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10:30-11:00Coffee Break
11:00-13:00 Session 10A: Panel: Pushing the Limits of Games: How do Sports Fit In?
PANEL: Pushing the Limits of Games: How Do Sports Fit in?

ABSTRACT. This panel will explore the limits and margins of games by examining sports and how they can present useful edge cases to better understand how games work, how they can be designed, and the practices of play in and around games.

Sports have a number of features, from robust fantasy sports communities to sports analytics, that offer game studies scholars a chance to think about activities fundamentally linked to games while also being not so close to home that it can be hard to analyze them with a critical eye. Additionally, links between sports and games have been growing over the years, as esports and game streaming blend aspects of video games and traditional sports, like broadcasting play and the professionalization of play, together.

We believe that studying sports helps show the limits of games, even while the study of sport has typically lived on the margins of game studies. By analyzing elements of sport we can better understand how games work, how to facilitate engaged communities, and how to avoid some of the pitfalls sports have stumbled across as leagues and teams seek to balance compelling play with massive financial stakes.

Margins to Mainstream: Contextual contingencies of esports spectatorship as vehicles for gambling Florence M. Chee, Loyola University Chicago, fchee@luc.edu

How have local contexts of games, their players, and spectators intersected with sports paradigms, and what are the limits for instrumental, problematic, and idealized play? As discussions of esports and its international contexts have typically centered on the celebration of fandom and community-building, this study draws links between sports and game activities as they have evolved into sophisticated infrastructures of gambling in these intersecting spaces of play. Otherwise prohibited through local laws, esports matches serve as something different, though recognizable through sports betting as akin to virtual horse races, NCAA matches, and de facto casinos. In this manner, the business models transpose readily to esports as entertainment and gaming such that it is unclear how games and gambling contribute to local economies distinctively and must be discussed on separate terms.

Esports and Power 5’s: Exploring competing dynamics on collegiate campuses Kishonna L. Gray, University of Kentucky, unicorn@uky.edu

A majority of esports programs in collegiate spaces are located on smaller liberal arts colleges or community colleges (NACE, ESC). Using a case study approach, this presentation explores what esports looks like at a Power 5 / R1 university. This project will explore the dynamics of student populations, diversity, locale, student resources, and university reception to esports on a campus dominated by football and basketball. Using the University of Kentucky as an example, I argue that esports and traditional sports do not have to be in competition with one another and in fact can serve each other in supplemental ways.

Optimizing Play: Lessons from Sports Analytics Christopher A. Paul, Seattle University, paulc@seattleu.edu

Beginning with nascent baseball analytics that began in the 1970s, sports have poured money into finding an edge over other teams. Sports leagues frequently have to check optimized approaches to the game, introducing new rules or other changes in order to deal with team-driven techniques that are detrimental to the game (sport) as a whole.

Optimization in sports points to the need to balance games for multiple audiences, including players, teams, the league as a whole, broadcasters, and viewers of the entertainment product. What is optimal for one of these groups is rarely optimal for all of them and sports provides many examples that video game players, developers, and esports leagues can learn from.

The blending of sports and games: the sportification of esports Maria Ruotsalainen, University Of Jyväsylä, maria.a.t.ruotsalainen@jyu.fi

It has become an established norm to refer to competitive gaming as esports. Referring to competitive gaming as sports evokes images of likeness to the traditional sports and this likeness is often consciously strengthened through the process of sportification of esports (Ruotsalainen, 2022). The term sportification refers to the process by which a recreational activity achieves the status of a sport (Mora & Héas, 2003), through increased specialization, standardization, rationalization, regimentation, organization, equalization, and quantification (Guttmann, 1978). This can also include the way activity is portrayed as a media esport, through broadcast structure and player clothing for example (Turtiainen et.al. 2020).

Framing competitive gaming as sports and sportifying competitive gaming has far-reaching consequences, both in the level of individuals and institutions. It changes the way video games are positioned within the socio-cultural landscape, both institutionalizing and legitimizing them, but also doing this in a very particular way, which can lead to excluding and devaluing certain forms of playing and partake to maintaining hegemonic structures and identities.

Everyday fantasies revisited: Change and continuity in playing FPL Olli Sotamaa, Tampere University, olli.sotamaa@tuni.fi

In the past decade, data analytics has conquered football: data not only shapes how the game is played, coached and scouted, but also how it is consumed. Fantasy sports has been one of the key platforms for familiarizing larger audiences with the idea that players and their actions can be quantified and valued.

In my previous study (Sotamaa 2013), I showed how playing Premier Fantasy League is intimately tied to other forms of consuming football and has a potential to transform the emphasis of sports fandom. A decade later, I will now return to some of the same informants and explore how FPL and especially the context around it has changed. In terms of methodology, this contribution highlights the importance of qualitative longitudinal studies for the study of games.


Guttmann, A. (1978). From ritual to record: The nature of modern sports. New York, NY: Columbia University Press

Mora, P. and Héas, S., 2003. From videogamer to e-sportsman: Toward a growing professionalism of world-class players. La Pratique du Jeu Vidéo: Réalité ou Virtualité, pp.129-145.

Ruotsalainen, M., 2022. Overwatch esports and the (re) configurations of gender and nationality. Doctoral Dissertation. University of Jyväskylä.

Sotamaa, O. (2013). Arkipäivän fantasiaa: taidosta, faniudesta ja pelirytmistä fantasiajalkapallossa. [Everyday fantasies: About skill, fandom and game rhythm in fantasy football]. In Suominen, J. et al. (eds.), Pelitutkimuksen vuosikirja 2013, 73-91.

Turtiainen, R., Friman, U. and Ruotsalainen, M., 2020. “Not only for a celebration of competitive overwatch but also for national pride”: Sportificating the Overwatch World Cup 2016. Games and Culture, 15(4), pp.351-371.

Participant Biographies

Florence M. Chee is an associate professor of Digital Communication in the School of Communication and Program Director of the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy (CDEP) at Loyola University Chicago. She is also Founding Director of the Social & Interactive Media Lab Chicago (SIMLab), devoted to the in-depth study of social phenomena at the intersection of society and technology. Her 2023 book, The Social at Play: Communicating Digital Game Culture (Lexington Books), is a critical ethnographic investigation of media discourses surrounding online game addiction and the sociocultural roles fulfilled by games in everyday life. Focusing on Korea’s sociohistorical and technocultural context, this work celebrates and recognizes the foundational role of Korean game culture in shaping global games and play.

Dr. Kishonna L. Gray (@kishonnagray) is an Associate Professor in Writing, Rhetoric, & Digital Studies and Africana Studies at the University of Kentucky. She is an interdisciplinary, intersectional, digital media scholar whose areas of research include identity, performance and online environments, embodied deviance, cultural production, video games, and Black Cyberfeminism.

Dr. Gray is the author of Intersectional Tech: Black Users in Digital Gaming (LSU Press, 2020). She is also the author of Race, Gender, & Deviance in Xbox Live (Routledge, 2014), and the co-editor of two volumes on culture and gaming: Feminism in Play (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2018) and Woke Gaming (University of Washington Press, 2018). Dr. Gray has published in a variety of outlets across disciplines and has also featured in public outlets such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, and The New York Times.

Christopher A. Paul is a professor at Seattle University and has published four books, including Free-to-Play: Mobile Video Games, Bias, and Norms, Real Games: What’s Legitimate and What’s Not in Contemporary Videogames with Mia Consalvo, and The Toxic Meritocracy of Video Games: Why Gaming Culture is the Worst. His forthcoming book with MIT Press is tentatively titled Optimizing Play: Why Theorycrafting Breaks Games and How to Fix It and should be published in 2024.

Maria Ruotsalainen is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Jyväskylä and a coordinator at the Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies. Her research focuses mainly on sportification of esports and on gender in games and esports. She has published in the journals such as Men & Masculinities, Games and Culture, and Television and New Media, and co-edited the book “Modes of Esports engagement in Overwatch” at Palgrave Macmillan. She is a board member for the Finnish Association for Game Research and board member for the international Esports Research Network (2023).

Olli Sotamaa is a professor at Tampere University and serves as a team leader at the Center of Excellence in Game Culture Studies (2018-2025). His publications cover e.g. creative labor, game development cultures, user-generated content, and player cultures. Sotamaa’s latest book, co-edited with Jan Švelch, is Game Production Studies (Amsterdam University Press, 2021).

11:00-13:00 Session 10B: Panel: Fictional Games and Fictional Game Studies
PANEL: Fictional Games and Fictional Game Studies

ABSTRACT. Fictional games are defined as games that exclusively exist as parts of works of fiction (think of the titular Hunger Games, or Holo-chess in the Star Wars universe). These games were conceived to support acts of imagination in the appreciator of a work of fiction and were not meant (at least not originally) to be actually played.

What roles do fictional games have in story-telling? Combining perspectives from philosophy, literary theory, and game studies, this panel focuses on the significance of fictional games within fictional worlds and the relevance of studying fictional games in the specific context of game studies.

A recent book by some of the proponents of this panel (Fictional Games: a Philosophy of worldbuilding and Imaginary Play) undertakes an in-depth analysis of the fascinating ways in which fictional games structure our understanding of storyworlds across different media. Building on the observations and analytical tools and presented in the book, the panel we are proposing reflects upon a variety of influential examples of fictional games. In their talks, the scholars in this panel also emphasize the benefits of applying tools and methods borrowed from game studies to understand these kinds of unplayable, imaginary games.

This panel is going to be relevant to a variety of scholars and practitioners interested in investigating how game design contributes to imagining fictional worlds and in exploring the importance of narrative imagination in the practice of game design.

11:00-13:00 Session 10C: Panel: Past, Present, and Future of Game (Cultural) Studies in South Korea
PANEL: Past, Present, and Future of Game (Cultural) Studies in South Korea

ABSTRACT. This panel proposal explores the unique gaming culture and academic approach to game studies in South Korea, a country with one of the highest gamer penetration rates. Led by the founding members of the DiGRA South Korea chapter, the panel will showcase the retrospective and prospective perspectives of Korean gaming culture and game studies through four presentations. The presentations will be ordered chronologically, yet exploring different dimensions of the theoretical roadmap of game studies. The panel aims to provide an in-depth understanding of how gaming and game studies have developed in the regional socio-cultural context of South Korea, and how it could contribute to both national and worldwide research. Aligning with the conference theme of "Limits and Margins of Games," this panel examines the materialization of gaming culture and game studies in specific regional contexts, and aims to highlight emerging practices in regional studies and foster international dialogue in the field of game studies. The panel will conclude with a discussion and Q&A session with the audience, providing an opportunity for further engagement and exchange of ideas.

11:00-13:00 Session 10D: Panel: Navigating the lines: Towards a multi-perspective approach on videogame monetisation
PANEL: Navigating the Lines: Towards a Multi-Perspective Approach on Videogame Monetisation

ABSTRACT. Panel abstract submission included in uploaded PDF-file.

Full text:

Throughout the last decade, the monetisation of videogames has increasingly been debated among academics, policymakers, gaming communities and media educators. At the forefront of this debate are two trends: the ‘gamblification’ of gaming (Macey & Hamari 2022), which includes for example loot boxes, social casino games and skin betting; and the use of dark patterns in videogames (Zagal et al. 2013), which refers to a variety of manipulative and persuasive practices used in videogames to increase players’ engagement and spending.

Adopting a multidisciplinary rather than the interdisciplinary perspective which has been traditionally considered an ideal for game research (Deterding 2017), allows us to consider the issue of monetisation through a mosaic-like juxtaposition of viewpoints from different disciplines. A multidisciplinary approach further allows us to include the insights from the different disciplines when constructing conceptions. Whilst certain disciplines (e.g. legal studies) could benefit from clearly distinguished, narrowed-down conceptions, one of the potential dangers of such an approach is that it might fail to paint a complete picture on the subject. Examples include focussing on loot boxes without considering the bigger picture of randomised monetisation (Ballou et al. 2020), or assessing randomised reward mechanisms in videogames only from a legal viewpoint, without considering underlying scientific insights. Combining perspectives from different disciplines can avoid this narrowing-down and thereby increase the quality of academic research.

Using a player-centric perspective to ensure that players’ opinions have a voice in regulatory conversation, Elena Petrovskaya will present an overview of work with players which spans what players themselves consider ‘predatory’ microtransactions, as well as the prevalence of these microtransactions, which relate to the abovementioned gamblification of gaming and use of dark design patterns (e.g. Zagal et al., 2013; Mathur et al., 2021). She will additionally discuss work suggesting that harms can be experienced as a result of interaction with certain microtransactions, and who may be susceptible to these harms.

One particular aspect of the videogame industry that has grown exponentially is the free mobile games market, where business models such as the free-to-play model capitalise on personal data collection, targeted advertising and microtransactions. The integration of gambling-like elements in mobile games is one of the most-used techniques to capture players’ (including children) attention, extend their playing time and to condition compulsive behaviours to this end. In her presentation, Alexandra Dumont will focus on data collection for the purpose of socio-psychological profiling in games, as well as on the deployment of various monetisation methods aimed at acquiring and exploiting young and easily influenceable audiences, based on a conducted study of 261 mobile games.

Aside from in videogames themselves, gambling-like elements have found their way into videogame streaming platforms. What started as small-scale poker streams has now evolved into a “slots” category with over one million followers, and the implementation of a variety of chance-based mechanics (Abarbanel & Johnson 2020). However, research on this topic is scarce, and further research has been called for to gain a better understanding on its implications (Zendle 2020). In her presentation, Eva Grosemans will discuss the appearance of blurring lines between videogames and gambling on videogame streaming platforms. She will talk about the different types of gamblification that are present on Twitch, and will bring attention to the recent changes to Twitch’ policy, alongside the events that led to these changes. Additionally, she will discuss some results of her own work on the topic (a quantitative survey amongst more than 2000 adolescents).

Departing from the existing scientific literature on microtransactions, Pieterjan Declerck will explore regulatory possibilities to protect players against potentially problematic microtransactions, such as gambling-like elements in videogames, under the existing consumer protection framework. Whereas policymakers to date have predominantly focused on gambling regulation as a means to protect vulnerable players, it is equally interesting to consider consumer protection law as an alternative for protection (see e.g. Leahy 2022; Declerck & Feci 2022). Closely related is the topic of data collection and processing behind monetisation strategies in the videogame industry. Videogames are consistently used as a means to collect substantial amounts of online gaming data (Russell 2018), where every action performed by players (both physically and virtually) can be tracked and recorded to feed game analytics revealing behavioural patterns, known as “player metrics'' (Newman 2014). The analysis of player metrics can help publishers acquire and maintain players as well as effectively maximising their game revenues, notably by centralising the player metrics into a “player profile” to be sold to third-parties for enabling targeted advertising (Crepax 2022). In his presentation, Martin Sas will describe the underlying data practices behind monetisation strategies in the videogame industry, as well as its related risks for players, especially children. He will also highlight why the current legislation is failing at tackling the current predatory designs and suggest alternative methods to protect the player’s fundamental rights.

Finally, players themselves are not the only ones potentially impacted by microtransactions and the problematic behaviour they may cause: they are surrounded by a network of actors (parents, field workers in education and intervention) which must be taken into account when designing prevention approaches. As a consequence of little existing research on how to best protect young players (King et al. 2017), non-scientific prevention techniques are often based on substance abuse or gambling, which can be counterproductive (Kardefelt-Winther et al., 2017). In their presentation, Maya Geudens and Flore Geukens will provide an overview of evidence-based research into prevention aimed at different stakeholder groups (adolescents, parents and intermediaries); as well as discuss some of the pitfalls associated with these best practices and the future of prevention both in research and practice.

By the end of the panel, attendees will have an extensive overview of relevant research available on the topic, from multiple disciplines and viewpoints. The unavoidable points of dissension stemming from these different perspectives should be considered as an asset to defend rather than a roughness to be polished. We argue that approaching different disciplinary lenses in a complementary manner, without forcing them to converge, allows for higher quality scientific reflection.

11:00-13:00 Session 10E: Panel: The Matter of Gaming: technology, aesthetics and materialist approaches to game development
PANEL: The Matter of Gaming: Technology, Aesthetics and Materialist Approaches to Game Development

ABSTRACT. This panel interrogates the relationship between technology and aesthetics in contemporary gaming culture through material perspectives. The panel questions the role of technology beyond deterministic discourses of progress and evolution, attending instead the ways in which shapes video game aesthetics as a material experience. During the past ten years, the ‘material turn’ influenced critical debates on games: (Apperley/Jayemane 2012), addressing gaming histories through the technological nexus of ‘platforms’ that connect their material apparatus, to development and the modes of production (Montfort/Bogost 2009); in the ideological critique of games as imagined relationships to the conditions of existence, for example in the paradigm of ‘ludocapitalism’ that traces logics of accumulation and inequality equally inhabiting game mechanics and industrial modes of production (Dyer Witheford/de Peuter 2009); more recently in the recognition of the affective continuum that connects games as ‘structures of feeling’ and players within techno-body assemblages beyond the dichotomic axis of human/machine, representation/mechanics, representation/mechanics (Anable 2019). Such material discourses have led to a recentering of matter within ‘games ecology’ and its impact onto our environments (Chang, 2020), ultimately destabilising hierarchies of existence through paradigms such as that of ‘object-oriented ontology’ (Bogost, 2012). In light of such turn, the panel looks at four case study, each deconstructing the naturalised understandings of aesthetics as a effect or a byproduct of technologies, instead attending the material continuity between their technical ontology and their phenomenological appearance and the use the cultural, social and political projects that materialised in the aesthetic of these artefacts: the rendering of multitudes in A Plague Tale Series and the tension traversing ontological human/non-human hierarchies; the automation of 3D modelling and the racialisation of Digital Humans in the Unreal Engine; the use of procedurally generated content in Hades and the postmodern collapse of historicity; finally, the design and coding of visibility through virtual cameras in Tomb Raider and the instrumental logic of targeting in UI. Abstracts: Level of Detail Technology in A Plague Tale and the Ontological Horror of Virtual Rats. Merlin Seller (University of Edinburgh, UK) merlin.seller@ed.ac.uk Merlin Seller's contribution considers the aesthetic and ontological horror of virtual rats and the relationship of European epidemiological, historical and animal imaginaries in stealth games of the Black Death. Taking the level-of-detail (LOD) technology of A Plague Tale: Innocence (2019) and A Plague Tale: Requiem (2022) as its case study, this paper explores the implications of director Kevin Choteau's assertion that: "If we have not rats, we have no game, so we started with the rats" (2022: n.p.). Produced using their proprietary Zouna engine, Innocence can render 5000 rats onscreen at once, and Requiem 300,000 by mixing more schematic rat models with the fully-rendered. Critics and players express astonishment at the lack of perceptible pop-in or low LOD, yet there exist only ten rats at the level of distinct behaviours and unusually the LOD is heavily mixed between low- and high-poly at all distances rather varying with proximity. This homogenisation and massification of its maelstroms of rats elides the individual, reinforcing the problematic dynamic of enumerating rather than individuating the animal in games as Tom Tyler identifies more broadly (2022: 29-40), as well as both contemporary and modern elisions of species through the frames of 'rodent' (McCormick 2003) and 'vermin' (Holmberg 2014). Masses of mammals are rendered like a liquid churning and dissolving the game's landscapes and cities, alternately threatening and obeying the player, and pushing at the borders of temporal, social and ontological categories of historical proximity/distance (Giappone & Vella 2021), crisis/order and mass/individual. Yet here we are also reminded that the medieval and modern imaginary both involve, as Steven Connor argues, "the imaginative recruitment of animals to augment or transform human powers" of sensory mediation (2006: 6). Considering Mel Y. Chen's (2012) theorisation of how matter's surprising animacy disrupts human/nonhuman borders and Hyaesin Yoon's (2021) idea of 'ferality' as the quality of excessive and inappropriate bodies that inhabit these borders, in relation to theories of atmospherics (Bohme 2017; Griffero 2017), this paper argues for the aesthetic problematics and powers of LOD's masses and indeterminacies. The rat, shadowing human spaces from sewer to lab to game engine, and positioned on the borders of visible/invisible, body/infection and individual/mass, is the nonhuman we can't escape but without which 'we have no game.'' The Future will be captured: ‘Reality Capture’ of Digital Humans and Racial Capitalism Aleena Chia (Goldsmiths, University of London, UK) a.chia@gold.ac.uk

Reality is being captured to automate the labour of creating 3D game environments and representations of humans within them. Photogrammetry is a technique that matches up points of interest across multiple scans of a physical object, compositing these scans to form a 3D mesh that can be computationally manipulated. Seen as more efficient than 3D modelling using wireframes and polygon meshes, photogrammetry is a “Reality Capture” technique extending from objects to 3D scanning of humans. Massive libraries of human features, textures, and even movements are being quantised, synthesised, and rendered using Real-Time 3D (RT3D) software such as Unreal Engine, which is an industry leader for AAA game production. RT3D engines such as Unreal extend their tools to create ‘Digital Humans’ for immersive and interactive content creation in advertising, animation, architecture, and beyond. On the one hand, reality capture’s transnational division of labour—Eastern European toolmakers and Chinese, Indian, and South American asset and scanning artists—lays the infrastructure of RT3D content according to racial capitalism’s (Lowe 2015) differential valuations of labour, resources, and markets. On the other hand, Digital Human tools encode prescriptive forms of graphical realism that quantize human bodies in ways that echo the racial science of physiognomy (Phillips 2020). For example, Unreal’s (2021) Digital Human tool boasts that “the scan data is the closest thing you’ll get to a ground truth for the subject in 3D.” In this context, the slogan of “high-fidelity digital humans” goes beyond the criterion of high polygon count to connote phenotypical precision and epidermal variation. Constraints are locked to “ensure accuracy” in creating “physically plausible MetaHumans.” These constraints are not just anatomical but racial. Drawing on textual analysis of promotional and technical documentation and app walkthrough of the Unreal Engine’s reality capture techniques, this paper analyses the interplay between race and realism from scan to rig in digital human tools.

There is no escape: the cultural logic of procedural content generation Paolo Ruffino (University of Liverpool, UK) p.ruffino@liverpool.ac.uk Fredric Jameson (1991) identified in pastiche the defining aesthetic of postmodernism. Through pastiche, art and its history are transformed in a series of stylizations, emptied of any political and parody potential, and made available for endless recombination. In this presentation I will discuss how Procedural Content Generation, and its use in the production of virtual environments, epitomises the technical remediation of pastiche and, in so doing, brackets history as a repository of styles, codes, images and procedures. In particular, I will focus on the videogame Hades (Supergiant Games, 2018). Hades is a roguelike dungeon crawler which translates the impasse of procedural generation both narratively and mechanically. The protagonist Zagreus, son of Hades, lord of the Underworld, is doomed to return to his starting point, the realm of the dead, at the end of each attempt to run away from Hell. The message ‘there is no escape’ appears on screen to players at each game over. The denial of any possibility of a radically different future, and the nostalgia permeating the whole game, respond to the technical reduction of history to simulacra via the procedural generation of content. The talk will speculate on the potential of roguelike games to turn in playable form the ‘slow cancellation of the future’ (Fisher 2013). The object, the camera, and the target: a media archaeology of virtual cameras in Tomb Raider. Ivan Girina (Brunel University London) ivan.girina@brunel.ac.uk The presence of cameras in gaming discourses mirrors their onto-epistemological status within the virtual world, as prominent elements of the gaming apparatus whose materiality pass undetected to the player, structuring the field of the visible for the rendering algorithm, while remaining unreachable to the human gaze. Indeed, the camera’s status as object of gaming discourses has been long debated by scholars: alternatively identified as a signifier of the cinematic experience recovering the aura of the big screen producing visual spectacle and modulating narrative structures (King/Krzywinska 2002, Brooker 2009), as well as integral part of the interface that not only organises the interactive performance of the player through a centralised perspective, but also as generative point for the entirety of the rendered virtual space (Wolf 1997, Nitsche 2006). In this paper, I address the central role of cameras in relation to what media scholar Jacob Gaboury calls the ‘phenomenological invisibility of computer graphics’ (2021:3). I interrogate the materiality of the virtual camera beyond its phenomenological experience as ‘cultural reference’ that remediates the photographic apparatus through framing angles , spatial composition, focal optics and even film grain (Nitsche 2006:90) in search for an indexical ‘real’. Borrowing from Gaboury’s archaeological paradigm, I propose a comparative analysis of the camera systems in the original Tomb Raider (Core Design 1996) and its 2013 reboot by Crystal Dynamics. Looking at the games’ design documents and code, I investigate the camera as a system that predicates a targeting relationship between objects. Such archaeology of virtual cameras reveals how targeting in games exceeds the representative level of weapons and firing mechanics, making manifest the instrumental logic of what McKenzie Wark calls the gamespace, in which ‘[t]o target is to identify an object of an action with an aim toward a goal’ (2009:95).


Anable, A., 2018. Playing with feelings: Video games and affect. U of Minnesota Press. Apperley, T.H. and Jayemane, D., 2012. Game studies’ material turn. Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, 9(1), pp.5-25. Bogost, I., 2012. Alien phenomenology, or, what it's like to be a thing. U of Minnesota Press. Böhme, G., 2017. Critique of aesthetic capitalism. Mimesis. Bonello Rutter Giappone, K. and Vella, D., 2021. Square, marketplace, tavern: contested spaces in single-player neomedieval role-playing game cities. In Game - World - Architectonics. Heidelberg University Publishing. Brooker, W., 2009. Camera-eye, CG-eye: videogames and the" cinematic". Cinema Journal, 48(3), pp.122-128. Chang, A.Y., 2013. Playing nature: The virtual ecology of game environments. University of California, Berkeley. Chen, M.Y., 2012. Animacies: Biopolitics, racial mattering, and queer affect. Duke University Press. Chia, A., 2022. The Artist and the Automaton in Digital Game Production. Convergence 28(2), 389–412. Connor, S., 2006. The menagerie of the senses. The Senses and Society, 1(1), pp.9-26. Fisher, M., 2013. Ghosts of my Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures. Winchester, UK: Zero Books. Gaboury, J., 2021. Image objects: An archaeology of computer graphics. MIT Press. Griffero, T., 2017. Quasi-things: The paradigm of atmospheres. State University of New York Press. Holmberg, T., 2014. Wherever I lay my cat? Post-human crowding and the meaning of home. In Routledge Handbook of Human-Animal Studies (pp. 72-85). Routledge. Jameson, F., 1991. Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. London (UK): Verso. Johnson, M., R., 2019. The Unpredictability of Gameplay. New York (NY): Bloomsbury. King, G. and Krzywinska, T. eds., 2002. Screenplay: cinema/videogames/interfaces. Wallflower Press. Lowe, Lisa. 2015. The Intimacies of Four Continents. Durham: Duke University Press. McCormick, M., 2003. Rats, communications, and plague: toward an ecological history. Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 34(1), pp.1-25. Montfort, N. and Bogost, I., 2009. Racing the beam: The Atari video computer system. Mit Press. Nitsche, M., 2008. Video game spaces: image, play, and structure in 3D worlds. MIT Press. Phillips, Amanda. 2020. Gamer Trouble. New York: New York University Press. Shaker, N., Togelius, J. and Nelson, M. J., 2016. Procedural Content Generation in Games. Cham (Switzerland): Springer Unreal Engine. 2021. “Digital Humans.” Unreal Engine 4.27 Documentation. Accessed 1 March, 2022. https://docs.unrealengine.com/4.27/en-US/Resources/Showcases/DigitalHumans Wark, M., 2009. Gamer theory. Harvard University Press. Wolf, M.J., 1997. Inventing space: Toward a taxonomy of on-and off-screen space in video games. Film Quarterly, 51(1), p.11. Yoon, H., 2021. Feral biopolitics: animal bodies and/as border technologies. In Tranimacies: Intimate Links Between Animal and Trans* Studies, New York: Routledge, pp 135-150. Zylinska, Joanna., 2020. AI Art: Machine Visions and Warped Dreams. London: Open Humanities Press.


Merlin Seller is Lecturer in Design and Screen Cultures at The University of Edinburgh, and co-founder of the Centre for Data, Culture and Society’s Game Worlds research cluster. She completed her bachelors and masters at St Andrews and Oxford respectively, and her Doctorate explored intermedium works between film, photography and painting (University of East Anglia). With a background in Art History and Visual Studies, and teaching experience in game design, she currently works across Game, Film and Queer/Trans Studies. Her present research interests concern (Post-)Phenomenology, Horror, and the Non-human, with a focus on the visuality of videogames.’

Aleena Chia is Lecturer in Media, Communications and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. She researches creative cultures in game development and computational wellness. Her research on digital game production analyses the vocational passion of hobbyists and automation of artists’ work through computational techniques. She is co-editor of Reckoning with Social Media (Rowman & Littlefield, 2022) and co-author of TechnoPharmacology (Meson/University of Minnesota Press, 2022).

Ivan Girina is Senior Lecturer in game studies at Brunel University London. His research interest focuses on video game aesthetics and the intersection between cinema and video games. He is editor for the journal G|A|M|E Games as Art, Media, Entertainment and has recently published several articles and book chapters on video game agency. Paolo Ruffino is Senior Lecturer in Communication and Media at the University of Liverpool. He has been investigating independent videogame production, labour unions in the videogame industry, and nonhuman and posthuman play in the digital age. He is the author of Future Gaming: Creative Interventions in Video Game Culture (Goldsmiths Press 2018), and editor of Independent Videogames: Cultures, Networks, Techniques and Politics (Routledge, 2021).

11:00-13:00 Session 10F: Playful Learning and Game Design
Considering Large Student Teams in Game Development Education: a Post-Mortem

ABSTRACT. Having a large (>100) team of students work on a single game as part of their games education experience is a terrible idea. But, is the student megateam really that bad of an idea? This paper presents an examination of the reasons why we encourage students to participate in collaborative game development projects, challenges some of those assumptions, and proposes some alternate models that might be worth considering. It includes a brief post-mortem of a large (~70 student) team class explicitly designed to provide an educational experience more authentic to working at a large game studio by forcing an organizational structure that foregrounded the content pipeline (and bottlenecks), required additional communication and coordination, and challenged the large team to maintain a coherent vision for the game they were working on. All of these are common challenges and problems identified in game industry post-mortems. While the megateam experience was not without flaws, it demonstrates that there is potential for re-imagining the student game project experience such that it highlights a production model (i.e. AAA game development) that is more authentic to what may many students aspire to and will end up participating in. In this way game educators can better prepare students meet their career expectations and help them succeed.

Designing Games in the Margin: Queer and Intersectional Feminist Meanings of Gender Perspective in Videogames Design

ABSTRACT. The inclusion of cis women and queer people continues to be negotiated, especially in traditionally masculinized sectors, such as happens in the video game industry, transforming the cultural norms and practices of the overall industry (Young, 2018). As it has been demonstrated, including marginalized feminist and queer voices in discursive efforts has transformative implications as critical reflections arise in the game design process (Hantsbarger et al. 2022).

The literature on Queer Game Studies points to three basic issues that, to date, are still under discussion in relation to gender perspective integrations (Ruberg, 2017, 2019, 2020): (1) the stereotypical representations of characters in games recently resulting in gender and embodiment stratification, (2) the under-representation of cis women and queer people within the industry teams leading to non-inclusive and non-diverse narratives and game design (perpetrating norms and constructs that ignore important topics for those collectives such as affect, consent, vulnerability, power, etc.), and (3) the gaming community behaviours, from those of individuals to collectives, manifested in the gaming environment itself, paratexts and metatexts.

Queer Game Studies have manifested as an emerging field of study based primarily on theorizing, critique, and pedagogy around the gaming phenomenon (Fron et al. 2007; Pozo, Rugberg and Goetz, 2017) and, although in recent years emerged a “Queer Content Renaissance in Video Games'' (Hansaruk, 2022), few studies focus on the queer designers’ perspective (Marcotte, 2018). Our aim is to understand how is interpreted the introduction of the gender perspective in videogames design when developed exclusively by people with diverse gender identities usually marginalized in the videogames industry (cisgender women, transgender, nonbinary and gender fluid developers).

There is also an extensive lack of primary qualitative data analysis as a substantial number of studies related to queerness and intersectional feminism in the videogames medium are based on existing app and games analysis (e.g. Harvey, 2014; Shaw and Friesem, 2016; Stone, 2018) or previous readings analysis (e.g. Pozo, 2018). Although the latter has been undoubtedly necessary, we took advantage of the community formed in a pre-incubation program specifically for cis women and queer game developers to gather primary data.

The initiative gathered game developers in an online forming and mentoring program to incentivize entrepreneurship among people with marginalized identity genders (regardless of sexuality, class, neurotypicality or race). Participants did not know each other before, however, 45 people (out of 63) ended up completing the program without any other pressure other than a personal compromise, as the program was publicly funded and for free. As a result of the program, teams had an indie game demo build towards which they could keep working and begin their entrepreneurship journey. The program ended up being a community of game developers designing games by, for, and about queerness and feminism as it was the participants’ ethos (Ruberg, 2020).

The research agenda includes two stages. The first exploratory stage consists of holding personal interviews, through a semi-structured interview protocol, with the game developers of each team (from the teams that ended up in the pre-incubation program) who were most involved in game design - as for being those who veil during the design process to preserve the game vision, ideology and/or final message of the game (Morgan, 1996). We gathered those topics of internal debate that arose along each game design process when teams were rethinking how to introduce the gender perspective. Some topics have pivoted around what ‘queerness in games’ has covered before in Game Studies: the nature of the games moral, differences in character design, visual design, game mechanics, or wording adaptation.

Now that the main themes and topics have been settled, it would begin the second stage of the research, which consists of a series of focus groups. The focus groups will be carried out during the second edition of the pre-incubation program which will take place in 2023. Three rounds of the same focus group would be used to compare visions of how to interpret the introduction of the gender perspective in video games design. The first focus group will take place at the beginning of the program, whose content will pivot around themes and topics that have been found in the first stage of the study. The second and third focus groups will serve to observe differences among participants’ perceptions from the beginning of the program until the end, as well as to guarantee data saturation.

For the extensive corpus of qualitative data analysis, we will be carrying out continuous thematic content analysis (Mayring, 2000), based on a hybrid inductive-deductive codification strategy: (1) setting up categories and themes based on the research question and previous literature review on queerness in games and (2) comparing them continuously with new categories and codes emerging from data. To that end, we use the CAQDAS (Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis System) Atlas.ti, which does not guarantee the analysis itself but its consistency.

Results from the first stage data point to what really means for cis women and queer indie game designers to introduce the gender perspective in games. On the one hand, it means to design for women and queer people, and it implies (1) to represent inclusión from different realities, in terms of gender representation by including sexual orientation, class, race or neurotypicality aspects in character design, (2) to create safe places in games for woman and queer people to freely be, to free their minds, to relax and just play, to rest from external and internal pressures, (3) to design experiences adapted to their life contingencies, thus, short experiences, clear and easy mechanics, in happy environments, in order to run out of routine and to not to be productive at least some minutes a day, and (4) to design with an open mind towards new sensibilities and vulnerable life situations. On the other hand, all the participants coincide in reporting that a game with gender perspective, can not be designed without the proper labour and design environment, which implies designing with other women and queer designers in the same team. On this regard, participants reported (1) to feel free and safe to speak out loud in expressing their ideas, especially important for designers in a situation of vulnerability (e.g. voice dysphoria), (2) to feel confident to take decisions by losing the fear to be wrong (impostor syndrome), (3) to feel supported to lead people when needed, and (4) to feel that health, especially mental health, is prioritized over results.

The second stage of data gathering will be focused on determining if more horizontal decision-making structures, mutual care and cooperation - arising intrinsically from the collective’s values (Flanagan and Nissenbaum, 2014) - guarantee free-minded participation in creative processes, and if it leads to innovative aesthetics, narratives and mechanics: game design.

Insights into Competence Development Through Playfulness in a Cooperative Game Scenario: A Preliminary Study

ABSTRACT. This paper presents the design and first rehearsal of a game proposal for a play-enabled, gender-related social innovation by working self-efficacy in collaborative, playful environments. Our main goal at this stage is to study how a gender-neutral proposal would get appropriated and generate insights about how it could promote change through play and cooperative dialogue. Specifically, we aimed to gather evidence on how participants became empowered to develop basic competences that help them trust their ability to perform in-game actions. Sixteen players were involved in paired gameplay rehearsals, assisted by the researcher as a facilitator of the game rules and responses in tabletop format. Through video recording, content analysis was performed to code for meaningful events: competence development, playfulness factors, modes of cooperation and emotions. We were able to get insights on how the design proposal promoted competence development related to computational thinking, its connections with playful engagement and cooperative dialogues, and the players’ perception of gender-neutrality of the game.

Playful Learning and Design Futures to Enhance Urban Civic Competences Through a Card Game and Minecraft

ABSTRACT. This paper presents the preliminary results of XXXXX, an action-research project to build a pedagogical toolkit about urban design and civic participation based on playful learning and design futures. It exposes the results of four co-creation workshops developed in four secondary schools of different neighborhoods of XXXXX during the fall of 2022, combining an analog card game and Minecraft.

Civic engagement and virtual environments like Second Life and Minecraft for urban planning have already been explored as a way to engage citizens in educational settings and among public space advocates. XXXXX's goal is gaining deeper insight into the competences playful urban co-design workshops can foster among highschool students. Additionally,XXXXX aims at including three dimensions into the exploration of civic engagement: gender perspective, interculturality and ecology.

To achieve these goals, we designed an urban co-creation workshop to address the learning tasks and social interactions that the students engaged with, and how the gender, intercultural and ecological perspectives emerged. To design the workshop we introduced a card game and Minecraft maps that recreated real urban spaces.

The goal of the card game was to spark the speculative imagination about the space and its uses. Through different kinds of cards (objects, social collectives, moods and time-horizons) participants had to imagine possible situations about urban challenges in actual neighbourhoods, and end up selecing the best scenario. Foresighting possible futures implies storytelling processes, and play works beyond amusement and enables the exploration of social issues through creative expression and conceptual thinking dynamics. Thus, the card game worked both as a scenario generator and a design method.

Additionally, four maps based on real data were created in Minecraft. Minecraft allows the collaborative visualization and co-creation of environments in a playful context, opening the door to creative flexibility, and fostering communication between the roles involved in the process.

After implementing the urban co-creation workshop in four schools, the project point towards the suitability of the combination of ideation techniques using a physical card game (fostering civic awareness, as well as transversal competences, such as critical thinking and negotiation skills) and the collective modeling of urban spaces in Minecraft (enhancing urban planning notions with social perspective, teamwork and STEAM skills).

We identified four key aspects of our proposal: the use of neighborhood spaces to root the process in real local problems; the focus on activities and possible uses of the public space; the emphasis on social groups as protagonists of the story; and the agency created through the simulation of real environments in Minecraft, that allow the students to engage and interact in the transformation.

11:00-13:00 Session 10G: Katabasis
Demonic Games: Demonic Figures and Functions in Contemporary Digital Games

ABSTRACT. Games and demons are linked together by a rich and often contradictory cultural history. Already in the early computer games of the late 1970s, often inspired by the Dungeons & Dragons, the adventures in underground dungeons and confronting and various supernatural monsters played a central role. In the popular shooter games demonic monsters have served rather straightforward roles in providing endless gameplay adversaries as well as inspiration for the games’ visually grotesque and violently transformable monster characters. In some more contemporary games the use of demonic imagery and agency in games undergoes the psychological deepening in certain aspects of the game culture, game design. By building a dialogue between the theory of demonological textuality and games of different genres that contain demon imagery, this study will construct a loose interpretive framework as a tool for analysing, understanding and classifying the basic nature, functions and development directions of ‘ludic demons’ and the demonic in games.

The Harmony of Escaping Hell: Ludonarrative Interplay in Hades

ABSTRACT. This talk aims to contribute to the ongoing theoretical discussion on the relationship between narrative and gameplay, highlighting additional dimensions of the interplay between the two through a reading of the narrative experience in SuperGiant games’ Hades (2020).

(This is an extended abstract submission).

11:00-13:00 Session 10H: Ludonarrative Contexts
Regret in Play and in Paint: Authorship, Narrative, and Intertextuality in Pentiment (2022)

ABSTRACT. Using an interdisciplinary approach, this paper intersects art historical and games studies methods to analyse Obsidian’s Pentiment (2022). Deriving from the Latin paenitēre, meaning ‘to repent’ or ‘to regret’, pentimento also refers to the artistic phenomenon of covering up a mistake on canvas – a feature simulated narratively through the experience of play. The proposed research explores how the game’s intertextual sources and artistic namesake ludically reproduce the feeling of regret through Pentiment’s narrative interrogation of artistic, historical and literary authorship.

Sky's the Limit: Skyboxes and Backgrounds as Narrative and Imaginative Elements

ABSTRACT. Skyboxes and backgrounds are amongst the types of "limit" and "margin" of a videogame world that more easily come to a player's mind — even as the current game design ethos shifts more and more towards the idea of an open world where the explorable space is extended and dilated in a breathtaking manner, the sky(box) is still the limit.

In this paper, I will present an overview of skyboxes and backgrounds as game design tools, especially in terms of their narrative potential. How do skyboxes and backgrounds serve to represent the outer limits of the level in the player's perception? How do they fare as elements of the game-world themselves, being simultaneously a part of it but also outside of the player's immediate grasp? What are the verbs associated to these liminal elements of the levels and landscapes? And as the limits of a level, how are skyboxes/backgrounds used to complicate and sometimes question the fiction of the game?

(for the full extended abstract, please refer to the file enclosed)

Motivation and Flow Experience as Crucial Factors in the Completion of Narrative Games

ABSTRACT. Keeping players in a video game until its completion has been a challenging task for the industry since there are many reasons for quitting video games. Motivation and the experience of flow are important factors in game completion, as they contribute to the enjoyment and retention of players' attention. Consequently, players who reach a state of flow become highly engaged and motivated to continue playing. Based on this context, this paper reviews the literature on player motivations, the flow experience, and narrative as an element of flow. Methodologically, an analysis of the most completed games between 2020 and 2022 on Steam and Playstation platforms was performed. The results show that the most completed games in 2022 were: The Last of Us Part II, Marvel's Spider-Man, and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. In addition, a flow and motivational analysis was performed on The Last of Us Part II and God of War games to understand the elements and characteristics that make them so that the player remains motivated until its completion.

"Select Your Instrument": Musical Character Customization in Divinity: Original Sin 2

ABSTRACT. This presentation presents a work-in-progress on cultural and narrative implications of being able to choose an instrument as part of character customization in Divinity: Original Sin II.

11:00-13:00 Session 10I: European Cultural Heritage
Players' Perceptions of Andalusian Cultural Heritage Representations in the Digital Game Blasphemous

ABSTRACT. In this study we look into Blasphemous (The Game Kitchen, 2019), an Spanish action-adventure game in the Metroidvania genre, set in the fictional region of Cvstodia. This game is characterised by introducing references to imtangible cultural heritage such as religious traditions and symbols of Andalusian culture (e.g., Sevillian pasos) and representations of tangible cultural heritage such as architecture and monuments (e.g., Puente de Triana, Reales Alcázares). The game has been a great success, reaching more than one million players in early 2021 (Devore, 2021). Previous researchers have explored the content of the game (Venegas & Gutiérrez, 2021) and analysed its crowdfunding strategy (Arjona & Ruiz del Olmo, 2020). The representations of Andalusian cultural heritage in Blasphemous remains unexplored. This study delves into how Andalusians perceive the use of cultural heritage in the aesthetic and narrative aspects of Blasphemous.

A Co-Operative Study of Transnational European Histories of Videogames

ABSTRACT. This paper presents breaking findings from the Co-operation on Science and Technology funded project, 'Grassroots of Digital Europe'. It will provide an overview of literature from the limits and margins of creative computing and videogame histories across the European continent, including accounts from those who have been omitted from the literature, including but not limited to women, LGBTQI and global majorities. Conceptualising this through liminality, it will outline the methods used to capture data and the challenges involved to provide insight and guidance to further research in the field.

Pushing in from the Margins: Player Efforts to Insert Polish-Lithuanian Cultural Heritage into Games

ABSTRACT. This paper examines two player efforts to modify commercial games to create a space for themselves to play with cultural content based on the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Over more than a decade, primarily Polish players developed The Deluge (2015), a large and detailed mod for the first two games from Taleworlds Entertainment’s Mount & Blade series. Subsequently, with the release of Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord (2020/2022) a different though overlapping group of players have launched a yet-unreleased The Deluge 2 mod for this newer title. Modding is in its nature a typically bottom-up effort in loose-knit communities of practice (Squire, 2011; Gee, 2013). Because mods are built on commercial products, modding can be viewed as part of the “textual poaching” paradigm expounded by Henry Jenkins (1992; 2006), where the audience repurposes a mass media product to suit their own needs. In this understanding, modders are interpreted as reclaiming power from corporate publishers. Though some scholars have argued corporations effectively take advantage of the fan “playbour” to extend the longevity of their product (Kücklich, 2005; Christiansen, 2012), it is to be stressed that the modders themselves exhibit active agency and, through their actions, reject the exploitation narrative (cf. Majewski, 2018). The modders creating The Deluge and The Deluge 2 can be seen as an attempt by a financially and professionally marginal group, to impose their personal agenda onto the product of more powerful commercial game developers. It is not only in the context of the player-developer relationship, that this case exemplifies the margins pushing into, and against, the centre. The other vital context is the relationship between the Polish-Lithuanian cultural heritage being explored by these modders, and the present-day culture of their country. The demise of the multinational Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and its occupation by neighbouring powers at the end of the 18th century was followed by two centuries of tumult and change. The independent nation states that emerged in Central Europe after this period are necessarily radically different than their multinational predecessor, and all of them, including Poland, exhibit a somewhat critical view of the Commonwealth era. This is not to say the so-called Sarmatian culture of the Commonwealth has been entirely rejected. The Polish-Lithuanian period has, over the two intervening centuries, served as important subject matter throughout the area, but especially for Polish creatives, from writers such as Henryk Rzewuski, Henryk Sienkiewicz, and Józef Hen, through to filmmakers like Jerzy Hoffman, and, on rare occasions, also for modern game developers. Nonetheless, the “Sarmatian turn in Polish culture” that Mochocki (2012b) had argued a decade ago, had never fully realised, and perhaps was mostly an illusion (cf. Kliszcz 2012). While some Sarmatian-themed games across various genres and platforms have emerged (cf. Mochocki 2011; 2012a; 2017), these titles were characterised by low budgets and low success rates. A paradoxical situation thus can be observed, where the highly successful Polish games industry rejects the Polish-Lithuanian historical period as a source of inspiration for anything more than the small cultural “easter eggs” observable in The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt (CD Projekt RED 2015) (cf. Majkowski 2018; Flamma 2020). The once-dominant Sarmatian culture that emerged from Poland and left an indelible mark in Central Europe, has itself become marginalised, relegated to the museum in favour of newer cultural trends and experiences that better suit the now largely monoethnic Polish state. However, The Deluge and its sequel show that for a part of the Polish public, Sarmatian culture remains an important element of cultural heritage, an element indeed so important, that it justifies a decade-long effort from an unfinanced group of volunteer modders. Ironically, at the margins where modders worked on The Deluge, a third clash occurred between centre and periphery. The Deluge in fact started under the name of With Fire and Sword, derived from the title of the leading book in Henryk Sienkiewicz’s famous trilogy, of which The Deluge is only the second book. The change of name was forced as a result of the Turkish publisher of the Mount & Blade series agreeing to allow another title to be published under the name of Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword (Snowberry Connection/SiCh Studio, 2009). This commercial title also strongly tapped into Sarmatian culture, combining historical elements with motifs from the titular Sienkiewicz novel (Majewski 2014), but for the modding community, it was naturally a point of strong controversy. Ironically, while the game was published as part of the Turkish Mount & Blade series, and its production was financed and led by a Russian company, the development studio behind most of the game was in fact Ukrainian. Thus, geographically and culturally, Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword could be described as a successful effort by the once-marginalised Ukrainian part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to assert itself vis-à-vis the Polish centre. Both The Deluge and Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword treated cultural heritage as a core aspect of their product. Within the range of developer attitudes towards heritage described by Copplestone (2017) and elsewhere by Majewski (2017), these two development teams positioned their efforts at the more authenticity-centric end of the continuum, even if this authenticity was selective, with an emphasis on accurate warfare and weaponry (cf. Salvati's and Bullinger's 2013 notion of selective authenticity). This desire for authenticity demonstrates that the development of these two titles can be seen as an attempt by the cultural margins to move closer to the centre, and to gain the attention of the centre by engaging in Jenkins-esque textual poaching.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This work is supported by a grant [ANONYMISED FOR REVIEW].

BIBLIOGRAPHY CD Projekt RED. 2015. The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt. PC game. CD Projekt. Christiansen, P. (2012). Between a Mod and a Hard Place. In Game Mods: Design, Theory, and Criticism, edited by In E. Champio, pp. 27-49. Pittsburgh, USA: ETC Press. Copplestone, T. J. 2017. “But that’s not accurate: the differing perceptions of accuracy in cultural-heritage videogames between creators, consumers and critics.” Rethinking History. 21(3), 415-438. doi:10.1080/13642529.2017.1256615 The Deluge Devs. 2015. The Deluge. Mod for PC game Mount & Blade: Warband. The Deluge Devs. Flamma, A. 2020. Wiedźmin: Historia fenomenu. Wrocław, Poland: Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie. Gee, J. P. (2013). Good Video Games + Good Learning. New York, USA: Peter Lang Publishing. Jenkins, H. (1992). Textual poachers. New York, USA: Routledge. Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture. New York: New York, USA. University Press. Kliszcz, A. 2012. Sarmacki zwrot kulturowy? Perspektywy Kultury. 6, 55-65. Kücklich, J. (2005). Precarious Playbour: Modders and the Digital Games Industry. The FibreCulture Journal, 5. http://five.fibreculturejournal.org/fcj-025-precarious-playbour-modders-and-the-digital-games-industry/ Majewski, J. 2014. Transmitting and Preserving Cultural Knowledge Through Open-World Role-Playing Games. Role of Higher Education Institutions in Society: Challenges, Tendencies, and Perspectives. 1 (3), 130-136. Majewski, J. 2017. “The Potential for Modding Communities in Cultural Heritage.” In The Interactive Past: Archaeology, Heritage, and Video Games. Edited by A. A. A. Mol, C. E. Ariese-Vandemeulebroucke, and K. H. J. Boom. 185-205. Leiden, The Netherlands, Sidestone Press. Majewski, J. 2018. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and its Audience as a World-Building Benchmark for Indigenous Virtual Cultural Heritage. Gold Coast, Australia: unpublished doctoral thesis, Bond University. Majkowski, T. Z. 2018. Geralt of Poland: The Witcher 3 Between Epistemic Disobedience and Imperial Nostalgia. Open Library of Humanities, 4(1). doi:10.16995/olh.216 Mochocki, M. 2011. Sarmackie dziedzictwo kulturowe w grze fabularnej Dzikie Pola. Homo Ludens. 3(1), 139-152. Mochocki, M. 2012a. “Reliving Sarmatia: National Heritage Revived in the Polish Larp Scene.” In States of Play: Nordic Larp Around the World, edited by J. Pettersson, 54-61. Helsinki, Finland: Pohjoismaisen roolipelaamisen seura. Mochocki, M. 2012b. “The Sarmatian Cultural Turn in 21st-century Poland.” In (Re)Visions of History in Language and Fiction, edited by D. Guttfeld, M. Linke and A. Sowińska, 208-224. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Mochocki, M. 2017. Gry sarmackie w ujęciu anglo-amerykańskich heritage studies. Homo Ludens. 10(1), 151-190. Motyl, A. n.d. Rozwój przedsiębiorczości na Szlaku Jana III Sobieskiego - projekt Gminy Mełgiew. https://www.programszwajcarski.gov.pl/strony/o-programie/projekty-1/rozwoj-regionalny-i-ochrona-granic/rozwoj-przedsiebiorczosci-na-szlaku-jana-iii-sobieskiego-projekt-gminy-melgiew/ Salvati, A. J. & Bullinger, J. M. 2013. “Selective authenticity and the playable past.” In Playing with the past: Digital games and the simulation of history, edited by M. W. Kapell and A. B. R. Elliott. 153-168. London, UK: Bloomsbury. Snowberry Connection and SiCh Studio 2009. Mount & Blade: With Fire & Sword. PC game. Paradox Interactive, 1C Company. Squire, K. D. (2011). Video Games and learning: Teaching and Participatory Culture in the Digital Age. New York, USA: Teachers College Press. Taleworlds Entertainment 2011. Mount & Blade: Warband. PC game. Paradox Interactive.

11:00-13:00 Session 10J: Game Industry
Articulating the Field of Videogame Production

ABSTRACT. Videogame development is commonly imagined as happening in large, multinational corporations with campus-sized studios producing Hollywood-quality blockbusters for home consoles. But today there are just as many gamemakers working in teams smaller than five people as there are working in teams larger than 250 (GDC 2022). The majority of gamemakers now use pre-existing technological frameworks and software tools, such as the Unity and Unreal game engines, and produce much smaller videogames for digital platforms, such as Apple’s App Store or Valve’s Steam marketplace (Nicoll and Keogh 2019; Poell et al 2022). Instead of relying on resources supplied by a publisher in exchange for copyright ownership, more and more gamemakers fund their work with their own savings. Just like most musicians, most actors, most writers, and most painters, most gamemakers won’t make much money from their gamemaking activity, if they make anything at all.

A disconnect exists between the diverse range of lived experiences, identities, ambitions, work conditions, communities, and skills of videogame makers, and the ways in which videogame development is typically understood and depicted by researchers, journalists, policymakers, education institutions, and gamemakers themselves as narrowly happening within the domain of a lucrative and centralised videogame industry. While the last decade has seen a fruitful research focus on the practices and works of gamemakers peripheral to the mainstream industry (Anthropy 2012; Harvey 2014; Young 2018; Švelch 2018; Reed 2020), this paper goes a step further to argue that the ‘videogame industry’ itself is an insufficient concept that only accounts for a small, hegemonic, particularly lucrative aspect of gamemaking activity—overwhelmingly located in particular cities in North America, Western Europe, and East Asia—while failing to account for a much broader and complex range of gamemaking identities, cultures, and sites that underpin it.

This did not happen by accident. After the first videogames were created by hobbyists, students, and tinkerers in the late 1960s, commercial firms and entrepreneurs emerged through the 1970s to “privatize the cultures of games and play” (Boluk and LeMieux 2017, 8; see also Dyer-Witheford and de Peuter 2009, 10). What we call the videogame industry has “convinced its employees”—and to this we could add students, researchers and policymakers—“that [the industry is] the only gateway to videogame creation” (Anthropy 2012, 18). This paper undermines this conviction by paying close attention to other sites of videogame development, to other ways of being a videogame maker. While the ways in which videogame production is industrialised have been well articulated, the ways in which videogame development is cultural production, demands more scrutiny. Casey O’Donnell (2012, 21) made a similar point, in 2012, when he argued against videogame development being understood—as it still pervasively is—as a software industry, arguing instead that “video game production viewed as an art world, rather than ‘industry’ constructs a much more critical and nuanced perspective” of videogame production.

Just as a Hollywood blockbuster, an avant-garde arthouse film, or a TikTok video recorded on a phone can be readily distinguished for where they are positioned within the filmmaking field, so too should a triple-A videogame, a commercial independent project, a student project, a personal project only shown to a few close friends, a contracted adver-game, and an experimental art-game be so contextualised within what this paper articulates as the field of videogame production. Drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s (1993) work on fields of cultural production, this paper theorises, holistically but not homogeneously, the field of videogame production—or more simply the videogame field—as a space in which cultural, social and economic values flow between differently-positioned producers. The videogame field is the broader space of activity from which videogame industries emerges in specific local contexts. Just as one could not hope to understand the global music industry without first situating it within the broader music field—accounting for Taylor Swift, the countless anonymous Sunday pub cover bands, punk subcultures, and everything in between—this paper seriously considers the ramifications of truly considering videogames as a field of cultural production constituted by a vast range of competing positions—just like any other cultural field.

Just as other researchers have used Bourdieu’s field theory to understand gameplaying cultures (e.g., Consalvo 2007; Kirkpatrick 2015), articulating videogame development as occurring within and as a field of cultural production expands our conceptual frame to consider cultural and social forms of capital (prestige, awards, acclaim, scenes, etc.), and a broader range of positions occupied by competing agents. The paper draws from semi-structured interviews and qualitative surveys of over 400 gamemakers in Australia, Europe, North America, and South-East Asia to reveal how a broader range of sites, struggles, and subjectivities continuously construct videogame production as a cultural, social, and economic activity. This fieldwork reveals constitutional struggles between creativity and commerce, between professional and amateur, between client dependence and creative independence, between precarity and entrepreneurship, between career and side-hustle, between co-located scenes that in turn point to a cultural bottleneck where the ability for a wider range of gamemakers to create and distribute a wider range of works now clashes with entrenched and limited commercial expectations and imaginations of what videogames can and should be.

Ultimately, this paper agues that the contexts in which videogames are made, the reasons for which they are made, the resources with which they are made, and the audiences for whom they are made are no less diverse than they are for films, paintings, music, or any other field of cultural production. To truly account for videogames as an industrialised cultural form is to account for the full breadth of commercial and noncommercial, formal and informal, professional and amateur ways in which videogames are made across the full field of videogame production.

Digital Games and the Category of Auteur: a Re-Evaluation and Perspectives

ABSTRACT. Digital games are mainly collective works (Schreier 2017). Still, there have been attempts at applying the ‘auteur’ theory, borrowed from art and film studies, to digital games (Aarseth 2004; Demirbas 2008; Staszenko 2015). Admittedly, the ‘auteur’ theory, tracing the personal interference in multiple (audio)visual works, was criticized for its conservative or even far-right roots (Grosoli 2014), as well as for legitimizing the toxic industrial culture and abuse of minor employees for the sake of making art (Oliva 2021, 144–45). Film theory, focused on the fetishistic treatment of directors instead of screenwriters (Sarris 1962/2004; Kael 1971), also influenced the understanding of digital games auteurism; directors were replaced by great design personalities like Peter Molyneux, Sid Meier, and Will Wright, regardless of their actual involvement in the production process. The usual discourse around their games produces ‘auteurs’ from the ‘upper-middle-class, white, male, straight, able-bodied, cisgender, Western’ communities (Oliva 2021, 145).

This speech aims to challenge the traditional understanding of the ludic ‘auteur’ theory without dismantling it entirely. The paper’s author defines an ‘auteur’ contextually: 1. The ‘auteur’ category could be applied both to individual game creators and small groups of constantly cooperating persons (like Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn’s Tale of Tales). 2. The ‘auteur’ category could encompass developers who occupied diverse posts (designers, programmers, directors) during game development if their output is relatively coherent in design, graphic style, or implied message. This distinction postulates resigning from searching for only one author of a particular work and reducing ‘auteurism’ to one unbridgeable post. 3. An authorial signature, or placing the authors themselves in their works (Bordwell 2007, 211), could be another factor that underlines their attachment to co-created work.

As a case study that would indicate the perspectives of the ‘auteur’ theory, the output of Meg Jayanth was chosen. Jayanth, as an Indian-British female coming outside the European cultural circle, escapes the traditional understanding of the game ‘auteurs’. Besides her purely authorial yet still unfinished post-colonial text game Samsara (Failbetter Games, 2010), Jayanth commissioned scripts for various works directed by other persons, e.g. 80 Days (Inkle Ltd., 2014), Sunless Sea (Failbetter Games, 2015), Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games, 2017), Sunless Skies (Failbetter Games, 2019), Falcon Age (Outerloop Games, 2019), and Sable (Raw Fury, 2021). Nonetheless, Jayanth’s output can be distinguished due to her attempts to criticize patriarchal values (Horizon Zero Dawn) and Western colonialism (80 Days, Sunless Skies), as well as to embrace the nomadic lifestyle (Sunless Sea, Sable). Furthermore, some games co-written by Jayanth implement the social-constructionist re-writing of colonial history to incorporate more fictional characters of diverse skin colours, nationality, and gender (80 Days, Falcon Age). Jayanth also put her avatars – authorial signatures – in some co-created games (80 Days, Sunless Skies). Therefore, although Jayanth was by no means the main author of the games mentioned here, her output is consistent in motives and creative workshop and allows us to consider her an ‘auteur’ (or ‘autrice’).

The research results allow for using the ‘auteur’ theory for the broader circle of developers than game journalists have promoted. While the ‘auteur’ theory’s foundations may sound problematic, the category itself can be re-taken to signify the presence of underprivileged developers.


Aarseth, Espen. 2004. “The Game and Its Name: What Is a Game Auteur?” In Visual Authorship: Creativity and Intentionality in Media, edited by Torben Kragh Grodal, Bente Larsen, and Iben Thorving Laursen, 261–69. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press. Bordwell, David. 2007. Narration in the Fiction Film. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Demirbas, Yavuz Kerem. 2008. “Towards a New Understanding of Games: Auteur Game Criticism.” Master’s Thesis, Copenhagen: ITU. https://bit.ly/37YNvhP. Failbetter Games. 2010. Samsara. Web. Failbetter Games. ———. 2015. Sunless Sea. Windows. United Kingdom: Failbetter Games. ———. 2019. Sunless Skies. Windows. United Kingdom: Failbetter Games. Grosoli, Marco. 2014. “The Politics and Aesthetics of the ‘politique des auteurs.’” Film Criticism 39 (1): 33–50. Guerrilla Games. 2017. Horizon Zero Dawn. PlayStation 4. Netherlands and United States: Sony Computer Entertainment America. Inkle Ltd. 2014. 80 Days. Windows. United Kingdom: Inkle Ltd. Kael, Pauline. 1971. “Raising Kane.” The New Yorker, no. 8 (February). https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1971/02/20/raising-kane-i. Oliva, Mercè. 2021. “Masterpiece! Auteurism and european videogames.” In Perspectives on the european videogame, edited by Víctor Navarro-Remesal and Óliver Pérez-Latorre, 131–50. Bristol: Bristol University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9789048550623.008. Outerloop Games. 2019. Falcon Age. Windows. United Kingdom: Outerloop Games. Raw Fury. 2021. Sable. Windows. United Kingdom: Shedworks. Sarris, Andrew. (1962) 2004. “Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962.” In Film Theory and Criticism, edited by Leo Braudy and Cohen Marshall, 561–64. New York: Oxford University Press. Schreier, Jason. 2017. Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made. First edition. New York London Toronto Sydney: Harper. Staszenko, Dominika. 2015. “Lollipop Chainsaw Goichiego Sudy i problem autorstwa w medium gier wideo.” Homo Ludens 7 (2): 153–62.

To Become a Cultural Fit, or to Leave? Game Industry Expatriates and the Issue of Migration and Inclusivity

ABSTRACT. This paper explores the experience of immigrant/expatriate game developers (“game expats”), focusing on how the game developers’ community influences migration. Inspired by Weststar (2015)’s study identifying the game developers’ social group of occupational community (OC), I have conducted semi-structured interviews (n=29) with game expats in Finland in 2020-2021 and used grounded theory to identify cohesive patterns from their relocation experiences. The result showed community as a motivational driver for game expats’ migration to Finland, acting as a direct channel of recruitment and ease of relocation stress. Meanwhile, favor towards a certain type of personality, attitudes, and familiarity with the collective norms shared within the community (so-called “cultural fit”) was identified as a determining factor that affects game expats’ hiring and settlement. However, the closed hiring with a tendency to find already culturally fitting colleagues within the immediate community network due to concerns for productivity, raises difficulties for game expats with a junior level of expertise, less cultural proximity, or of a different gender. This paper highlights the challenges faced by game expats, calling for communal efforts between the industry, society, and institutions as an ecosystem to enhance inclusivity and cultural competence in game work environments.

If You Don't like the Game, Change the Rules: Unions and Co-Operatives in the Canadian Game Industry

ABSTRACT. No abstract required for extended abstract submission.

11:00-13:00 Session 10K: Game Design Research
A Method for Design Materialization: Accountable Game Design Research

ABSTRACT. Despite being increasingly embraced as a subject of academic inquiry, game design research has yet to advance consistently or coherently. It suffers something of an identity crisis, caught between epistemologies and disciplines that form only a partial fit to the concerns of design itself. (Harrison et al. 2007). The fields in which the majority of academic game design research has taken place to date are Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Game Studies. Neither of these fields are primarily design-oriented, leading to discrepancies between academic communities concerning what constitutes rigorous game design research, and as a result, a fractured academic game design research community which as yet lacks robust foundations. If game design research leans on traditions borrowed from other disciplines which have not been conceived of or optimized for researching design, many of the research questions we could be asking or theories we could be forming risk vanishing through the gaps of epistemologies and methodologies (Chiapello 2017; Kultima 2015).

Our current long-term research project tackles these issues from the ground up by prioritizing a methodological approach to game design research that begins with the game designer themself. To this end we have developed a rigorous methodology for maintaining a comprehensive documentation of a game’s design and development activity via the underlying technology of software version control and have explored some potential analytic and theory-building outcomes of such an approach (Anonymous 2018; 2023). The documentation method revolves around a game designer (or designers) leveraging the rhythmic and chronological nature of version control – usually for maintaining a precise history of changes to a software project’s code or other assets – to instead record design thinking. Most centrally, these reflective moments are captured either by a) writing in a design journal at regular intervals to capture high level design thinking, or b) using moments of committing code and other assets to a version control repository to write commit messages that reflect on the relationship between the technical work just performed and the design objectives and questions represented by the project. All this data, from code to assets to design thinking to commit messages, is conveniently stored in a single repository.

Crucially, version control provides the magical ingredient of history, meaning that any historical “commit” can be re-examined, including its code, assets, associated design reflections, and a playable build of the game at that precise time and under those conditions – in other words, the design process is recoverable (Godin and Zahedi 2014). The method thus provides the ability to draw on material evidence alongside timestamped design thinking when undertaking any analysis of how game design occurs. Having carried out the method ourselves as well as having analysed the resulting repositories of data, we can assert that the methodology as it stands is of significant value to the designer-research themselves – providing deep and recorded insight into their own process for later scholarly use – and for a third party developing grounded theory about such design work.

Design data capture is thus the foundation of the method, but to make use of that data we also require analysis and theory building. Conscientious design documentation of even a single game case yields a repository of reflective journal entries, commit messages, game builds, code, as well as other regular game design process materials, such as brainstorms, sketches, excel spreadsheets, concept art, etc. Data of these forms lend themselves to analysis via qualitative research approaches. However, since digital game making remains technical even when documented with respect to design, and version control was designed for software maintenance as opposed to design reasoning, we seek to make game design process insights open and accessible to other designers and to both technically minded and non-technical researchers.

To this point, our work has revolved around analysis performed by researchers within the research project itself, leading to questions around the specific usability and accessibility of both the methodological approach and the data it generates. We have developed one tool for analysis which transforms a version control repository that employs the method into a more user-friendly version, complete with clickable links to playable builds and other affordances for ease-of-use and legibility. The project is at a key moment where it is imperative to introduce it to a larger academic and practitioner audience to discuss and improve upon the documentation method itself, approaches to data analysis and theory building, and the potential of tools designed to facilitate both. We are particularly eager to present this work and to pose questions to the DiGRA community around the following themes:

1) How legible, straightforward, and practical is the documentation method as it stands for potential uptake in the broader community of academics pursuing game design as a form of research? What suggestions for improvement do they have?

2) What uses and affordances do academics currently studying game design see in the range of data generated by the documentation method? Similarly, what gaps or potential additions might there be?

3) What kinds of additional tools do both groups think might help in the tasks of documentation, analysis, and theory-building? We are particularly curious about ways to manage the sheer scale and diversity of data, perhaps through forms of data visualization.


Anonymous. 2018.

Anonymous. 2023.

Chiapello, L. 2017. Epistemological underpinnings of game design research. In Game Design Research: An Introduction to Theory and Practice, Petri Lankoski & Jussi Holopainen (Eds.), ETC Press, Chapter 1, 15-33.

Godin, D. and Zahedi, M. 2014. Aspects of Research through Design. In Proceedings of the Design, Research, Society Conference 2014. Umea, Sweden.

Harrison, S., Tatar, D., and Sengers, P.. 2007. The Three Paradigms of HCI. In alt.chi 2007.

Kultima, A. 2015. Game Design Research. In Proceedings of the 19th International Academic Mindtrek Conference (AcademicMindTrek ’15). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 18–25. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2818187.2818300

Designerly Ways of Analysing Gameplay and Player Experiences

ABSTRACT. There is a fundamental contradiction in analysing experiences in games. Although players expect a game to be fun, fun as an experience is not directly designed by the game designer. This creates challenges for game designers and game design researchers. Game designers face a second-order design problem (Salen and Zimmerman 2004) as they can only design the game rules and broadly gauge the experiences from the designed rules. Similarly, game design researchers, aiming to find out design principles of experiences like fun, confront second-order analysis problem (Howell and Stevens 2019). They rely on player reportages of experiences; through interpretation, they arrive at the rules of that created them. Designers change the rules to create the required experiences, while game design researchers arrive at the principles that creates these experiences. Given the second-order nature of experiences in games, these reportages are often delayed. From design research methods perspective, the designers and researchers are distanced from the gameplay. In this paper, we propose Gameplay Experience Sampling Protocol for data collection and analysis that reduces the distance of designers and researchers from the gameplay. Through this reduction, we aim to strengthen a researcher’s interpretation. Game designers and game design researchers can use this method to record the gameplay and player experiences along with the rules that generate those experiences. Our protocol seeks to further the epistemological and ontological grounding of Howell and Stevens (Howell and Stevens 2019).

"I Really Think of These Things More as Toys": Will Wright's Toy-Based Design Philosophy

ABSTRACT. This paper assesses the work of famed game designer Will Wright to understand his design philosophy and how his approach succeeded with unexpected game audiences. More specifically, it analyzes Wright’s design notebooks, public talks, and catalog of games to better understand what Wright means when he refers to himself as a toymaker, rather than a game designer, and his products as toys. It will explain how his design approach was inspired by cultural beliefs regarding toys and creativity that permeated the U.S. in the 1960s-70s, Wright’s early education in a Montessori school, his views on player narcissism, and theories of failure-based learning. In doing so, this presentation addresses how designing from a unique starting point—toys, not games—can challenge video games’ existing audience norms and structures of power, as well as how the work of even a single individual can illuminate alternative approaches to play.

Beyond the Old Game Design: a New Design Paradigm in Game Studies through C-K Theory

ABSTRACT. This paper presents C-K Theory (Hatchuel, et al., 2003) as the appropriate theoretical formalism to understand, explain, and communicate what happens during the act of designing games and the means to translate existing game design contributions into practice. To frame the need for such a theoretical approach within Game Studies, the paper offers an overview of game design, providing a general definition, outlining its main characteristics and scope, and pointing out some shortcomings and the lack of epistemological knowledge about design theory. In addition to introducing C-K Theory and proving the context about its ontological characteristics as a design theory, the paper presents an explanation of how C-K Theory operates and exemplifies it by analyzing the design of a published game. The article concludes by addressing some potential issues surrounding C-K Theory that may arise within the Game Studies community due to previous widespread preconceptions and ideas about game design.

13:00-14:30Lunch Break
14:30-16:00 Session 11A: Ideologies
Allegorithmic Politics of Game Exchange – Subversion, Ideology, and Capitalism in Strategy Game

ABSTRACT. This paper proposes that the underlying ideological mechanisms of game fiction are based on dominant modes of exchange of players’ labour for game progress. It offers a analysis of two iconic strategic games Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition and Civilization VI, which can be seen as advocates of capitalist exchange. Although games promise emancipatory, subversive, and speculative futures or joyful idleness. I argue that this potential is limited due to the games underlying ideologies, to define these ideologies and fully use the emancipatory potential of the game medium we should unmask their underlying modes of exchange. Firstly, I argue that this can be done through analysis of the inner game markets - the mode by which players exchange their labour for advancing in the game’s algorithm - and finally, I propose developing alternative modes of game exchange, allowing for new critical and speculative gameplay.

Producing the Post-Gamer: Game Engines as Tools for Ideological Expansion

ABSTRACT. As game engines diversify into production domains beyond games, they consolidate the ideologies and render the anxieties of the Gamer’s embattled fall from hegemony. Our research goal is to explicitly identify which categories of gamers are lionized and how others are marginalized or excluded in the promotion and use of engines.

Fake News and Disinformation in Ludonarrative Contexts. The Case of Headliner: Novinews

ABSTRACT. Headliner: Novinews (Unbound Creations, 2018) is a video game in which the presence of disinformation stands out as the driving force of the narrative and, at the same time, as the cornerstone of its mechanics. Set in the fictional city of Novistan, the player embodies a reporter who works for one of the most important media outlets in the city. As such, their job is to decide which news will be published and which will be ignored. For this purpose, the player has to read each piece of news and assess, based on their knowledge of Novitan society and their boss’s “suggestions”, whether each piece is true or fake. Knowing that, the player can choose what to do with those news, and that decision will determine the development of Novistan and the player’s reporter career. Based on this synopsis, Headliner: Novinews could be regarded as another gamification project developed to fight against disinformation and fake news, just like Harmony Square (DROG, 2020), iReporter (BBC, 2018) or Fake it to make it (Amanda Warner, 2017). However, Headliner is not a serious game, as it was not created with the main purpose of tackling a real-life problem (Alvarez & Djaouti, 2011), and that is what makes this game particularly interesting: for the way in which it integrates this concrete social issue into the ludofictional landscape and into the game mechanics. Therefore, this research aims to explore how the phenomenon of fake news, along with that of disinformation, is manifested through the ludic fiction of Headliner: Novinews. To this end, this work is rooted in the systematization of fake news and disinformation (Quandt, 2019), and the role that these topics have played in the field of digital games, mainly in relation to entertainment-oriented video games. More specifically, this research aims to analyze how fake news and disinformation are integrated into Headliner: Novinews, and in what kind of contexts the existence of such fake news and disinformation can be found. Thus, firstly, it is proposed an exploratory critical analysis of the contextualisation provided by this game in relation to the concepts of fake news and disinformation, and the ludonarrative scenarios with which they are associated. In order to do so, it has been used an analytical play methodology (Mäyrä, 2008), in which the game experience has been examined in both a hedonic and an utilitarian way. Secondly, it has been analyzed the narrative design choices employed in the game, such as the narrator and the focalizer. Special attention has been given to where the narrative focus and mechanics are placed, in order to understand how fake news and disinformation are presented and how they are manifested (Quevedo-Redondo et al., 2022). In addition, it has been studied the genre, goal structure and interaction mechanics of Headliner: Novinews, with the objective of identifying its main ludonarrative strategy from the lens of persuasive games (de la Hera, 2019). The outcomes of this research enable us to understand how Headliner: Novinews uses the language of video game to bridge the gap between its ludoficitional world and the real world stories that underpin it, and, also, to expose disinformation and fake news.

14:30-16:00 Session 11B: Trans Identities
Trans Tissue: If Found…'s (2020) Dehiscence, Liminality and Decreation

ABSTRACT. Bo Ruberg has recently argued that trans game studies time has come (2022:205), a disciplinary direction both related and distinct to queer theory approaches (Keegan 2018). This abstract outlines planned work employing Trans Studies and phenomenological contributions of visual and autoethnographic analyses concerning ludic trans embodiment to this emerging sub-field (Gallagher, 2020; Lawrence, 2018; Kosciesza, 2022). I argue If Found… (DREAMFEEL, 2020) presents an effective case study complicating assumed relationships of body to being, game space and temporality through an embrace of liminality, tactility and ambivalent affects. Players eroding layers enact trans 'decreation' Lau (2018), in which the self is creatively destroyed and remade in contrast to tragic social erasures (Namaste 2000). Here the story progresses chronologically, but visually and haptically we dissolve our traces, wiping tableaus illustrating protagonist memories, and players rub and peel “audio-visual-haptically” (Keogh, 2018) through a laminate tissue of images. This is a strangely contradictory loss through becoming where we do not end, but open ourselves towards a forever liminal future, knowing that with each old-new page in If Found...'s journal, it too will be erased but its affects will linger.

Subtle Presence and (Dis)Identification: Transmasculinity in Narrative Video Games

ABSTRACT. The past two decades have seen the emergence of trans masculinity in various contexts, from trans theory to gender identity politics (Nagoshi & Brzuzy 2010, Stryker 2008, Gottzén & Strauben 2016), including the introduction of trans masculine representation in the media entertainment industry (Banks 2021, Billard 2019, Abbott 2022, Thach 2021, McLaren et al. 2021). However, authors have shown the hidden risks of such emergence, which result in mechanisms of disidentification and stereotypization of transgender individuals (Banks 2021, Billard 2019, Kosciesza 2022). The purpose of this study is to investigate trans masculine characters in narrative-based video games, observe their shared characteristics, and assess whether they present similarities with representations of trans men in film and media studies. To do so, this paper proposes to analyze seven transmasculine characters from narrative-based video games. To do so, it employs a mixed methodology approach, combining autoethnography and narrative analysis of games. This analysis finds out the shared characteristics of transmasculine representations, among others they refer to transition as a pivotal and traumatic experience and adherence to cisgender/hegemonic masculinity. Also, it suggests that many video games either subtly portray transmasculine characters, usually providing further information in paratextual elements, or focus mainly on the character's transitioning, making him being trans foundational in his narrative. This article suggests that the analyzed representations simplify the transmasculine experience and suggests broader and more varied transmasculine representations in the future.

Intersectional Masculinities in Mass Effect

ABSTRACT. While the bulk of the literature regarding character representation in videogames deal with the hypersexualized female bodies, hypersexual, racist, and stereotypical representations of male bodies are understudied. In this paper a character analysis of four human companions in the Mass Effect trilogy unveils the intersectional complexities of masculinities represented in the game. The data is supported by interviews with Mass Effect fans, comments on online forums, and the official transmedia content of the franchise. The results show that the portrayal of subjugated masculinities relies on damaging stereotypes of race, gender and sexuality thus reinforcing whiteness and toxic masculinities as the norm. The research indicates that further male character analysis is paramount to a better understanding of the intricacies of identity in a supposedly male-dominated medium and add nuance to the masculinities portrayed in-game and perceived/performed off-game.

14:30-16:00 Session 11C: What's at Stake in eSports?
Gamers at War: The Relationship Between Military and Esports

ABSTRACT. This paper examines the deep-rooted relationship between competitive videogames, otherwise called esports, and a focus on the U.S. military realm. Examining how post-World War Two technological progress is imbued with the military’s rationale. Looking at the development of esports as military training tools, providing more accurate simulations of the reality of war. Ultimately exposing how the development of the esports scene through the Internet, has been met with an interest by the military complex in the players and business. All of the above, has manifested in a historical, cultural, and technological link between the armed forces and the esports industry.

The Limits of Influence: Negotiating the Hegemony of Game Companies in Collegiate Esports in the US

ABSTRACT. This study explores the hegemony of game companies in dictating the collegiate esports culture in the US.

Extended Abstract: Exploring Constructions of Situated Esports Aesthetics Within and Outside Gameplay in a Nordic Context


Video games are “constituted by the images on the screen” (Rose 2016, 88) and game graphics are often discussed by the audience (Johnson 2019). Further, Kirkpatrick (2011, 1) argues that video games are a “historically specific instance of an aesthetic form” and should be viewed through the aesthetic lens to be understood. Despite the relevance to the gameplay experience, there is limited academic discourse on visuality in video games, particularly from a player perspective, as the existing studies often focus on game design (see e.g. Salen et al 2006). Further, research on visuality from a player perspective is both limited and narrow in scope, primarily focused on player in- game representation and avatars rather than on gameplay experience as a whole. Accordingly, the focus here is on a participant’s perspective of the visual norms shaping different esports contexts.

The aim is twofold: to explore how esports aesthetics are constructed within Nordic esports contexts and to see what identities can be (co)constructed within the frames of such situated aesthetics. With aesthetics, we are referring to visual norms within specific platforms and/or contexts and how these shape participation (Goding-Doty 2020). For this purpose, we will combine the results from our previous empirical work with an additional context. The previously analyzed contexts are both located in Finland and are more specifically; 1) visual analysis of esports organizations’ webpages and 2) an ethno-case study at an educational esports program focusing on an in-game player perspective. The empirical data collected as part of this text, offers a third perspective; an esports tournament event. The first two datasets echoed similar findings and functioned as a starting point, however, the third dataset broadens the discussion of how esports aesthetics are constructed.

The first previous publication (Friman, Ruotsalainen & Ståhl in review) focuses on communication on the webpages of esports organizations in Finland. The material includes the public websites of 53 esports organizations; for example, associations, teams and player organizations, competition leagues, educational institutions and esports events. The material (collected in 2021) has previously been analyzed focusing on organizations' communication from the perspective of equity and inclusion, including plans, statements and visual material communicating both inclusion and exclusion, echoing the gender norms within esports discussed by e.g. Witkowski (2018). Primarily relevant for this work was the analysis was the website’s levels of visual communication (Barthes 1982). All websites had some visual material, however the formats used and to what extent varies. In general, the visual material included individual portraits of key people within the organization (photos and illustrations) and event photos, promotional videos, illustrations, logotypes and in-game content. Notably, technological devices (such as screens, keyboards and headsets) were commonly present and emphasized in the visual material.

The second previous publication (Ståhl & Rusk 2023) is based on an ethno-case study and was conducted (2017-2018) in collaboration with students at an esports program at a vocational school in Finland. The data consisted of seven matches of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (Valve Corporation & Hidden Path Entertainment 2012), henceforth CS:GO, and four scheduled interviews per team. The material was analyzed inductively focusing on inclusion, visual agency and identity (co)construction. All weapon skins wielded in the in-game data were either masculine or gender-neutral in terms of color and patterns with mainly technological and military influences, echoing a similar visual norm as the first publication.


Informed by previous work on esports events (see e.g. TL Taylor & Witkowski 2010; N Taylor 2018), this visual ethnography (Pink 2020) was conducted during DreamHack Winter 2022 in Jönköping, Sweden, by three of the co-authors during three days of fieldwork. The data consists of photos and video recordings made by the researchers using their mobile phones as well as field notes. In the material, the researchers focused on activities and exhibitions centered around digital games and play. Some additional material has also been supplemented by colleagues of the researchers present at DreamHack aware of the data collection. The researchers primarily focused on the areas and activities accessible to anyone at the event, such as the tournaments and the exhibition area. In particular, the researchers followed two tournaments of CS:GO at DreamHack; the semi-finals and finals of Elitserien, the highest national level of esports as well as the ESL Impact League Winter finals for women and gender minorities professional players. Additionally, the researchers were offered fragmented research access in restricted areas as well, for example access to the otherwise restricted LAN-area as it was being set up.


The preliminary results from the DreamHack material echoed the visual norms seen in our previous work: technology is not only visible but emphasized and the color scheme is dominated by bright colors and neon lights. However, these visual norms were also reflected in and shaped by material objects such as gaming chairs (see Figure 1) and energy drinks. Sponsorship and other forms of marketing are highly present in the material, suggesting that there is a central commercial aspect to the situated esports aesthetics.

While aesthetics can be understood as personal taste, participation in aesthetic norms can reinforce any embedded charges or biases (Goding-Doty, 2020). When invited behind the scenes for the ESL Impact League, the researchers were told by the producers that the visuals were intentionally non-feminine, but rather should reflect esports productions in general. For example, see the use of green, blue and orange neon lights in Figure 2, echoing the technomasculine (Johnson 2018) visual norms noted in our previous works (Friman, Ruotsalainen & Ståhl in review; Ståhl & Rusk 2020). Accordingly, similar to the previous studies, we see that the visual norms here referred to as esports aesthetics arepresent both in terms of grassroot level play as well as on a professional level. As a result, the participants aligning with these norms will feel more at home at these venues. However, in combination with as high noise levels and many people in small areas, these visual norms can result in an overwhelming experience, and thereby a sense of othering and potentially exclusion.

14:30-16:00 Session 11D: Toxicity
"Smurfing Is a Pretty Common Problem": Toward a Performative Conception of Toxicity

ABSTRACT. In the post-gamergate era, much has been written about the toxicity of online multiplayer video game spaces (Canossa et al., 2021; Hilvert-Bruce & Neill, 2020; Kordyaka et al., 2020; Kordyaka & Kruse, 2021; Kou, 2020; Kowert, 2020). Yet, game scholars largely agree that the actual definition of the term ‘toxic’ is slippery and lacks definitional stability, both in its mainstream use and within the field of game studies. This research aligns with those who generally turn to players as the source of expertise for better understanding toxicity. Existing research contributions have mapped and defined a normative player-driven taxonomy of behaviors contributing to toxic online-game environments, particularly in the case of Multiplayer Online Games (MOGs). There is also consensus that toxicity is a highly context-dependent phenomenon reliant on the relation of players to one another but extending further to include the technical elements of the game.  

Intrigued by these contextual and relational dimensions, we decided to embrace the contradictions and slippages inherent in toxicity as a concept, choosing to analyze toxicity through the lens of performativity using Goffman’s (1959) dramaturgical theory. Like toxicity, performance is relational and is a form of analysis that helps to identify the ways in which toxicity is contested and opposed, sometimes through further heightened toxicity. Additionally, it helps us to better understand non-toxic instances of traditionally toxic behaviours. This study pivots focus from determining whether a behaviour or game mechanic is toxic to questioning why it is perceived as toxic.

Recognizing that the design mechanics of many MOGs fashions players into teams ranging from fireteams to guilds, through which they form performative cliques, some of which are lasting, some that are transient. Exclusion is an integral feature to the normative function of most MMOGs. Past scholarship in this area has indicated that these spaces are deeply gendered and center normativity (Cote, 2020; Gray, 2020; Ruberg, 2019; Shaw, 2015). Cliques may contribute to the definition of a game space by maintaining or transgressing the normative line through performed normativity or counter-hegemony. Players constituting a clique may enter conflict when there is dissent over the definition of the space including the performed line. This agonism, when taken in aggregate, works to define an unspoken code of rules and conduct in particular gaming spaces, resulting in what players and academics alike would label toxic gamer culture. 

Building off the design methodology of cultural probes (Wallace et al., 2013)—a method used to bring forward and deconstruct concepts and ideas that have become obscured over time—we developed and distributed a set of probe kits to 28 participants. We instructed the participants to bring their probe kits into their regular play routine; the kits were designed to gently disrupt each participant’s gaming experience by asking them to carry out a series of brief and creative gaming-related tasks. In tandem with focus groups and interviews, the kits encouraged participants to reflect on their personal experiences of pressure points in gaming before writing out their thoughts, thereby ensuring the work completed by the participants in the study emerged from a place of self-reflexivity and intentionality.      In the process of analysis, we organized player-defined toxic pressure points into thematic categories, and as we worked through our data, we came to understand that each of the pressure points were themselves multi-stable and contradictory. Many of our participants also associated these pressure points with fun or as forms of countering as well as being toxic. As a result, we have concluded that a single, clear-cut definition of toxicity is insufficient and can instead be better understood as behaviours that are performed in response to contextual elements of games and game spaces.

Polarized Pills Vs. Gaming Thrills: Empirical Exploration of R/TheRedPill and R/TheBluePill Users in R/Gaming

ABSTRACT. We examine the intersection between gaming and manosphere communities through a collective analysis of comments in the subreddit r/gamingby users of subreddits r/TheRedPilland r/TheBluePillre presenting two contrastive manosphere communities. We found a significant number of users of these subreddits who were not only participating in gaming discussions, but also exposing their views on gender and role of women in society. Through computational text analytics, we compare underlying themes of their comments in r/gaming to explore how they differ or are similar. Our results suggest: 1) Users of r/TheRedPill and r/TheBluePill both carry and extend gender-related discussions and claims to the gaming community. 2) The difference when they approach the gaming world is nuanced and ambiguous making it difficult to establisha clear-cut distinction between them. 3) Compared to r/TheBluePill users, r/TheRedPill users tend to deliver focused alt-right political discourse.

Genealogy of a Hate Raid

ABSTRACT. Introduction

From the tranquil shores of Norath to the bustling streams of Twitch, raiding has a complex and contradictory history. Originating in Multi-User Dungeons (MUDS) as a player driven phenomenon, raids are characterized by large amounts of people coming together, initially for the purpose of accomplishing an in-game goal. Increasingly though, the term is being used as a metaphor for an expanding array of ostensibly playful cross-platform user activities. These activities, which range from the coordinated harassment of Twitch livestreamers (Cullen 2022; Grayson 2021) to the emoji-laden spamming of government run Discord servers (Hern 2022), present a series of participatory challenges that platforms are struggling to respond to. This paper aims to critically engage with these challenges by linking raiding to the moving zone in which the emergence of play and the policies of platforms are contested. More specifically, it defines hate raids, connecting the events to a cross-platform genealogy of raiding.


By bringing research on gaming and virtual worlds (Bartle 1996; Chen 2011) into conversation with research on critical platform studies and platform governance (Gillespie 2018; Poell et.al 2021), this paper demonstrates how raids challenge ideas of what kind of playful behaviors are permissible. The paper will begin with a discussion of the research methods being applied, which is a mixed method comparative platform studies approach that draws from multi-sited ethnographic (Marcus 2012) and critical discourse analysis (Fairclough 2013). Marcus’ (1995) account of multi-sited ethnography is particularly relevant, as his ‘follow the metaphor’ account of different cultural spaces informs this paper’s understanding of raids existing in and across the different digital spaces of MUDs, MMOs, Discord and Twitch. An advantage of this approach is that it is ‘especially potent for suturing locations of cultural production that had not been previously connected and, consequently, for creating [an] empirically argued new visioning of social landscapes’ (Marcus 108-109). These social landscapes demarcate the edges of permssible playful behavior, and efforts to shape these behaviors through design and policy, as the emergence of a raid carries vastly different stakes for players, livestreamers, users, and platforms.


What are hate raids and how are they connected to shifting game systems, behaviors, and platform policies? This paper provides some answers to these questions, specifically by tracing the raiding metaphor through four sites of online raiding activity: MUDs, MMOs, Twitch and Discord. Writing in 2006 about the social structures of raiding in World of Warcraft (2004 – present, Blizzard Activision), Mortensen (2006, 404) describes the platformization of raiding by way of the Dragon Point Kill system, a system designed to automate the sharing of loot for the purposes of facilitating massively multiplayer collaborative gameplay. MUDS, in contrast, relied on less formalized systems, as theorized in Bartle’s player taxonomy (1996), which mentions users preferring less automated, less game-like communities where the distribution of treasure, weapons, and armour is negotiated carefully. In this context, the platformization of raiding cannot be separated from the formalizing, monetizing, and upscaling of MUDs into MMOs, with raids acting as a de facto ‘social stabilizer’, according to Mortensen.

For Mortensen, the DPK system was a ‘way to control and modify the behavior of the players toward each other’, establishing clear expectations and commitments between large groups of people (typically, groups of up to 40). These automated loot distribution systems, which are still used in MMORPG design, share the aims (but not the results) of the automated viewer distribution systems implemented by the livestreaming platform Twitch, where a ‘raid’ involves the sending of viewers from one livestream to another (Twitch 2022). From a social stabilizing perspective, sending a connected group of viewers to another (endorsed) livestream provides a useful means of stabilizing viewer attention and affective connection, which is why most raiders are warmly embraced by livestreamers. However, for many streamers, particularly streamers from marginalized communities (Thatch et.al 2022), the Twitch raid can be an unwanted and potentially offensive activity (Taylor 2018, 235-236) that has seen the use of the term ‘hate raid’ become prominent.

Building on livestreaming and transgressive play research, this paper will define a hate raid as a symbolic event that can emerge from any point on the ludus/paidia spectrum. Put another way, a hate raid can be goal oriented and planned, if it is being enacted by a white nationalist who is using bots to spam a streamer of color (Chalk 2022), or it can emerge spontaneously in cases where viewers sent to a channel by way of Twitch’s raid function begin to spam, harass, or frighten that streamer without any pre-planned goal (Glaze 2022). Hate raids, from this perspective, lack the productive capacity of transgressive player behaviors (Aarseth 2007; Consalvo 2009; Jørgensen and Karlsen 2019), like cheating and smurfing, because they exploit different perceptions and expectations of player safety as opposed to providing a useful means of identifying and categorizing behaviors that a community defines as unacceptable. Unacceptability is difficult to define within these social landscapes, in other words, due to the spreading (and spreadability) of raiding within and across platforms.

While live streaming platforms like Twitch are formalizing raiding for the purposes of retaining viewer attention and affect, community building platforms such as Discord are discouraging raids (Discord Trust & Safety Team 2022), resulting in tension and confusion, especially when both platforms are being used simultaneously by a livestreamer (Johnson 2021). The tension between different platforms definitions of raiding practices not only points to the moving zone in which the emergence of play and the policies of platforms are contested, but also the conditions under which hate raids emerge. Put another way, a hate raid is an event emerging within, between, and across platforms that exploits three specific tensions. The first tension is the distinction between labor and leisure in general (Chia 2020), which disruptive platform business models are designed to exploit. The second tension is distinctions between player, user, and livestreamer perceptions of safety. And the final tension is the contradictory policies and systems implemented by games and platforms designed to manage competing expectations of what it means to be safe.  




Aarseth, Espen. 2007. "I Fought the Law: Transgressive Play and The Implied Player" in Situated Play, Proceedings of the DiGRA (Tokyo, Japan), https://www.digra.org/dl/db/07313.03489.pdf

Bartle, R. 1996. Hearts, clubs, diamonds, spades: Players who suit MUDs. Journal of MUD research, 1(1), 19.

Blizzard Entertainment. 2006 World of Warcraft, PC.

Chalk, A. 2022. ‘More hate raids strike Twitch as white supremacist takes credit’, PC Gamer, 14th March, 2022. https://www.pcgamer.com/more-hate-raids-strike-twitch-as-white-supremacist-takes-credit/

Chen, M. 2011. Leet Noobs: The Life and Death of an Expert Player Group in World of Warcraft. New York, NY, USA: Peter Lang.

Chia, A. 2020. Productive leisure in post-Fordist fandom. The Journal of Fandom Studies, 8(1), 47-63.

Consalvo, M. 2009. Cheating: Gaining advantage in videogames. London: MIT Press.

Cullen, A. 2022. Playing with the Double Bind: Authenticity, Gender, and Failure in Live Streaming (Doctoral dissertation, UC Irvine).

Discord Trust & Safety Team, 2022. How to Protect Your Server from Raids 101. https://support.discord.com/hc/en-us/articles/10989121220631-How-to-Protect-Your-Server-from-Raids-101

Fairclough, N. 2013. Critical discourse analysis. In The Routledge handbook of discourse analysis (pp. 9-20). New York: Routledge.

Gillespie, T. 2018 Custodians of the Internet: platforms, content moderation, and the hidden decisions that shape social media, London: Yale University Press.

Glaze, V. 2022. ‘Pokimane explains why she collabed with Jidion after Twitch hate raid drama’. 23 February 2022. Dexerto. https://www.dexerto.com/entertainment/pokimane-explains-why-she-collabed-with-jidion-after-twitch-hate-raid-drama-1769724/ 

Grayson, N. 2021. ‘Twitch hate raids are more than just a Twitch problem, and they’re only getting worse’. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2021/08/25/twitch-hate-raids-streamers-discord-cybersecurity/

Hern, A. 2022. ‘UK Treasury joins chat app Discord and is met with torrent of abuse’, The Guardian, 15th November 2022. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2022/nov/15/uk-treasury-joins-chat-app-discord-torrent-abuse

Johnson, M. R. 2021. Behind the streams: The off-camera labour of game live streaming. Games and Culture, 16(8), 1001-1020.

Jorgensen, K., & Karlsen, F. (Eds.). (2019). Transgression in games and play. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Marcus, G. E. 2012. "Multi-sited ethnography: Five or six things I know about it now". In Multi-sited ethnography (pp. 24-40). Routledge.

Mortensen, T. E. 2006. WoW is the new MUD: Social gaming from text to video. Games and Culture, 1(4), 397-413.

Poell, T., Nieborg, D. B., & Duffy, B. E. (2021). Platforms and cultural production. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Polity Press.

Taylor, T. L. 2018. Watch Me Play: Twitch and the Rise of Game Live Streaming. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Thach, H., Mayworm, S., Delmonaco, D., & Haimson, O. 2022. (In) visible moderation: A digital ethnography of marginalized users and content moderation on Twitch and Reddit. New Media & Society. 0(0).

14:30-16:00 Session 11E: In and Out of Diegesis
'A Definition of Enchantment': a New Approach to Ludic Magic Systems Analysis

ABSTRACT. This extended abstract describes the use of a theoretical framework borrowed from Western esotericism to diagnose the mechanisms of (dis)enchantment in the magic systems of digital and analog games.

Virtual Game Spaces and Diegetic Fictionality

ABSTRACT. Players’ engagement with real-time graphic environments in videogames – which I will refer to as virtual game spaces for the purpose of this paper – is usually also an engagement with some kind of fictional narrative, in the sense that we find characters acting and causing events in an environment, in some way. Virtual game spaces are therefore sometimes rather pragmatically referred to as “diegetic” spaces, as for example by Galloway (2006). Yet it is unclear how player- and AI-controlled characters, as they are performing their tasks and routines live in real-time space, compare to the kind of characters we get to know in cinematic fiction or cutscenes, like for example Kim Wexler in the series Better Call Saul or Keira Metz in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (CD Project RED 2015). It is also unclear how spaces delineated by virtual environments would relate to the diegetic spaces of Kim or Keira. Arguably, a common perception among players is that there is a disconnect between player- or AI-controlled characters in virtual game space, going about their business, and their supposedly corresponding characters living and experiencing in a literary or cinematic universe. In for example The Witcher 3, actions and events in the world of Keira Metz, as conveyed through dialogues and cinematic cutscenes, although clearly mirroring actions and events in NPC-Keira’s virtual space, nevertheless appear to be taking place in a universe parallel to it.

In the literature, this perception of disconnect has mainly been explained either with reference to a general incompatibility between games and storytelling (Crawford 1982; Juul 1998), or with reference to a distinct kind of flexibility and selective filtering that is specific to the conventions of videogames (Lankoski, Heliö, and Ekman 2003; Thon 2017; Van de Mosselaer 2022). In this paper I will suggest instead that the disconnect is rooted in a difference between virtual and diegetic ontologies of fictional narrative. The lack of continuity between virtual character and diegetic character, and between virtual space and diegetic space, should however not be decried or wished away as a troublesome dissonance, but embraced for its unique artistic and creative possibilities

Game Studies Through 'Conceptual Games': the Case of Doors

ABSTRACT. Can games be used to communicate theoretical knowledge that is relevant to game studies? Like conceptual works of art, some games are designed to convey intellectually significant ideas in ways that are not exclusively linguistic. Drawing from art theory, we argue that the kinds of ideas one can experience practically and first-hand through ‘conceptual games’ can be of three kinds: socio-political, philosophical, or self-reflexive. Conceptual games that take a self-reflexive stance in particular communicate knowledge about games themselves, about their expressive conventions and their relationships to players’ expectations. While the quality of being self-reflexive does not by itself grant a game the status of a theoretical contribution to game studies, there are self-reflexive games that explicitly address theories and texts in the field. Among the few existing examples of self-reflexive games that were deliberately developed as scholarly contributions to game studies, Doors (the game) (Gualeni & Van de Mosselaer 2021) is discussed and analyzed as a particularly relevant case study.

14:30-16:00 Session 11F: Learning with Games
An Examination of Gender Differences in Happiness Perceived by Japanese University Students in Games
PRESENTER: Masanori Fukui

ABSTRACT. This study aimed to investigate gender differences in the elements of happiness in games and to obtain basic knowledge for future enhancement of education and game development using games. We asked 138 Japanese university students to write freely about what aspects of games make them happy. The results showed that the common features for both men and women were “communicating with friends in games,” “getting good items and characters through gacha,” “playing games well,” and “clearing games.” Men tended to feel pleasure in “clear difficult games” and “win against opponents.” Otherwise, women tended to feel pleasure “when communicating in games with less competitive elements,” “playing games with a favorite character,” and “pulling out a gacha related to a favorite character.” Based on these differences, it is hoped that game development education and game development in a company will be enhanced.

An Empirical Investigation into the Impact of the First-Person Role-Playing Games to Improve Knowledge Retention in Middle-School Children in India: a Pre-Post Study of the Game 'Tattva Bhoomi'

ABSTRACT. One of the key trends observed in the domain of contemporary education are the attempts to utilise the capabilities of digital games for the enhancement of education. Even though there exists ample data that indicates the positive effects of digital games in the context of education, there still remains a gap in understanding their integration into pedagogy. The few studies conducted and the data generated tend to be borne out of western countries and in India specifically, there appears to be a lack of understanding as to how games could benefit the educational goals and objectives of the students. It also remains a mystery how these games could be integrated into the curriculum and pedagogy. Therefore, this research is an attempt to understand the effectiveness of game-based interventions for the student population of India and how these game-based learning applications could be integrated into the curriculum.

This study tries to gauge the change in knowledge retention of 142 middle-school students by applying a game-based intervention of Tattva Bhoomi, an exploration-based first-person role-playing game. The study investigates a total of three experimental conditions in two different schools through the methodology of pretest, intervention, and posttest. The results are analysed using a Mann-Whitney U test, and the findings of all three experiments indicate that there is a significant improvement in the performance of the experimental group when compared to the control group and that the change can be attributed to the game-based intervention. The study also reports a comparison between the different experimental conditions and their efficacy.

Teaching Chinese with Games: Knowledge, Attitudes and Experience of Teachers
PRESENTER: Paul Martin

ABSTRACT. The presentation will report on a research project investigating knowledge, attitudes and experience of teaching with games amongst teachers of Chinese as a foreign language in mainland Chinese higher education institutions. The analysis will be based on a questionnaire survey, interviews and focus groups to be conducted in spring 2023. As such, there are no results reported in this abstract, but results will be reported in the presentation at the conference. The project is significant because understanding current knowledge, attitudes and experience of teachers is an important first step in designing effective digital game-based teaching interventions in Chinese language Higher Education classrooms.

14:30-16:00 Session 11G: Mythologies
Making Antiquity Resonate in Assassin's Creed: Origins, Odyssey & Articulated Resonance

ABSTRACT. This extended abstract discusses the mirroring analyses of Assassin's Creed Origins and Odyssey as examples of articulated resonance (a form of resonance that predominantly remodels perceived expectations of audiences) in constructing culture. The presentation itself deals with the theorretical construction of articulated resonance as a concept, as well as the case studies of each game from a macro-level systematic view, using a hybrid game studies, cultural studies and semiotics framework.

Museums of Myth and Mechanics of Mythography in Mythological Video Games

ABSTRACT. Video games with historical settings have often been described as virtual museums: they allow players to explore historical locations and/or engage with historical artifacts, which oftentimes receive descriptions similar to those found on museum plaques. This paper applies these concepts to mythological video games, or those that represent and simulate a storyworld inspired by mythology. Focusing on the high-profile games Age of Mythology, Smite, Immortals Fenyx Rising, God of War, God of War: Ragnarök, Apotheon, and Hades, this paper describes these games as transmedial equivalents of the literary genre of mythography, or written collection and syntheses of myths. Specifically, this paper discusses several game design techniques or game mechanics that recall methods of mythography, and ultimately construct a museum-like experience of myth.

14:30-16:00 Session 11H: Post/Post
Postapocalyptic Margins, Motherhood and Feminist Identity in Naughty Dogs' The Last of Us Part II

ABSTRACT. The post-apocalypse serves as a practice space in which to ponder on contemporary anxieties such as pandemics, nuclear threats, environmental decay and climate change. Especially post-apocalyptic video games of recent years have not only offered a stage on which female (and partly but not yet sufficiently other non-cis-male) characters are featured, but they are more frequently placed in the position of protagonists and/or key characters. With the loss and/or re-evaluation of previously established societal and political structures after an apocalyptic event, the post-apocalyptic video game allows for a reading of (intersectional) feminist representation of female and non-cis-male characters in a world that is dictated by unpredictable danger, violence, and uneven hierarchal structures among the surviving communities. Therefore, I would like to take a literary and cultural studies approach on Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Part II and propose that the representation of feminist issues is not just relevant but even highlighted by the post-apocalyptic genre that is limiting to the construction of identities of characters that experience newly or re-established and re-evaluated societal issues and unprecedented environmental obstacles.

Post-Racial Post-Apocalyptic Narratives?: Navigating Player Character Identity in Naughty Dog's the Last of Us

ABSTRACT. The most efficient way to kill a Clicker in hand-to-hand combat is with a shiv. Clickers, formerly human, are the third stage of the infected in The Last of Us (Naughty Dog 2013). I know that the room has at least two Clickers in it because I have been unsuccessful in clearing this room in the Downtown building during previous attempts. Therefore, the first thing that I need to do is craft a shiv out of a broken pair of scissors and a roll of tape. I become anxious as I stare at the PS4 analog controller and prepare to enter this multisensory zone of experience. I do not want to put Joel, my playable character, at risk in the post-apocalyptic world of The Last of Us in which humans mutate into violent, cannibalistic creatures upon infection with the Cordyceps fungal virus. As my anxiety prior to gameplay demonstrates, The Last of Us allows the player-character the opportunity to become immersed in the storyworld through sustained character identification, elongated narrative construction, formal aesthetics, and generic conventions. As an African American woman, however, it is quite another experience to take on the identity of a violent, White male character in a game in which gratuitous violence against other humans is necessary for the playable character’s survival. There is a distinct uneasiness associated with embodying Whiteness as a White character, which I suspect is due to my subjectivity in relation to White males’ history of imperialism and colonialism in the name of progress and survival. It is worth mentioning that there is also a certain pleasure attained, while playing with a character that is unquestionably destined to achieve his goals based on the aforementioned histories. Accounting for diverse experiences is problematic for me as a Black woman in the U.S. This project is an attempt to understand these disparate emotions in an era of transmedia storytelling in which post-apocalyptic narratives such as The Last of Us inevitably utilize the themes and mythologies associated with the Western genre to promote White masculinity, White privilege, and exceptionalism. Players from underrepresented communities must navigate their identities, while playing as White characters as a result of the hegemonic discourses in these narratives. The experience of embodiment and immersion that video games promote is more insidious than denigrating stereotypes that are observed through traditional passive forms of media. W.E.B. Du Bois’s concept of ‘double consciousness’ has been applied to experiences of African Americans’ oppression in a White hegemonic U.S. society. Black women, however, may see themselves through the additional lens of womanhood that engenders a ‘triple consciousness’ as a consequence of White patriarchy and Black hyper-masculinity. The inability to choose the race and gender of my playable character in The Last of Us necessitates that I embrace a White identity associated with power and privilege, but also violence and oppression. The ‘triple consciousness’ to which I am referring relates to the feelings generated from embodying a White heteronormative character as an African American woman. This ‘triple consciousness’—simultaneously empowering and unsettling—has led to this project on how identity is formed, constrained, and delimited for video game players from underrepresented communities. The concept of immersion concerning character development and narrative structure are central to this project, which addresses the manifestation of double and triple consciousness within video games. I am interested in how identity is formed, constrained, and delimited for video game players from underrepresented communities. The concept of immersion and identity formation concerning character development and narrative structure in video games will be explored during my ongoing gameplay as a Black woman. This project integrates both ethnographic and autoethnographic methodologies to understand the uses, gratifications, and pleasures of players from underrepresented communities who temporarily embody Whiteness during gameplay.

Posthumanist, Postapocalyptic, Postanthropocentrism: Morals and Multiplicities in My Friend Is a Raven

ABSTRACT. This paper will analyse My Friend is A Raven (Two Star Games 2019), a short post-apocalyptic game with four potential endings. Depending on the navigation through the game, I argue that Lutum either demonstrates anthropocentric disregard for the Raven, or a posthumanist ethic of viewing the Raven as a friend and equal (which might also be extended through themes of transhumanism). Through my analysis I therefore demonstrate that the gameplay offers a distinctly a potentially posthuman perspective on postapocalyptic scenarios, with the titled endings suggesting fable-like moral codes, which we might deem lessons for a postanthropocentric future.

14:30-16:00 Session 11I: Role-playing on the Edge
Pervasive Larps at Scale: Design Challenges of a Novel Work

ABSTRACT. Pervasive larps, despite their potential for creating unique and engaging experiences, currently face limitations that prevent them from achieving the level of success seen in other types of pervasive games such as Location Based Mobile Games. In this paper, a new pervasive game that combines elements of larp with the goal of reaching a wider audience will be presented. The design and development of such a game poses several challenges, however, this paper will explore potential solutions and strategies to overcome these obstacles.

Could an AI Design a Larp? Processes and Applications

ABSTRACT. The potential use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the design of live-action role-playing games (larps) presents a new frontier for this kind of creation processes, even among analog games. To explore the possibilities, we developed Project Dark.IA: The Insurrection of the Captives (Anonymized Author 2023), a science fiction larp created mainly through artificial and automated means by ChatGPT and Midjourney. The analysis of this design process shows that, currently, AI is not capable of creating a larp in a coherent and unassisted manner, although some of its resources –in addition to other technological tools, that will be explained– can be truly useful and efficient both creatively and non-diegetically.

Safety and Identity Exploration: How Queer TTRPGs Provide Structure for Players

ABSTRACT. [Extended Abstract]

Genre Awareness and Nostalgia: Textual Aspects of Role-Playing in Black Geyser: Couriers of Darkness

ABSTRACT. INTRODUCTION The video game ecology of the last decade has witnessed a revival of isometric role-playing games (RPGs) such as Pillars of Eternity (Obsidian Entertainment 2015) or Pathfinder: Kingmaker (Owlcat Games 2018). This paper argues that one of the key aspects that plays a crucial role in the formulation of the subgenre’s identity, what distinguishes isometric RPGs from other forms of computer role-playing is their heavy reliance on textuality. As part of a larger project, the research identified three nostalgia-infused components: the isometric perspective and the combat system alongside its predominantly textual nature as the subgenre’s mechanical, visual and worldbuilding conventions, all three of them closely tied to each other. The paper further argues that these three affective elements imply that the subgenre has strong ties to table-top role-playing games functioning as their remediation and thus earning its function within the gaming community. GENRE AWARENESS AND NOSTALGIA Investigating the origins of crime novels, Yves Reuter (2017) states that a genre can be regarded as such by certain structural elements recognized by a community. Reuter refers to these dual structural and social dimensions of genre codification by the term “genre awareness”, a process during which certain structural elements are recognized and institutionalized as a generic frame (Reuter 2017; Kálai and Keszeg 2021). In accordance with Reuter, recent scholarship on game genre studies (Voorhees 2019; Schniz 2020; Cășvean 2015; Rauscher 2018) has also emphasized the importance of social dimensions of genre as its decline, reappearance or formulation is closely tied to communities of players and developers or the lack of them. Building upon the work of Lauren Berlant (2011), Gerard Voorhees (2019) states that “genre is a stylized, formalized response to recurrent situations”, therefore changes of the generic frame are indicative of crises. Nostalgia, a strong affective attachment that is often linked to contemporary discourses of crisis (Niemeyer 2014; 2021), is a key factor in revitalizing the formula of isometric RPGs in the form of imitating the design of early 2000s Infinity Engine-games. With the availability of crowdfunding as an alternative, it was possible for gaming communities to support developers’ projects for niche markets (Gilbert 2017) such as Project Eternity (later realized as Pillars of Eternity (Obsidian Entertainment 2015)), one of the cornerstones in the history of the subgenre. Schniz (2020) claims that game engines are in strong symbiosis with video game genre traditions, and this observation can also be applied to isometric RPGs, as the formulation of its genre awareness is strongly related to the nostalgic imitation of the interface and gameplay features of the Infinity Engine (Felczak 2020). METHODOLOGY AND FINDINGS As a consequence of mimicking the design of Infinity Engine-games, textuality constitutes the basis of the games’ design that belong to this subgenre. Relying on the above assumptions, the paper traces the structural elements of genre awareness, the affective nodes infused with nostalgia that is connected to the subgenre’s textual nature. Using the close analysis (Fernández-Vara 2015) of Black Geyser: Couriers of Darkness (GrapeOcean Technologies, 2021) as a case study, the paper argues that two main aspects, in strong association with the textuality-influenced game design, can be distinguished by which isometric RPGs differ from other computer role-playing genres at a structural level. Stemming from the imitation of Infinity Engine traditions, the fundamental design of isometric RPGs is predominantly textual in nature that manifests in the way the player gets to know the narrative and explore the game world and lore as it is essentially done through reading vast amount of texts. The heavy reliance on textuality poses a challenge to the player in the form of interpretative difficulty (using Jagoda’s (2018) term), as the dialogue options showed in the text box offer no clear indication regarding the possible moral outcome of situations, and when making a decision, the player has to choose options suitable for convincing non-player characters (NPCs). Furthermore, isometric RPGs tend to implement a party-based combat system with turn-based or pausable real-time variations. The foundations of this tradition originate from different editions of Dungeons & Dragons and their modifications (Schules, Peterson, and Picard 2018; Barton and Stacks 2019). This form of combat requires a more tactical approach to fighting enemies in the game world than mainstream RPGs with audio-visual focus. It is also demonstrated in the fact that the kind of damage dealt and taken or resisted can also be retraced in a text box which emphasizes its slow-paced rather than action-oriented essence. This slower, tactical combat and the isometric perspective that provides a more comprehensive view of the battlefield have the implication of a strategic attitude of playing. As the conclusion of this investigation, it can be drawn that the role-playing aspect the isometric RPG subgenre offers is based on the remediation of table-top RPGs as the subgenre’s main aspects are connected to the two wargaming and literary traditions of table-top RPGs in the same way as it was highlighted by Jon Peterson (2020). Its combat systems are closely tied to table-top RPGs’ wargaming tradition while the subgenre’s inherently textual nature has strong connections to the fantasy literary heritage.

14:30-16:00 Session 11J: Political Play
Prestige or Promotion: Industrial Reflexivity and Political Economy of the Game Awards

ABSTRACT. To summarize, this submission seeks to analyze The Game Awards as a form of industrial reflexivity. Given its high viewership and strong ties to major video game publishers, the award show is an important event in video game culture. While I unfortunately do not have access to sales data to measure any direct impact from the cultural economics perspective, it is still possible to explore the political economic dimensions of The Game Awards through other, albeit less direct means, such as advertising or sales promotions. While lacking in cultural relevance and mainstream recognition compared to established arts awards even according to its creator Geoff Keighley (Summers, Acovino, and Yu 2022), The Game Awards present an arguably unique take on the format with a strong emphasis on commodification and spectator entertainment.

State Aids for Digital Games in the European Union: a Symbiotic or Parasitic Relationship?

ABSTRACT. The rhetoric of late-stage capitalism emphasizes the freedom of the free market in all aspects of society. However, capitalism is not independent of the workings of the nation-state in the West but is a pervasive form that both shapes and is shaped by state interventions. The interrogation of the supports that underpin cultural production highlights the symbiotic (or perhaps parasitic) relationship between industry and state that marks the games sector.

Within the European Union (EU), the production of digital games is supported by favorable policies at state level including the provision of tax incentives, grants and credits. From the first such scheme which was introduced in France in 2007, to the most recent tax credit regime introduced in Ireland in 2022, this paper interrogates the conditions under which such measures are approved by the European Commission. National or regional aids have been introduced in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom (a pre-Brexit measure). This paper also carries out comparative analysis of the form and structure of such measures from the perspective of commodification of the space of the nation-state (Lefebvre 1991) and of culture (Hesmondhalgh 2019).

The Commission, as guardian of the treaties of the EU, may approve state aid measures which operate to incentivize the production of digital games on the grounds that such aids are cultural (under Article 107(3)(d) TFEU). We therefore see a necessary positioning of digital games as a cultural form. However, in keeping with the multiple understandings of what constitutes culture, there are divergences in the form of national tax support regimes, and consequently, different approaches by the Commission to the state aid approvals. Antitrust law, of which state aid law is an often misunderstood branch, has developed in line with broad understandings of economic development. Therefore, the application of antitrust to forms of culture like games can overemphasize the economic aspects to the policies.

This paper contends that the Commission is driven by multiple rationales, including the protection of the internal market of the EU. They also illustrate a growing pragmatic understanding by the Commission of digital games as a cultural form which aligns with the marketisation and commodification of culture within the creative industries discourses. For Damro et al the Commission is is not simply an honest broker but ‘has a strong independent policy view’ (2016, 7). The Commission’s policy view strives to support the EU as a political and cultural supranational institution which does not always align with the needs of the digital games sector or the wants of individual nation-states.

This paper uses a critical law and political economy perspective to interrogate the commodification of the nation-space through the use of state aid supports for digital games within the context of the EU (Kerr 2017). It traces patterns both in Commission decisions approving such state aid measures and in the regional/national regulatory regimes that have introduced such measures in the EU. Through this analysis, it offers a mode of understanding of the role of state aids towards the digital games sector. It develops a conceptual understanding of the multiple rationalizations driving policy interventions for digital games development as a cultural and industrial form. It frames the relationship between culture and industry within the EU as both symbiotic and parasitic. The conditions of production matter to the sector and merit more attention (Sotamaa et al 2021) from scholars. This paper aims to bring a critical lens to the funding structures supporting the digital games sector within the EU.


Damro, C., & Guay, T. 2016. European Competition Policy and Globalization. New York: Springer Hesmondhalgh, D. 2018. The cultural industries. London: Sage. Kerr, A. 2017. Global games: Production, circulation and policy in the networked era. London: Routledge. Lefebvre, H. 1991. The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell. Sotamaa, O. & Švelch, J., eds 2021. Game Production Studies, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Corteo and Political Play in Late 1970s Italy

ABSTRACT. This abstract presents a historical analysis of Corteo, a tabletop wargame produced in Italy by a group of far-left militants as a political statement. The abstracts employs a twofold methodology – oral history and a design analysis based on Švelch’s notion of “speech act” as applied to game studies – in order to demonstrate the relevance of studying locally produced analog games as parts of a more comprehensive cultural and political heritage.

14:30-16:00 Session 11K: Loot and Boxes
"Let's Unbox!". Gambling-like Elements on Twitch and Simulated Gambling Among Flemish Teenagers


Video game streaming is on the rise. However, gambling elements have found their way into video game streaming as well. This phenomenon of blurring lines between video games and monetary gambling shifts the limits and margins of what video games and video game streaming are. However, research on the topic of blending gambling elements in video game streams is scarce, and called upon by previous research. By using a large-scale survey, we aim to map the exposure of teenagers to these gambling elements in video game streams, and its relation with simulated gambling. From the results, it is clear that teenagers who are exposed to gambling-like elements in video game streams are more inclined to try out gambling themselves. This cross-sectional result points to the potential harmful impact of game streams focusing on gambling(-like) elements on the intention of teenagers to involve in gambling in the future.

What Did Players Think About Belgium's 'Ban' on Loot Boxes?
PRESENTER: Maarten Denoo

ABSTRACT. This extended abstract explores the ‘limits’ of legally permitted gameplay and game production in relation to gambling-like products within video games: specifically, how the Belgian ‘ban’ on paid loot boxes has affected players’ gameplay experience. We will content content analysis of game reviews left on the Apple App Store and Reddit comments.

Gacha Games in East-Asian Transmedia Franchises

ABSTRACT. This paper calls attention to the free-to-play monetization models of gacha games from the East-Asian region. Despite the influence of popular culture from East-Asia on global game cultures, the role of gacha games within the marketing schemes of global media franchises is often overlooked in Game Studies due to the field’s tendency to concentrate on Euro-American centric phenomena. Yet, freemium games from East-Asia account for the majority of the top grossing mobile games world-wide. Overlooking these games risks not only omitting the impact of East-Asian game industries on a global scale, but also undermines a nuanced understanding of how entertainment franchises employ a variety of strategies to attract and maintain consumers of freemium games.

16:00-16:30Coffee Break
16:30-18:00 Session 12A: Recovery and Thrill
'I Prefer to Play Alone to Recharge My Social Battery': Parent Gamer Identities in Australia
PRESENTER: Fae Heaselgrave

ABSTRACT. This paper presents findings from a mixed methods survey about gaming parents in Australia. Relatively little is known about the scale of parent gamers in the world, how parenting influences gameplay or what impact parents’ gaming has on parental roles. These are important issues with relevance for social policy, for game studies, communication and media research and for the games industry.

Research in the family context emphasises the risks and harms associated with excessive gameplay by children and adolescents (Coyne et al. 2018; Li et al. 2020). Parents, however, are often studied in relation to the strategies they use to mediate children’s gaming (Jiow et al. 2017; Martins, Matthews & Ratan 2017) as opposed to their own gaming practices. Some exceptions highlight potential benefits of gaming for parents, including helping them to cope with stress (Pearce et al., 2021), yet research about parents as gamers or how gamer identities are negotiated as parents, is rare. Furthermore, the nuanced and gendered gaming experiences of mothers and fathers are often masked by neutral use of the ‘parent' noun.

The assumption that mothers are primarily responsible for unpaid labour including childcare and household chores, may, for example, constrain mothers’ ‘access to, and visibility in, contemporary gaming culture’ (Enevold and Hagstrom, 2017, 36). For fathers, who traditionally spend less time engaged in parental activities and are able to create more leisure time for themselves then mothers (Harrington 2006; Winn and Heeter 2009; Veal et al. 2013), gaming may be more accessible. For both mothers and fathers, the actual and perceived social roles they are expected to enact in the home may influence their gaming practices and how they identify as gamers.

Furthermore, gamer identities created by the games industry, such as Newzoo’s (2021) classification of gaming personas, may not adequately reflect or represent the player experiences of parents who are restricted to shorter play sessions or PG games. Our research about gaming parents is a first step toward acknowledging and legitimising the gameplay practices of mothers and fathers. The paper provides a demographical profile of parents in Australia based on a sample of almost 100 participants (41% mothers, 59% fathers) from 7 states and territories. It identifies socio-cultural factors that distinguish parents’ gendered gaming experiences and perceptions of gamer identity and presents indicators of importance regarding gaming for parents.

By mapping the parental load of both parents with gamer behaviours, the study reveals insights into the unique challenges and opportunities of gameplay for mothers and fathers. It also highlights how both parents adapt their player preferences to meet parental obligations, self-regulating their gaming to engender positive role-modelling to children. Surprisingly, mothers prefer solo-play more so than fathers, but spend much more time gaming with children than male partners.

Although daily bouts of gaming are enjoyed in almost equal measure by both parents, 70% of mothers game for less than an hour a day. Industry insights about gamer behaviour would categorise mothers who have shorter play sessions as Time-Fillers (Newzoo 2021) or casual gamers who use predominantly mobile devices for quick access. But our findings show mothers do not have excess time to fill, and do not play nonchalantly on gaming apps alone. Rather, they deliberately create pockets of time in which to game on different devices around the multiple demands of paid work, unpaid domestic labour and childcare.

Our research shows that, to some extent, parents are finding ways of negotiating their gamer identities, with partners and with children and through their gaming practices. Nonetheless, the heavy parenting load carried by mothers suggests gendered assumptions about parental roles are reinforced through gameplay, issues that can inhibit mothers’ engagement in gaming cultures and communities. Our research provides a novel perspective and contributes scholarly knowledge about the player experiences and practices of parent gamers in Australia.

Recovery and Support: Motivations for Playing a Social Video Game in the Midst of a Pandemic

ABSTRACT. An online social game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, has attracted considerable attention during the pandemic and was lauded for being helpful to players’ mental health in numerous media coverages and prior research. Looking at Animal Crossing: New Horizons as a case study, we identify and understand which elements of the game specifically supported game players’ mental health and well-being under stressful situations to gain insights into new ways of organizing and providing access to other games that can provide similar kinds of support. The research team conducted an open-ended online survey with 135 participants. Results show that game players seek social support, freedom and control, escapism, and a sense of achievement by playing this game. Our study suggests different organizational elements in recommendation services and systems to provide enhanced search experiences for users seeking games to support their mental health and well-being.

Players Making Creepypastas in Roblox – Kindred Appeal of Haunted Houses and Game Creation Systems
PRESENTER: Heidi Rautalahti

ABSTRACT. Creepy deserted houses should repel visitors, yet they attract excitement of trespassing, dare and social sharing of spooky encounters. Similar engagement is found in game creation systems (GCS) and especially in the online game platform Roblox (Roblox Corporation 2006-). Roblox affords kindred elements for game making and play, especially illustrated in user made creepypasta experiences. This presentation extends on questions what makes creepy games appealing, and what conceptual design implication come forth when compared to Haunted Houses.

16:30-18:00 Session 12B: Bodies Coming Together
A New Home for Porn: Adult Video Games and the Necessity of Independent Platforms

ABSTRACT. This paper focuses on adult video games and their presence on digital independent platforms. I argue these platforms as being necessary to the stability and expansion of adult gaming, potentially negating the content restrictions associated with mainstream channels. Through a critical exploration of previous discourses around sexual content in gaming, from within USA contexts and structures, I argue that adult video games and sexual material have been generalised and alienated from the this mainstream gaming ecosystem. Thus, adult video games have had to navigate systems designed to suppress their presence, and therefore these independent platforms have become needed as they offer more autonomy towards including sexual content and sexual representation. I contribute some of these independent spaces as sites to not only explore the cultural contexts around sex and adult gaming, but also demonstrative of an expansion to the experiences video games can offer. These platforms not only represent previous responses to adult gaming, but offer more perspectives to its history, future and stability as a genre.

Bending Games: Why and How Do Gaymers Produce Porn?

ABSTRACT. Much academic work theorises how games are made queer for players, but little on the production of homoerotic material using game affordances to be consumed outside the game for erotic satisfaction. It is unlikely that the makers of The Sims could foresee the production of ‘Truckstop Slut Service Boy’ from their family-focused game or its availability on Pornhub. This research examines the makers most popular products (machinima), their content, naming and the motivations of their makers. It theorises their influence on conceptions of gay/queer identity. The study brings games into queering as opposed to bringing queering into games.

Pornographic Games on Steam: Genres, Modes, and Milieus

ABSTRACT. Pornographic games have historically been distributed outside of mainstream channels. Steam, in 2018, change its policy allowing uncensored pornographic games to be sold. We found 452 games or DLCs that were tagged as mature content and sexual content. We analyzed 40 of those games in detail. 17.5% of these games only contain nudity while the rest graphically depicted sex. Visual novels and adventure games were the most numerous genres. Drama and fantasy were the most used milieus. Two of the games contained only male-male sex whereas the rest depicted heterosexual sex or heterosexualized same sex sex. The pornographic scenes or nude images were tied to the game's progression structure.

16:30-18:00 Session 12C: Regional and National Contexts
National Identity in the Brazilian Gaming Community on Twitter: Esports Tournaments During the 2022 Elections

ABSTRACT. The 2022 Brazilian election was a contentious and polarizing process which engaged all levels of Brazilian society. This work is part of an ongoing research effort to monitor and analyze the gaming community’s engagement with politics throughout the electoral period, starting with a focus on the divisive nature of political speech. During the two voting rounds, however, concurrent international esports tournaments generated significant engagement amongst Brazilian gamers, leading to a more in-depth analysis of the relationship between esports and national identity amid the fractured political climate.

Leisure Electronics as a Cultural Context for the Emergence of the Swiss Video Game

ABSTRACT. In this ongoing research, we will investigate the emergence of video game creation in the local area of French-speaking Switzerland. To explore that topic, we intend to study the transition between the 1960s and 1980s in terms of digital practices as entertainment, from a playful approach of electronics (robotics, ham radio, rail transport modelling, etc.) towards a playful approach of computing. We aim to analyse the origin of the practice of programming video games. Our hypothesis is that it was mainly a renewal of existing practices rather than the appearance of new ones, as the case of Spacewar! (1962) creators being members of a rail transport modelling club at MIT might suggest. This work is a preliminary research in a 4-year project aimed at studying the history of video games in Switzerland. Our source material will be composed of articles from scientific journals, specialised magazines and newspapers of the time, and interviews, conducted both earlier by other scholars or by us today. In the rest of this extended abstract, we present the context of computer adoption in Switzerland and the research directions we are taking.

Exploring an Arcade in an Arcade Cabinet: Social History Research, Exhibition, and Interactive Environments

ABSTRACT. The amusement arcade is recognized as an important location in the familiarization and public adoption of early videogame technology and part of a chronology of games development and game history (Kokurek, 2016, Wade, 2019, Meades, 2022). Amusement arcades and the games they contained have become valuable commodities and motifs: arcade games are repackaged into retro anthologies offering curated origin stories for modern games that generate consistent income, e.g., ATARI 50 (2022), Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle (2018), and Capcom Arcade Stadium (2021). More recently, the physicality of arcade cabinets themselves; their form, shape, and inputs, have become part of this commercial repackaging, with micro-console versions of arcade cabinets being released (e.g., NEOGEO Mini Arcade International Version 2018, and SEGA Astrocity Mini Console 2021), and limited-run 1/12 scale plastic model kits created for a niche but dedicated audience (e.g. Wave’s Hang-On 2016, and Astro City 2020). The mythic notion of the amusement arcade with its neon signs, majority adolescent male players, as captured in TRON’s Flynn’s Arcade (Disney, 1982) and more recently Stranger Things’ Palace Arcade (Netflix, 2017), has become shorthand for some kind of cool place in the early days of videogames, and this myth is invoked to sell arcade related products (see Meades, 2022). The mythic arcade is a stereotype only loosely based on historic North American amusement arcades, and as time progresses it becomes more compelling and dominant as memories of the real historic arcade fade away. This mythic arcade turns the arcade into a singular commercial concept, overshadowing game history accounts that highlight that amusement arcades were – and in many jurisdictions remain – distinctly different from the North American ideal, a product of regional legislation, cultures of public play (including carnival and fairground heritage), and historical precedents. This extended abstract seeks to offer a report on an ambitious three-year practical research project (and a larger seven-year research project), that seeks to combat the mythic arcade by recording, articulating, and sharing accounts of regional amusement arcades, specifically the arcade in Great Britain. Led by XXXX and produced by students at XXXX, the project, XXXX, is intended as an interactive companion to XXXX monograph on the same subject. XXXX virtual arcade combines local games research, oral and cultural history, and high-end gaming graphics cards and authentic 1980s arcade videogame hardware to bring the experience of the historic British amusement arcade to the public. XXXX interactive arcade provides its players with an authentic digital twin of two British amusement arcades circa 1989, containing the videogames and trappings that defined the British arcade at the time. XXXX virtual arcades can be freely explored, and oral history narrations triggered when specific machines or other touchpoints are activated. While designed using contemporary games development tools including Unreal Engine 5, the virtual arcade is built into a 1990 Electrocoin Xenon arcade cabinet, hardware synonymous with the British arcade of the period. It will be exhibited alongside 360VR narrated videos of the same spaces (the plan is for the VR videos to be made available online at a companion website XXXX opening opportunities for further oral history collection). At the same time as the DiGRA 2023 conference, the XXXX virtual arcade will be exhibited at Eureka 2023!, Somerset House London, part of the prestigious twentieth London Design Biennale. This will place game studies and local game history practical research alongside works by some of the most celebrated contemporary designers, and an anticipated visitor footfall of 35,000 visitors over twenty-five days. XXXX virtual arcade is intended as a way of communicating the cultural and historic significance of the British amusement arcade and combating the overbearing influence of the iconic mythic arcade, to a general audience in an interesting and engaging manner. This extended abstract will report on the challenges, development processes, and consider a work-in-progress success evaluation of the XXXX project through the following lenses: 1) The challenges of working with and against the mythic arcade; 2) The challenges of nostalgia in game history oral history research – specifically the qualities of remembered accounts of media consumption (as opposed to production or distribution); 3) The challenges and opportunities verisimilitude and accuracy – the reliance on archive materials, oral history interviews, and what to do in the absence of content; 4) The technical challenges and opportunities of combining old and new hardware and software; 5) An evaluation of the suitability of interactive environments to advance and make visible regional game studies research. Ultimately, this extended abstract will consider the effectiveness of a seven-year game history project and consider its suitability as a model for local and experiential games histories projects.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Capcom Co., Ltd. 2018. Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox. Great Britain, CE Europe Ltd. Capcom Co., Ltd. 2021. Capcom Arcade Stadium, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series. United States, Capcom U.S.A., Inc. Digital Eclipse. 2022. ATARI 50: The Anniversary Collection, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series. United States, Atari Interactive Inc. Disney. 1982. Tron. Film. Kocurek, C. A. 2016. Coin-operated Americans rebooting boyhood at the Video Game Arcade. Minneapolis, United States: University of Minnesota Press. Meades, A. 2022. Arcade Britannia. London, England: The MIT Press. Netflix. 2017. Stranger Things. Television Series. Wade, A. 2019. Playback: A genealogy of 1980s British videogames. London, England: Bloomsbury Academic.

16:30-18:00 Session 12D: Fan Power
The Use of Data in Magic: the Gathering Arena Draft: Complexity and Critical Immeasurability Beyond 'Metric Power'?

ABSTRACT. This paper explores the increasing use of data from the 17lands.com tracker to inform the way that players of Magic: the Gathering Arena (Wizards of the Coast, 2018) navigate the limited draft format. There has been a burgeoning use of 17lands.com data in the last year as popular content creators, such as Limited Resources, have endorsed a metric-driven, albeit not uncritical, approach to card evaluations. The tracker compiles all player draft data into, for example, a ‘Card Performance’ table with columns such as ‘Average Taken At’ (ATA) – when a particular card tends to be taken by players in a draft. The availability of this data has led to a transformation in the manner in which many players now approach draft, particularly with respect to how they go about their card evaluations: which cards they will designate as high priority and which are ‘undraftable’. This has implications for ‘digital’ as well as ‘paper’ MTG since the data captures traces of people’s playing habitus, which then recursively goes on to shape preferences and habitus (see: Airoldi 2022).

There are two parts to this paper. In the first section, I will argue that the MTG players’ habituation with regard to the incorporation of this data into their decision-making can be understood to constitute them as an ideal neoliberal subject, the entrepreneur: a person who, through the calculation of risks and uncertainties, can pursue personal success competitively (Becker, Ewald, and Harcourt 2012). Here, we can read this as how ‘neoliberal rationality disseminates the model of the market to all domains and activities’ (Brown 2015). Further, the rising number of players who sign up to 17lands instantiates a form of ‘surveillance’ through ‘competition’ (Gane 2012) and a ‘hostility’ towards ‘ambiguity’ (Davies 2016). The use of this evolving game paratext can enable players to identify key cards (and also trends) early on in new formats, before they are apparent to the player base at large, thereby affording a competitive advantage. I will review some other putative benefits.

In the second section, however, I will argue that insofar as players are also critically aware of the limitations of such quantification, they simultaneously exceed such a subjectivity. Insofar as the competitive desire to win games is one of the main drives for players to turn to metrics, it also helps them keep in view the traps of utilizing such metrics in a simplistic manner. Many players have tended to overtly focus on winrate metrics associated with each card, particularly the Winrate in Hand (GIH WR) metric. Yet as data analyst Sierkovitz (2021) of 17lands.com has emphasized, context is crucial: ‘Maybe a red card that has 57% WR (win rate) is actually worse than a 55% WR card, if you’re in Prismari, where the former card has a 54% win rate and the latter card has a 58% win rate’. Usually, players cannot simply pick the strongest card that is passed to them, but must keep in view a matrix of factors: the ‘synergy’ between their existing cards; the possibility of certain cards being passed to them in the future; the ‘curve’ of their deck; the balance of card types in their deck; the nature of the format; the decks that they will likely face; the colours and decks that other players at the table are drafting; the extent to which they would like to test a new strategy; their own playstyle and ability to pilot the deck that could be drafted; and many others.

I will delve into three key instances identified by content creators where the data has been shown to be deceptive and where straightforward reliance on data leads to outcomes that reduce a player’s likelihood of winning. In short, using data without both an adequate understanding of how it is derived and what it represents, together with an existing grounding in drafting, may lead to an inhibiting of players’ contextual sensitivity and drafting nous. As such, there are parallels here with Egliston’s (2019, 13) account of Dota 2 players who relied on imitating esports professionals and consequently actually ‘deskilled’ and ‘short-circuited’ their long-form competency. I argue that although competitiveness does drive players to embrace further methods and techniques of self-training and risk management (Brock 2021, 16), the nature of MTG draft means that an anxiety-fuelled turn to metrics will likely not lead to desired outcomes.

Overall, an identifiable outcome is that players are educated in a critical awareness of data yet also habituated into regularly consulting it. The increasing use of data in MTG draft is thus not necessarily simply a case of the proliferation of ‘metric power’ (Beer 2016) into the domain of play. The complexity of the game (Churchill, Biderman, and Herrick 2019) and the irreducibility of contextual factors in a draft is also a reminder for players to find the ruptures that occur when we locate things that are hard to measure (cf. Skeggs 2014). As such, player practices may be interpreted as a form of resistance or inoculation to the proliferation of metrics, in which every utilization is also qualified and critiqued; what results is perhaps an immeasurable aesthetic understanding or ‘feel’ for the game. Expanding on this, however, I will finish with some thoughts on how the power inherent in metrics may nevertheless lie in their affective dimension (Beer 2016, 203) and how this is being normalized.

The Fandom Frontier: Understanding the Limitless(?) Potential of Collegiate Esports Fans

ABSTRACT. While increasing amounts of scholarship address the role of fans in professional esports, especially in relation to marketing and branding, esports spectatorship, and live-streaming, less research has addressed the role fans might play in collegiate esports spaces. How do collegiate players, program directors, and support staff view fans? What (if anything) does building a fandom contribute to collegiate esports? And what are the challenges or limits that collegiate esports programs face in developing a robust fan base? This study addresses these questions using both a quantitative survey of esports fans and qualitative, in-depth interviews with collegiate esports players, student support workers, and staff. It finds that collegiate esports participants see fans as an important yet underutilized resource. There is also alignment between interviewees’ perceptions of fans and fans actual engagement with universities that host esports. We will discuss these, and further, in-progress results, at the conference.

Fan Localisation in the Chinese Overwatch Game Community: Conflicts About the Information Transmission

ABSTRACT. Online game communities activate many fascinating fan localisation practices, but community members can bring backlashes to video game companies and cause conflicts in the community. Overwatch and Overwatch 2 have witnessed their large fanbase in China, and some Overwatch (OW) fans, bored with delayed or inactive official releases, contribute to information transmission between different contexts by posting self-localised messages about the game on Chinese social media like Bilibili or Weibo from the English source. However, their sources of information are not always authentic, and localisation issues are frequently witnessed to confuse gamers. Based on these phenomena, this paper analyses what duties fan localisers take and elaborates on the reasons why the conflicts are intensified from the perspective of localisation.

16:30-18:00 Session 12E: Posthumanism
Humanist Delusion in Games

ABSTRACT. The presentation aims at exploring the notion of humanist delusion (a set of discriminatory beliefs supporting anthropocentrism) in games, with examples from the presentation of human avatars, explanations of why the words are exploited, and powerless, generic, and imperishable animals and natural words. I am also going to mention examples of games that oppose or partially escape humanist delusion (Witcher 3, Animal Crossing, Shelter, Stray, The Last Guardian) and assess their chance of affecting the medium in general.

Reframing Posthuman Agency Through the Concept of Speed

ABSTRACT. Agency has a long history of drawing the curiosity of game study scholars. One of the earliest mentions can be located in Janet Murray’s book Hamlet on the Holodeck, where she defines it as “the satisfying power to take meaningful action and see the results of our decisions and choices.” But after years of development and critiques, the meaning of the term “agency” has become de-centered and divergent. I locate two points of divergence: whether agency is an experience or a transformation, and whether agency requires intention. I argue that a post-structuralist perspective and the concept of speed can provide a coherent theory for these two divergent points.

Graceful Gaming: Aesthetics, Automation, Habit

ABSTRACT. Soderman’s critique of flow has renewed the urgency of developing aesthetic categories to characterize video game experiences Csikszentmihalyi’s concept has heretofore subsumed. One such category is grace. Prevalent in analyses of sport, philosophers define grace as the perplexing but pleasurable appearance of effortlessness in the athlete that implies she has willfully divested herself of will in giving herself over to an external force. This paper builds on spectatorial theories of grace to address the enjoyment of one’s own grace in video game play. Drawing on Ravaisson, it focuses on Sudnow’s account of playing piano and, then, Missile Command, to argue that grace hinges on the embodied automation of habit. In light of posthumanist literature on “habit assemblages,” the paper culminates with a discussion of aim-assist in Call of Duty: Warzone. Its central contention is that technical automation can supplant embodied automation to foster novel iterations of grace.

16:30-18:00 Session 12F: Health Crisis
Spatiality and the Power of Simulation in Covideo Games

ABSTRACT. The present paper looks at 49 submissions for IndieCade's 2020 Jamming the Curve competition and argues that the games contribute to making sense of the COVID-pandemic as a "cultural trauma in the making".

The User-Centered Design of Game-Based Digital Mental Health Interventions


The global mental health crisis needs novel approaches

“Mental health conditions are widespread, undertreated and under-resourced,” describes a recent global report (World Health Organization 2022). Scalable digital mental health interventions (DMHI) are actively researched to help alleviate the mental health crisis. Many interventions have been found effective and acceptable (Andrews et al. 2018), but user engagement with them varies (Borghouts et al. 2021), diminishing their effectiveness.

Game-based interventions—both gamified solutions and serious games—are suggested to expand treatment reach, encourage user commitment to the demanding behavior change process, and offer novel avenues for symptom alleviation (Fleming et al. 2017). Yet, while preliminary evidence accumulates (Dewhirst, Laugharne, and Shankar 2022), game-based interventions have not yet found wide market traction, indicating challenges in their development, implementation, and go-to-market.

How can novel game-based interventions contribute to the alleviation of the global mental health crisis? We approached the question through triangulation. Our first three studies are unified by a user-centric ethos (Mohr et al. 2017): to design and develop interventions that the clients find attractive, engaging, and effective; and that fit the real-world clinical context.

Study 1: Alleviating the entertainment-vs-healthcare tension

Game-based interventions use elements from entertainment games to achieve health benefits. However, combining the two paradigms is challenged by their disparate institutional contexts (Scott 2014). The highly regulated and risk-averse domain of healthcare seeks to treat disorders and minimize user interaction with health services. Meanwhile, the substantially less regulated domain of entertainment aims to captivate the audience and maximize their playtime by offering a broad range of genres to choose from. The two domains are driven by disparate aims: health and subjective enjoyment.

In the first study (submitted), we conduct a theoretical synthesis of the two domains and describe the interventions in a continuum between healthcare and entertainment. To negotiate the tension between the paradigms, we focus attention on four unifying themes in development: Target audience, user Engagement, Mechanisms of action, and intervention Effectiveness (TEME). The framework illuminates how game-based intervention development requires practices from both paradigms. Healthcare provides the goal for the intervention, the theoretical rationale for reaching it, ways to measure success, and describes the implementation context. Entertainment offers design elements to reach the goal and iterative processes that allow honing player experience. The study facilitates interdisciplinary game-based digital mental health intervention development through conceptual clarification.

Study 2: Understanding mental health professionals’ digital tool usage

In addition to the end-users, mental health professionals (MHP) are the second key user group for digital interventions. MHPs have considerable influence on which digital tools they suggest to their clients (Davies et al. 2020), and they act as gatekeepers to the interventions. Thus, understanding their perspective is essential to implement digital tools in healthcare successfully. To examine how MHPs use and do not use digital tools in their practice, we interviewed Finnish MHPs (N = 19) and analyzed the data inductively.

In the second study (submitted), we distinguished three essential functions in MHP work: communication with the client, their evaluation, and supporting therapeutic change. Across these functions, analogue solutions were being augmented and replaced with digitized and digital solutions. Three themes characterized MHP digital tool usage. The usage was highly adaptive to the client’s needs and preferences. However, the considerable MHP autonomy led to significant variance in the tools used; in their digital toolboxes. Many MHPs found benefits with digitized and digital solutions, but most were concerned that the digital interventions would be insufficient for their clients. The key concern was that the digital tools lacked the very aspect their work was founded on: interpersonal therapeutic interaction. From this perspective, achieving the scalability benefits expected from digital solutions is challenging. The research facilitates the game-based intervention design, development, and implementation by providing a rich, qualitative description of the therapeutic environment.

Study 3: The characteristics of first adopters of game-based interventions

All innovative solutions—including game-based—that challenge existing practices and expectations and may attract a self-selected group (Rogers 2003). Understanding the early adopters is crucial to facilitate the user-centered development of new solutions. The third study (submitted) described who were attracted to game-based digital interventions. Using a sequential mixed methods research design, we studied adults who had indicated their interest in using a game-based intervention by signing up for a randomized controlled clinical trial (RCT) investigating the effect of a serious game intervention on depression. First, adults with confirmed major depressive disorder (MDD) were interviewed (N = 22), the interview data were inductively analyzed, and then the results were quantified with a larger questionnaire dataset (N = 445).

The analysis found that the participants exhibited substantial variance in their psychiatric symptomatology, presenting possibilities for transdiagnostic approaches. Their symptoms were often long-term, and they had already received numerous treatments, which invited considering the role of game-based interventions in augmenting rather than replacing other therapies. The participants were active video game players, and many found that playing allowed self-managing psychiatric symptoms. We took this self-help usage of entertainment games to exhibit the need for purposefully designed game-based interventions. Overall, the results depicted that the users were indeed self-selected, which has implications for the intervention design.

Conclusion: Toward real-world impact

Alleviating mental disorders requires interventions that the users find favorable, lead to meaningful behavioral and symptom changes, and fit the complex healthcare ecosystem. The first three research efforts described here aim for real-world impact by facilitating user-centered intervention development. Ultimately, the research seeks to find ways to alleviate the strain mental health challenges cause society, but most importantly, the individuals and their loved ones.

Microgames as Intervention for Health Misinformation

ABSTRACT. This work outlines a case study in using three microgame interventions to prevent misinformation in a health vulnerable community of Latinos living with HIV. Microgames are small-scale playful experiences designed to serve as 2–5 minute interventions. This work rests at the apex of three research foci, engaging game mechanics, health communication interventions, and information literacy. The research aimed to directly address health disparities exacerbated by COVID misinformation among Latinos living with HIV. Its focus is on a marginalized community for whom the health risks of misinformation and disinformation are particularly important. This case study explains the theories that informed the design and implementation and highlights the findings from end-user examinations. Findings indicate the possibility of narrative microgames as engaging and hint at how games as short as 2.5 minutes can encourage natural, meaningful reflection on misinformation and disinformation among players.

16:30-18:00 Session 12G: Moral Justifications
'Detective — What Were You Hoping to Accomplish?': Benign Violation as Means of Moral Detection in Disco Elysium

ABSTRACT. ‘Benign violation theory’ is a general theory of humour developed by McGraw and Warren. It has been used in game scholarship to explain the mechanics of interactive jokes in puzzle-platformer games and, more specifically, how these jokes contribute to the thematic, narrative and poetic richness of such games. In this paper, I argue that the theory can in fact be applied more widely, not just to the comedic elements of video games but to the ways in which certain types of game enable players to experimentally violate societal norms and taboos, as both a route to meaning and a tool of moral investigation. Using the 2019 role-playing game Disco Elysium as my primary example, I examine how the role of player agency in overstepping boundaries impacts upon a game’s cohesion as an expressive artefact, with the resulting volatility widening opportunities for personal growth and reflection on the part of the player.

Patching up the Problem: Patching and Patch Notes in League of Legends

ABSTRACT. In October 2020, Riot Games announced the closure of the Oceanic Pro League (OPL), the branch of professional League of Legends that covered New Zealand, Australia, and Papua New Guinea with an overwhelming majority of participating players from the former two countries. The closure left a number of professional players from that region unemployed, and many had doubts about their future in the game. Their own circuit had disappeared, and an ‘import rule’ for professional leagues from Riot Games prevented them from playing in a circuit outside of the region they were from.

The import rule requires that teams from the four major regions of League of Legends’ professional play, which includes China, Korea, North America, and Europe, are only allowed to field two ‘import’ players at any given time – a title given to players who do not have lawful permanent residence (e.g., citizenship or resident visa) in their region of competitive play. Such a rule had been implemented following two events: the dominance of the Chinese-only team LMQ in North America in 2013 and the “Korean Exodus”, a name given to summarize the large number of Korean professional players that left their home scene to play in China in the few years after the 2014 World Championship. This very rule left many Oceanic professional players worried: why would any team in a large region use a valuable import slot on a player from a scene that was considered inferior to the major regions? Why would a team fill a slot with players that were seen as “less good” than those from major regions?

In a shift that had not been seen before or since, Riot Games made an exception through an announcement on their Esports website. Against the backdrop of imminent unemployment, Riot Games offered these Oceanic players an opportunity: the ability to play unhindered in the League Championship Series (LCS), which is the scene for North American professional players All players with Oceanic citizenship would no longer count as an import for the LCS, though they would still count as an import for the Korean, European, and Chinese scene. This rule shift had an immediate impact on both regions. Star Oceanic players, such as Fudge, K1ng, Triple, Destiny, FBI, and Lost, would transfer over to the LCS. Even when a third-party company reestablished Oceania’s professional scene just a few months later (even going so far as to securing pathways for teams to qualify for Riot Games’ international tournaments), many of these players would not return.

The OPL’s fate and the expansion of the LCS raises a few questions. The first is why OPL professional players would be given non-import status in the LCS alone. The second is why other minor regional scenes (whose players are given little chance to go to a larger region themselves due the import rule) are not given a similar exception. With these two discrepancies, Riot Games functionally rehearsed and codified a presumed similarity between Oceania and North America outside of their game, whereby both regions are part of the global imaginary of the emerging west, into a central feature of their game through their institutional change. In other words, through their change that made an exception to the rule, Riot Games has effectively institutionalized, indicated, and made real that racialized North American and Oceanic players are similar and interchangeable in a way that Koreans, Europeans, and Chinese are not.

As shown through the instance noted above, Riot Games is no stranger to updating institutional rules through crisis and change. Their products and ecosystem are always changing through constant updates. The game League of Legends itself undergoes frequent shifts through ‘patches,’ namely developer-created alterations to fix perceived design flaws and technical bugs. The changes in each patch are documented in ‘patch note documents’ (PNDs), which are public facing documents meant to inform and justify changes made to the ecology of play. These documents include updates like changes to characters, pictures of paid cosmetics, introductions to new content, and more. Patches in PNDs are often accompanied with blurbs of text explaining the reasoning and justifications for a given change. These blurbs contain rhetoric that is supposed to convince the player that the change is a proper method to fixing the design flaw. Since losing credibility as a creative authority of the game can lead to harsh repercussions from the community, Riot Games puts effort in each PND to make explicit the perceived design flaw, the solution to that design flaw, and the justification for the solution chosen (over others). Patching however, can be extended beyond the scope provided by Riot Games’ interpretation. Historically, Riot Games positioned these patches as something associated only with their product and as something that neutrally improves upon the technological infrastructure of their game. As seen with the OPL example of an exception to the import rule, however, one could view patching beyond the technical infrastructure of video games as a piece of software to the socio-cultural infrastructures of video gaming as transnational practices.

Fursan Al-Aqsa: An Analysis of Moral Disengagement in the Discursive Strategies of a Pro-Palestine Video Game

ABSTRACT. The terrorist extremist activities of radical groups have benefited from the development of digital society and its new narrative formulas to make their proclamations visible and attract sympathisers (Moya & Cantano, 2022). This logic also extends to video games and their distribution platforms, which, according to the European Union´s TE-SAT 2021 report, are increasingly used to spread extremist ideology and disseminate propaganda (Schlegel, 2020; Schlegel, 2021).

This situation has been denounced and has attracted the interest of international security and propaganda organisations, such as the National Security Agency of the United States or the East / South Stratcom Task Force of the European Commission. In this context, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been one of the most virulent fronts of support and opposition. This assumption is the starting point for proposing an analysis of the controversial game Fursan Al-Aqsa: The Knights of the Al-Aqsa Mosque (Nidal Nijm Games, 2022), an action game that addresses the conflict between Israel and Palestine from a Palestinian perspective, and that has been the subject of a series of bans and rehabilitations on the Steam platform, which is currently facing a lawsuit for violating U.S. anti-terrorist legislation by offering this game on its platform (Standwithus, 2021; Kredo, 2022).

Our research will focus on two key questions:

RQ1: On what communicative codes and geopolitical identifiers is the narrative of Fusan Al-Aqsa built in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

To answer this question, we will develop and apply an analytical model based on Bandura's "moral disengagement" (1996; 2002) and its application to violent video games (Hartman, 2017). We will also analyse the key elements of its discourse to assess its ideological intensity and determine, as various international actors and Hebrew media have pointed out, whether it is a terrorist-nature game or one that could promote online radicalisation. The application of the model will be developed through "utilitarian play" (Mäyrä, 2008), a procedure that allows critical reflection on the role of the game and its production context.

RQ2: How does the conflict analysis from the perspective of Fursan Al-Aqsa influence players' perceptions of the conflict?

This question analyses the reaction and reception of the game content based on player reviews and comments on the Steam platform (n=132) and the main gameplay available on platforms such as Twitch and YouTube. To do this, on the one hand, user reviews and comments were collected through the API of these platforms and stored using the paid version of exportcomments.com. On the other hand, the analysis will be proposed based on the operational categories of the content analysis (Neuendorf, 2016) and the sentiment analysis (Pang & Lee, 2008) to extract the prominent opinions and emotions expressed by the players.


Bandura, A. (1997). Mechanisms of Moral Disengagement in the Exercise of Moral Agency. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71 (2), 364-374.

Bandura, A. (2002). Selective Moral Disengagement in the Exercise of Moral Agency. Journal of Moral Education, 31(2), 101-119.

Gitari, N. D., Zuping, Z., Damien, H., & Long, J. (2015). A lexicon-based approach for hate speech detection. International Journal of Multimedia and Ubiquitous Engineering, 10(4), 215-230.

Hartman, T. (2017). The “Moral Disengagement in Violent Videogames” Model. Game Studies, 17(2).

Kredo, A. (september, 2022). Online Platform Could Face Lawsuit for Selling Video Game That Lets You Slaughter Israelis. Washington Free Bacon. Retrieved by https://bit.ly/3iGSHQ4

Mäyrä, F. (2008). An introduction to Digital Game Studies. Routledge. Nidal Nijm Games (2022). Fursan Al-Aqsa: The Knights of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Moya Martínez, J. A., & Moreno Cantano, A. C. (2022). Debates transmedia e identidades nacionalistas a través de videojuegos: teoría y práctica. Contratexto, (038), 21-41. https://doi.org/10.26439/contratexto2022.n038.5873

Schlegel, L. (2020). Jumanji Extremism? How games and gamification could facilitate radicalization processes. Journal for Deradicalization 23, 1-44. https://journals.sfu.ca/jd/index.php/jd/article/view/359/223

Schlegel, L. (2021). Extremists’ use of gaming (adjacent) platforms: insights regarding primary and secondary prevention measures. Publications Office of the European Union. Retrieved by https://bit.ly/3iGSHQ4

StandWithUs (2021, 21 october). Steam has finally take down the antisemitic video game, Fursan Al-Aqsa” [Facebook Post]. Facebook. Retrieved by https://bit.ly/3XeOPov

16:30-18:00 Session 12H: Intercultural Identities
Game Studies in Latin America: Reflexions About a Growing Field and Gamer/Player Counter Hegemonic Identities

ABSTRACT. In Latin America, the increase in interest in games developed through a diversity of studies associated with the academic field of researchers who conducted these, mainly in the areas of pedagogy, psychology, art, and literature, which are not considered part of the same field of study. However, between 2019 and 2021, the first specialized magazines in Game Studies in Latin America emerged in order to consecrate the local field. Although this is promising, the referects regarding analog and digital games come from the Global North. We seek to understand who the Latin American player or gamer is, what they play and how they play, and what are their social, cultural and economic characteristics. Through two research in Chile, one in online video games and the other on tabletop role playing games, we make a brief description of the identity of players. We discuss the challenges in the region, such as the prejudice from the academic community towards games, the language barrier, and the lack of spaces to publish work in Spanish that make English mandatory and prevents the work of those of us who investigate games in Latin America from being known.

The Local, the Global, and the Intercultural: Strategies for Teaching Games Design in the Neoliberal University

ABSTRACT. This abstract presents a recently started exploratory research programme which examines an introductory postgraduate level digital game design class within a Digital Media Production course at a higher education institution in the United Kingdom. Based on an autoethnographic reflexive approach around my teaching practice for the last 3 years, and relying on scholarship that highlights the importance of locality to understanding videogames, and the relationship between gaming culture, game development and game industries, and game education in the neoliberal university, this ongoing research examines how this game design teaching experience provides a rich intercultural microcosm, useful to reflect about digital games as cultural objects, and digital game design as a cultural practice. These intercultural encounters in the classroom can unsettle the homogenising and universalising narratives reinforced by the neoliberal approach to game education within current Higher Education spaces, providing a more granular understanding of gaming as both a globally-interconnected and a localised phenomenon, and moving beyond acritical and overly universalist ways of conceptualising game practices and of teaching about games in Higher Education settings.

"Your Subaltern Is Not My Subaltern": Intersectionality and the Dangers of a Single Game-Story

ABSTRACT. Despite the recent research on the role of the postcolonial and the Subaltern in videogames (Mukherjee 2017, Mukherjee and Hammar 2018, Murray 2017), the discourse of game studies remains restricted to titles that are focused on and developed in the Global North. Often, games made in the Global South tend to get ignored even as they engage with history and culture. Their discourse and procedural rhetoric are rendered Subaltern - especially, if there is a different language involved, if the game is made in the Global South or if it addresses issues that are considered marginal. This double marginalization along the lines of language, region and culture presents a lack in the otherwise intertextual positionality of discourses around caste, religion, South Asian queer studies, disability studies, and Dalit studies, in game studies. The absence of informed representation often means that the Global South is passed through a filter of sameness; the popularization of the grand-narrative of a single game-story where caste, the diversity of religion and faith, queerness, and affinity are not reflected in videogames or games research. In the purview of some of the most promising work in videogames, from representations of (Arab) Islam (Sisler 2008) to (Western) queer game studies (Ruberg 2017) and beyond, the single game-story still presents a conundrum where there is little to no intersection with South Asia - a lack that creates, produces, packages and reproduces a singular idea of the Subaltern. The most obvious consequence is the erasure and erosion of the diversity of identity when intersections with, for example, studies of Indian Muslim videogame representation (Rizvi 2021) or gender and queerness in South Asia (Dasgupta 2017, Chatterjee 2018) or the vibrant Dalit studies discipline (Rawat and Satyanarayana 2016), are not brought to the fore in global game studies. The codified, hyperperipheral, spectral and anti-locale Subaltern is both a remnant and a function of the traditional global power asymmetries that need to be challenged in the discipline.

The epistemology of the digital requires revaluations of the kind that are already happening outside game studies. From Padmini Ray Murray (2015) declaring “Your DH is not my DH” to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s (2016) “[Beyoncé’s] feminism is not mine”, there is a growing concern regarding “the danger of a single story” (Adichie 2009). The authors of this paper seek to outline and analyze discursive absences and omissions that are widespread in current scholarship, interrogating and unraveling game-stories that are given precedence vis-à-vis game-stories that are not being told, and endeavor to bring the latter to the forefront. Looking in further depth at discourses of intersectionality and Subaltern studies (Spivak 2008, Chakraborty 2000, Amin and Chakrabarty 1997) beyond what has been studied in game studies (Mukherjee 2017, Gray and Leonard 2018, Shaw 2015), this paper seeks to reconfigure the Subaltern in videogames to make a case for intersectionality against the dangers of what the authors refer to as ‘the single game-story’. This involves centering critical analyses of the discursive and participatory politics of representation in a variety of game-stories including Missing (2019), the role-playing game set in Sonagachi, the red light area in Kolkata, India, Heroes of 71 (2016), the third-person shooter game set during the Bangladesh Liberation War, and Ghost Recon: Predator (2010), a tactical shooter game set during a Sri Lankan crisis, while dismantling frameworks that codify bodies and stories from the Global South. The paper is, thus, a critical and reflexive reinvestigation in the epistemological, linguistic and geopolitical hegemonies of Subalternity in games research and game-stories.

16:30-18:00 Session 12I: Problematic Gaming
The Dualistic Model of Passion in the Scope of Problematic Gaming

ABSTRACT. See attached file

Moving the Margins: Setting up Pathway Research Studying Adolescent Video Gaming, Simulated Gambling and Monetary Engagement


During the past years, the lines between video games and monetary gambling have been blurring, a trend that has often been coined “simulated gambling”. As a result, concerns have been voiced about gambling elements within video games, such as loot boxes and social casino games, possibly providing teenagers a gateway into monetary gambling. In order to provide numbers on this topic, we are conducting a longitudinal three-wave panel survey amongst Flemish (= Dutch speaking part of Belgium) teenagers (winter 2021, 2022, and 2023). As is clear from the survey, simulated gambling is linked to problematic video gaming and monetary gambling. However, it is important to define the direction of this relationship by connecting results from the first wave of our study with results of wave two in order to advance the understanding of the relationship between video gaming, simulated gambling and (illegal) monetary gambling among adolescents.

Learnings from the Case Maple Refugee: a Story of Free-to-Play, Probability, and Gamer Consumer Activism

ABSTRACT. [This is an extended abstract submission]

This work-in-progress paper provides an overview of one of the world’s most disruptive gamer activism events, the “Maple Refugee” incident in South Korea. Provoked by the online game Maple Story (Nexon, 2003) in 2021, the incident saw tens of thousands of players participate in unprecedented online and offline protests against the industrial norms of free-to-play (F2P). However, the incident has limited English resources despite its societal and industrial impact. Thus, this contribution aims to highlight what provoked “Maple Refugee” by tracing the pieces of historical evidence with an extensive translated collection of secondary sources – news coverages, fan posts, streamer videos, and the game company’s public statements and recordings. Co-authors from various disciplines of game studies, law, and human-computer interaction, are analyzing the case with a particular interest in the risk of undisclosed probabilities creating a vulnerable in-game economy. Upon completion of the research, all these documented materials will be shared publicly in a chronicled timeline of the incident to inspire further academic inquiries. This could also help diversify the Western-centric discourse of the game research landscape.

16:30-18:00 Session 12J: Game Industry and Globalization
Play Value, Gameplay, and Immersion in the Early Videogame Industry

ABSTRACT. An examination of the concept of play value in relation to the design, development, and play of video games in the early game industry.

(Un)Known Polish Spaces. Strategies of Foreignization and Domestication in Polish Video Games

ABSTRACT. The aim of this paper is to analyze how Polish video games’ creators use different strategies of localization to promote their products worldwide and appeal to the global audiences. The terms foreignization and domestication are applied here for strategies used by game designers on the production level to make their products internationally accepted or distinct from other titles on the market. Based on the three video games, created by Polish studios explicitly for the global audience the aim of this study is to present examples of given strategies, and analyze how they may influence international appeal and how they are perceived by the local, Polish audience.

16:30-18:00 Session 12K: Paratextual Gaming Capital
Let Us Play Oregon Trail: Origin Stories and Gaming Capital Around the First Let's Plays

ABSTRACT. Before YouTube and the play-through videos of flamboyant characters like PewDiePie and Markiplier, there existed another form of Let’s plays based on communal play and fun where individuals would post their videogame in long forum threads. The posts consisted of texts and images that were sometimes laboriously posted through hosting services like Photobucket. The first of them was called “Let Us Play Oregon Trail” and was published in the mid-2000s. According to the main actors in the community, it is purportedly lost.

In her work Origin Stories in Political Thought: Discourses on Gender, Power, and Citizenship, Joanne Harriet Wright writes that origin stories are political. They, at the same time, stem from a “desire to think outside the prevailing political framework” and something we go to in times of instability (161). They provide a foundation and a way to make sense of profound changes. This is the case for “Let Us Play Oregon Trail” and all of the early Let’s plays cast as milestones in this history. Combining historical documentation and discursive analysis, this paper looks at how nostalgia and elements of the politics of gaming culture helped shape this narrative, how the actual history may be different from the accepted narrative, and what is the meaning of this difference.

I first document the emergence of the Let’s play phenomenon on the Something Awful Forums through a survey of the archives of the site between 2003 and 2007. Although there is no way to confirm that the expression Let’s play (or Let Us Play) actually originates from the Something Awful Forums, the first usage of the words was not to designate written Let’s play but rather used as a header for posts in which players gathered to play games together online. Excluding this usage, this search led to three likely candidates for the title of first Let’s play. First, “The Sims2: I need volunteers” by 5er. While it might not be the first, it is representative of early character impersonation practices that sometimes popped up on the forums and shows what play looked like before the codification of Let’s plays. Second, a thread called “Oregon Trail” by Rocketpack Jesus. Although not called “Let Us Play Oregon Trail”, it is the most likely candidate for filling the role of lost “first Let’s Play” often discussed in the community. Finally, I want to include the first thread using the term Let’s Play to refer to text-based play-through of a game: “Let’s Play FFVI” by Tuckfard. Interestingly, none of these are threads are considered important by those who discuss the history of Let’s play.

In a second section, I explore the political aspects behind the choices made by the community. As Wright argues, setting a limit to what counts as Let’s play is political. In this light, I provide an analysis of the commonly accepted origin story revolving around “Let Us Play Oregon Trail,” Vlaphor’s “I have no mouth and I must scream” as one of the first successful Let’s play, and the status of Slowbeef as the original video Let’s player. I also discuss the role of the Let’s Play archive and how it contributed to this limited narrative. I argue that what is at stake is not a mere attempt at romanticizing the past and shaping the understanding of current Let’s plays, but also a struggle over gaming capital (Consalvo 2007), in the sense that it proposes a particular view of what games should be played and how they should be played that clashes with what happens in other segments of gaming culture.


Consalvo, M. 2007. Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames. Cambridge, MA, USA; London, England: The MIT Press. Wright, J. H. 2004. Origin Stories in Political Thought: Discourses on Gender, Power, and Citizenship

The Past as (Para)text – Relating Histories of Game Experience to Games as Texts

ABSTRACT. This paper is concerned with paratextual material that is produced by players and which historicises game experiences, including character sheets, maps and notes, and accounts of play. Drawing on postmodernist historiography, debates about the nature of game textuality, and the growing literature on paratextuality and games, it reflects on a series of questions about the nature of these game remnants. Through their consideration, it seeks to expand our understanding of the contingent and potentially multidirectional nature of game paratextuality, and the meaningfulness of the historical practices of players. This exploration will be of interest to researchers working in both analogue and digital game studies, and to those in historical game studies in particular.

The Case of Missing Cases. On Piratexts — Paratexts Created by Pirates for Pirates