of this panel discussion.

11:00-13:00 Session 7E: Panel: “Everyone Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth”: Thinking with Chessboxing
PANEL: "Everyone Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth": Thinking with Chessboxing


Chessboxing is a hybrid sport that brings together “the number one thinking sport with the number one fighting sport”. The combination sport has recently attracted increasing attention as highlighted by the international chessboxing events. Chessboxing, however, originates in Enki Bilal’s science fiction graphic novel Froid Équateur (1992). Originating in fiction, it was a speculative game, a game that was not played, but was thought about, used as material in that work. Similarly we use chessboxing as material to think with. How does chess crossed with boxing function as a corporeal, lived act and encourage further creations and ideas in games and culture, art and society? This panel asks its panelists and sparring partners in the audience, What do you think about, when you think about chessboxing in Game Studies?

11:00-13:00 Session 7F: Limits of Gamification
Gamified City for 6th Graders: the Effect of Gameful Experience on Students' 21st Century Readiness in Finland

ABSTRACT. Teachers are continuously challenged with questions of how to meaningfully convey skills of modern society, i.e., 21st century, to young children. Increasingly, gameful methods and playful learning environments are employed in formal education to enhance teaching. This paper examines a physical learning environment in Finland, which simulates a city where students act as employees and consumers through various gameful methods. We investigate the relation of 6th grade (12-year-old) students’ (N = 253) skill and attitude formation based on 21st century framework before and after attending the learning environment. Through Partial Least Squares (PLS) Structural Equation Modeling (SEM), the results show a positive association between gameful experience and all examined 21st century skills dimensions. Whilst it is important to consider the novelty effect and holistic nature of the school day spent in the gamified learning environment, our findings nevertheless indicate the potentiality such a day can have on young students.

Gamification and Undesign: Exploring the Affordances of Digital Detox Apps with Game Features

ABSTRACT. This study explores how inaction is strategically designed as a game by smartphone apps that serves the purpose of digital detox, contributing to the boundary work of games and gamification as well as the discussion about the potential and limits of inhibiting technology through technology.

Digital Cycling Club: Gamification of Cycling in Post Covid-19 Pandemic

ABSTRACT. The covid-19 pandemic has brought forth an unexpected surge in the popularity of cycling as anxiety toward public transport were coupled with lockdowns and other forms of social restrictions. Citizens of various cities in Europe, North America (Buehler & Pucher, 2021) and Asia (Budi et al, 2021; Fatoni et al, 2021) had adopted cycling as a mean of transportation, physical exercise and recreation during a time which mandated physical distancing (Nikitas et al, 2021). Combined with increasing volume of bicycle trades (Ramdani, 2020; Nikitas et al, 2021), barriers in entering cycling became significantly lower than before. Cycling suddenly became a public interest that was not limited to professional athletes or enthusiasts.

The surge of interest was reflected on multiple aspects. Firstly, on the economic aspect. There was a rise in bicycle sales statistic from 2019 to 2021 in European, North American, and Asian countries (Buehler & Pucher, 2021; Nikitas et al, 2021; Ramdani, 2021; Nguyen & Pojani, 2022). The increasing sales are accommodated by public policies as municipal governments across continents installed various bicycle-friendly facilities to support increasing number of cyclists (Budi et al, 2021; Buehler & Pucher, 2021; Nikita et al, 2021; Nguyen & Pojani, 2022). This extended abstract aims to study the possibility of a third playful digital media dimension through gamification of cycling on online social fitness networks (OSFN).

The aim’s rationale is based on the current state of digital society. Uses of digital media have transcended the sphere of media and communication and have become a ubiquitous signifier of contemporary society (Athique, 2013). Everyday activities are gradually translated into the interactivity of digital media, as real and virtual worlds become increasingly intertwined (Lindgren, 2017). This includes cycling. OSFN applications such as Strava record cycling and translate it into biomedical data and behavioral statistic (Rivers, 2019) such as heartbeat rate, generated power, route map, and segments. On communal level, OSFN enable users to develop sense of community with other users through social interactions such as follow, reacting on posts, segment-sharing and joining virtual cycling clubs. Through OSFN, cycling becomes an object. OSFN reify the experience of cycling into a “material artefact” (Barratt, 2017:328) in the form of digital contents which are like social media posts (Barratt, 2017; Rivers, 2019).

The ubiquity of digital media uses has also brought forth a ludic turn (Raessens, 2006; Zimmerman, 2009; Mayra, 2017) by implementing play epistemology (Huizinga, 1949) into various digital media platforms (Richardsson et al, 2021). Ludification facilitates the paradigm shift of media uses from consumption to playful creation of digital contents. This includes how social media and similar platforms are engaged more playfully by enabling user generated content creation of mod and remix in addition to content-sharing. Besides that, digital media platforms’ interface and modes of interaction are increasingly designed to resemble digital game (Dippel & Fizek, 2017; Hjorth & Hinton, 2019).

This is the case of OSFN which provide users with goal-oriented activities and interactive interface designs (Barratt, 2017; Rivers, 2019). Gamification itself is a process where non-gaming procedures adopt structures and contingency of game which transform works or leisure into a playful activity (Brougere, 2021). OSFN enable its users to complete challenges to reach individual achievements or top group leaderboards. The more a cyclist rides their bicycle, the more competent they become within the ludic structures of OSFN. Completing challenges or topping leaderboard reward cyclist with points that on occasion can be traded for real-world rewards such as Strava’s Le Col challenges which reward users with prize money and discounts. Despite being outside of contemporary definition of digital games, OSFN fulfill users’s intrinsic factors for interacting with digital games which are competency, autonomy, and relatedness (Rigby & Ryan, 2011).

There are two significances of this extended abstract. Firstly, it investigates digital mobility during a time of constant restriction of movement and its aftermath. Digital mobility can be understood as temporal and spatial parallels between the real world and the virtual world using digital media technology; especially mobile media, as a conduit (Hjorth, 2009), and it validates both of humans’ real world and virtual world activities as a set of experience (Hjorth & Hinton, 2019). Digital mobility can be observed on OSFN through storage and presentation of users’ exercise data as a digital artefact of their real world activities (Barratt, 2017; Richardson et al, 2021). As such, cyclists who use OSFN ride bicycle on both real world and the virtual world.

Digital mobility is also a particularly useful vantage point to frame the prolonged physical isolation caused by covid-19 lockdowns, that has created a situation in which individuals often involuntarily took refuge on digital media environments (Cauberghe et al, 2020). Particularly, social media platforms experienced a significant traffic increase during lockdowns in (Miao et al, 2022). Daily activities such as self-expression and kinship were migrated into social media interactivity and networking which result in an unprecedented height of public interest toward digital media environments (Gonzalez-Padilla & Tortolero-Blanco, 2020; Pennington, 2021). As covid-19 pandemic is transitioning into endemic phase, and physical restrictions have been largely eased in most places, it is important to investigate how the digital mediated life of the pandemic is transitioned back into normalcy and to identify its differences from pre-pandemic human-digital media relationship

Secondly, it ought to investigate formal and experiential boundaries of digital games in accordance to DiGRA 2023 conference’s main theme. The conference’s mission statement is to explore the limit of materiality and sociotechnical practice margins of digital games. This extended abstract offers an exploration of OSFN’s playful turn in capturing the playful experience of cycling communities who are often excluded as gamers within digital game studies scholarship. It is aligned with DiGRA 2023’s sub-theme of media as games that study similarities between social networks and digital games. This extended abstract also aims to investigate how the limits and margins of digital game correspond with the contemporary playfulness of culture (Kirkpatrick, 2013; Richardson et al, 2021).

Digital ethnography is a fruitful approach to investigate this phenomenon. It is a methodological framework that observes humans and digital technology’s relationship in a sociotechnical assemblage in which technological developments enable human activities which, in turn, establish a culture around said technology (Pink et al, 2015). In this case, digital ethnography will be practiced to study of cycling as a digital environment. I will invite four Strava users and community members to participate in the research to understand how cycling individually or in group is turned into a playful activity. This extended abstract is driven by two research questions. One, how are ludic texts of OSFN as digital games? Two, how do cyclists fill their roles as gamers during the gamification process of cycling.

Serious Narrative Microgames as a Remedy for Gamification Limitations. The Case of the Platform for Making Games for Mobile CBT Therapies

ABSTRACT. In this paper we describe the R&D, EU funded project of the platform that allows making narrative serious microgames for mobile applications that offer cognitive-behavioral therapies. Some of these types of mobile apps include selected gamification solutions, and research literature related to them consider gamification as a strong support for retention and adherence in them. However traditional gamification mechanics (such as points, badges, rankings, and prizes) do not always work as good methods of keeping users' attention, considering that they may be people without gaming competence, or their mental disorders (like occupational burnout) can make typical gamification mechanics tiring and off-putting. Instead, we propose the development of serious microgames based on narrative structures. Then the aim of the project is to implement the platform that gives tools to develop such games and to create various microgames that support selected therapeutical protocols. The development part of the project has been preceded by collaborative research on which CBT therapeutic protocols are suitable for creating interactive and non-linear solutions and what are the appropriate narrative structures of video games that can support therapeutical processes.

11:00-13:00 Session 7G: Game Streaming and eSports
Time and Temporality in Game Streaming on Twitch

ABSTRACT. Drawing on semi-structured interview data with popular Twitch game streamers, this paper explores how these individuals on Twitch think about, and navigate, time and temporality in their game streaming practice.

The Indian Esports Scene — a Demographic Cluster Analysis

ABSTRACT. Extended Abstract Introduction India's gaming business reached a staggering $2.2 billion in the fiscal year 2021 and is predicted to reach $7 billion by 2026, based on projections of a market growth rate of around 30% per year (FICCI-EY Report 2021). However, India's part of the global gaming industry is barely 1%, and esports represents only 2% of India's gaming market (Umang 2022). Given that India has the world's largest youth population (International Labour Organization 2022), with more than 700 million people under the age of 30 (National Family Health Survey India Report 2022), and the world's fifth-largest economy (International Monetary Fund 2022), it is surprising that India is not a major player in the video game industry. India does not rank in the top 10 countries worldwide by gaming market share (Newzoo, 2022). India earned bronze at the 2018 Asian Games, the first time esports was included as a trial event (Bhatt 2018). The Indian contingent will be represented by an 18-member squad competing in five games: League of Legends, FIFA22, DOTA2, Street Fighter V, and Hearthstone. Esports will finally be a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games (Nag 2022). It demonstrates that Indian esports athletes are skilled enough to compete internationally. With a fanbase of 17 million esports fans (as of 2021) and an anticipated future headcount of 85 million by 2025 (Statista 2022), the Indian esports landscape is well-supported by fandom. Esports remain mostly underground in the United States, with the majority of gamers playing online rather than in official organizations and competitions (Star and Bakshi 2019). Culturally, India is a place of paradoxes and diversity. While India is home to 1.3 billion individuals with diverse views, morals, and preferences, there are certain things on which nearly all Indians agree, such as the fact that cricket is not a sport but a religion in India. It is not unexpected that esports have not yet gained popularity in India. There is a paucity of empirical research on esports in India that could help us comprehend why India falls behind in the field. By shedding light on the difficulties of a gaming profession in India, we hope to fill a research need with our study. Specifically, the article will explore the following two questions: Why esports is a niche field in India? Is it a career for the privileged? METHODS This article is a component of a larger effort to map the esports ecosystem in India. In October 2019, a pilot research was done to examine the viability of the suggested subject. The obstacles to becoming a professional gamer (pro-gamer) in India were a theme that resonated with the majority of our pilot research respondents. To further investigate the difficulties of a gaming job, 41 professional gamers were questioned. As there is no list of registered professional gamers in India, over two hundred were found through their social media handles and approached via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and email. A few willing replies provided the contact information of a few more. For a gamer to qualify as a research responder, he or she had to be an active sponsored competitive player. If inactive, they should have retired from professional gaming for no more than five years prior to the commencement of data collecting. Forty-one professional gamers consented to interviews. In-person and online interviews were done between February and August of 2021, at the convenience of the participants. Cluster analysis was done to classify the respondents and demographically analyze them. The results are discussed with the theoretical backing of sociology of work and RESULTS AND DISCUSSION We found that majority of the pro-gamers in India come from upper-middle class with business background. With easy access to gaming resources and family business to fall back on; such individuals take it as a passion to make a career out of gaming. Gamers from middle class and working class background lack the monetary access to continue gaming for a prolonged period of time. They also have to shoulder the pressure of getting a stable job to sustain financially and provide for their families. The stigmatization of gaming as a destructive pastime remains a barrier to the general public's acceptance of esports as a viable job. Parents are concerned that gaming is addictive, promotes a sedentary lifestyle, and hinders scholastic performance and career prospects. Family and societal expectations can have a substantial impact on a young person's decision to pursue a particular career route (Chen et al. 2022). Gamers must reconcile their enthusiasm for gaming with the notion of a successful profession in society, a chasm which can be described by Indian society's poor reflexivity towards career choices, i.e. its traditional attitude towards what defines a noteworthy career (Karolil 2022). In India, employment is generally viewed as a measure of financial and social stability, in contrast to industrialized nations where it serves as a basis for developing people's skills and interests (Ruddick, 2003). Instead of valuing an individual's potential for growth, career advancement is measured in terms of titles and pay grades. Thus, a job in esports defies convention and is deemed insufficiently aspirational. CONCLUSION Sociocultural variables play a vital role in the development of both esports and mass spectatorship (Campbell et al., 2021), if more people learned to value and appreciate esports, public opinion would change. To improve perceptions of esports, positive features (career potential, social well-being, and better cognition) should be highlighted (Hong 2022). Game producers, team organizations, and event organizers should enhance both gamer salary and the prize fund for competitions.

Scoping Review of South Korean Esports Research and Comparison to the Stakeholder Perception

ABSTRACT. In the last decade, 860 research outputs on esports have been published and registered more than 7000 citations on the Web of Science platform alone(reference?). These numbers have been growing, with about 1.5-times and 1.9-times average annual increase for publications and citations, respectively. Despite this rise in academics’ interest in the topic, esports research is still in its ‘nascency’, meaning “there are still fundamental questions about how the field is unfolding (Reitman et al, 2019)”; the scene faces ‘unique challenges (Cranmer et al, 2021),’ as ‘many disciplines who never have conversations before (Reitman et al, 2019)’ rapidly join the discourse. However, only avenues of inquiry aligned with certain discipline interests are brought in, leaving many aspects of the complex ecosystem unexplored. This has led researchers to emphasize the need for a more interdisciplinary and holistic approach to realize the potential of esports (Boguslavskaya et al., 2020; Vera & Terrón, 2019; Wood et al., 2019). Furthermore, as esports is often characterized as ‘born digital’ (Scholz, 2019), thus transnational culture, there have been limitations in incorporating regional differences in its understanding. While both the industry and research grow globally, it is becoming clearer that in actual sociocultural context, ‘esports culture or the word itself represents different values; esports, as a phenomenon, is ever-emerging technic-human ensembles or assemblages from the relations with diverse sociocultural, technical, and historical contexts (Jin, 2022). In other words, tendencies in esports research could have also been materialized with socio-cultural contexts and biases, and research on certain esports-related topics might be over/underrepresented across cultures. But which topics are worth further exploration or have been inadequately accounted for? A comparison of stakeholders’ perceptions of what needs to be explored with the actual representation of these topics in the existing literature could point researcher teams toward more valuable directions. This could be tackled by a meta-scientific approach. In the present (ongoing) study on South Korean esports research, we will simultaneously: (1) conduct a scoping (systematic) review of the scientific outputs by researchers based in South Korea and extract and categorize the topics of the outputs; (2) administer a survey in a sample of stakeholders (i.e., esports players, coaches, researchers, sponsors, audiences, fans, etc.) and categorize their preferences. Afterward, the outputs of the two processes will be compared (i.e., the discrepancy between what has been studied and stakeholders’ interests will be examined) and potential pathways for future research will be suggested. A search was conducted in Korean Citation Index (KCI) with keywords of ‘esports’ or ‘e-sports’ or ‘이스포츠’ or ‘e스포츠’ or ‘e-스포츠’. At the current stage, 86 articles (out of an initial result of 755 articles by March 2019) have been selected for analysis are being coded; the more recent articles published up until 2021 will be added to the corpus for further analysis. The systematic review will provide a general overview of the regional esports research and thus reveal the different tendencies compared to previous similar analyses on English language studies. The present study focuses on the South Korean context since South Korea represents one of the regions that significantly influenced the development of the modern esports format from the late 90’s. At the same time the region where the academic discourse has been kept mostly within the nations’ boundaries and has not been shared sufficiently, owing to linguistic constraints. However, at the same time, the results and the methodology (which will be publicly available) could provide food for thought for researchers worldwide and inspire further (replication) studies on this topic. In the long run, such an initiative could help shape esports research, with a special focus on its interdisciplinarity and cross-cultural differences.

Problems Anchoring and Verifying Identities in an Emerging Esports Ecosystem

ABSTRACT. We live in a world in which people are increasingly able to take on digital games-related careers through which they can support themselves financially, even reaching celebrity status (Lee and Lin 2011; Johnson and Woodcock 2019). Esports is a major contemporary example. However, participants in esports scenes may struggle to develop or manage professional identities (Brandtzaeg and Chaparro-Domínguez 2020). Identities are worth studying because they connect people to the social world through the social roles and memberships they objectify, and because of the sense of belonging, well-being and self-confidence that can derive from them when they are positively valued (Glynn and Walsh 2009). In this paper we investigate how individuals in Singapore—a small island nation in Southeast Asia with an emerging esports ecosystem—make sense of their identities within the context of esports participation. Linking esports to career identities (LaPointe 2010), we explore the significance of self-definitions for developing a more holistic understanding of esports participation and careers (Johnson and Woodcock 2021; Wimmer and Sitnikova 2012).

The paper frames two concerns. The first is how socio-material conditions and cultural expertise anchor esports identities. Esports identities are shaped by a variety of social and material affordances, including the state of the local esports ecosystem (e.g., underdeveloped<--->developed), participants’ access to games and esports performances (e.g., practice, competition), and the degree of support participants receive from relevant institutions (e.g., media, families, peers, schools, clubs). Drawing from Miles (2014), we explore how these affordances might anchor—i.e., shape or manage—interviewees’ self-definitions in terms of esports. The second and related concern is whether and how their esports identities are or are not verified through participation. Verification refers to the extent to which one’s self-definitions match the definitions available in the larger social context (Stets and Burke 2005). Self-definitions are shaped in large part through socio-emotional feedback loops constructed through individuals’ imaginations of how they appear to significant others (Lundgren 2004). Those “others” may include people inside (audiences, coaches) and outside (parents, peers) of the esports ecosystem, but also are increasingly impacted by media representations (Grooten and Kowert 2015). In contexts where esports are well developed and viewed as acceptable or popular within mainstream culture, social and material affordances should reflect identities that align with individuals’ self-definitions such that healthy esports identities emerge. In contexts where esports are not well understood or have negative connotations attached to them, or where there are insufficient or unsettled socio-material conditions, such self-definitions are likely to be more problematic (Jiow et al. 2018; Williams and Chua 2021).

We interviewed people from across the Singapore esports ecosystem, including aspiring and retired professional players, business developers, marketing managers, coaches, local esports association staff, event planners, streamers and shoutcasters (n = 33; 7 female, 26 male). We asked them about their gameplay growing up, about their development of esports-related knowledge and skills, and about their past, current and future interests in games-related work or careers. Identity emerged as an important concept during early inductive coding and our analysis therefore focuses on issues that participants experienced with anchoring and/or verifying esports identities.

Esports identities may form an important part of the self only when there are sufficient opportunities for their verification (Miles 2014). Interviewees expressed desires for an esports self and described how esports-relevant identities were verified/verifiable in some contexts (e.g., when playing among friends, when attending an esports workshop). Yet they lamented both the limited socio-material affordances to anchor esports-identity verification (e.g., viable career opportunities, spaces to practice or demonstrate expertise) and mainstream perceptions that such affordances and identities were unimportant or unnecessary, primarily because “esports” were neither a career nor an industry to significant others (e.g., families, schools, local government).

Limited access to identity anchors negatively impacted the development of cultural expertise and the number and frequency of situations in which to achieve identity verification. During the Covid-19 period of 2020-22 especially, there were fewer tournaments, which constrained players’, event organizers’, and shoutcasters’ (among others) esports-identity performances. And when events did occur, a culture of toxicity often resulted in participants anchoring their own and others’ identities in non-esports terms (e.g., age, gender, dispositional traits), even in the context of gameplay. Such circumstances further lowered the salience of their professionalizing identities in everyday life (Adler and Adler 1987). Interviewees also discussed how others sometimes cast identities on them that were not congruent with their own imagined esports selves. When their own self-definitions could be verified in situations, they reported investing in improving their expertise to appropriately embody an esports identity. However, when mismatches occurred or socio-material resources for acquiring cultural expertise were limited or absent, participants would often choose to invest less, or cease to invest, in their esports identity, which often led to its abandonment. This created bottom-up problems for sustaining the local esports scene.

Research has demonstrated the importance that identities, anchoring and verification play in making sense of people’s behaviors (Swidler 2005; Carter 2013). In the current study, the esports ecosystem is not yet cohesive and suffers from toxicity and other problems (CITATIONS REDACTED FOR REVIEW). Participants find it difficult to anchor or verify preferred esports identities, which leads to trouble deriving benefits from esports participation, whether financial, social, or emotional. This study offers insight into the problems of identity anchoring and verification among participants in a local esports ecosystem. Findings can help explain the social-psychological and micro-interactional problems associated with developing professional esports identities and their effects within esports ecosystems.

11:00-13:00 Session 7H: Simulations
Playing Brexit: Borders and Nationalism in the Times of Inhospitality

ABSTRACT. Limits and margins define contemporary geographical, political, and cultural divisions. Borders have become a naturalised part of our world, a mythical element in the Barthesian sense (1957). They act as a pillar of ideology, or “the ways in which what we say and believe connects with the power-structure and power-relations of the society we live in” (Eagleton 1983, 14). The geopolitical desires to create tighter border controls and limit the number of immigrants arriving and settling in the nation-state territory have grown exponentially in many countries in the last decades. A key result of these movements is Brexit. This presentation focuses on the ludofictional representation and criticism of it in video games. For this purpose, the analysis will first pay attention to the social and political context of Brexit to then focus on the cases of Not Tonight (Panic Barn 2018) and Watch Dogs: Legion (Ubisoft 2020). Brexit is considered here not as a single event but as the conflation of many undercurrents and thought structures in its country. It exemplifies how hate discourses and discriminatory policies shape the idea of borders and affect the contemporary flows of migrants: from strict border control to the Windrush scandal and the illegal deportation of citizens, the UK has moved from the discourses of multiculturalism and acceptance to the xenophobic attitudes promoted from the government, other radicalised political parties, and pro-Brexit media. With nationalism on the rise, we should also consider how Brexit alluded to the myths of self-determination and empire. Fredric Jameson understood ideology as “the representation of the subject's Imaginary relationship to his or her Real conditions of existence” (1989, 21), and Roland Barthes argued that political and cultural narratives take the shape of myths, or a system of mutually reinforcing signs, or mythemes, that are reproduced in various locations until the gain the appearance of “naturalness” (1957). In this sense, myths of the present such as Brexit define structures of thought and understanding and shape our world view and relationship to others. Video games are some of the locations where these myths are reproduced, as Pfister (2020) has shown with zombie games and the myth of political collapse. They can also offer critical readings, or “demythologising”, of existing mythical structures. Games have quickly responded to Brexit with different formats and genres that reflect the current situation and/or directly criticise it, with examples such as Brexit: The Board Game of Second Chances (Bad Hipster Games 2018), Pick your own Brexit (Bloomberg 2018), and Border Force (Spire Interactive 2019), which introduce ludofictional systems that bring to the surface the inner workings of the Brexit ideology. In this presentation, we explore two cases of commercial games, Not Tonight (Panic Barn 2018) and Watch Dogs: Legion (Ubisoft 2020), that use Brexit as a setting and a theme to pose individuals against a totalitarian state shaped around nationalism and the idea of an ethnostate. We do so by identifying central mythemes or mythical units in their themes, narratives, and mechanics, and focusing on the counter-discourses they propose. Not Tonight, a self-defined “anti-Brexit” RPG or “post-Brexit management game”, focuses on the effects of nationalism and the efforts to revoke citizenship and politics of relocation. Watch Dogs: Legion imagines a dystopian post-Brexit London that has succumbed to nationalism and plays with the mechanics of recruitment to provide the player with different characters to fight against the system. Not Tonight includes mentions to “Albion First” and “Britain Alone”, while the main antagonist in Watch Dogs: Legion is a private military company hired by the state called Albion. With their narrative and mechanic elements, these two games highlight the foundational myths of borders, nation, and community that have shaped Brexit. The counter-argument posed by these two games is built on their own systems of mythemes. Watch Dogs: Legion stars DeadSec, a secret hacker organisation, fighting both Albion and another hacker group, Zero-Day. Mythemes of evil CEOs, good and bad hackers, immoral anarchists, conspiracies, and accelerationism are vital to the game’s plot. The game ends with London terminating its contract with Albion, so the city was never the true evil of the story. Watch Dogs: Legion offers a traditionally heroic narrative with a contemporary thriller coating. Not Tonight focuses on the survival of the player character, a “person of European heritage”, navigating work and bureaucracy, and collaborating with the resistance. It is possible to achieve a “good ending” where Albion First is finished, but the DLC One Love, set chronologically after the main game, shows the party still in power, rendering that ending non canonical. Pessimism, terrorism, and totalitarian systems of justice are central mythemes in it. Our analysis reveals an understanding of Brexit as a triangulation of the mythemes of identity, (in)hospitality, and (un)belonging. This is more marked in Not Tonight, which uses indie themes and stylemes, than in Watch Dogs: Legion, which follows AAA patterns. Anthony Good (2019, 103-104) argues that we are witnessing a constant contradiction, or tension rather, between hospitality and inhospitality, between the open embracing of asylum and the “moral panic” around otherness in general and refugees in particular. These tensions reveal the impossibility of conceiving a nation that could be based on conviviality and openness. This line of thought connects with how different groups construct identity and belonging and how nations can be defined as “imagined communities”, following Benedict Anderson (1991). If we focus on video games, Martin Roth, for example, is concerned with the threats to the imagination posed by nationalism and the precariat, among others, and with the possibilities that video games, as spaces of “alternative imagination”, offer to think about potential change in the future (2017, 1-33). Thus, we could wonder whether a phenomenon such as Brexit, which aimed to separate a country from a larger community and isolate otherness, could be conceived as a failure of the imagination. The games analysed here offer mythemes of resistance and collectivism to oppose Brexit, but no real political alternatives. The forces in power may be defeated, but not their myths.

"Air Time!": Balconing Simulator 2020 and Criticism of Junk Tourism in Spain

ABSTRACT. “Junk tourism”, or drunken tourism, has been a problem in Spain for the last decades (Ferrer 2016). This type of tourism is strongly linked to what has been called “balconing”, a term coined in 2010 by the newspaper El País to indicate the practice of jumping from a balcony or from the roof of a hotel onto the pool or onto another balcony (Pérez-Bovet et al. 2015, in La Rocca and Miraglia 2018). This practice has been the subject of criticism and satire in numerous spaces, such as the Twitter account @botquebota Federació Balear de Balconing, created in May 2022 and with more than 20,000 followers on the social network. In this communication, we analyse the video game Balconing Simulator 2020 (Fancy+Punk 2020), a supposedly Spanish game (not much is known about the studio, which has only two games and little or no online activity), as a fumblecore comedic video game and its satirical potential.

Balcony Simulator 2020 makes players control a 3D stick figure and places us in his hotel room. The objective is to run towards the balcony and jump while completing tricks in the air that will give us points. A successful landing will score more points, but falling out of the pool carries, in addition to death, extra points for an achievement called the "Darwin Award," a reference to the humorous annual awards that have been given since 1985 for the most stupid deaths. The key to the game is that all these objectives must be accomplished using clumsy controls in which each key controls a foot of the character, with ragdoll physics, which has been identified as part of fumblecore (Bryce Jones 2016, Terrasa Torres 2022). This imprecise control system fits the playful representation of the drunkenness of its protagonists. In addition, the avatar's swimsuit, which is his only outfit, can be decorated with different national flags, including the English and the French, which reinforces the ties with the sporty character and the tourist nature of the balconing fallen in Spanish territory.

Charles A. Knight (2004, 4) reminds us that satire is often deeply concerned with historical issues and, as Simon Critchley explains, “resolutely opposed to the images of the time” (2002, 36 ). Although it need not be moral, satire often “takes the form of a specific attack” and can function as a kind of punishment that reveals qualities such as “ugliness […], foolishness, bad taste, or stupidity” (Knight 2004, 5). The tone of the game is openly satirical and, although there are hardly any paratexts from the creators, they maintain a humorous and ridiculous spirit. The game's description on Steam, for example, talks about "stupid decisions." Compared to @botquebota, Balconing Simulator 2020 offers a less obvious and indirect criticism, as it does not document real cases or offer paratextual comments on balconing, but the use of fumblecore, the scoring system and the “Simulator” tag (associated in the recent years to humorous games) construct an obviously critical representation of the phenomenon.

This type of satire can also be seen as a form of media protest. Participation in the media linked to the protest can take many forms, including the creation of critical or demanding content (Venegas and Cantano Moreno 2021; Bergillos 2020). For Carpentier (2011), these processes can be differentiated between those that occur in the media (through the co-creation or joint development of a medium) or through the media (in which participation is sought in debates or initiatives through specific media . Balconing Simulator 2020 would be a case of satire in the media that allows, thanks to a mechanism to share the results of each jump on Twitter in the form of a Polaroid (with the hashtag #BalconingSimulator2020), to extend participation through the media.

Balconing Simulator 2020 also underlines the competitive and exhibitionist nature of balconing. Studies from medicine, such as that of Verano Zapatel et al. (2012), directly relate balcony to the consumption of alcohol and drugs: "The imprudence of balcony, therefore, would only be a concrete expression of the general imprudence that the disinhibition of the effect of alcohol intake and other substances entails'' (2012, 49). This lack of inhibition leads to exhibitionist and risky behaviour. La Rocca and Miraglia frame balconing in the broader group of risk as a game, which would also include practices such as the choking game or car surfing, all of them with a strong exhibitionist component, since they are aimed at an audience (2018). The authors study footage shared on YouTube and their comments, where the stupidity of its protagonists and the dimension of performance are usually highlighted, in some cases, the least, with praise for courage (2018, 336), in a mockery of the strong sporting nature of the practice that Balconing Simulator 2020 or the Balearic Balearic Federation exploit as a central element of their criticism.

In conclusion, Balconing Simulator 2020 builds on an existing tradition, that of “Simulator” games and fumblecore, to present a series of markers recognizable by an audience that knows the phenomenon of balconing and views it with a critical eye. The ridicule of the practice fits with that of other satires and other media participation, such as the aforementioned comments on YouTube, and the use of Twitter posts with a common hashtag are, in addition to being a promotional tool, an extension of satire that allows the players participate in it through the media, sharing and collaboratively building a caricature strongly associated with drunken tourism.

Sinking Strangers No More: Playing "Climate Refugees" in Video Games

ABSTRACT. The underlying hypothesis of this study is that video games, through their multimodal design, can challenge the uncontextualized narratives about so-called "climate refugees" that dominate in other media and contribute to alternative climate imaginaries. In my presentation, I will deconstruct the multi-faceted representations of ludofictional climate mobilities as well as their limitations through the lens of mobility theory and multimodal game studies.

Playing the Industry: Exploring the Margins of the Videogame Industry Through Game Dev Tycoon

ABSTRACT. This research (extended abstract) engages with an emblematic example of recent scholarship on the co-optation of mainstream game development practices by indie game developers. Through a textual analysis of Game Dev Tycoon, the study considers how different approaches to game development are envisioned as acceptable within the game industry, and what challenging negotiations those at the margins of the industry must go through to sustain their own business. As such, Game Dev Tycoon invites players and analysts to consider new imaginaries for unconventional indie game development.

11:00-13:00 Session 7I: Thinking Games
From Replay to Revisit

ABSTRACT. The history of games is never far away for both players and those studying the medium. Writing about games and nostalgia, Whalen and Taylor point out that our historical gaming experiences shape “our understanding of video games and our approaches to their analysis” (2008, 5). The decades-old industry, with generations of gamers, actively references and commodifies the medium’s past within contemporary games under the banner of “retro” (Suominen 2008; Wulf et al. 2018). This paper goes retro too, not in a sense of focusing on reviving nostalgic aesthetics, but in a sense of returning to games. We explore what it means to go back to games we have played before, commonly referred to as replaying. The notion of replaying, we argue however, does not describe all the encounters we have with games we played before, encounters which nonetheless can seminally shape our understanding of games in the present and future. As such, we explore the notion of revisiting games as a supplement to more traditional notions of replaying. This, we argue, also facilitates a reappraisal of game analysis perspectives often rendered peripheral.

Fact and Fiction in Video Games: How Much Fiction Is Needed for Good Design?

ABSTRACT. This presentation deals with the question how designers can reach an articulated balance between historical authenticity and fictionalization in a video game based on real historical event.

Thoughts on Kitsch and Games

ABSTRACT. Are video games kitsch? In this extended abstract we are sharing some thoughts on what kitsch is and how video games can be analysed through these lenses. Using the Greek game dev community as a case study, we examine how kitsch has become part of the local identity, influencing the way video game content is produced, but also the way they reflect on their collective identity.

Lifestyle Games

ABSTRACT. This paper discussed the notion of Lifestyle Games to investigate if it can make a contribution to our understanding of the ways in which game communities, player-crated content, problem gaming, and exploitative design intersect. This means that the paper will first offer an explanation of and then a definition for Lifestyle Games that will be used on a case example to examine if and how this notion is useful. Lifestyle Games as a concept has been circulated as a concept that loosely describes games that can become a central element of the life of its players to the point that being a player of this game is a central element of the players´ definition of themselves. The few explanations of the concept that exist focus on that the lifestyle game becomes the primary game of a player while others are more of a passing thing (Defanso, 2019). Another definition in popular culture postulates that “Lifestyle games are games where a significant portion of the player’s free time outside of playing the game is still structured around the game” (Cabell, 2020). However, the earlies mention of the notion that could be found online is in a video podcast about game design from Extra Credits (2017). There is no definition offered, but the video mentions a number of criteria with a focus on the design of the game. These most salient criteria discussed here are that the game must have: 1. Functionally infinite content either through competition or creation of new content 2. Frequent updates 3. A promise of permanence 4. An active and creative player community 5. The possibility of engagement with the game even outside of playing it. All of these texts state explicitly that lifestyle games are ambivalent and can have a positive as well as a negative impact on the life of its players. This is what partly makes up the appeal. The concept of Lifestyle Games does not exclusively focusses on positive or negative aspects of gaming but instead allows for a nuanced approach to the game and the player in their cultural circumstance. By taking a step back from game genres for example, it allows a researcher to consider a kind of game primarily via its impact on the lives of the players. Some of the criteria in the descriptions of lifestyle games above can be connected to different approaches in game research. Carter et al. (2014) for example write about Warhammer as a pastime and stress that the game is something that keeps the players pleasantly occupied even outside active playing. Other perspectives could be linked to the player co-creation of games (Prax, 2016) and game culture (Chen, 2008) or to problem gaming (Prax & Rajkowska, 2018) and dark design (Zagal et al., 2013). An interesting and hopefully productive element of the frame of Lifestyle Games is that there is a connection between the problematic and positive sides of the game. A game can be leading to problematic behavior because it has a strong and player-created culture that offer the players a sense of community and allows them to be productive and a part of shaping the community. Players can at the same time make meaningful connections and be empowered to create, but also be locked into this game because they have invested so much time into it. At this point, Lifestyle Games can at the same time be similar to a familiar community with shared cultures and an abusive relationship that separates the player from other groups and forces them to do what is necessary to participate here. The promise of permanence here at the same time make it possible to trust that time that is invested into the game will not be invalidated. The frequent updates on the other hand can make it necessary to invest even more time to stay up-to-date. It can even require the purchase or preparation of game elements. Example here could be newly released collectible cards in a TCG, the purchase and painting of new miniatures after a rules change in Warhammer, or leveling a new character in an RPG after the level cap has been increased or the preparation of consumables for a raid level in WoW (Blizzard Entertainment, 2004). However, a possible issue with the concept of Lifestyle Games is that exactly that it becomes a lifestyle in the interaction between the game, the player, and the community. The game is in the case of this paper privileged both as a test and because it would be useful to be able to develop design implications for the how to strengthen the positive elements of Lifestyle Games while limiting the negative and abusive elements. Based on these sources from popular media and previous research, this paper suggests a definition for Lifestyle Games: Lifestyle Games are games that are designed to integrate with the lives of their players in a way that at the same time offers community and meaning to the players but also to purposefully take up their time and bind them to the game. The paper uses the case of Warhammer 40k (Games Workshop, 1987) being played competitively for several years both analog and on Tabletop Simulator (Prax, 2022). Preliminary results suggest that exactly the connection of an active game community and the resulting social pressure are creating a dynamic that could be analyzed through the lens of Lifestyle Games. In Warhammer, miniatures need to be painted to be playable and changes in the rules of the game make it necessary to assemble and paint new models. Painting models for play is at the same time a creative outlet, an opportunity to form a community (for example to collectively buy an airbrush for painting), and a source for anxiety and social pressure. The frequent rules updates that keep the game fresh also make it necessary to spend so much time on forums, listening to podcasts, and planning new strategies, that it becomes nearly impossible to have any other hobbies. In this sense, Warhammer 40k certainly has the effect of a lifestyle game. It is so far still an open question if it can be argued that the game is designed to purposefully take up the time of the players.

11:00-13:00 Session 7J: Pain and Pleasure
Subtle Playability: Orienting Players' Actions Beyond the Threat of Failure

ABSTRACT. Through subtractive design practices (Aristov 2017; Leino 2013) - consisting in the removal of all unnecessary features in order to emphasise the core aspect of a game - game artists and designers have created works that often challenged the common conception of what games are. Walking simulators (Grabarczyk 2016) and notgames (Harvey & Samÿn 2010) in particular remove the possibility of failure in favour of open ended exploration and ambiguous forms of engagement, thus eliminating the very features that define games from a ludological perspective (Leino 2013, 2020). However in this extended abstract I will propose the argument that even by removing failure, walking simulators and notgames still retain an underlying ludic structure. Therefore a ludological analysis of these categories of games can provide useful insights about how “gameness” manifests beyond the implementation of a failure condition.

Beyond the Analysis from Neoliberal Subjectification? the Accelerationist Short-Circuiting of Gaming Pleasure in Total War: Warhammer II & III

ABSTRACT. Players’ acquisition of gaming literacy or competence (Arsenault and Perron 2009) enables them to know how to make progressively more informed in-game decisions based on their understanding of the mechanics. Drawing on examples from content creators of Total War: Warhammer II & III (2017, 2022, Creative Assembly), I argue that a ‘super-instrumental’ form of optimizing play in which players pore over the minutiae of the game’s mechanics with a view to uncovering game-breaking exploits, throws up questions about whether the process of acquiring this understanding foments both the constitution of a neoliberal subjectivity but also an ‘accelerationist’ short-circuiting of that subjectivity. This may show that the process of constituting neoliberal subjectivity through gaming competence and gameplay is also pregnant with its own failure condition, one that points to the historical limits of neoliberal rationality. On the other hand, it may simply illuminate the pleasures associated with optimizing play.

I start with a familiar claim – one that will be challenged – that computer games invite practices from us consonant with the analytical ‘rationality’ demanded of us as neoliberal subjects under the contemporary regime of power, understood through Foucault’s (2001, 1604) term: ‘governmentality’. The practices involved in gameplay, being competitive, calculative of risks and rewards, and oriented towards entrepreneurial self-development, can be seen to ‘naturalize’ a way of being that has its origins in theories of human capital (Becker 1975, Schultz 1972), and which had previously been confined to the spheres of mathematics and economics (Jagoda 2020). This amount to a ‘subjectification’ (Foucault 1982) of us as the players into a ‘neoliberal subjectivity’ (Dardot and Laval 2013, Baerg 2009, Zhu 2015); all is reduced to (economic) calculation.

As a counterstrategy or means of desubjectification, instead of scouting for ‘alternative’ gaming practices, we might look for possibilities in the intensification of these practices. Whilst the optimizing approach to gameplay cannot be said to obtain for all players, it does arguably mark the culmination of a journey of acquiring gaming literacy in a ‘learning cycle’ (Arsenault and Perron 2009); the player has acquired the expertise to dissect game laws and form a perfectionist analytical approach to understanding game mechanics. In this sense, optimization is a regulative ideal that cannot be easily bypassed or resisted. Getting to an ‘outside’ to this kind of neoliberal subjectification may not be possible. Instead, we might consider the ‘possibility of the modern, instrumental conception of technology reaching a point where it begins to undermine itself’ (Rutsky 1999, 8), or, as mentioned in The Accelerationist Manifesto (Williams and Srnicek 2003), an ‘accelerationist’ exploding through intensification.

I will look at various content creators’ approaches to optimizing single-player campaign gameplay outcomes in Total War: Warhammer II & III in such a way that breaks the verisimilitude of the game and ultimately ties the player into repeating an absurd, even comical, chain of actions. Examples include strategies like early confederations and means of obtaining infinite gold. Players who take this route employ game-breaking exploits in order to overcome the advantages enjoyed by ‘legendary difficulty’ AI. Doing so means that they come to see the game world as a decipherable mathematical system, at odds with the depth of the fantasy narrative. The shell of the fictional world of Warhammer fantasy, which is likely what drew many players to the game in the first place, is thus corroded by the gameplay (cf. Kirkpatrick 2011).

I argue that two main possibilities reveal themselves with respect to the adoption of this ‘super-instrumental’ approach. In the first, players find this culmination in their own gameplay expertise to be tedious and to ultimately diminish their enjoyment of the game. Yet they cannot unlearn the analytical mindset that they have acquired or the exploits that they have imbibed from content creators – there is no return to a more ‘innocent’ state of gaming. Here, Silverman and Simon (2009, 374) have talked about the ‘short-circuiting of power gamer subjectivity’, where power gaming eventually becomes dreary and meaningless to the player. If the analysis from neoliberal subjectification is applied to players’ burgeoning analytical gaming literacy, such an outcome may indicate an accelerationist ethos in which pushing to limits can be potentially more radical than seeking elusive alternatives.

In the second, I argue that accelerationism may just as well result in the intensification of ‘actually existing’ capitalist relations (Land, 1991). As Shaviro (2015, 14) has warned, ‘When we push potentialities to their fullest expression, or exacerbate contradictions to the point where they explode, we cannot be sure what the outcome will be’. In realizing that there is no alternative to the ‘game’ of optimizing one’s position within a system, one may as well play it to the fullest extent (cf. Bailes 2019). Players revel in the pleasures of maximization rather than having their gaming pleasure short-circuited. What seems to motivate such players is more than an anxiety-driven state of neoliberal competitiveness (Brock 2021, Egliston 2020); it is a real enjoyment of the super-instrumental approach and pride in sharing discoveries within a community. The pleasures at work here calls into question Foucault’s (1990 [1984], 157) suggestive claim that ‘bodies and pleasures’ can be deployed against power. There are perhaps power fantasies of conquering the Warhammer world here that are best realized through exploiting a complex system. The desires and pleasures are of gaming a system and do not appear to mark the limits of neoliberalism insofar as they are already de rigeur amongst financial elites. This paper will use the content creator case studies to further explore the experiential dimension of such pleasures and to theorize their significance.

Suffocated by Surplus Enjoyment: A Psychoanalysis of "Gamer Rage"

ABSTRACT. This paper contends that videogame anger is an emotional response to a “surplus” of enjoyment (Žižek, 2022), or what the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan would call jouissance, in videogame play. For Lacan, enjoyment is an unconscious satisfaction that goes beyond mere pleasure and pain. Videogame anger is aroused when we misidentify our unconscious enjoyment as an external force that threatens to suffocate our desire. An example explored in this paper is the encounter with the fantasmatic figure of the enjoying other in competitive play.

Making the Mechanics Monetizable: on the Development Process of Free-to-Play Games

ABSTRACT. This paper takes a closer look at the lived experiences and professional routines within free-to-play game production and unpacks the complex interplay between game design and monetization by asking how and when the free-to-play monetization model intersects with the development process. Based on 18 interviews with free-to-play developers, it is shown that the profound integration of game design and monetization in free-to-play games permeates all phases of the development process, with different emphases in different stages.

13:00-14:30Lunch Break
14:30-16:00 Session 8A: Voices and Noises
"Constellations" of Vocal Expression: A Time Traveler's Examination of Vocal Performance in Assassin's Creed: Origins

ABSTRACT. How might social, temporal, and inter-textual contexts inform the way vocal performances are perceived across the video game medium? What level of vocal “authenticity” are we expecting when interacting with the characters of a historically-inspired fictional narrative like those in the game Assassin’s Creed: Origins (2017)? Are we engaging in something akin to time travel when interacting with dramatized representations of former figures in history? And what conceptual frameworks are helpful to tease apart the limits of such time travel initiatives as they relate to the perception of vocal expression?

In this extended abstract, I will discuss the use of John Durham Peters' and Walter Benjamin's "constellations" as they relate to historically-influenced narrative games like Assassin's Creed: Origins, in order to conceptualize how history, time, and subjective experience impact the perception of vocal performance across the video game medium.

Functions and Powers of Barks in Video Games: Reclaiming the Margins of Video Games Narrativity

ABSTRACT. This extended abstract offers a quick study of the effects of video game barks within the narrative experience of the game. Analysing barks is an opportunity to understand how a margin, constructed in the collective imaginary, is individually negotiated in the experience of designing or playing a game.

Meaningful Blehs and Rabbid Gwahs: Identity Representation Through Non-Human Noise and Words

ABSTRACT. Noise can mean more than language. This paper analyzes how the oral production and communicative abilities of the non-human main characters in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Ubisoft 2017) and Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope (Ubisoft 2022) configure, amplify, and limit the ways identities are portrayed in video games through non-human characters and the noise and sound they produce. In both games, the world of the Super Mario franchise has fused with that of the rabbids—mischievous Minion-like humanoid rabbits originating from Ubisoft’s Rayman series. As a result of this fusion, rabbid versions of key characters from Super Mario exist along their original counterparts. Almost half of the roster of playable characters in the games are rabbid versions of the other half (Mario, Luigi, Peach, etc.) who retain certain traits already present in the characters they are based on—such as their more recognizable clothing items—while significantly expanding others. Rabbid Mario, for instance, sports the same attire and moustache as Mario, but also expands and subverts the plumber’s heroic disposition through continuous, comical, loud, and chaotic displays of strength and bravery. The rabbids’ behavior in these games serve to construct a sense of Otherness that allows many identities to express themselves. By comparison, Mario and his human friends are flat: they never step outside the actions and responses that decades of games have firmly established for them and they don’t talk beyond the few words they are known for—such as “Mamma Mia” or “Let’s go!”. Mario behaves in the narrative portions of these games like any and every Mario in any Mario game released by Nintendo. Mario and his human friends’ inability to talk reinforces this stasis, as their lack—or extremely limited use—of language limits even further the meanings of their actions and behaviors. Is the inability to talk always restrictive, though? Is the absence of language always a limitation? In Kingdom Battle, the rabbid characters share Mario’s inability to talk, but for them, as this paper will show, not talking allows their actions to mean more. In the first game, the rabbids shout, grunt, whine and wail to communicate, but the absence of formal language and the rabbids’ attempts at communicating without the specificity of words work really well with the rest of their actions: in all their chaos, excess, and lack of specificity, their performed identities are full of radical potentialities. The absence of language keeps the potentialities of the rabbids’ actions unchained to the semantic concreteness of language. This changes, however, during the more narrative portions of Sparks of Hope, where the rabbids’ noises are accompanied by chunks of perfectly grammatical text they produce to participate in written dialogues. In these instances, the rabbids’ excess is flattened out and deleted to give room to the heroic, and much less ambiguous, rapport in which they participate. After a looking at scholarship on human language and identity (Searle 1969), non-human identities (Haraway 2016), and sound in video games (Collins 2013, Stingel-Voigt 2020), this paper will analyze the rabbids’ noises and sounds, their inability to use language in the first game, and the inclusion of written language in the second game to argue that non-human noise and sound, as well as the absence of language, have the potential to meaningfully and radically expand the types of identities video games can represent. In doing so, this paper will continue the work of scholars such as Michael Fuchs (2020), Marco Caracciolo (2021) or Juan F. Belmonte (2022) on non-human characters by introducing non-human noise, following Georgina Born’s (2019) notion of sound as a key establisher of relationality, as a central articulator of wider forms of understanding and portraying identities in video games.

14:30-16:00 Session 8B: Local and Independent
Czech Appeal: Use of Local Themes and Settings by a National Game Industry

ABSTRACT. As the costs of game development were rising in the 1990s, most game developers from peripheral regions, including Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), shifted from writing games for the local market towards writing primarily for an international audience. Given the cultural dominance of English-speaking countries, this usually meant tailoring games to the preferences of the generically “Western” or “American” players, erasing most traces of local culture – a phenomenon that Vanderhoef has called “indie games of no nation.” (Vanderhoef, 2021) In the last decade or so, however, there has been an observable trend in CEE countries to produce games using local themes or settings, possibly thanks to the massive success of Witcher 3 (2015), a Polish game with overt references to Polish folklore and culture. Locally-themed production includes games as diverse as the Polish horror adventure The Medium (2021), taking place in the ruins of a socialist-era holiday resort near Krakow, or the Russian deck-building adventure game Black Book (2020), inspired by the folklore from the Perm region in the Urals. Although this trend is now well-known and literature on it is emerging (Majkowski, 2018; ANON), very little work has focused on the production side of such games. This paper will focus on recent Czech games that use local themes and settings, based on developer interviews and game analysis. This research occupies a previously unexplored intersection of two strands of literature. On the one hand, it follows the work on contemporary local game development scenes (Keogh, 2021; Kerr & Cawley, 2012; Young, 2018). On the other hand, it follows the discussion of games and national culture, and the associated question of what makes a game “French”, “Polish”, or “British” (Jankowski, 2021; Majkowski, 2018; Webber, 2020). This is not a purely academic discussion, as both EU and national institutions enact or plan policies to support game production as a part of national cultural production (Jørgensen, 2017; Kerr, 2013). From this perspective, such games can be seen as a means of building both national and European cultural identities, similarly to so-called small nation cinemas (Hjort & Petrie, 2007). At the same time, local content has been used for its novelty value or even exoticism, because it helps distinguish local titles from other games within the same genre – with The Medium (2021), for example, being a Silent Hill-style game, but taking place in post-communist Poland (ANON). In terms of material, this paper will focus on a selection of recent and upcoming Czech titles with local themes and/or settings; we currently plan to use 1428: Shadows over Silesia (2022), Hobo: Tough Life (2021), Hrot (early access, 2021), Kingdom Come: Deliverance (2018), Last Holiday (in production), Scarlet Deer Inn (in production) and Someday You’ll Return (2020). We will work with three types of material: (1) interviews with the designers (in case of larger teams, designers responsible for local content, such as writers or level designers), (2) the games themselves (if released), which will be analyzed following the guidelines for game close reading and game analysis (Bizzocchi & Tanenbaum, 2011; Fernández-Vara, 2015), (3) press interviews and promotional materials for those games. The research will investigate the representation of local themes within the games’ content, the developers’ motivations for including it, and the process of researching and implementing it in the games. It will also explore the developers’ relationship to the local and international gaming communities. So far, we have conducted two interviews and analyzed a portion of the press material. We will conduct the remaining interviews in Q1-2 2023. According to our preliminary findings, in some cases the inclusion of local themes has been inspired by the success of Kingdom Come: Deliverance (2018), a successful Czech RPG title that takes place in medieval Bohemia. Using local themes is generally seen as practical, as it gives developers easier access to reference material; from the creative point of view, it also allows them to tell more personal stories. However, a significant challenge in using local settings – especially in the case of indie designers using asset stores – is the unavailability of specific local assets (such as Hussite battle wagons in 1428: Shadows over Silesia) in asset stores. Although all the selected games (with the exception of Last Holiday) are aimed at an international market, much of the initial encouragement, support, or crowdfunding comes from the local Czech community, which drives developers to create games that will resonate locally before they might sell abroad. In summary, the preliminary observations show that despite game distribution being primarily global, game production is significantly shaped by local support networks, local tastes, and the local game culture’s opinion leaders.


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A Survey of the Irish Games Industry & the Ethics of Policy Research

ABSTRACT. A survey of the Irish games industry and ethics of policy and industry research

As Independent as Possible or as Necessary? the Different Context Layers of Being an Indie Developer

ABSTRACT. We’re living in an era, where the budget and developer team behind a video game even outnumbers Hollywood productions at times. However, video games with tight resources and small developer teams, so-called indie games, were often celebrated for outstanding storytelling or innovative game-design in recent years. Keogh describes the world of indie games as “game making between self-exploitation and self-emancipation” (2021, p.29) referring to indie games as an opportunity to develop new ideas apart from AAA standards. On the other hand, this self-emancipation usually comes with the risk of creative and physical exploitation to fulfill a certain vision. Indie video games have been extensively researched in the past in regards of their design, inclusivity and development process. Yet multiple challenges within the field remain like a clear definition of the notion indie game and indie game developer. As Pérez-Latorre points out, this circumstance can be contributed to the fact that “indie games often involve hybridizations and ambiguities between the alternative and the mainstream” (2016, p.15). Garda and Grabarcyzk for example tried to conceptualize this ambiguity by distinguishing between financial, creative and publishing independence (2016). Conclusively lots of research has been done on the meaning of being an “independent” video game developer and on the specifics of indie game design. For this paper we decided to not only define the meaning of being an indie game developer through the examination of professional identity or game design, but rather to differentiate between different contexts that were perceived as influential for indie game development. Conclusively, our research questions were how indie game developers defined their work, in what ways these definitions were shaped by external circumstances and how these contexts might be systematically differentiated. To answer these questions, we relied on a multi-layered model by Esser (1998), which was originally used to contextualize influential factors that shaped the national and cultural identity of journalists. Each layer or sphere represents an action-shaping context. With a so-called “subject sphere” (Esser, 1998, p.458) as the center of the model, Esser emphasizes the importance of individual intentions and processes of socialization, which are ultimately shaped by external circumstance like (in case of journalism) the structures of media systems and historical backgrounds. Similar to journalists, the creative vision of a game developer (as the core of the model) is shaped by the external environment, which gave us the chance to research its influence on personal motivations and vice versa. During the empirical field phase of the study eighteen interviews were conducted with German indie game developers. To gather data that promises the most extensive insights into the research-subject, a theoretical sample was chosen. The professionalization of the participants ranged from developer teams on the brink to Double A standards to non-profit one-person developers. The interviews were conducted via zoom or phone, later transcribed and coded using the logic of Grounded Theory (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). The results show that many indie game developers perceived the emotional involvement as a key for their motivation to work in indie game development. This emotional involvement was attributed to the possibility to shape a game according to a personal vision, independently from current AAA trends. However, indie games weren’t perceived as antagonists of triple A gaming companies, but rather to be an inspiration. Indie games are considered as an innovator regarding game-design, storytelling and so forth. For this reason, most interviewees hesitated to set on a specific definition of indie gaming, as they saw the intangible character of the genre as one of their greatest strengths or as one of our interviewees summarized “If indie games are one thing, it’s diversity”. When asked about their working processes most interviews emphasized the flat hierarchy within their teams, which resulted in participative structures that gave everyone the opportunity to bring in feedback. The current popularity of indie games was perceived as a blessing and a challenge simultaneously. Interviewees commended the increasingly lower barriers to start game making, but also mentioned the hurdles to gain attention by the playing audience, that is flooded with new releases. Also, the economic and financial aspects were described as a crucial context for indie game development, influencing all stages of production, and consequently the creative output. To illustrate these findings, a sphere model was elaborated that distinguishes between the three layers of game development, media environment and the economical contexts. The subject sphere, which represents among others normative values, attitudes and professional identity is located as a core in the center of the model. Conclusively, our layered model reconstructs the tension between fulfilling a certain creative vision at the core sphere and the economic sphere as outmost layer. As our interviews show most developers are working under a constant negotiation process between the different layers, from the lifeworld perspective perceived as how to stay true to individual ideas but still remain financially viable. However, this negotiation process is mostly perceived as an important driver for their creative outcome. The necessary improvisation because of limited resources feels to the interviewees as a distinguishing characteristic between indie games and AAA game development. Hence, the ideal indie game developer is described as profit-seeking only for the sake of working on the next innovative idea. Our findings point out several future research questions, for example on how the concept of “limited resources as a creative driver” may affect work ethics in indie game development. Also, an application of the sphere model to compare different nationalities in indie game development may be a fruitful approach for follow-up studies.

14:30-16:00 Session 8C: Legitimizing eSports
Gender and Resilience in Esports

ABSTRACT. Introduction Esports, as an industry and as an interconnected set of communities, has long been characterized as misogynist and exclusionary: a domain in which reactionary notions of gender, particularly in relation to sports and computation, flourish. And yet, women (including both trans and cis-gender) and non-binary folks have been foundational to the growth and legitimacy of esports since its inception. This is particularly the case for the many forms of labour and care that happen offscreen and behind the scenes, but which are as indispensable to esports as they are frequently invisible--event organizing, coaching, media production, and team management, to name a few. This paper reports on some provisional insights from a project that asks the following question: What are the mechanisms through which women and non-binary esports workers have remained, and found success, in the competitive gaming industry?

Background Scholarship on esports’ persistent gender exclusions has helped us better understand the barriers to more equitable participation in professional gaming, and in the competitive gaming communities that constitute the industry’s pipeline. These include toxic communication in networked play, a lack of meaningful diversity in esports titles’ gender representations, inequitable patterns of access to the technical apparatuses needed for sustained, intensive gaming, and a meritocratic ideology that presumes that anyone can ‘git gud’ at games given enough determination (Paul, 2018; Ruotsalainen & Friman, 2018; Taylor, 2015). As important as these considerations are in determining why the esports player base remains resolutely male-dominated and masculinized, such approaches tend to center play as the primary (if not exclusive) form of participation in esports. This has the effect, inadvertently, of overlooking the myriad other activities that the esports industry supports (and requires), and the pioneering work carried out in these areas by women and non-binary participants. Our presentation draws on the first round of semi-structured interviews with women and non-binary esports workers—those whose labour, paid or unpaid, onscreen or off, has helped grow and sustain a particular competitive gaming community or organization. Thus far, our interviews have solicited stories and perspectives from participants about how they persevere in an industry that is difficult, if not hostile, to those who are not men. Their stories shed light not just on mechanisms they draw from in their current roles in order to give and receive support (Discord channels, family members, mentors) but also on the conditions of access that allowed them to pursue a path in esports in the first place.

Directions While this project is still in its preliminary stages, we expect that it should illuminate patterns in the conditions and mechanisms of support that participants describe, patterns in how they were able to initially cultivate and sustain an interest in competitive gaming, and how they are able to find success in an exclusionary industry and culture. Accordingly, the study should make it possible to articulate forms of intervention that seek to replicate some of the mechanisms of education, and apprenticeship that routinely come up in our interviews, in a way that provides young women and non-binary folks with support structures for their involvement in competitive gaming in schools, youth clubs, and amateur esports organizations.

In theoretical terms, the study aims to disrupt an understanding of resilience that has become prevalent in technology industries (including esports and games production): the notion that resilience is a matter of individual persistence and determination, of ‘grit’ in the face of hostile conditions (Richard & Hoadley, 2015). Resilience, in these terms, is the d innate capacity to absorb harm, often in ways that leave sources of harm intact (Bridges et al., 2021). By contrast, our study mobilizes an understanding of resilience as relational and networked (Ungar, 2018). When applied to the task of addressing esports’ manifold inequities, this shift moves us from seeking solutions at an individual level – such as helping gender (or racial, or ethnic) minorities develop a ‘thicker skin’ – to articulating systemic interventions aimed at esports’ cultural sustainability.

Works Cited Bridges, D., Wulff, E., & Bamberry, L. (2021). Resilience for gender inclusion: Developing a model for women in male-dominated occupations. Gender, Work & Organization, 30(1), 263–279. https://doi.org/10.1111/gwao.12672 Paul, C. A. (2018). The Toxic Meritocracy of Video Games: Why Gaming Culture is the Worst. University of Minnesota Press. Richard, G. T., & Hoadley, C. (2015). Learning Resilience in the Face of Bias: Online Gaming, Protective Communities and Interest-Driven Digital Learning. Ruotsalainen, M., & Friman, U. (2018). “There Are No Women and They All Play Mercy”: Understanding and Explaining (the Lack of) Women’s Presence in Esports and Competitive Gaming. Proceedings of 2018 International DiGRA Nordic Conference, 14. Taylor, T. L. (2015). Raising the Stakes: E-Sports and the Professionalization of Computer Gaming. The MIT Press. Ungar, M. (2018). Systemic resilience: Principles and processes for a science of change in contexts of adversity. Ecology and Society, 23(4). https://www.jstor.org/stable/26796886

Esports at the Margins of the Commonwealth Games: Organisational Philosophy, Equity Pipelines, and National Representation

ABSTRACT. This qualitative study explores the participation, production, and organisation of esports under mega-sports frameworks and national to international esports associational stewardship. As a qualitative study observing individual to institutional practices in esports, we follow the rise of the inaugural Commonwealth Games esports event from the standpoint of Oceanic region representatives as they manoeuvre from community to elite level tournaments, through developmental pipelines, and across various forms of esports governance. While esports is ‘at the margins’ of the Commonwealth Games as a non-medal event, the emerging processes and dynamics traversing individuals, community-group interactions, and institutions (some established in government, some emerging as non-profit organisations with and without funding) presents a historic look at the state of esports outside of ‘traditional’ commercial organisation, and alongside or adjacent to traditional sports. This paper will address two central themes to this inaugural event and ‘first-time’ production and experience of esports adjacent to the Commonwealth Games: (1) organisational philosophies and how they relate to equity pipelines and (2) national representation and audience patriotism.

Facilitating Collegiate Esports: Limiting and Legitimizing Competitive Gaming

ABSTRACT. The global phenomenon of esports (or competitive gaming) unquestionably continues to grow. However, spaces, facilities and infrastructure remain understudied. Using U.S. collegiate esports as a microcosm of the broader industry, our work addresses perceptions of facilities, equipment, and infrastructure through in-depth interviews with teams, administrators and game makers in order to demonstrate how material conditions meaningfully limit expectations of what constitutes competitive play. We find that while administrators and players legitimize gameplay through their official facilities, the ad-hoc historical foundations of collegiate and professional esports push against institutional desires. This research therefore begins to reveal a picture of collegiate esports facilities that are still highly reliant on gaming norms and social capital, rather than trying to challenge the limits of competitive digital play.

14:30-16:00 Session 8D: Mixed Realities of VR
Why Do People Use VR (Games)? a Study of Continued Use and Spending

ABSTRACT. Virtual reality (VR) applications, including games and play, have received significant warranted and unwarranted hype, especially under the label of “metaverse”. Nonetheless, adoption of VR remains relatively modest, and many VR users are demotivated to continue their VR use despite its growing offerings and affordability. Several reasons have been postulated to hinder VR adoption such as cybersickness, affordability, and low usability. However, few empirical studies investigated continued use of and spending on VR. In this study we utilized factors originating from uses and gratifications theory as well as unified theory of acceptance and use of technology to investigate and understand continued VR use and spending through survey data (n = 681). The results indicate that VR use continuance and spending are positively connected to perceptions of utility, facilitating conditions, enjoyment, price-value, and experiences of embodiment, but are negatively connected to (current) visual aesthetics. These findings guide future VR research, development, and marketing.

Mixed Feelings and Realities: Joyful to Nauseating Sentiments About VR on Twitter

ABSTRACT. This study examined tweets that expressed the emotional impact of virtual reality (VR). These tweets were then analyzed for mentions of the affordances and limitations that prompted these emotions. We identify the most commonly expressed emotions from the tweets and then pair them according to emergent themes. The three most common emotions are anticipation, joy, and trust. The quantitative analysis suggests that users mostly felt positive about VR, with strong hope and anticipation for its future use, even if adoption rates are slow. Ultimately this suggests that despite the potential for VR to move beyond the gaming experience, it is traditional gaming content that actually determines the limits of VR enjoyment and emotion.

The Paradox of Pleasure and Performance: a Virtual Reality Experiment on Exercise Endurance

ABSTRACT. Virtual Reality (VR) applications seem particularly effective at engaging individuals in training exercises that help improve physical performance. The aim of this study is to examine the effectiveness of three virtual environments (i.e., relaxing, frightening, facilitating) on enjoyment and endurance during physical exercises using a VR headset. For this purpose, a VR experiment with three environments and two exercises was conducted among 97 young adults. The relaxing environment decreased exercise endurance among men in the dead hang exercise and reduced endurance among women in the core exercise. Paradoxically, the relaxing environment was also considered the most enjoyable environment among both male and female participants. The effectiveness of environments that elicit enjoyment, fear and social facilitation are discussed.

14:30-16:00 Session 8E: Meta
Other than Text: Media Used in Game Studies Publications. a Computational Analysis into 20 Years of Publications of the Game Studies Journal, and an Appeal for Research Through Design

ABSTRACT. What means are used in communicating game studies research? The article presents an analysis of findings produced through computational web scraping all published material in the 20-year lifetime of the Game Studies Journal, looking for a range of media facilitated by its permissive HTML format and published alongside text. The inquiry intends to provide reflexive data into the 20-year history of the field's oldest journal and the implicit research tradition cultivated so far. Extending the discussion, it presents the problematic relationship of game studies and design, making a case for the formal inclusion of design-based research methods to the interdiscipline, which while latent in its current ecology are nevertheless foreseeable to manifest in the third decade of the game studies project. Lastly, it advocates for research through design: the production of videogame artifacts as research vehicles for generating new knowledge, advancing discourse, and uniting the research landscape altogether.

Faraway, so Close! Co-Citation Analysis of Sources Cited by Gaming & Simulation Journal

ABSTRACT. Gaming and Simulation is one of the names given to the field that began to be structured in the 1960s and 1970s. Their conceptual roots lie in the new perspectives of the 1930s organized systems and the 1950s business management. Considering sectors and environments as organised systems, simulations and games were increasingly applied to several areas such as management, urban planning, environmental issues and healthcare (Klabbers 2009). It resulted in a movement by a diverse set of groups and initiatives increasing the complexity of previous mechanistic models of society and learning. Instead, the Gaming and Simulation models incorporated aspects coming from social sciences into the political debate, producing systems focused on emancipation and participation (Klabbers 2009). The International Simulation and Gaming Association (ISAGA) was just one of the associations that emerged in the early 1970s and were largely responsible for establishing and developing Gaming and Simulation as a research and development field. Similarly, Simulation & Gaming: An Interdisciplinary Journal has been a means of communication and debate for field members for fifty years (Duke 2011). Many of its research and development approaches are typical of what Klabbers (2009) calls Design Sciences, focused on issues that address human needs, organizational problems, and functional enhancements through using artefacts for data collection and evaluation, models, methodologies and processes. In a way, the field of Gaming and Simulation could be understood as containing aspects of the Game Design field (in the sense of creating rules, evaluation, and gameplay systems) and sharing many characteristics with Game Studies (for its consideration of experiential aspects of the games, learning, and communication). In this respect, Gaming and Simulation bears little relation to the field of game-applied computing, even because most of its projects involve analogue games. Game studies is a multidisciplinary field dedicated to researching games. The field emerged more recently and is primarily focused on the analysis of digital games, the study of game players, gameplay experience and the study of game design. Its researchers originally came from fields such as literary, film or media studies, communication research, sociology, psychology, computer science etc. Mäyrä includes the formation of the ISAGA conference and of the Simulation & Gaming journal as part of the history of Game Studies, hinting the dialogue that has been there (MÄYRÄ 2008). It is possible to say that the main interinstitutional representations of the field of Game Studies are the peer-reviewed journal “Game Studies” established in 2001 and the series of conferences, followed by the establishment of the Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) in 2003. Despite the overlap of themes, these academic traditions that address the same empirical object (games) have developed in parallel and autonomously over the years, with (apparently) few crossings. Each field seems to have its own theorists, methods, conferences, and journals. Even academic associations such as the Digital Game Research Association - DiGRA, Network of Excellence for Serious Games - GALA and Serious Games Association - SGA among others recognize and have tried to overcome what they classify as a "fragmentation" in the field (Mayer et al. 2016). It is relevant to emphasize that, although the independent development of different areas with games as a research object is not intrinsically problematic, the lack of communication between them may hinder the opportunity for a broader exchange of ideas and concepts that could contribute to new perspectives of research and development in both groups. Thus, as a starting point in this work, we seek to observe with which other fields the journal Simulation & Gaming interacts. To this end, we collected data from the Dimensions Database (www.dimensions.ai) of all indexed articles of Simulation & Gaming (ISSN 1046-8781 and 1552-826X) to perform bibliometrics analysis by running the data on the VOSviewer software version 1.6.18 (www.vosviewer.com). We used co-citation analysis of sources cited by indexed articles from this journal which resulted in a science map that can help understand the different resources and dialogues on the field in this journal. As a result, we obtained a bibliometric visualization which revealed thematic clusters, which we will name here as the major areas of Politics, Education, Administration, Medicine and Psychology. In the list of cited journals revealed by the analysis, Computers & Education appeared most frequently (with 303 connections) followed by Computers in Human Behavior (257) and Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (252). This initial exploratory study showed the complex and diverse ways in which the works published in Simulation & Gaming originate from a number of sources, confirming the multidisciplinary quality of the field. However, it is noteworthy that other Game Studies journals don’t show up in these clusters. The next step of the research is comparing Simulation & Gaming with other game studies journals like Game Studies and Games and Culture aiming to reveal the connections among the works on those journals.

Huizinga's Lila: Game Studies and Indian Concepts of Play


Johan Huizinga, despite becoming extremely popular in Games Studies’ discussions of play, is relatively less carefully studied in the wider context of his research. One of the often ignored areas is his scholarship on India and how his doctoral thesis (published in 1897) on the Vidusaka (loosely translated as the jester-figure) in Sanskrit drama may have influenced his ludic thinking. Many examples in Homo Ludens are drawn from the two Indian epics, the Ramayan and the Mahabharat, the dice-game in the latter being a particular point of interest for Huizinga. In Game Studies criticism, so far, this is a little explored connection and can be viewed as being on the margins of the existing discourse for a number of reasons, including the fact that this is a non-Western perspective in what is, so far, largely a Euro-American conception of play. Tara Fickle in her recent book identifies the Indian connection as the ‘orientalist roots of Game Studies’ (Fickle 2019: 118). Fickle deploys the term ‘orientalism’ in the sense of Edward Said’s famous formulation wherein ‘the Orient was Orientalised not only because it was discovered to be “Oriental” in all those ways considered commonplace by an average nineteenth-century European, but also because it could be - that is, submitted to being - made Oriental’ (Said 1978: 14). While agreeing with Fickle’s argument to an extent, I submit that it is imperative to re-read Huizinga through his scholarship on play in Sanskrit texts because dismissing his fundamental contribution as mere Orientalism would leave many possible avenues of rethinking play unexplored. Following Huizinga’s connection with the conceptions of play in Indian philosophy and drama, this paper concentrates on the Indian concept of play, lila, and how it significantly reshapes notions of play in both traditional and digital games, in terms of its ontology, experience and the process of identity-formation through play.

Lila is an often-used word even in Western contexts and is loosely translated as ‘divine play’; in its original Hindu contexts it means a variety of things ranging from the effortless and playful relation between the Absolute and the contingent world to the erotic play of Krishna with his consort Radha. It also forms the basis of the dramatic and festive events in Indian culture such as the Ras Lila or the Ramleela, even in far-flung parts of the world as the author Derek Walcott (1992) describes the latter in his Nobel speech. Combining the ludic with the divine, lila is an extremely complex concept and often the outcome of the play between gods can upset the cosmos. The divine lila can also be in some cases a part of maya or illusion (the ludic connection of the latter word has already been pointed out in Game Studies research). Sibaji Bandopadhyay notes how Huizinga did not find it ‘at all astonishing that ‘ritual’ and ‘play’ were substantively similar in constitution: in essence, every ritual was legitimately reducible to an irreducible play-concept [...] that, for example, found in Vedic sacrificial rites which aimed to represent “a certain desired cosmic event”’ (Bandopadhyay 2014: 22). In their seminal study on divine play in Indian philosophy and mythology, Don Handelman and Daniel Shulman, write at length on the game of dice played by the gods, Shiva and Parvati, where the winning and the losing have a direct impact on the cosmos. As they say, ‘Siva, drawn into the dice game, is taken apart during the game—engendered, stripped naked, diminished, objectified, overwhelmed by time. The process turns him, as it were, inside out, thereby creating discontinuities in his being, empty spaces, black holes, whereas once—before the game—there was continuous, dense simultaneity of self and the cosmos’ (Handelman and Shulman 1997: 96). The sense that emerges from the deep analyses of lila is that it is difficult to distinguish between when the gods control their play and when play controls the gods themselves; the latter is perhaps an influence on Huizinga’s description of culture as sub specie ludii (loosely translated as ‘in the form of play’).

Moving beyond the set conceptions of play that have been followed in Games Studies, this paper explores the possibility-space of thinking about play and its ontology from a specific non-Western angle on play theory. Thereby, it will also hint at further reappraisals of play from other cultures, such as the Chinese notion of wan. The main focus here, however, is lila and how its multiple connotations can further complicate how games are understood. Especially, taking the case of videogames, which, besides being games, are performances, story-experiences, pedagogic tools and simulations of serious philosophical and ethical situations, one can see a more apposite scenario using the framework of lila, where again culture exists sub specie ludi in that the play-concept is very obviously multiple and versatile and even cosmic in its significance. Looking back at the ways in which videogames research has woven its foundational thinking around concepts of play, this paper points out the influences of lila on Huizinga and by extension on the way the play experience in videogames can be better comprehended perhaps, even in comparison with concepts such as Paidia and Ludus as described by Roger Caillois and used widely in Game Studies so far.


Atkins, Barry. 2003. More Than a Game : The Computer Game as Fictional Form. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Bandyopadhyay, Sibaji. 2014. : “A Few Lessons from the Mahābhārata.” In Mahabharata Now, edited by Sibaji Bandyopadhyay and Arindam Chakrabarti. Routledge India. Caillois, Roger. 2001. Man, Play and Games. Translated by Meyer Barash. Reprint edition. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Fickle, Tara. 2019. The Race Card: From Gaming Technologies to Model Minorities. New York: NYU Press. Handelman, Don, and David Shulman. 1997. God Inside Out: ’Siva’s Game of Dice. Oxford UK; New York: Oxford University Press. Huizinga, Johan. 1897. “De Vidusaka in Het Indisch Tooneel.” University of Groningen. ———. 1971. Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture. Boston: Beacon Press. Mukherjee, Souvik. 2015. Video Games and Storytelling: Reading Games and Playing Books. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Walcott, Derek. 1992. “Nobel Lecture: The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory.” Nobelprize.Org. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1992/walcott-lecture.html.

14:30-16:00 Session 8F: Learning through Games
Dirty Pretty Romans: Teaching Catullus as Interactive Fiction Using Twine and StoryMaps

ABSTRACT. The many games devoted to "playing the past" in the context of the ancient Mediterranean demonstrate the depth of public interest in experiencing and learning about this world. To connect this interest with students at our institution, the authors have completely revised an existing course on the Roman poet Catullus away from a traditional emphasis on grammar and toward interactive fictional exploration of the cultural history of Rome in response to Catullus' poems, using Twine and ArcGIS StoryMaps. We have adapted the approach of Discursive Game Design, emphasizing to students that we will not create a final, fixed translation of Catullus in game form, but rather use game design (game mechanics and fictional world building) as a way to explore that key historical question, "what was it like to be them?" This exploration will necessarily be provisional, a negotiation between the evidence and the creative rulesets and storylines created in the class.

Gami-Math: Educational Escape Rooms as Learning Environments, an Optimal Tool for Horizontal Mathematization and Curricular Integration

ABSTRACT. Because of the worrisome performance of Spanish students (PISA tests) and mathematics teachers (TEDS-M report), the authors proposed specific didactic-mathematic teacher formation based on a Game-Based Learning approach. This contribution delivers summary and a report of the performance of the 4 years-history of the formative program in terms of: (i) connectivity and re-contextualization of mathematic knowledge; (ii) Improvement of the didactic-mathematic knowledge and related professional mathematic teacher’s skills, and (iii) Reduction of the math anxiety

League of Learning: a Study of Classroom Intervention Effectiveness

ABSTRACT. The success of university games degrees globally brings with it interesting challenges for teaching. As demand for degrees in games grows, so too do class sizes. Large class sizes have been shown to have weak student engagement, decreased depth of learning, ineffective interactions, high failure rates and an increase in student absenteeism (Boulatoff and Cyrus 2022; Cash et al 2017; Monks and Schmidt 2011). In addition to these problems, large games classes have the additional challenge of dealing with toxic gamer culture (Ruberg 2019) and challenging behavior (Zagal and Bruckman 2008). This extended abstract presents a study of classroom intervention effectiveness to combat student disengagement and poor behavior. The study’s behavioral intervention takes inspiration from current efforts at Riot Games to quell toxic behavior in League of Legends (2009) while the specific techniques applied in this intervention have their foundations in emotional intelligence pedagogy (Linker 2014), early childhood education (Combs and Slaby 1977; Zhu et al 2016), and the new games movement (Fluegelman 1976; DeKoven 2013). After a review of the techniques used, the abstract presents data comparing outcomes from two classes- one with a behavioral intervention and one without. DiGRA audiences will walk away from this presentation with an understanding of pro-social techniques for classroom management as well as a toolkit to improve outcomes in their own classroom.

14:30-16:00 Session 8G: Identity and Agency
From Gamer Identity to Game Cultural Agency

ABSTRACT. The aim of this study is to demonstrate how game cultural agency can and should be conceptually separated from gamer identity, especially when studying players who are marginalised in the hegemonic digital game culture, such as women. The study is a continuation of a doctoral dissertation based on interviews with 20 and online questionnaire responses from 737 adult women who play digital games. Based on this material, I will describe how women gamers negotiate their game cultural agency while actively rejecting – and being rejected from – the idea and identity of a ‘gamer’.

Gender Differences in Ethical Stances for Playing AR Games: The Case of Pokémon GO

ABSTRACT. Gender has been recognized as a significant factor in the field of ethics for some time, but there is a lack of understanding about gender ethics within the realm of augmented reality (AR) games. In order to address this gap, a study was conducted in which 25 ethically ambiguous situations in Pokémon GO were examined. The study surveyed 1,304 male and 645 female players. The results showed that there were significant differences in the ethical stances and behaviors of man and woman players. Male players were more likely to perceive certain game actions as ethical and engage in more behaviors than female players. Additionally, the study found that male and female players placed different levels of importance on various ethical values. Male players tended to prioritize competition and the desire to win, while women players demonstrated more sensitivity to their surroundings. These findings have important implications for understanding how gender affects the gaming experience, and can be used to design more inclusive and ethical AR gaming environments.

Merely Marginal? Gaming Culture and Reactionary Ideology

ABSTRACT. The relationship between videogame culture and reactionary political movements has been much discussed in the years following #GamerGate, which many commentators now see as an important catalyst for the emergence of the ‘alt-right’, the rise of the antifeminist manosphere, and the election of Donald Trump (Phillips 2018, 15). Gaming culture has furnished right-wing movements with aesthetics, tactics and terminology (Condis 2018, 97; Marwick and Lewis 2017). Evidence also suggests that ‘gaming (adjacent) platforms’ are ‘increasingly used to propagate extremist ideology and disseminate propaganda, especially by right-wing extremist actors’ (Schlegel 2021, 4). It would be comforting to think that gamers drawn to these ideologies represent a fringe group, confined to gaming culture’s margins. But perhaps there is something about gamers, or about videogames as a medium, that has made gaming communities susceptible to reactionary ideas? This paper reviews perspectives on this question, proposes its own answer, and introduces a case study: artist Angela Washko’s The Game: The Game (2018).

Many accounts of gaming’s relationship with reactionary politics have focused on representational content, noting that videogames often revolve around regressive fantasies of combat and conquest, frequently perpetuate sexist and racist stereotypes, and sometimes openly invite players to ‘to re-enact right-wing practices’ (Salter and Blodgett 2017, 77-79; Mukherjee 2017, 56; Brett 2021, 233). Commentators have also observed that online reactionary movements and “triple A” videogames share a target market in young white men, noting that the forms of ‘toxic geek masculinity’ (Salter and Blodgett, 2017) that continue to pervade gamer culture have much in common with the forms of white male ‘ressentiment’ (Brown 2019, 162-3) that animate contemporary reactionary movements. If such analyses are unsettling, in others they are comforting. After all, scholars have long argued against paying too much attention to games’ representational content, and game publishers have been concertedly courting audiences beyond gaming’s traditional target demographic since the 2000s. Perhaps, then, we can conclude that affinities between gaming culture and right-wing movements are largely incidental – a matter of how games happen to have been themed in the past, and who they happen to have been created by and for?

This paper argues, however, that we need to recognise deeper parallels between right-wing ideologies and the values and habits that videogames inculcate. ‘[U]nited and organised around a concept of natural inequality’ (Finlayson, 2021, 183), reactionaries have long celebrated games as ‘space[s] where inequality rules’ (Robin 2011, 209). Given videogame culture’s tendency toward ‘toxic meritocracy’ (Paul 2018), it is little wonder that some gamers would be receptive to such ideas. Videogame culture’s celebration of the ability to see past the interface and understand the underlying code (Wark 2007, 128-133), meanwhile, resonates with the master trope of contemporary right-wing movements: that of taking “the red pill” and learning to see through the illusions propagated by liberals and progressives. The supposed “truth” that the red pill reveals - that of fixed, biologically determined and hierarchically organised racial and sexual classes (Stern 2019) - finds an echo in roleplaying and strategy games, many of which restrict certain abilities to characters of particular races and sexes (Galloway 2011, 132). Given this, it makes sense that right-wing groups would have turned to gaming jargon to articulate the idea that some people(s) are inherently inferior to others – witness the memes portraying leftists, women and ethnic others as non-player characters ‘unable to have ideas and thoughts of their own’ that flooded the right-wing internet in late 2018 (Dafaure 2020). In short, if we hope to understand why some gamers have been drawn to the right, and why the right is deploying terms and concepts drawn from gaming culture, we need to recognise how videogames can serve as vehicles for profoundly reactionary visions of zero-sum struggle, where political victory comes down to cynically exploiting loopholes in systems invisible to the untrained eye.

Angela Washko’s The Game: The Game uses the dating sim genre to expose and interrogate such modes of thinking. In most dating sims, players aim to seduce non-player characters. Here we play as a woman subjected to the seduction strategies of a number of prominent ‘pick-up artists’. Grounded in bogus forms of evolutionary biology and behaviourist psychology, these strategies reduce interpersonal interactions to videogame-style flow diagrams, promising to teach men how to beat the sexual odds. But even as Washko shows how readily videogames lend themselves to articulating reactionary ideas, she also demonstrates how critical spins on familiar ludic genres can help players to recognise, contest, and articulate alternatives to such a worldview.

14:30-16:00 Session 8H: Games and Vision
Enacting Photojournalism in Videogames

ABSTRACT. This paper examines the performative enactment of photography practices, digital and non-digital, in game environments: specifically, the enactment of photojournalism, including projects by Gilbertson/Time (2014), Rowbottom/Kojima (2020), and Potter and Piccolmini/Activision (2021). Using an approach that combines both frame analysis and new materialist rhetorical approaches, it presents an analysis of both the active and ambient framing of this work and its paratexts, within a network of actors and agencies, situated within postmedia and technical image discourse. Bridging enactments like these commonly serve as a means of validating (or refusing) photography within games as legitimate as photography. But we should be critical of viewing these enactments as necessarily warranting in-game photography, and attentive to the ways that such projects entangle corporate actors and structures of power. By exploring the dynamics of these reassemblies, we can both better critique, and better envision, in-game photography practices in novel and transformative ‌ways.

Selfies in Interface Games: Intimacy, Consent, and the Voyeur Player

ABSTRACT. The presentation discusses the use of selfies in narrative-driven interface games as methods of creating intimacy between the characters and manipulating player-character emotional distance. Three interface games are examined to show different roles that narrative selfies can play pointing towards their worldbuilding and character-building function, following the three types of frameworks used to discuss selfies as noted by Gabriel Faimau (2020): dramaturgic lens (the selfie as self-presentation), sociosemiotic approach (the selfie as an art of communication), and dialectical framework (selfie as a social critique). Although several scholars have already discussed the practices of taking photographs in video games in terms of its aesthetics and ontology (Giddings 2013, Carita 2010, Gerling 2018, Möring and de Mutiis 2019), as well as their documentative function (Urban 2022) and function in archaeogaming (Reinhard 2018), less attention has been placed on how selfies can be used in either autobiographical or otherwise very intimate stories like these presented often within interface games medium. Thus, the paper investigates how interface games, that is games that incorporate hypermediated and overemphasized interfaces, negotiate intimacy through the use of NPC selfies. Since interface games most often recognize that personal computers and phones have become one’s most personal possession, I follow scholars such as Rob Gallagher (2019) and Piotr Kubiński (2021) in recognizing the potential of this genre for conveying narratives that are deeply personal and intimate. Due to their emphasis on the interfaces, these games inherently blur the lines between the fictional, diegetic, and extra-fictional levels of meaning. This allows the use of the selfie as a means of creating the sense of intimacy between the characters as well as characters and the player, drawing from the player’s prior knowledge and meaning associated with the practice of selfie-taking and sharing. This, additionally, offers an area for a discussion about player-character consent and the player’s role as a voyeur. „Selfie” refers to a photograph of oneself, usually taken with a smartphone or webcam which, as Oxford Dictionaries noted in 2013 in the word of the year category, is later uploaded to social media website. The rise of selfies is emblematic of the culture that has become visibly visual and that is fascinated with display and visibility (Attwood 2011). However, it is important to remember that selfies are more than just images, constructing the narratives about one’s body in association with tags and descriptions (Enguix and Gómez-Narváez 2017). For Amparo Lasén, selfies need to be considered a “photographic genre that was almost exclusively artistic, inherited from painting, [that] becomes part of everyday photography. It is a banal and playful activity that produces new habits and gestures: like taking pictures in front of a mirror . . . or outstretching the arm to take a snapshot” (2015, 62). The uniqueness of the culture arose around the practice of taking selfies is closely connected to the importance of social media and the current omnipresence of screens in daily lives. The research on the construction of intimacy through the practice of sharing pictures points out that profiles on social media “are good examples of online settings where intimate storytelling is practiced, as people tell intimate stories about their family, their travels, or their parenting experiences. . . . the use of social media has become everyday activity that opens space for intimacy practices, especially intimacy at a distance” (Miguel 2016, 1). Anthony Elliott and John Urry use the term intimacy at-a-distance to define transformed intimacies enacted through the mobile phone use as “intimacy in conditions of intensive mobilities become flexible, transformable and negotiable. Mobile intimacy is fluid in both emotional and interpersonal terms” (90). Thus, these “photographs are forms of online presentation in front of a mixed audience of strangers, acquaintances and friends. They are gendered personal and public representations and performances of the self for oneself and for the others” (Lasén 64). Although the research on intimacy in digital games is mostly conducted in the context of in-game representation of sex and sexual practices, it is important not to narrow the scope of that research too much, understanding that intimacy is a much broader concept. Intimacy, after all, can denote a wide range of experiences of closeness and vulnerability between a person and assemblages of objects, places, animals, and other people. For Nancy Yousef, intimacy “crystalizes a tension between sharing and enclosing as opposed imaginations of relational possibilities” (2013, 15). Intimacy then can be described by the sense of tension between privacy and publicness, and as Kaelan Doyle-Myerscough states, intimate affect can be understood as “a precarious, synchronous orientation in the present, made pleasurable and terrifying by the sensation of nakedness or revealing of oneself. It is fragile; the threat of embarrassment or humiliation or disappointment lingers at its edges” (2019, 5), meaning that intimacy requires trust. Intimacy from outside of the strictly sexual or romantic relationships has been discussed in various areas of video game research: from the discussion of the dancing games which function “as engines of humor, shame, trust, and intimacy, urging playing to dance like nobody’s watching—while being tracked by motion-sensing interfaces” (Miller 2017, blurb), the intimacy of the haptic mobile games (Richardson and Hjorth 2017, Hjorth and Richardson 2020, Richardson 2020), and the intimacy of the stories seen in the interface games (Kubiński 2021). The term “interface games” describes a group of digital games that frame the entirety or vast majority of their narrative within the fictional interface that most commonly mimics those of computers or a mobile phones. It can be argued that the interface games create immersion by evoking the familiarity of the technological devices. However, they also purposefully blur the lines between various levels of meaning, problematizing the placement and existence of the fourth wall and the border between diegetic and extra-fictional. Although perhaps the mobile phone interfaces are more common in these games, allowing for interesting play with the familiarity of one’s mobile phone and the casual character of mobile and handheld games. As Piotr Kubiński (2021) argues, this has crucial impact on the choice of narratives chosen to be told within this genre and the increased focus on the intimacy between the characters and the player in them. He emphasizes that the in-game representation of these devices reflects a crucial position these technologies have in the lives of their users, having replaced the traditional diaries and journals as one’s most intimate possessions. This function of the personal technology in this capacity is heavily emphasized by each of the three games discussed in this paper, showing how they are used to store intimate moments and photographs, conversations, and important memories, truly becoming an extension of one’s body. This additionally closely relates to the research on the emotional entanglement of human-computer interactions which constitute of a crucial part of the studies focused around the humans’ interactions with various technologies. These can vary from the variety of para-social interactions with digital game characters (Enevold and MacCallum-Stewart 2015, Blom 2020) to the investigations on the affective impact and effectiveness of medium interfaces on the user engagement on social media, the ability of technology to recognize and adapt to the human emotional responses in what Rosalind Picard calls “affective computing” (1995). Especially relevant is the research on the use of mobile phones and their influence on the formation of the social relationships, as well as their role within the private and public domains of life. The presentation offers an analysis of three different uses of selfies in interface games corresponding with three most common frameworks of selfie analyzes as noted by Gabriel Faimau (2020), namely: 1) dramaturgic lens, which describes the selfie as self-presentation, is applied to the analysis of Cibele [Star Maid Games 2015]) 2) sociosemiotic approach in which the selfie is considered an art of communication, is applied to the analysis of Bury Me, My Love (Pixel Hunt 2017) 3) dialectical framework, in which selfie is understood as a social critique, is applied to the analysis of The Normal Lost Phone (Accidental Queens, 2017).

Imagining the All-Seeing Eye: Surveillance Imaginaries in Games
PRESENTER: Ragnhild Solberg

ABSTRACT. This presentation will present a work in progress exploring how surveillance in games is constructed both as malicious and benign, using an existing pre-coded dataset of machine vision and surveillance in popular culture. Through close readings of Watch Dogs: Legion and other games in the dataset, this presentation will engage with portrayals of surveillance systems in order to explore how these systems are constructed and imagined.

14:30-16:00 Session 8I: Mediation
Uncovering the (Hidden) Co-Creativity: Ethnographic Streaming for a Game Design Praxiology Research Project

ABSTRACT. In this paper, we reflect on a research project, where streaming gameplay on Twitch was utilized as part of data collection in a game design praxiology study. The project was conducted in Spring 2021 as a collaboration between Aalto University and The Finnish Museum of Games. The research project employed journalistic interviews, developer notes, sketches, early prototypes, multiple builds of the game, interviews with the development team, and community engagement activities. One of these activities was publicly streaming the gameplay of Noita on Twitch. This ethnographic streaming had a multi-faceted impact on the research project. It deepened our understanding of Noita as a game suitable for streaming, and provided insights into the game without requiring extensive playtime. It also uncovered the co-creative part of the development process: content creators, community managers and modders within the Noita community all impacted the designed experience of Noita. As one of the ethnographic approaches utilized in this game design praxiology study, streaming turned out to be in an important epistemic role. However, the process was also time consuming and involved several technical challenges as well as created an interesting gameplay experience bias.

The Game(s) of Netflix: Exploring the Entertainment Functions of Digital Games as Part of the Company's Content Strategy

ABSTRACT. Netflix's decision to include games in its subscription in November 2021 reflects the company's ambition to become a dominant player in the entertainment industry. This strategy is in line with Netflix's statement in 2018, where they claimed, “We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO” (Netflix, 2019). Netflix’s strategy is framed within a new phase of media convergence. This new phase is characterised by content convergence, which is the fusion of sectors and contents as a response to the highly competitive context of the entertainment industry, in which companies compete to get users’ attention (Wu, 2017).  By offering a wider variety of content, including video games, Netflix aims to consolidate its position in the market and provide a complete entertainment experience for its users. This endeavour represents Netflix's disruption of the status quo from a content perspective (Gómez & Muñoz Larroa, 2023). This study takes the growing convergence of ludonarrative and audiovisual content as its starting point and focuses on Netflix's recent strategy to embrace this trend. The platform's relationship with the world of video games has been extensive. It has manifested in various ways, ranging from audiovisual adaptations of games like The Witcher (CD Project Red, 2007), Castlevania (Konami, 2003), and Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games, 2017), to foster the creation of video games based on their original productions such as Narcos: Rise of the Cartels (Curve Digital, 2019), released alongside the show's second season. Additionally, Netflix has ventured into interactive audiovisual experiences with productions like Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (Slade, 2018) and the documentary series Wild vs. You (Grylls, Buchta, & Shoopman, 2019)

This study aims to provide insights into how the inclusion of games aligns with Netflix’s overall content strategy and how this strategy is positioned within the entertainment ecosystem. To achieve this goal, we propose to critically analyze how Netflix games contribute to fulfill different entertainment functions: compensations, gratifications (compliance of needs) and self-realization (Vorderer, 2001: 257); and how these complement the functions fulfilled by Netflix’s overall audiovisual catalogue. Furthermore, the study also highlights the gaps that can still be filled by the content-on-demand platform. To achieve this goal, we provide an answer to the following research question (RQ): How does Netflix’ game catalogue fulfill different entertainment functions and how do these games align with and complement the company's entertainment goals? To answer this question, we use a mixed-methods approach. First, we conduct a data-driven analysis of the 48 games released by Netflix through December 31, 2022. We gathered several data (such as game genre, release date, download range, recommended age, links to audiovisual content and ratings) using SensorTower, an app-monitoring tool. In the second step we performed a thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) of all games through analytical play (Mäyrä, 2008), meaning that researchers played the games in the sample by critically examining their game experiences. This process involves utilitarian play (Mäyrä, 2008), which implies relating the game to the wider context in which it was published. This serves us to think critically about the role of games in relation to Netflix’s broader entertainment strategy. As sensitizing concepts (Braun & Clarke, 2006) for the data analysis phase, we used the functions of entertainment described by Vorderer (2001).

Our research allows the identification of different types of strategies directed to fulfil Netflix's objectives through digital games. The main one, for now, involves a focus on basic interactive entertainment content that enhances the subjective perception of subscription value. However, glimpses of transmedia, branded, and third-party licensing strategies are also emerging. The emerging status of these different approaches does not allow for a definitive conclusion that this increase in value has occurred at this time. However, it is likely to attract casual players and fans of specific IPs. Based on the currently available data, games constitute a sort of Netflix micro-strategy within a broader plan whose main objective is to entertain and retain users. This entertainment, following Vorderer's proposal, can be categorized into three main functions: compensations, gratifications, and self-realization.

Games around compensation refer to the aspect of entertainment that helps individuals escape from their daily routine or relieve boredom. In the context of Netflix games, compensation can be observed through the immersive and interactive experiences they offer, allowing users to engage with new worlds and characters. By offering a wide range of game genres and narratives, Netflix aims to offset the limitations of traditional audiovisual content and provide users with a more interactive form of entertainment.

Gratifications include the satisfaction of psychological needs that individuals seek through their entertainment experiences. Netflix games fulfil these needs by providing challenges, rewards, and a sense of accomplishment. By integrating gameplay elements such as achievements, progress tracking, and social interactions, Netflix aims to satisfy users' desire for mastery, competition, social connection, and self-expression.

Self-realization pertains to the aspect of entertainment that allows individuals to explore and express their identity, values, and aspirations. Netflix games can facilitate self-realization by providing players with opportunities to make choices, shape narratives, and customize their gaming experiences. Through character creation, narrative branching, and decision-making mechanics, Netflix games enable users to engage in interactive storytelling and personalize their entertainment experiences according to their preferences.

However, this shift in how mobile content is offered (free from in-app purchases, microtransactions, or advertising) compared to major content distribution platforms (such as the Apple Store and Google Play) may signify future changes in the configuration of mobile gaming entertainment. Furthermore, the study also highlights the gaps that can still be filled by the content-on-demand platform. We discuss these results by reflecting on how these games align and complement Netflix’s broader entertainment strategy and what their role is in the company's positioning and competitiveness within the entertainment industry. The findings also shed light on the strategic purpose and content relation of the games published by Netflix.



Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3 (2), 77-101. https://doi.org/10.1191/1478088706qp063oa

CD Project Red (2007). The Witcher. [Digital game]

Curve Digital (2019). Narcos: Rise of the Cartels. [Digital game]

Gómez, R., & Muñoz Larroa, A. (2023). Netflix in Mexico: An Example of the Tech Giant’s Transnational Business Strategies. Television & New Media, 24(1), 88-105.

Grylls, B., Buchta, R. & Shoopman, D. (2019).Wild vs. You.[Netflix series]

Guerrilla Games (2017). Horizon Zero Dawn. [Digital game]

Konammi (2003). Castelvania. [Digital game]

Mäyrä, F. (2008). An introduction to Digital Game Studies. Routledge.

Mehta, P. & Pandya, S. (2020). A review on sentiment analysis methodologies, practices and applications. International Journal of Scientific and Technology Research, 9(2), 601-609.

Netflix (January 17, 2019). Final Q4 2018 Shareholder Letter. Retrieved by https://bit.ly/3pPbsE8

Slade, D. (2018). Black Mirror: Bandersnatch [Netflix series]

Vorderer, P. (2001). It's all entertainment—sure. But what exactly is entertainment? Communication research, media psychology, and the explanation of entertainment experiences. Poetics, 29(4-5), 247-261.

Wu, T. (2017). The attention merchants: The epic scramble to get inside our heads. Vintage.

GBStudio and Platforms by Consent

ABSTRACT. This is an extended abstract. In this project, I conduct a close reading of GBStudio through the lens of queer game studies, examining the engine’s interface, source code, and emerging development community. I adapt Mattie Brice’s framework of kink and consent to argue that GBStudio operates as a platform by consent, in which creators find pleasure in submitting to GBStudio’s hardware limitations. I read the dynamic that GBStudio creates queerly in order to rethink the potential of deliberate constraints in game engines.

14:30-16:00 Session 8J: Digital Data Clouds
Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining: Through the Cracks of Cloud Gaming Infrastructure

ABSTRACT. In this paper, I wish to argue that the successive failures to implement cloud gaming under a platform business model open up a paramount opportunity to entangle the research on digital games with media infrastructure studies. On the level of infrastructure, such platforms encompass very complex systems, encompassing not only technical but also regulatory, bureaucratic, environmental and geopolitical issues. For instance, the transnational companies providing scalable cloud gaming services have to cope with nationwide, locally-based energy providers or build their own facilities to supply their demand from local resources. At this level, challenges touch the more substantial layer of critical infrastructure, energy sourcing and natural resource management. The constant failures to establish gaming as a service might in fact provide a welcoming opportunity to observe gaming practices through a lens of media infrastructure studies.

Finding the GaaP — Data, Dashboards, and Independent Games

ABSTRACT. After reviewing existing scholarship on game analytics and independent development, this paper will present findings on a set of data analysis tools (IMAT) for market intelligence activities on the Steam platform, and potential collaborations between academia and independent game studios.

Towards Understanding Game Data Work

ABSTRACT. In the past decade, digital game production has actively integrated data-driven methods into its core. Most companies now use specialised tools to understand player communities, improve player experience, optimise player retention and increase revenues (El-Nasr, Nguyen, Canossa & Drachen 2021). A less explored area is what kind of game-related data work is done “on the ground” by actual human workers (Carter & Scholler 2016) and what kind of influence the data-driven model has on game developers’ professional identities (Dubois & Weststar 2021).

This research aims at clarifying what kind of data work is done in game companies and how that work is organised around workers on different levels. We ask: who does game data work in game companies, what does it entail and how does it shape our understanding of game work altogether? The study is based on two different datasets: 1) a collection of game industry job advertisements that discuss ‘data’ (public-facing perceptions of data) and 2) semi-structured interviews with 20 Finnish game industry professionals (more mundane accounts of data work). The main theoretical contribution of this research is in explicating and operationalising the idea of ‘game data work’, looking for distinguishing characteristics when compared to data work in other sectors (see e.g. Avnoon 2021).

The game industry job advertisements indicate that there are now a multitude of emerging, data-intensive jobs in game companies, often focused on different parts of the “data pipeline” or “established stack” services. Next to the observed invisibility and low status of some other emerging game industry positions (Kerr & Kelleher 2015, Tyni 2020), the job listings portray game data professionals for example as “a key hire within the company”, “at the core of decision-making” and “in the lead role”, suggesting that data-intensive processes can also have an effect on the existing power structures within studios.

We divide game data workers into three stratas, which we call 1) dedicated data professionals (DDPs), 2) ‘product people’, and 3) ‘everyday game data workers’. Of these, the dedicated data professionals – e.g. data scientists, data analysts, data engineers – are most evidently visible. To make sense of the various strands of game data, they need to understand the entirety of the game service to a sufficient degree. Often, as the company’s scale of operations grows, DDPs also build custom analysis tools, sometimes even the entire data architecture of the studio. Since DDPs also often train everybody else in the use of selected tools, communication and social skills appear more central than often thought.

‘Product people’ – a term originating from one of our interviewees – typically include the CEO and other management, product owners, game producers, game designers, and people from marketing. Product people need to be, at all times, concerned with the “health of the product”, meaning that they need to be fluent with various performance indicators, originating from data analytics tools, and understand how any changes in a game service’s live operations affect its performance in real time, on multiple axis.

Finally, ‘everyday game data workers’ consist of the rest of the development staff. They are people whose primary tasks may not seemingly be very data-intensive, yet they do their job in an environment that overwhelmingly revolves around data and data-driven design. Data seeps through everywhere within the day-to-day of the studios, and everybody working in contemporary free-to-play mobile game development needs to understand data analytics, at least on a basic level (Anonymized, forthcoming). At the same time, ‘data talk’, a way of communicating using data-related jargon and shorthands (cf. ‘game talk’; O’Donnell 2014), becomes a significant form of soft power.

Altogether, the data-driven development model comes across as an all-encompassing transition of game work, mostly visible on mobile development and free-to-play games, but increasingly shaping other fields as well. Based on this study, we argue that ‘game data work’ is similar in some ways with data work in other fields, but also exhibits marked differences. Dedicated game data professionals need to adapt to the unique environment of a game studio, e.g. accommodate to and support the needs of the core development team. This calls for a much closer day-to-day working relationship with creatives and other personnel. This, subsequently, makes communication a surprisingly large area of the day-to-day work, i.e. being able to communicate various things on different levels of abstraction to a wide spectrum of people. At the same time, with this process of accommodation, game data work gradually shapes other areas of game work as well.

14:30-16:00 Session 8K: Discipline and Punish
Examining the Cultures of Discipline in Overwatch and League of Legends Esports

ABSTRACT. In this presentation we discuss an ongoing research examining the way Riot Games and Blizzard Entertainment discipline their professional esports leagues, players and other actors. In addition we examine the ways how the fandom receives and interprets the disciplinary actions.

Beneath the Label: Assessing Video Games' Compliance with ESRB and PEGI Loot Box Warning Label Industry Self-Regulation

ABSTRACT. This extended abstract describes work that is planned/in progress but will be completed in time for the conference. The present series of two studies will not seek to empirically assess the efficacy of the loot box self-regulatory warning labels on consumer behaviour and instead will seek to assess (i) whether the ESRB and PEGI have consistently applied the loot box self-regulatory warning label and (ii) whether companies have complied with this self-regulation by accurately labelling games containing loot boxes with the relevant notice.

Protocolar Power and the Texts of Game Cultures

ABSTRACT. A protocol can be defined as a text that governs the actions of a body or group, which may include any combination of software, machines, and human agents. This project investigates the role of protocol among game cultures and constructs the concept of the protocol set: the texts of explicit rules that attempt to govern behavior within a community. Protocol sets accrue layers over time, with additional protocols constructed as superstructures upon others. Different agents possess the capability to intervene at different layers, a capability this theory describes as "protocolar power." The protocol set ontology has at least three affordances: (1) it addresses similarities in the roles of machine-to-machine text, human-to-machine text, and human-to-human text in delimiting possibility spaces. (2) It facilitates an analysis of protocolar power, defined as the capacity of an agent to generate and propagate constraints for the behavior of other agents. An agent acquires protocolar power by laying the groundwork for a community, writing a protocol that becomes assumed by others; thus protocolar power accrues most to early, progenitive, writers, who have more opportunity to create infrastructure, in contrast to later participants, who must undertake additional labor when overturning assumptions prior protocols have entrenched. (3) It suggests a method of culture critique focused on explicit instructions, such as community guidelines, that can be subjected to reproducible qualitative content analysis with the explicit rule as a basic unit of analysis. As protocol does not circumscribe strategy, a more thorough attention to literal rules stands to clarify but not obviate the ancient tension between protocol and cultural value - between the letter and spirit of the law.

16:00-16:30Coffee Break
16:30-18:00 Session 9A: Small-scale Games
Grief in Mobile Games

ABSTRACT. This paper explores how grief in represented in mobile games. Through close readings of five mobile games, I argue that just as poetic language disrupts everyday language by drawing attention to the surface and texture of words, so too can poetic game elements disrupt the standard grammar of their platforms, thereby reawakening players to the layered meanings of ludic rhythms, forms, and materials. I suggest that some mobile games deliberately subvert the norms of their platforms and genres in order to create interpretive gaps. The discrepancy between players’ expectations of mobile games and the modes of engagement that these games make possible produces irresolvable contradictions that we might think of as ludic aporia. I conclude that these points of friction and uncertainty are key to expressing experiences that are as fraught, as dissonant, and as bittersweet as grief.

The Wild West of Mobile Game Advertising

ABSTRACT. This study will take an explorative approach to identify and analyze various mobile game advertisement practices to uncover the ways game advertisements can be unethical. The preliminary results of the analysis reveal that the ethical considerations of the advertisements can be roughly divided to two main categories: misleading or fraudulent content and offensive or harmful content.

What's a Mini-Game? The Anatomy of Fishing Mini-Games

ABSTRACT. Fishing ‘mini-games’ are common in many contemporary video games. But what makes certain fishing-related video gaming elements into a ‘fishing mini-game’ per se and not merely a ‘fishing mechanic’? I answer this by examining how fishing elements vary from one implementation to another. Through analysing eight recent games with fishing, I identify and categorise a list of features where different implementations may vary. The resultant framework can assist designers to implement differently to cater to various player types and achieve specific goals. I also make a first attempt at distinguishing fishing mini-games from other fishing elements in video games. I identify two core considerations that, in my view, are crucial in rendering certain gameplay elements, but not others, a ‘mini-game:’ (i) gameplay-wise, the mini-game should be substantially different from other elements of the overarching video game and (ii) engagement with the mini-game should not be compulsory or effectively so.

16:30-18:00 Session 9B: Sexist Game Cultures
Lad Mags and anti-Feminist Irony in the Formation of Gaming Culture

ABSTRACT. This exploratory research builds on existing archival work with gaming magazines that examines the construction of masculinity game cultures by considering the role of gaming in British ’Lad Culture.’ The paper focuses on how videogame advertising (and to an extent production) was impacted through integration in the promotional culture of ‘Lad Mags.’ The considerable irony that framed the sexualized role that women had in this new promotional culture served to further embed and normalize sexism and misogyny as expressions of masculinity in gaming cultures.

Alt-Right and Video Games: a Literature Review

ABSTRACT. The video game industry has become the premier cultural and entertainment industry in our time (Mohanan, 2021), as proved by the data of the Global Games Market Report by Newzoo, which lists the number of players worldwide at 3.2 billion people. The existing literature normally focused on the USA scene highlights the political and ideological uses of the video game in different fields, such as geopolitics (Dyer-Witheford & De Peuter, 2009; Nie, 2013) and political communications (Huntenmann & Payne, 2009; Moreno & Venegas, 2021). During the last decade, events such as Gamergate (GG) have uncovered certain affinities between the discourse of the new alt-right-wing forces and some sectors of the video game players, which assumed masculinist discourses (Kocurek, 2015) and/or neoliberal ones (Muriel & Crawford, 2018). For example, the spread of white supremacist or man-sphere discourses (Moreno and Venegas, 2021). We use man-sphere to discuss the online universe of publications, websites, and antifeminist groups (Kaiser, 2022). There are resistances to change that advocate for the traditional and hegemonic discourse of the industry and the gamer community. In the last decade, the debate around genre inequality, which affects the industry from the beginning (Kirkpatrick, 2015), has also brought to light the growth of the alt-right in some parts of the youth (Nagle, 2018). This type of conservative resistances has generated a series of violent mobilisations and episodes against certain groups because of their genre, race, and sexual orientation (Shaw, 2012), feeding a traditional and technical vision of the medium associated with the traditional hardcore identity (author 1a, 2022). In this sense, an important event was GamerGate. Initiated in 2014 because of a fake news article about an alleged case of journalist corruption. Gamergate consisted of a mobilisation and a harassment campaign, of international reach, against women in the video game industry (Mortensen, 2018). On the one hand, this episode directly impacted Game Studies due to their critical vision of the hegemonic discourse of the industry (Chess & Shaw, 2016). On the other hand, it sealed a connection between one sector of the gaming communities and the alt-right, which was celebrated by the latter, maintaining that GamerGate was a political school for their movement (Anglin, 2016). Later, it has been highlighted that the alt-right adopted new tactics from digital spaces related to the gaming communities and GamerGate, such as doxing, shitposting or the political uses of memes (Forti, 2021, p. 160-161). It also has been identified how this link between the gamer world and the alt-right has facilitated the recruitment of young people through this type of “politically incorrect” discourse (Green, 2019). A good example would be the visit of institutional representatives of alt-right parties to industry events to proclaim themselves as the paladin of the community and their interests (Vilajosana, 2019). For these reasons, in this article, we look to contribute with a literature review which has studied the relationship between alt-right and gamer communities. To do that, we have done two systematic searches, in English and Spanish, through the platforms Scopus and Google Scholar, combining the following terms: “video games”; “videojuegos”; “gamer”; “jugador/a”; “alt-right”; “far-right”; “extrema derecha”; “masculinities”;” masculinidades”; “GamerGate”; “ideology”; “ideología”. We should also point out that although it is a global phenomenon, the existing literature usually focuses on English-speaking communities due to their influence and importance in the video game industry. The results of the literature review highlight the importance of the relationship between video game and the alt-right, especially significant in the youth. We can observe that the growth of the alt-right wing discourses has been fed off the historically hegemonic ideas of the video game world, benefiting from a digital culture based on a model of toxic masculinity, geek masculinity (Taylor, 2012). This model has encouraged and imposed a series of masculinist codes that marginalised women inside these communities (Condis, 2018). It has also omitted other groups unfit for the prototypical gamer figure (Shaw, 2012; Author 1b, 2022). Associated with this, although developed in parallel to the debate about the alt-right, there also a debate about what is being a gamer, what it means to identify as one and what type of values we can link with this identity (Muriel & Crawford, 2018; Shaw, 2012; author 1a, 2022). A whole battlefield for the “cultural war” that the alt-right bet on to grow their social base in the youth (Jong, 2020) through, in part, a strong identity fight as they do in other fields (Blodger & Salter, 2018). In conclusion, the study of the discourse of the alt-right around the gamer culture and identity has become essential to understand the rise of certain hate speeches in these communities and the build-up of links between sectors of the youth and the alt-right-wing forces.

16:30-18:00 Session 9C: Board Games
Meaningful Social Play: An Exploratory Study on the Phenomenological Experience of Boardgame Play

ABSTRACT. Research in entertainment experience as intrinsic need satisfaction has examined how video games can facilitate thought-provoking meaningful experiences. However, how boardgame characteristics are associated with need satisfaction variables remains unexamined. Boardgames feature an unparallel yet compelling gaming experience that may lead to the satisfaction of intrinsic needs distinctly from video games. In this paper, we examine various aspects of boardgame experiences to examine how analog game elements can work together in delivering a meaningful experience. An exploratory survey examines how distinct simulation characteristics of boardgames, such as tangible interfaces, game mechanics, narratives, and co-located co-play with other players, and the resulting entertainment experience of play are associated with the self-determination variables of intrinsic needs of autonomy, competence, relatability, and insight.

The Petsamo Board Game (1931) and Everyday Game Culture in Finland in the Interwar Period

ABSTRACT. The paper studies the Petsamo board game, published independently in Finland in 1931. This racing genre game consisted of a game board map situated in the Petsamo area in northern Lapland. Originally, Petsamo was mainly populated by Sámi people and only officially became a part of Finland after the 1920 Treaty of Tartu between Finland and Soviet Russia. After the Treaty, Petsamo became an arena for several activities that can nowadays also be examined as borderland and cultural colonialism, such as establishing new settlements, mineral prospecting, tourism, the production of Petsamo related artworks and so forth. In this paper, we approach the Petsamo game within a larger cultural historical context and analyse the representations of Petsamo in the game board and the instruction booklet as well as the activities of the designers of the game and players who originally owned the copy of the game that is currently held in the collection of the Turku Museum Centre. Thus, methodologically, the paper presents a holistic microhistorical example of non-digital game history.

Meet up for a Board Game? How Socialisation, Access, and Language Influence Community Formation

ABSTRACT. In this paper, I argue that board game communities’ formation is organic, responding directly to a larger board game landscape. Various factors, such as board game distribution and access, motivation behind play, as well as language dependency all serve a significant part in these communities’ formation. I will illustrate this by looking at the two largest board game groups on Meetup in Hong Kong – Board Game Oasis, an English-speaking board game group: and BGHK, a Cantonese-speaking board game group. By analysing six months of events hosted on each group, I will show how the games being played go beyond simply player preference – instead they are heavily influenced by a larger board gaming landscape that leads each community to form in its own unique direction.

16:30-18:00 Session 9D: Dark Play
"Yes, I Cheat, but Not Blatantly": the Use of Macros in Racing Games as Transgressive Play

ABSTRACT. This paper seeks recourse to the concept of transgressive play to examine cheating behaviour in racing games, and to analyse how cheating is received and reacted among gamers from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Mainland China. The game play analysis subjects Tencent’s QQ Speed and its international equivalent, Speed Drifters, to close scrutiny. This paper draws on interviews conducted with gamers from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Mainland China, with the aim of delving into their narratives regarding different types of cheats they used/ came across in games. The research is also supplemented by an autoethnographic exploration. This paper suggests that the narratives of my informants generally revolve around two tensions: the tension between human and nonhuman, and between technology and authenticity. Sometimes problematic as these tensions remain, they are strongly felt by gamers, in that they reflect how technological change is considered and how competitiveness is celebrated within the gaming community.

Playing Darkly: Rescuing Cheating in Online Games

ABSTRACT. Abstract

In and outside online multiplayer games, multiple actors partake in a political-ideological negotiation of play and playing games. The most frequent topic and the source of controversy is cheating in games. Cheating is often portrayed as a given binary between cheating or playing, but as scholars have illustrated, it is not always a straightforward path to identify and isolate. Consalvo (2007) finds that practices, previously considered cheating, such as strategy books and magazines, become sanctioned and a part of the industry in the form of paratextual industries. Inspired by her question on ethics and gameplay and how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is constructed in the digital game industry (2007, p. 188), this paper takes an example in ‘boosting organizations’ of the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment).

Boosting has caused increasing moral outrage among players for defeating the purpose of a meritocratic environment; instead, players purchase player-to-player (P2P) services to circumvent challenging content and retrieve advantageous rewards. For this reason, it has been labeled as cheating outright, followed by a ban implementation in the World of Warcraft’s terms of use. I argue that boosting as a phenomenon of cheating, when labeled normatively risks contributing to a broader and older tendency of labeling nerds and deviant behavior and leading to suppression of subcultures. However, taking a step back and removing morality offers a more sensitive look into how adopters of cheating rationalize their practice. Initial results from semi-structured interviews of six ex-boosting community members reveal that a significant portion of boosters are players residing in countries such as Indonesia, Peru, and Brazil. These players primarily engage in boosting to sustain their play activities as local economies make it unfeasible otherwise. In this context, cheating is a necessity for access and play.

Some scholars have sought to understand cheating as a form of divergent play referred to as ‘dark play’ (Mortensen et al., 2015) or ‘counterplay’ (Meades, 2015) which “can generally be understood as ways of playing that prioritize anti-structure and the opposition of rule” (Meades, 2015, p. 6), but I argue that they fall into the trap of applying normative value to common social evolutionary processes. As Carpentier et al. warn, it “produces the risk to become an objective ally of those voices that favour more centralised power relations” (2019, p. 31). In fact, in January 2022, these boosting organizations were banned with Blizzard Entertainment updating its terms of use prohibiting this type of activity that would otherwise result in termination of users’ personal accounts. This move was primarily a result of a minority of players voicing their frustration about boosting as a practice becoming increasingly visible in the game and its available communication channels, this form of “power gamers” (Taylor, 2006) risk creating prominence for a serious and commercialized play environment. For players who wish to play more “casually” (Juul, 2010), this poses a threat to their perception of a meritocratic system but is arguably a result of exactly this belief (Paul, 2018).

For Blizzard Entertainment, the ban on boosting organizations was motivated by its disruptive nature to other players' gameplay experience, especially because of excessive boosting advertisements in the in-game chats. Ironically, organized boosting was largely made possible when Blizzard introduced the wow-token feature in 2015. This feature afforded players the option to purchase a token for USD 20 and sell it on the in-game auction house for in-game currency, buyers of these tokens could in turn deplete the token for additional playtime or Blizzard account balance. As a result, more players have access to more lucrative P2P traded goods and services in-game, meaning otherwise less sellable goods and services became more sellable creating the ideal conditions for ‘power gamers’ (Taylor, 2006) to capitalize on their ‘gaming capital’ (Consalvo, 2007).

This paper seeks to answer the following questions: (1) is ‘boosting’ categorically cheating? (2) what ethical considerations should be made with this distinction? And, (3) why is it significant for the conceptualization of play? And the preliminary answer is, rather than being another example of paratexts, boosting is more akin to emerging play such as propaganda in EVE online which Carter (2015) calls emitext. Distinguishing cheating practices by centre-, periphery-, or emitext is already more productive as it gesticulates the conditions for which the cheating practice came about and decentering the player in this debate, and in turn, repositioning studios and publishers as active agents in formulating the conditions for deviant player behaviors. Additionally, it steers clear of applying normative value through reconceptualizations with exaggerated and generalized attributions, such as ‘dark’, ‘sinister’, or ‘counter’. These adjectives for cheating or play risk simplify the motives of deviant play practices.


Carpentier, N., Melo, A. D., & Ribeiro, F. (2019). Rescuing participation: A critique on the dark participation concept. Comunicação e Sociedade, 36, Article 36.

Carter, M. (2015). Emitexts and Paratexts: Propaganda in EVE Online. Games and Culture, 10(4), 311–342. https://doi.org/10.1177/1555412014558089

Consalvo, M. (2007). Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames. MIT Press.

Juul, J. (2010). A casual revolution: Reinventing video games and their players. The MIT Press, 47(12), 47-6689-47–6689. https://doi.org/10.5860/CHOICE.47-6689

Meades, A. F. (2015). Understanding Counterplay in Video Games (1st edition). Routledge.

Mortensen, T. E., Linderoth, J., & Brown, A. M. (Eds.). (2015). The Dark Side of Game Play: Controversial Issues in Playful Environments (1st edition). Routledge.

Paul, C. (2018). The Toxic Meritocracy of Video Games: Why Gaming Culture Is the Worst. In The Toxic Meritocracy of Video Games: Why Gaming Culture Is the Worst. https://doi.org/10.5749/j.ctt2204rbz

Taylor, T. L. (2006). Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture. MIT Press.

Insult Swordfighting: Gendered, Competetive, and Transgressive Communication in Gaming Culture

ABSTRACT. This presentation explores the gendered and toxic discourse in two large gaming forums, using Corpus Assisted Discourse Analysis to quantify and contextualize the usage of slurs and aggressive language. The findings show that the use of gendered slurs is a contested space, often used sarcastically rather than as an expression of misogyny, but still reflecting an established culture of competitiveness and aggression in gaming. The toxic discourse of trash talk is rooted in historical cultural practices, including competitive poetics and verbal play.

16:30-18:00 Session 9E: Ontologies
Discovering a Threshold: a Novel Approach to the Ontology of Virtual Realities

ABSTRACT. This paper critically examines the predominant reductionist-materialist approach to the ontology of virtual realities, as exemplified by the ontological theory of David Chalmers. Following this discussion the paper presents a novel analytical approach informed by a longstanding tradition within the phenomenological tradition which focuses on the analysis of phenomenal break-downs. Based on the analysis of the breakdown of immersion an ontological threshold between the virtual and the non-virtual domains is revealed, which theoretically equips us to understand the two as disparate realities in their own right.

The paper concludes by briefly discussing how this new ontological understanding can be relevant for theoretical discussions within the field of Game Studies.

A Criticism of Computer Game "Ontological Models"

ABSTRACT. This paper presents a completed critical work on the extended application of Aarseth and Grabarczyk’s “ontological meta-model” and aims to demonstrate a “meta-ontological” approach towards connecting different game ontologies.

Ontology and Interdisciplinary Research in Esports

ABSTRACT. This paper identifies the benefits of adopting a critical realist ontology to research esports in the social sciences. The paper outlines some of the challenges in researching esports, paying particular attention to the emerging specialisms and sub-disciplines. The paper argues that each research paradigm has its own advantages and disadvantages but that, perhaps, we can gain a more complete understanding and appreciation of esports (as a social and natural phenomenon) if we aggregate their contributions. As such, the paper outlines some of the central philosophical commitments of critical realism - ontological realism, epistemic relativism, judgmental rationality, and (a cautious) ethical naturalism - and considers their benefit for researching the multi-layered and multi-faceted nature of esports.

16:30-18:00 Session 9F: Gaming Academia
Let's Play with Academia: Overcoming the Limits of the Zoom Classroom via Video Game Streaming

ABSTRACT. This paper outlines a study that proposes a means of teaching video games analysis to students by streaming and commentating on them in the vein of Let’s Play entertainers. The pedagogy is intended to address the social limitations of the Zoom classroom, and the logistical limitations of teaching video games in higher education. The intended output of the study are resources shaped by its results (including seminar plans and a teaching guide), intended for use by educators who wish to teach video games as a part of their practice. The study is being carried out with Undergraduate and Postgraduate students from the host institution in the United Kingdom.

Relationship Between Motives for Gaming and Playing Gacha Among University Students
PRESENTER: Masanori Fukui

ABSTRACT. This study aimed to investigate the relationship between college students’ motives for using games in their daily lives and playing gachas, and to obtain basic knowledge for understanding their motives for playing gachas and essential knowledge for developing games involving gachas. We surveyed 264 university students enrolled in information-related faculties on the “game uses and gratifications” and “motives for doing gacha” items and examined the relationship between the two using correlation and canonical correlation analysis. The results revealed a tendency for users to have strong motives for messing around.

The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere: Balancing Accuracy, Fun, and Tone in Educational Games

ABSTRACT. Designing a historical game for education presents a set of seemingly incompatible priorities. Ideally, such a game will be reasonably faithful to the historical record, effective as a tool for teaching that record, appropriate in tone for a broad public audience, and most importantly, engaging enough to attract players. But how can a game maintain a fun, inviting tone while still accurately representing often difficult and painful historical realities? This presentation will introduce an early version of The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, an upcoming all-ages virtual reality game about the American folk hero’s mission to alert the countryside of the advance of British troops and inspired by a painting of the event by American Gothic painter Grant Wood. Faced with a set of competing demands, our team found their solution to the question of tone in the art of Wood and the other artists of the Regionalist movement, and their canny mix of unflinching historical detail, myth, and whimsy.

16:30-18:00 Session 9G: Games and History
Enormous Fabricated Ability: Boosting in the Battlefront II Player Community

ABSTRACT. “Boosting” refers to collusive strategies used by players of digital games to attain in-game rewards. This extended abstract describes a discourse analysis of forum posts, YouTube comments, and videos from the English-speaking Battlefront II (2017) community, analyzing ways in which players manipulate the game's mechanics. Players use boosting to circumvent the game's grinding tasks; however, boosting also disrupts normal team play and disadvantages non-boosted players. Game designers can disincentivize boosting by more closely linking the successes of individual players to those of the teams on which they play.

'Died on First Try, 10/10 Would Recommend LMAO': Studying the Appreciation of Historical Digital Games About WWII via Text Mining Methods

ABSTRACT. Abstract

Over the past few years, game scholars have increasingly paid attention to how players experience, learn from and reflect on playing historical digital games. In her study on the informal learning potential of historical games, Sian Beavers highlights how players appreciate the opportunity that immersion via gaming offer them to engage in historical reenactment and perspective taking, while she also shows that players remain skeptical about the historical authenticity of games (Beavers 2020). In their study on perceived realism in the games from the Assassin’s Creed-series (Ubisoft Montreal et al., 2007-present), Alexander Vandewalle, Rowan Daneels, Emma Simons and Steven Malliet highlight how especially perceptual pervasiveness, i.e. the absorbing qualities of the graphics and audio of a game, and character involvement, i.e. the extent to which players consider their game avatar to be an extension of their real-world selves, were viewed as major predictors of enjoyment in historical games such as Assassin’s Creed (Vandewalle et al. 2022). And in a study on how players reflect on engaging with the Holocaust via gameplay, Van den Heede demonstrates how players experience varying forms of gaming fever, i.e. experiences of discomfort when playing games that include depictions of sensitive and contentious pasts in a given historical culture (Van den Heede, 2023). Most of these and other available studies have either adopted qualitative methods such as focus groups (AUTHOR, forthcoming) or quantitative survey methods (Beavers 2020; Vandewalle et al. 2022). As such, large bodies of machine readable online data produced by players themselves have remained underexplored to study this topic. In this paper, I therefore build on these previous studies on the appreciation of digital games to study which elements of appreciation of historical games can be identified in player reviews published on Steam, the digital storefront and distribution platform that accounts for 50% to 70% of all pc gaming downloads globally (e.g., Elad 2022). I do so by adopting a multi-step text mining approach with the statistical programming language R. Text mining can be broadly defined as an approach whereby one tries to derive previously unknown information patterns from large corpora of textual data (e.g., Ignatow and Mihalcea 2016). I take the following steps in my approach. First, I use html web scraping, an automated approach to online data gathering through the analysis of a web page’s html-code (e.g., Munzert et al. 2015), to compile a corpus of player reviews related to the 10 most popular games tagged as ‘World War II’-games on Steam (Valve Corporation 2022). Next, I use topic modeling, an unsupervised machine learning technique for identifying hidden semantic structures or ‘topics’ in a corpus of textual data (e.g., Silge and Robinson 2017, 85-104). Based on these operations, I provide a bottom-up classification of what players who write Steam reviews appreciate the most about playing historical digital games, in particular about World War II. In doing so, I also critically reflect on the strengths and limitations of the adopted method, for example concerning the analysis of ironic/sarcastic language and the use of non-textual expressions.



Beavers, Sian M. 2020. “The Informal Learning of History with Digital Games.” PhD Dissertation, The Open University. http://oro.open.ac.uk/69919/.

Elad, Barry. 2022. “25+ Steam Statistics 2022 Users, Most Played Games and Market Share.” EnterpriseAppsToday. August 15, 2022. https://www.enterpriseappstoday.com/stats/steam-statistics.html.

Ignatow, Gabe, and Rada F. Mihalcea. 2016. Text Mining: A Guidebook for the Social Sciences. London: SAGE Publications.

Munzert, Simon, Christian Rubba, Peter Meissner, and Dominic Nyhuis. 2015. Automated Data Collection with R: A Practical Guide to Web Scraping and Text Mining. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Silge, Julia, and David Robinson. 2017. Text Mining with R: A Tidy Approach. Sebastopol CA: O’Reilly.

Ubisoft Montreal et al. 2007-present. Assassin’s Creed (game series). PC, Online/Offline Game. Montreuil, France: Ubisoft Entertainment.

Valve Corporation. 2022. “Tag: World War II.” Steam. 2022. https://store.steampowered.com/tags/en/World War II/.

Van den Heede, Pieter. 2023. “‘Press Escape to Skip Concentration Camp’? Player Reflections on Engagement with the Holocaust through Digital Gaming.’ History and Memory. 35 (1), 108-140. https://muse.jhu.edu/pub/3/article/885270

Vandewalle, Alexander, Rowan Daneels, Emma Simons, and Steven Malliet. 2022. “Enjoying My Time in the Animus: A Quantitative Survey on Perceived Realism and Enjoyment of Historical Video Games.” Games and Culture, August, 1–22. https://doi.org/10.1177/15554120221115404.

Frostpunk: Lessons from Contemporary Polish History

ABSTRACT. The presentation draws a connection between Frostpunk paths and two periods of Polish history: a communist state and a democratic state led by a religious governing party. Besides the analysis of possible historical and political inspirations for laws and events in the game, the presentation will focus on 1) the question of memory and how much the popular memory affects the vision of Order in Frostpunk, and 2) the procedural rhetorics of depicting the political life as a conflict between two evil powers, here: authoritarian and religious rule -- exactly in a way in which it is often seen and performed in Poland. Perhaps, Frostpunk could be read not only as a representation of this tragic dichotomy but also as a space for reflection on the possibilities of escaping it.

16:30-18:00 Session 9H: Breaking Characters
Breaking Character: Contesting Marginalisation Through Critical Bricolage

ABSTRACT. This paper considers how characters from mainstream videogame franchises have been appropriated by artists to articulate perspectives on marginalisation and the limits of gamic agency. It shows how Street Fighter’s (1987-present) Cammy figures in Cassie McQuater’s browser game Black Room (2018) and Tabitha Nikolai’s artwork Character Select Screen (2015). Both artists use collage to highlight gaming culture’s long history of misogyny and cisheteronormativity, while demonstrating how characters who emerged from these contexts can nevertheless be resemiotised.

Individuals, Representatives, and Racers – the Images of F1 and F1 Esports Series Drivers on Instagram

ABSTRACT. This article investigates the image differences between top F1 and F1 Esports Pro Series drivers by analyzing their social media posts on Instagram throughout 2021. The research question is twofold: what kinds of images do F1 drivers create via social media, and do the images of F1 and F1 Esports drivers overlap in this regard? The processes and interests of different parties and their respective attributes—such as fans, sponsors, and nationality—can be expected to affect the buildup and maintenance of a certain driver-specific image or brand. As in other forms of stardom, sports-star characters and the image they have built vary, thus attracting different audiences and creating versatile fan behavior (Sturm, 2011; Cho 2016). The present study will shed light on these unexamined areas of esports in particular.

Extreme Bodies: The Uncommon Player-Avatar Relationship

ABSTRACT. Studies in video games have examined the impact of player-avatar relationships and how avatars influence player behaviors based on designs, whether it is systematic or cosmetic. However, alien affordances and extreme character design on player behavior and perception are yet to be fully explored.

16:30-18:00 Session 9I: Limits of Immersion
Virtually Limited: Boundaries of Play in Virtual Reality Production

ABSTRACT. While games are still VR’s dominant genre and integral to content creation, much of VR’s marketing and public discourse has downplayed games in favor of more social, educational and business experiences. Thus, VR both practically and discursively challenges the limits of games and play. Because there is a dearth of literature about the relationship between VR and games when it comes to actual production, this research focused on interviewing developers about how they manifest in their daily work. Our results suggest that playful practices associated with game design are still integral to VR production despite manufacturers’ aspirations. Makers rely on game-making tenets when creating content, whether a game, virtual meeting software or metaversal product.

Immersive VR Storytelling

ABSTRACT. This work explores how to intentionally design narratives for virtual reality by creating a VR adaptation of Artaud’s play, Jet of Blood (1925). The project resulted in a different type of immersive experience derived from theatre forms that reject traditional text-based narratives in favor of a sensory focused experience.

The Limits of Immersion: Case Study of "Desolatium" a VR Graphic Adventure Development

ABSTRACT. The aim of this proposal is to offer a critical reflection on the process of development and production of an immersive VR indie videogame (Desolatium), exploring from an academic perspective whether the limits that virtual reality and real-life scenarios stablish towards the game narrative enhance or hinder the players’ experience.

16:30-18:00 Session 9J: Uses of Video Game Art
Repurposing Concept Art: Video Game Art Books as Industrial Reflexivity

ABSTRACT. Video game industries do not only create games as their core products, but also reflect on the development process in various self-reflexive texts. This industrial reflexivity (Caldwell 2008) is common in cultural industries, which use it to showcase artistic achievements, establish professional hierarchies, or satisfy fans’ interest in production trivia (Jenkins 1992; Klinger 2006). Some of these texts and materials, such as postmortems (see O’Donnell 2009; Petrillo et al. 2009; Whitson 2020) or official behind-the-scenes documentaries, tend to be shared freely with audiences. Others, like art books, present further opportunities for commodification. In this submission, we look at video game art books as a specific genre of industrial reflexivity, which highlights visual aspects of games and the artist professions of game development.

First Impressions: Effects of Representation on Video Game Covers

ABSTRACT. This study presents findings about perceptions and impacts of representation on video game covers. Our analysis contributes to a growing discourse on representation in games and media, to urge designers and researchers alike to consider how perceptions and feelings related to representation begin, and influence interaction, before gameplay starts. We analyzed 298 responses to a survey that asked how participants felt about representation on samples of digital covers from Steam’s best-selling games from 2010-2015, and how those feelings affect their game consumption or purchases. Although our findings describe a consensus on a lack of adequate representation of characters of color, they identify significantly different perspectives, feelings, experiences, and practices related to games, covers, and representation between participants of color and white participants. Our analysis highlights how publishers must not only consider how they include diverse identities in games but communicate that inclusion beyond them.

Connections: an Intergenerational Feminist Game Art Timeline
PRESENTER: Emma Westecott

ABSTRACT. A growing collection of art games can be identified as feminist, this paper gathers historical precedents to create an archive for future research. By identifying key feminist performance, interactive media, technology-based and game artworks over the past fifty years and placing them on a timeline we explore connections across time and context. The initial focus on Canadian artists moves forward to reference key international artists that contribute to a canon of feminist game art. The selection of work is partial, problematic, and inevitably reflects the biases of the authors, but aims at starting a process in the hope that others will diversify the works and framing selected. The research is intentionally promiscuous and pragmatic, offering future feminist game artists a heritage to draw on, a continuum to situate themselves in, or against, and tools for grant writing by identifying historical connections and contexts. By connecting game art to precedents, we look beyond the margins of game studies in a call for new conversations on art games.

16:30-18:00 Session 9K: Patterns of Analysis
Mapping Game Biopolitics: Introducing Biopolitics Analysis Framework

ABSTRACT. The main problem I am going to explore is related to the relation between biopolitical systems and their representation or ludotopian implementation in digital games (Günzel and Aarseth 2020; Maj 2021). My aim is to introduce an analytic framework for identifying different systems of governing populace and life in games.

Biopolitics here is understood as a systemic, sociological, political and economic strategy of governing life. The notion itself is grounded in philosophical and sociological works analyzing the historical evolution of various institutions and policies concerning healthcare, demography and life quality (Esposito 2008, 2012)(Foucault 2010; Rose 2009). Biopolitical problematic touches upon subjects such as reproduction rights(Mills 2011), political and judiciary framework of life (Agamben 1998; Esposito 2008), immunization and communization (Esposito 2012), biomedicalization of everyday life (Rose 2009), political production of enemies and strategies of maximalization of killing (Mbembe 2016, 2020). The biopolitical problematic can be seen as a map of different areas where policies, mechanisms of power and control are deployed to govern contemporary social, political and economic functioning of humanity. The major trends in this governance can be seen as paradigmatic and defined along the lines of strategies of protection or negation of life (Esposito 2017).

Many game scholars have researched various problems related to biopolitics in digital games. Contemporary ludic studies on biopolitics offer numerous angles of approach to singular game problems, yet no research focuses on aggregating and mapping their overall contribution to what might be called a subfield of game biopolitics. Most notable studies focus on: the role of avatar as a vehicle of biopolitical strategies (Apperley and Clemens 2016; Zarzycka 2017; Gordon et al. 2009), questions concerning identity (Baerg 2013), representations of health in games (Rogers 2020; Köhle et al. 2021), mechanics and power relations (Wencel 2015; Piero 2020; Kłosiński 2020), interface design (Lenkevich 2021), relations between biopower and play (Kattenberg 2015; Väliaho 2014; Rutheford and Bose 2013; Christiansen 2014), and finally, politics of death in play (Christiansen 2014; St. Jacques and Tobin 2020; McAllister and Ruggill 2018). This is where biopolitics analysis framework comes into play as a framework for connecting various theoretical and critical studies of biopolitics in social sciences and humanities, with contemporary inquiries into specific issues related to games and play and producing a unified framework for researchers to use in their studies. 

The aim here is therefore to present this analytic procedure called biopolitics analysis framework which will delineate simple steps and ways for identifying biopolitical markers (significant game elements pointing to strategies of life governance) and their interconnections. The framework consists of three elements: A) a set of research questions informed by biopolitical theory; B) definitions of biopolitical marker and biopolitical paradigm; C) a research matrix to be supplemented with data. The framework is therefore a set of instructions which will inform researchers in their analytical and interpretative endeavors. The idea of this framework is inspired by available analytical frameworks, namely the player character research framework (Fizek 2014), MDA and its advancements (Walk, Görlich, and Barrett 2017) and game analysis frameworks based in Actor-Network Theory (Vozaru 2022). The framework encompasses all three areas in which games have been analyzed using biopolitical theories: (1) In-game representations and mechanics; (2) Games as ludotopias where biopolitics finds extension; (3) Games as biopolitical apparatuses themselves. The aim of this framework is therefore very simple, to produce a questionnaire interconnecting philosophical, sociological and economic biopolitical problematic to possible analytical anchor points presented in and by digital games.

The most fundamental question for the framework is how does a game represent life. What I want to look at are: interfaces, narrative assumptions and mechanics. The aim here is to distinguish basic elements constructing the idea of life in our game: is a singular unit reserved to the player avatar or a populace to be governed, a simple unit represented by a token or a complex structure of health and needs.

The second inquiry concerns the things the game asks us to do with life. What I am interested here are: victory conditions, implicit and explicit goals, procedural rhetoric, game loops, and gameplay justification. Here, I want to identify the vectors for the biopolitical analysis: are we there to govern life, or are we there to exterminate it, or maybe just to control a singular existence striving to survive in harsh environment?

The third inquiry concerns the analysis of power assemblages and dispositives. Here, I am interested in the inner workings and interconnections of life governance systems deployed in game. In short: how do we save life, how do we exterminate enemies, how are we informed certain places are off limits, how do we produce or reproduce life. The inquiry into dispositives brings me to the critical juncture between what governs the game representation of life and the life of the player. At this point I take into account the relationship between the game as a biopolitical device and its user.

The biopolitics analysis framework procedure will be deployed under the following assumptions. First, most games operate with some indicators referencing politics of life as part of their algorithmic governance of avatar HP (Mitchell 2018). This aspect of games will not be considered as a paradigm forming condition in itself. Second, and similar to the first condition, the act of killing will not be treated as a good enough reason to formulate a paradigm with use of the framework. Third assumption is that biopolitical paradigms are not omnipresent, and in that regard they differ from other forms of game specification such as genre patterns or ludonarrative conventions.

Methodologically, my study is informed by qualitative data generated in play. The dataset consisted of 15 games representing different genres (shooters, strategy, RPG, adventure). The method for the analysis of research material was game hermeneutics (Kłosiński 2022; Fiadotau 2018; Karhulahti 2015; Roth, van Nuenen, and Koenitz 2019; Arjoranta 2015).



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A Proposed Taxonomy for the Design Qualities of Video Game Loading Interfaces and Processes

ABSTRACT. Though ubiquitous, the design and development of loading interfaces and processes has not received the critical attention in games studies that their presence deserves. As interfaces, they illustrate a designer and developer’s desire to create game experiences that push the technical limits of available computing hardware. While loading screens are well known, loading interfaces span myriad forms. From an archaeogaming perspective, this paper looks at how the design of video game loading interfaces and processes is a response to ever-increasing demands for higher fidelity gaming experiences on the behalf of players and designers in the face of hardware limitations. This histography of loading interfaces and processes is one of technical and design innovations that demonstrate the ethos and telos of designers. Through an interface study, the following design qualities of loading screens were derived: hypermediacy and transparency, diegetic and non-diegetic, passive and interactive, and pedagogic and misdirection. We conclude the paper by looking at case studies that exemplify the derived design qualities of loading interfaces and processes.

A Typology of Videogame Rewards