Program

July 4, Conference Day 1

08:30-09:45 Session 1A: Registration
Please register on level 3 of the conference venue, Swinburne University AMDC, prior to the conference keynote.
08:30-09:45 Session 1B: New to DiGRA Welcome Breakfast
Those who have never attended an international DiGRA conference are invited to join the conference organisers and DIGRA committee for Coffee, Breakfast and Donuts prior to the start of the conference.
Chair: Marcus Carter
09:45-11:15 Session 2: [Keynote] Playing Alternative Histories: Postcolonialism, History and Videogames by Souvik Mukherjee
Chair: William Huber
Location: AMDC Lecture Theatre
(close abstract)
Abstract
In Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry, the ex-slave protagonist Adewale’s appearance in and departure from the island of Saint-Domingue is said to be a definite influence on the Haitian slave rebellion. According to the history books and archives, of course, this never happened. One might argue that the records were destroyed and that the events could have been remembered and passed down for generations. Then again, whose memories are to be considered acceptable? In postcolonialist historiography, the past is often viewed as a colonised terrain where indigenous histories have been eradicated and rewritten by colonising powers. Postcolonial reactions to such historiography, in turn, are themselves prone to rewritings. As videogames research begins to address questions of diversity and inclusion, it is high time that the treatment of empire and ‘the global South’ in videogames also finds a place in such discussions. In the replaying (and, therefore, rewriting) of history by players, whether a ‘subaltern’ history that was hitherto neglected or suppressed now emerges is a moot question.
Bio-note:
Dr Souvik Mukherjee teaches English Literature at Presidency University, Kolkata. Souvik’s main research is in Game Studies, specifically storytelling in videogames, and Digital Humanities. His monograph, Videogames and Storytelling: Reading Games and Playing Books, has been published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015 and has recently completed his second book-project on videogames and postcolonialism. Besides publishing widely on Game Studies, Souvik also works on (the) Digital Humanities and Early Modern Literature. As part of his Digital Humanities research, he has completed two curated digital archives of colonial cemeteries in India and is working on related projects on digitising colonial heritage. Souvik also writes a column on videogames in the Times of India.
11:15-11:40Morning Tea
11:40-13:00 Session 3A: Critical Perspectives on Game Effects Research
Chair: Mia Consalvo
Location: AMDC 501
11:40
Gemma Lucy Smart

(close abstract)‘Videogame Addiction’ is a commonly used and loaded term that deserves both conceptual and empirical attention. In this paper I argue that the wide scope of games and gamers can confound our understanding of the complexities of gaming. Current research into disordered gaming fails to reflect, understand or account for this diversity; the narrative of addiction provided by the psychosciences encourages gamers to self-define as disordered – both individually and as a community.
Furthermore, I argue that the broader conception of all video gaming as socially undesirable and addictive is incorrect and damaging. By pathologising game-playing, the psychosciences are in part complicit in subjective social judgement of a particular leisure activity enjoyed by many millions of people of all walks of life, and forming an important part of the personal and social identity of many. This has direct implications for the conceptual understanding of problematic gaming in Psychiatry.

12:05
Rune Nielsen and Joleen Blom

(close abstract)This paper attempts to correct common misunderstandings about the correlation between dopamine and pleasure in video games. By extension the paper argues that dopamine is not the cause of pleasure in games and that commonly drawn links between dopamine, games, and addiction are not valid. The paper further presents an auto-ethnographic account of Pokémon GO in order to provide an alternative perspective on why the game was so successful.

12:30
Grant Tavinor

(close abstract)Videogames undoubtedly contain a great deal of apparent violence and aggression. This depictive content has frequently led to both public moral condemnation and the scientific investigation of the possible effects games have on aggression and violence beyond the context of gaming. This paper is not concerned with either the moral or empirical question of the effects of game violence, rather it concerns a conceptual problem with the analysis of in-game aggression. The frequently unacknowledged status of almost all videogames as fictions has important implications for our understanding of the content of games and the attitude of players toward it, and has proved a very poor starting point for understanding the function of apparently aggressive and violent gameplay. This paper investigates how the fictional nature of videogames affects the proper analysis of game aggression and violence, both undermining various assumptions of scientific accounts of game violence, but also leading to promising avenues of investigating the role of fictional aggression in gameplay.

11:40-13:00 Session 3B: Game Design Part 1
Chair: Malcolm Ryan
Location: AMDC 502
11:40
Lindsay Grace

(close abstract)This paper outlines two models for framing affection games as a contribution to the evolution of courtship rituals or as a matriculation through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It then frames the design of these games through two distinct lenses. The first is a game verb based framing, focusing on the affectionate actions designed to meet game goals. The second is an interaction dynamic framing, which describes digitally contained affection (affections remaining within the game), digitally facilitated affection (affections facilitated by the game) and digitally communicated affections (affection shared through the game). Continued research into affection games offers a peek into the softer side of digital play and gendered play. Its study unearths an intersection between sociological and psychological tendencies and technology. The work provides an update to previous published work in the domain of affection games by providing new data on affection games and a case study game.

12:05
Hanna Wirman and Rhys Jones

(close abstract)This paper sets itself to explore two types of room-based leisure entertainment: karaoke boxes and room escapes which are both framed by the same condition of participating in a playful entertainment activity in a small room with a limited number of (familiar) people. Specifically, this paper seeks to answer: Are there enough commonalities in the ways the two setups establish a ‘box’ in order to meaningfully study side by side? What makes the box(es) and how is this articulated in people’s motivations to enter such spaces? The paper will discuss the historical and cultural context of room escape games in densely populated urban areas, with a specific case of Hong Kong.

12:30
Emilie Reed

(close abstract)While debate over videogames’ cultural status can still become contentious, theorist Bruce Altshuler describes the contemporary exhibition form as a route into art history, and therefore, exhibitions of videogames and their curatorial and display choices have already drawn videogames into the discursive construction of the history of art. Examining past exhibitions as well as reflecting on current curatorial practices is a vital area of investigation to form an interdisciplinary history of videogames. After providing a historical background of this phenomenon, I summarize my practical work in games curation through a case study of The Blank Arcade 2016, reflecting on how exhibition strategies can incorporate a comprehensive and engaging perspective on videogames into the art world. By reviewing both the process of exhibition organization and resulting visitor feedback, I reflect on the effectiveness of the present curatorial process and issues it will benefit from taking into account in the future.

11:40-13:00 Session 3C: Games and Education Part 1
Chair: Tom Apperley
Location: AMDC 503
11:40
Zhaihuan Dai, Fengfeng Ke, Yanjun Pan, Jewoong Moon and Xinhao Xu

(close abstract)The impact of scaffolding in educational computer games has been recognized by researchers yet remains an area to research. Empirical-based guidelines for designing effective scaffolds that promote learning engagement is also limited. In this study, we recruited fourteen middle school students to play a 3D mathematic computer game, Earthquake Rebuild, twice a week for six weeks. We screen captured the participants’ gameplay and recorded their facial expressions, behaviors, and speech during gaming. A total of 70 45-minute videos were coded and analyzed in the preliminary round of analysis. Through an exploration of the quantitative learner behaviors data and the qualitative themes generated from coding, we identified some patterns of learners’ needs of scaffolding when playing the learning game. We also found a significant correlation between the different types of scaffolding and learner’s learning engagement behaviors. In addition, some guidelines for designing different types of scaffolds for educational computer games were also generated from data analysis. We will discuss the results and guideline in detail during the presentation.

12:05
Stefan Slater, Alex Bowers, Shimin Kai and Valerie Shute

(close abstract)
As game players, we often have specific likes and dislikes in the games that we prefer to play, but can we empirically determine the different types of players that may engage with a given game? In this paper we apply Richard Bartle’s MUD player typology (achievers, explorers, socializers, and killers) to Physics Playground, an educational physics game, by using the log data from the game – players’ clicks, keypresses, and play choices. We discuss where the groups in the typology do and do not overlap, and how such typologies may inform the development and design of games that are more engaging to their players.

12:30
Jennifer Jenson and Cristyne Hebert

(close abstract)This paper demonstrates the need for more diverse research on game-based learning to guide the deployment of digital games in formal, classroom learning contexts. It also contributes to a re-conceptualization of the practical experiences, including the everyday realities and struggles relating to using videogames in the classroom. With respect to teacher training, much more work is needed to ensure that teachers conceptualize videogame use in the classroom in a manner that is productive to and impactful for learning: as tools that exist as part of a larger nexus of educative texts and around which a comprehensive curriculum can be developed.

11:40-13:00 Session 3D: Describing Games
Chair: Thiago Falcao
Location: AMDC 504
11:40
Michael S. Debus

(close abstract)This paper critically analyzes eighteen game classifications. The classifications were chosen on the basis of diversity, ranging from pre-digital classification (e.g. Murray 1952), over game studies classifications (e.g. Elverdam & Aarseth 2007) to classifications of drinking games (e.g. LaBrie et al. 2013). The analysis aims at three goals: The classifications’ internal consistency, the abstraction of classification criteria and the identification of differences in classification across fields and/or time. Especially the abstraction of classification criteria can be used in future endeavors into the topic of game classifications.

12:05
Benjamin Nicoll

(close abstract)Although videogame piracy has a long history, game studies lacks a sufficient vocabulary for describing and understanding its various manifestations. In this paper, I identify three core forms of piracy: counterfeits, copies, and mods. Counterfeit videogames are hardware or software objects that informally adapt or repurpose existing videogame technologies, code, or IPs for informal purposes. Copied videogames are software objects that have been reproduced wholesale and distributed via informal channels. Mods are unofficial hardware and software modifications that “augment” existing videogame technologies. Counterfeits, copies, and mods are often collapsed into a singular, romanticized articulation of resistance to corporate capitalism or cultural imperialism. However, a more comprehensive analysis of this typology reveals that videogame piracy is always “articulated” (In Stuart Hall’s sense) in a broader web of cultural, ideological, and economic contexts.

12:30
Espen Aarseth and Paweł Grabarczyk

(close abstract)In any young field or discipline, and even more so in strongly interdisciplinary ones, terms are often confusingly unstable, and not only because they are new or used in different ways. Sometimes they are just not precise enough to carry conceptual meaning in a way useful for analysis, theory or criticism, and, instead of trying to save them by new and more rigid definitions, the properly academic thing to do is to discard them.
This paper will present a method we call terminological triage, which tests the conceptual health of a concept, and can classify it in the three categories of a) healthy, b) savable but in need of intensive care, or c) beyond hope, best discarded.

13:00-14:00Lunch Break
14:00-15:20 Session 4A: Histories of Games
Chair: Melanie Swalwell
Location: AMDC 501
14:00
Hugh Davies and Troy Innocent

(close abstract)In the heady discourse following the launch of Pokémon Go, many of the influences, histories and precursors of the game were forgotten or over-looked. Against the newness in which Pokémon Go is often framed, this article re-contextualises the game examining a history of comparable practices, and recalling the games evolution from earlier locative applications developed by Google to the experimental games of the modernist Avant Garde. While Pokémon Go has been revelatory in bringing awareness of pervasive gaming into the mainstream, this discussion of location-based games, public art projects, and playful approaches to urban exploration aims to fill gaps in the history of the field, and offer possibilities for future game design.

14:25
Benjamin Nicoll

(close abstract)
In recent years, videogame historians have borrowed extensive methodological and theoretical influence from “media archaeology” – an “undisciplined discipline” whose proponents emphasise the search for historically marginalised, forgotten, or “failed” objects and practitioners from the long history of media. Yet, although the media archaeological moment has enabled a richer engagement with game history, it has also contributed to a tendency to fetishize rather than critically account for failure and marginality. To this extent, this paper develops the notion of the historically “minor” as a heuristic device (rather than a stable category) in order to gain a more nuanced perspective on what normally passes as failed, forgotten, or marginal in game history. I argue that the historically minor is valuable to the critical historical study of games in three ways: minor histories inhabit moments of rupture; minor technologies are useful as epistemological tools; and minor voices articulate alternative structures of feeling.

14:50
Carl Therrien

(close abstract)This paper introduces a comparative analytical system that seeks to document the evolution of the game experience in the history of video games. Following an overview of formal and ontological inspections of games, ten interactive figures – domains of human agency typically modelled by game systems – are presented. The study of figures in art history traces the emergence and resurgence of different types of characters, poses or scenes, and indeed this is the meaning that is ascribed to the term here; games propose different “roles” depending on the partial and cumulative integration of specific aspects of human interaction. These concepts are ideal to segment any game experience, and each of these segments are then analyzed with four conceptual categories: three layers of interface (the manipulation, mapping and feedback layers), and the ludic modes of engagement associated with each figure.

14:00-15:20 Session 4B: Game Design Part 2
Chair: Hanna Wirman
Location: AMDC 502
14:00
Alexandra To, Jarrek Holmes, Elaine Fath, Eda Zhang, Geoff Kaufman and Jessica Hammer

(close abstract)In this paper, we present a design model of curiosity that articulates the relationship between uncertainty and curiosity and defines the role of failure and question-asking within that relationship. We explore ways to instantiate failure and question-asking within a cooperative tabletop game, share data from multiple field and lab playtests, and investigate the impact of design decisions on players’ affective experiences of failure and their ability to use questions to close information gaps. In designing for comfort with failure we find that risk can be more frightening than failure and affective responses to failure can be modified by aesthetic decisions as well as group norms. In designing for comfort with questions we find that empowering quieter players supports the entire group, flexibility in enforcing rules fosters curiosity, and questions can serve multiple simultaneous roles. Our findings can be used in other games to support curiosity in play.

14:25
Fraser Allison, Ewa Luger and Katja Hofmann

(close abstract)This study explores players’ expectations and preferences for interacting with a friendly in-game character that learns and adapts its behaviour based on player input. We conducted an observational study of players undertaking tasks in Minecraft with the assistance of an AI helper (secretly a Wizard of Oz prototype). We noted a range of different sources from which players drew their expectations of how the AI worked, and two main dimensions along which players’ attitudes towards the AI varied. We discuss these variations and the ways in which they influenced how players interacted with the AI helper.

14:50
Brian Schrank

(close abstract)A Moment Free from Darkness is a transmedia game about engendering empathy for a girl sold into sex slavery. Situations are presented through her subjective experience ranging from the hopeful to the horrific. The game is played on four platforms sequentially to evoke an increasing sense of immersion through the first three acts (played on mobile, desktop, and Oculus Rift, respectively) and a drop off of immersion in a final act of healing and recovery (played on the Apple Watch).

14:00-15:20 Session 4C: Games and Education Part 2
Chair: Brendan Keogh
Location: AMDC 503
14:00
April Tyack and Peta Wyeth

(close abstract)Educational games are primarily developed for use in formal education, which limits both their typical audience and the subject matter they may address. This paper presents recommendations for designing games for learning to be played outside the context of formal education, which explore the ways complex systems influence real human lives. Existing work from within the field and epic theatre principles form the basis for these guidelines.
In this framework, the context of educational game play is considered alongside game content as essential to encouraging reflective play behaviour. Educational aims are made explicit throughout game involvement, and each aspect of the game directly contributes to stimulating reflection on the topics at hand. Complex subject matter — for example, the ways systems such as economics affect players in real life — may be fruitfully explored using this approach.

14:25
Emily Flynn-Jones, Jen Jenson, Kelly Bergstrom and Cristyne Herbert

(close abstract)Games have made their way into a variety of in/formal learning contexts with both negative (Steinkuehler et al., 2011) and positive impacts (Vie, 2008, Galarneau & Zibit 2007, Gee 2003/2007) on the learning outcomes. However, reporting on the results of these investigations remain heavily focused on gameplay and/or student interactions with the technology, less on the peripheral materials that can also make up key components of the gameplay and educational experience. In this paper we describe various uses of one such peripheral text: the videogame walkthroughs. Describing three different contexts – 1) an informal learning environment where 11-12 year olds used text and video walkthroughs to supplement their Legend of Zelda: Windwaker play during an optional, lunch-time video game club in their school library 2) a formal learning environment where grade six students used a written walkthrough for Lost Winds 2: Winter of the Melodias played as part of their Language Arts classroom and 3) The use of walkthroughs for both students and teachers in the piloting of a proprietary educational game designed to instruct elementary schoolers core geography curriculum – researchers explore the value of the walkthrough as tools for learning with games as well as user attitudes to these supplementary texts.

14:50
Rhett Loban

(close abstract)The paper illustrates the rich diplomacy and international relations content contained with Grand Strategy video games and how this could be used as a great learning and teaching tool within the discipline. The paper initially surveys learning and video game literature with an emphasis on strategy and board games. Second, it briefly defines diplomacy and international relations as a point of reference and comparison for subject matter content within Grand Strategy games. Third, it analyses Grand Strategy gameplay, mechanics, and strategies that simulate diplomacy and international relations and how this teaches the player about the discipline. Fourth, it analyses and interprets survey responses from a game forums, to understand player experiences with diplomacy and international relations within a Grand Strategy game. Finally, it highlights how these different manifestations and simulations of diplomacy and international relations, collectively represent a spectrum of digital diplomacy from explicit representations to more conceptual and player based forms.

14:00-15:20 Session 4D: Meta-Games
Chair: Ben Abraham
Location: AMDC 504
14:00
Ida Kathrine H. Jorgensen

(close abstract)Recently self-referentiality have occurred as a trend among game designers and have also enjoyed sporadic attention in academia. However, in academia, discussions of self-referential games often rest on proceduralist arguments and a too exclusive focus on the game object. This paper draws on the typology of meta-pictures developed by art historian J.W.T. Mitchell. Based on this typology, this paper discusses the notion of meta-games and suggest a broad conception of such games that includes not only the game object, but also the player and the discourse in which it is interpreted.

14:25
Thiago Falcao

(close abstract)Card games beget intense competitive environments, highly populated by semi-professional, online, metagame communities that aim to game the game. These cooperative communities exchange information to amass the best possible game strategies, which include the best cards to play and style of playing. Metagame communities often assemble deck archetypes that help shape player behavior, both framing their performances and offering different perspectives on the philosophy of the played game. This paper discusses the social relations of power enacted by the metagame community of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (Blizzard, 2012-2017), with special interest in the relational agency developed among the actors enrolled in this social and technical assemblage. The main aspect of this discussion concerns how the performance of Brazilian Hearthstone players depends on a form of expertise perceived as technical, cultural and aesthetical.

14:50
Stephanie Boluk and Patrick Lemieux

(close abstract)
Since the turn of the millennium and with the emergence of social media and streaming services like Steam, YouTube, and Twitch TV, the word “metagame” has become a common label for diverse forms of play occurring around videogames. Whether deployed in Narcissa Wright’s speedruns of The Legend of Zelda, Richard Terrell’s analysis of Super Smash Bros., or Daniel Stemkoski’s commentary of Korean StarCraft, the term marks the history of community play at specific times, in specific places, and with specific games. From the prepositional origins of “meta” in ancient Greece to Nigel Howard’s attempts to solve the Prisoner’s Dilemma during the Cold War to Richard Garfield’s game design for Magic: The Gathering in the 1990s, this talk examines how metagaming intersects with game theory, game studies, and gaming communities. Prepositions are to parts of speech as metagames are to games: anchors in time and space.

14:00-15:20 Session 4E: [Panel] Emergent and Evolving Game Cultures of the Global South
Location: AMDC Lecture Theatre
Speakers Rebecca Yvonne Bayeck, Pierre-Alain Clement, Hanli Geyser, Souvik Mukherjee and Thaiane Oliveira
Organizer and Moderator Phillip Penix-Tadsen
(close abstract)Many geographical locales once considered part of the high-tech “periphery” are in fact home to longstanding and widespread technocultures with their own unique characteristics, as evidenced in this panel, which examines the cultural impact of video games in regions including Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and the Indian subcontinent.

15:20-16:00Afternoon Tea
16:00-17:20 Session 5A: eSports
Chair: Emma Witkowski
Location: AMDC 501
16:00
Ben Egliston

(close abstract)This paper argues that the broadcast of electronic sport (e-sport) works as a form of technicity, which thoroughly complicates the phenomenological experience of playing videogames. Presenting data from an ongoing research project on the game Dota 2, this paper suggests that the ‘exteriorisation’ of videogame expertise conditions the embodied and perceptual facility of players in various ways.

16:25
Scott Donaldson

(close abstract)This paper examines the relationships between player community norms and developer-created rules of play in the competitive team game, League of Legends. Here, players have established their own sets of strategic norms which are used as a baseline for play at all levels of competition. Since these norms are distinct from the game developer’s rules concerning online behaviour, however, it is unclear as to whether players have the ‘right’ to enact experimental in-game strategies. In November of 2016, it was revealed in one of the game’s online community hubs that a player had been threatened with a ban after repeatedly engaging in one such experimental strategy. A study of the following discussion as it played out within the player community shows that players are aware of larger issues concerning meaning-making in competitive League of Legends, and that they identify the game developer as a key figure in this ongoing process.

16:50
Marcus Carter, Robbie Fordyce, Martin Gibbs and Emma Witkowskia

(close abstract)This presentation reports on current and future trends in Australian eSports. Australia currently lacks a dedicated eSports service, channel, or broadcaster providing any real sense of the scope of eSports worldwide. This presentation makes two contributions to emerging scholarship on Australian eSports. Firstly, it provides a series of estimates about the current size of eSports spectatorship in Australia and its growth potential. Secondly, the presentation reports back on a series of semi-structured interviews (n: 18) with eSports spectators from Australia, providing a typology of extant eSports spectatorship by categorising forms of interviewee experience, as ‘fans’, the ‘players’, or the ‘recruits’. From this, we speculate on probable forms of spectator engagement that might be expected in the coming years.

16:00-17:20 Session 5B: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Games
Chair: Torill Elvira Mortensen
Location: AMDC 502
16:00
Melissa J. Rogerson and Jane Cocks

(close abstract)In this paper, we will show how common psychological tests have been adapted to constitute the core mechanics for a wide variety of boardgames. We argue that the body of psychological tests provides rich fodder for game designers, and demonstrate this through a range of examples of boardgames which implement these tests.

16:25
Veli-Matti Karhulahti

(close abstract)This article provides an ontological model for understanding videogame-related aggression based on the classical frustration-aggression hypothesis by Dollar et al (1939). The model derives from a demand-based ontology of videogame play, i.e. a structural grouping of play activities that videogame players undertake, and stands as modifiable tool for those who approach videogame-related aggression not as a consequence of the artifacts themselves, but as an outcome of diverse factors that are part of videogames (and other life activities).

16:00-17:20 Session 5C: Game Stories
Chair: Lindsay Grace
Location: AMDC 503
16:00
Sarah Thorne

(close abstract)
This paper draws a parallel between Jodi Dean’s critique of communicative capitalism and the obstacles that games face as an art form to theorize games as a possible site for critical media theory. Ultimately, the very same impulse that drives communicative capitalism is responsible for the player-centric trends in the game industry that some developers view as an obstacle to their art. Davey Wreden’s The Beginner’s Guide provides a model for theorizing games as a kind of critical media theory. The complex interaction between its narrative and mechanics provides a useful context for thinking through Dean’s analysis of the book as a possible site of resistance to communicative capitalism and how games might function similarly to break the subject from its capture.

16:25
Christopher Thomson

(close abstract)Simon Christansen’s interactive fiction game Alethicorp (2014) has attracted very little critical attention, despite being well received by the IF community, including a nomination for Best Use of Innovation at the XYXXY Awards in 2014. This paper will argue Alethicorp’s satire of corporate knowledge management is more than simply groundbreaking interactive fiction. It is a significant text-based game that offers an important critical reading not only of digital capitalism’s ‘structure of feeling’, but of the specific textual forms that its author appropriates, in order to convey this reading to the game’s players.

16:50
Emily Crawford

(close abstract)
This paper seeks to define a burgeoning genre of transmedia narratives — “glitch horror” — using a popular “creepypasta” (a work of online horror fiction) entitled BEN Drowned as a primary source. The horror of BEN Drowned is rooted in the rhetoric of glitches, those infuriating moments when the failures of technology interrupt gameplay and otherwise distort the world of a game. The emergence of the glitch horror genre and the popularity of narratives like BEN Drowned are manifestations of collective anxieties surrounding the fallibility and restrictions of digital technology; it is fiction about the fear of glitchy games, corrupted files, and bad coding. The paper explores glitch horror through the lenses of fan fiction and participatory culture, metafiction, the Freudian uncanny, the fallibility of technology, and fundamental rules of gaming and play.

16:00-17:20 Session 5D: Player Experience Studies
Chair: Malcolm Ryan
Location: AMDC 504
16:00
Dooley Murphy

(close abstract)
How do immersive virtual reality (VR) systems shape player experience? It is well-documented that VR can induce illusions of non-mediation; of spatial presence; of embodiment in avatars. We must now ask what common features of digital games may be experienced as beyond optimally affective or intense in VR. This paper reports and discusses findings from a qualitative content analysis of VR scenarios experienced via systems akin to those now commercially available. A sample comprising video, photographic, and written documentation of VR environments (n = 124) from clinical VR and telepresence research is interrogated through the lens of cognitive media theory. Observations and inferences regarding players’ subjective experience of VR scenarios are presented alongside findings from the very research sampled. This produces a preliminary formal framework for discussing VR player experience as significantly structured by patiency (cf. agency), with VR often engaging the player’s body as a site for feedback.

16:25
Michael Scanlon, Tom Swanson, Paul Darvasi and Jennifer Jenson

(close abstract)Video games, like other media, have deployed the device of a narrator to fill backstories, welcome player characters to the game world, create levity and humour, advance between episodes in games, and act as deceptive characters working against the players. While many videogames deploy a narrator (Portal, Prince of Persia, Bioshock, etc.), very little is known about the effect that narrator has on player experience. This study asked: what, if any, are the effects on players when playing The Stanley Parable (TSP) with a male and a female narrator?

16:50
Henry Scott Macdonald, Betty Yin, Danyon Wye, Bridget Hall and Paul Ralph

(close abstract)Infrasound refers to sound waves with a frequency below the lower limit of human hearing (20 hertz). Some research suggests infrasound can induce mild anxiety. We therefore conducted an exploratory laboratory experiment to investigate whether infrasound increases players’ emotional reaction to a horror video game. This presentation will cover what we learned not only about infrasound but also about using biometrics to measure emotional reactions to game content.

16:00-17:20 Session 5E: [Panel] Location and Mobility in “Global” Gaming
Location: AMDC Lecture Theatre
Speakers Tom Apperley Joshua Wong, Will Balmford, Nicola Pallitt, Verónica Valdivia Medina
Organizer and Moderator Phillip Penix-Tadsen
(close abstract)To what extent is contemporary gaming culture global, fluid and mobile in nature, and to what extent does it remain local, situated and site-specific? This panel examines the rapidly shifting cultural cartography of contemporary gaming, focusing on examples from Latin America, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region.

18:00-22:00 Session : DiGRA Turns 10 Conference Dinner
This year marks the 10th international DiGRA conference since the series began in 2003 (becoming annual in 2013).
We’re celebrating with a birthday party! This party includes dinner, drinks and fun and games for all, starting shortly after the last conference session of the day.
Dress code is smart casual.

July 5, Conference Day 2

09:30-10:30 Session 6: Gender Diversity Breakfast
10:30-11:30 Session 7: [Keynote] TBD
Chair: Laura Crawford
Location: AMDC Lecture Theatre
11:30-12:00Morning Tea
12:00-13:20 Session 8A: On The Witcher
Chair: Laura Crawford
Location: AMDC 501
12:00
Maria Garda and Veli-Matti Karhulahti

(close abstract)Andrzej Sapkowski’s fantasy series of novels and short stories about the witcher Geralt of Rivia (1986–2013) is the foundation of the most popular Polish transmedia franchise. From many adaptations and dramatizations of Sapkowski’s work, one clearly stands out as it started an internationally recognized brand of its own – The Witcher videogames. This presentation analyzes The Witcher (CD Projekt RED, 2007) and its sequels from the perspective of culture-specific reception in order to shed light on the challenges that relate to franchise-based game development in a global context.
The presentation evidences and exposes the dynamic requirements set by the rapid shifts in the global cultural industry. Even though franchising offers clear advantages – such as reduced investment risk and the use of pre- existing fictional universes – it also brings along particular franchise-specific problems. The Witcher case study provides a unique perspective on this process, as the engagement of international audiences is not based on their pre-awareness of the marketed product.

12:25
Bertrand Lucat

(close abstract)A number of prominent digital games have in recent years featured fathers as protagonists. The ideological implications of those games’ different representations of fatherhood and masculinity appear as important axes of investigation into the roles digital games can play in contemporary ideological discourse. Through a close comparative analysis and reading of BioShock: Infinite (Irrational Games 2013), The Last of Us (Naughty Dog 2013), and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (CD Projekt RED 2015), this paper examines the narrative, representational, and procedural elements which frame fatherhood in these three popular games. Relying upon the foundations of procedural rhetoric and the concept of hegemonic masculinities, this paper focuses on three key themes: paternal violence, anti-fathers, and exceptional daughters. The different ways these themes are represented in the three games highlights how they respectively reinforce, restore, and challenge notions of patriarchal authority, the role of the father, and contemporary gender ideologies.

12:00-13:20 Session 8B: Diversity in Games Part 1
Chair: Sal Humphreys
Location: AMDC 502
12:00
Jing Sun

(close abstract) 66RPG has been an important genre in Chinese video game history because of its unique characteristics. First of all, 66RPG is a game platform, in which female users without any professional digital skills could make visual fictions with the help of a design tool provided by the website, and they also play these games, integrating the roles of game developer and player as the prosumer. Besides, 66RPG also refers to browser games of this community with strong TANBI elements (aka Boy’s Love), a term indicating girls imagination of a romantic relationship between two boys, in which those boys’ brotherhood has been decoded as bromance. This paper, citing Chinese video game 66RPG as an example, focuses on game characters, discussing the politics of characters so as to suggest a new approach to game characters, that is, the allegory game critical paradigm.

12:25
Erin Maclean

(close abstract)Although the developers of popular shooter videogames are increasingly prioritising diversity and the inclusion of women, this genre continues to be singled out as aggressively masculine, if not outright sexist. Due to this disconnect, this paper investigates the gendered promotional narratives of videogame publishers, focusing on the cover art imagery of the Call of Duty (2003–), Halo (2001–) and Gears of War (2006–) series. This artwork, in selectively highlighting features, constructs discourses that may be distinct or even contradictory to those privileged within the games. In this case, the covers quite literally place masculinity and the male body front and centre in the genre, reaffirming anachronistic gender norms that the series’ latest instalments otherwise work to contest. It means, regardless of how gender inclusive shooters may now be, they outwardly appear as masculine, male-dominated and exclusionary as ever—sending a message that women are not welcome.

12:50
Juan F. Belmonte

(close abstract)
Blizzard’s World of Warcraft has been the target of valuable scholarly work due in part to its huge success. Among the publications centered on this game, there are two main trends that are particularly relevant for this abstract: Those which analyze representations of gender and sexuality in the game and those interested in understanding the ways WoW portrays ethnicity. Drawing from these texts it can be argued that Blizzard does a rather uneven job at representing identities. While MMOs lend themselves to interactions where players can enact and reimagine different ways of understanding their genders and sexuality, Blizzard follows with Overwatch its tendency of creating worlds where white-Caucasian comes to be identified as human-normal, while other, non-Anglo/non-white-European ethnicities and cultures find themselves attached to more monster-like representations. This paper will show how Blizzard participates in and reproduces existing forms of understanding ethnicity and national difference in Overwatch.

12:00-13:20 Session 8C: Indie Games
Chair: John Banks
Location: AMDC 503
12:00
Mikhail Fiadotau

(close abstract)The paper compares the predominantly Western phenomenon of indie gaming with Japan’s dōjin game culture from a perspective combining comparative cultural history and media studies. It analyzes the concepts on four levels: conceptual, historical, (media) ecological, and textual.

12:25
Mia Consalvo and Christopher Paul

(close abstract)This paper explores how indie developers manage the risks they encounter while making, marketing, and selling games. Building on concepts such as indie labour (Browne 2015) and theory-crafting (Paul 2011), this paper introduces value crafting as a better way to understand indie developer practices. Value crafting constructs the value of indie games to sell them widely. This is reflected in debates about pricing – with price points ranging from free through $30. Developers also formulate elaborate marketing plans, which can include Kickstarter, social media, fan forums, Steam Greenlight access, Early Access, demos, pitching their game to the media, finding YouTube and Twitch personalities to promote their game, and other activities. Indies engage in lengthy discussions to share information, usually incorporating detailed charts, graphs and statistical analyses. These post-mortems attempt to explain a game’s success or failure and construct activity as successful to lay the groundwork for future games.

12:50
Morgan O’Brien

(close abstract)To curate something is an act of articulation. This paper examines the curatorial role played by independent publisher Devolver Digital. Devolver distributes “boutique” indie games that remediate the arcade action game using retro-styled aesthetics. My archive draws from the corpus of Devolver’s games, focusing on their breakout title, Hotline Miami (2011), and includes Luftrausers (2014), Downwell (2015), and Mother Russia Bleeds (2016).
Describing the poetics of Devolver’s games expands upon work done on the indie dev community’s embrace of retro aesthetics. This is a vital step in order to better understand the reconfiguration of image and sound relationships in the digital game medium as a whole. Formally unpacking the artifice of digital game aesthetics and mechanics demonstrates how games are always already in critical conversation with their own medium specificity and the history of the industry and media form itself, as well as other related visual cultures and histories.

12:00-13:20 Session 8D: [Panel] A Large Scale Game Studies Research Program
Location: AMDC Lecture Theatre
Speakers Espen Aarseth, Pawel Grabarczyk, Michael Debus, Ida Jorgensen, Joleen Blom and Rune Nielsen
Organizer and Moderator Espen Aarseth
(close abstract)This panel introduces the first large-scale project in humanities game studies, and invites DiGRA feedback for a research program that is still in the initial phase. It consists of a 15 minute overview of the whole project and five 9 minutes presentations of current topics studied in the project (metaontology, comparative game ontology, game characters, game discourses and games and representations).

13:20-14:20Lunch Break
14:20-15:40 Session 9A: Non-Traditional and Industry Track Part 1
Chair: Douglas Wilson
Location: AMDC 501
14:20
Ben McKenzie
Hands On: improving approachability in live game design by removing abstraction

(close abstract)In this talk I aim to show how my company Pop Up Playground designs to remove abstraction from games to improve approachability by lessening the need for specialist knowledge or skills. Digital, tabletop and even live game designs require abstraction, necessarily translating player interaction with game controllers, VR equipment, tokens, cards or props into character actions. This requires players to have or develop knowledge of the conventions of such games and skill with the equipment used, making games less approachable or even intimidating to new players. Pop Up Playground seeks to promote games and play as an activity for adults, and to make them as easy to participate in as possible. To this end we have tried to eliminate abstraction in our designs for games, culminating in the immersive live adventure game Small Time Criminals, which made use of natural, real-world skills and knowledge so players could participate and succeed with minimal training or preparation.

14:45
李尚倫 Lee Shang Lun
I Dislike Most Escape Rooms So I Made One

(close abstract)I dislike most escape rooms. My frustrations with them include their incoherent narratives, inelegant puzzles, and lack of artistic intent. So I made one myself in an effort to explore alternative structures and solutions to common flaws in the space of physical game design. Earthrise One is an immersive reality game set on a space station. It is a combination of interactive theatre, cooperative videogame, and sci-fi thriller. A team of 5 people designed and constructed it, and it ran for 9 months. In this talk, the design principles behind Earthrise One will be discussed in detail, including sensible diegetics, sensory focused material usage, and narratively embedded puzzles.

15:10
Brooke Maggs
Narrative Design for The Gardens Between

(close abstract)Brooke will discuss techniques for creating and telling the story of The Gardens Between, an adventure puzzle game with no text or dialogue. From the perspective of the narrative designer, it will look at how at how gameplay and narrative unite in a reflective, gentle unfolding style in a game not based on a quest structure and delivered in vignettes. This makes for a highly metaphoric narrative that needed a considered and shared story language within the development team. This session will dive into how changing the way a story is discussed can help rationalise character motivations and provided context for the player’s experience at each plot point.

14:20-15:40 Session 9B: Diversity in Games Part 2
Chair: Adrienne Shaw
Location: AMDC 502
14:20
Mahli-Ann Butt and Daniel Dunne

(close abstract)This paper seeks to take the new representations of women within Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead: Season Two (2013) and DontNod Entertainment’s Life is Strange (2015) and critically analyse the normative gender roles they promote. We unpack the two penultimate ethical dilemmas presented in each game which set up the sacrifice of rebellious women as if their deaths were fated and ultimately ‘for the greater good’. Using ‘choice’ as the main gameplay mechanic, these endgames present themselves in the same vein as Philippa Foot’s infamous Trolley Problem. We apply feminist ethics to critique the Trolley Problem, utilitarianism, the presentation of ethical dilemmas as impartial, and normative gender roles of women, so as to unravel the uncritical biases underlying the sacrifice of rebellious women in these games.

14:45
Alayna Cole, Dakoda Barker and Jessica Zammit

(close abstract)Projection is considered the ‘conceptual opposite’ of identification, with the player able to place their own personality, values, and choices onto a character, rather than the reverse. Characters that are designed entirely using in-game character creation tools offer the greatest opportunity for players to ‘project’ upon them, facilitating identity formation by allowing audiences to participate in self-guided experimentation. Games with blank-slate player-characters imply that they are granting their audiences freedom regarding who they wish to play; however, character creation systems inevitably feature limitations due to the conscious and unconscious restrictions that game developers have implemented. These limitations restrict some players from being able to project their own identities onto the characters they create, implying that they are not permitted to engage with the game as themselves. This paper explores the way survey participants interact with character creation systems, and the representations they would like to see within these systems.

15:10
Kiona Hagen Niehaus and Rebecca Fiebrink

(close abstract)Our research designs 3D human avatar generation software for amateur game designers and other creative users. Currently available software relies on limiting the range of possible bodies that the user is able to create, within the boundaries of normative physicality, in order to simplify interaction for users without 3D modeling skills. Rather than artificially limiting user output, we are creating open source software that expands the range of bodies able to be represented in program, following a user centered design process to implement direct manipulation techniques extrapolated from artistic practice. We will describe the background context, aims, and current research activities related to creating this software.

14:20-15:40 Session 9C: Game Modifications and Representations of History
Chair: Souvik Mukherjee
Location: AMDC 503
14:20
Espen Aarseth and Paweł Grabarczyk

(close abstract)We believe that, even though the task of defining the notion of game is highly specific, it may, nonetheless prove to be useful to different branches of game studies. First of all, the difference between ports and different versions of the same game has to be built into any formal framework used for games classification.
Second of all, the same problem can be easily found in game studies. Some classifications seem to be too coarse grained, some much too fine grained to differentiate between different ports and different games. So, this is a highly practical problem, currently without a good solution.
Lastly, analysis of the concept of game identity may help with finding at least partial criteria for the notion of a “game” as notions of “game conversion” or “port” seem to be introduced into popular discourse specifically in order to pinpoint the opposition between “the same” and “different” game.

14:45
Marcus Carter and Adam Chapman

(close abstract)Total War games have a rich modding community where the most popular mods are downloaded over 150,000 times. In our presentation, we will further detail the results of our analysis into the different ways that Total War mods attempt to pursue different versions of truth through altering the simulation of the game. We will also explore the ways in which these mods are framed, both by their creators and the wider community, as performing a ‘public good’, i.e. being frequently framed as holding wider educational, moral, documentary or memorial value.

15:10
Antonio Zarandona, Adam Chapman and Darshana Jayemanne

(close abstract)This paper will explore the representation of culturally significant sites in videogames – in particular, those that have been destroyed in the real but find virtual representation in games. Where videogame models are highly destructible, capable of being respawned and destroyed in multiple different ways, historically and culturally significant heritage sites are unique and their destruction leaves an ethical wound on historical consciousness. This paper will record the history of the National and University Library of Sarajevo, and particularly the destruction of the site and how it has been represented in a myriad of different media with different meanings. The second part of the paper will analyse the representation of the library (post-reconstruction) in Act 2 – ‘Ghost of Sarajevo’ in the videogame Sniper Ghost Warrior 2, in order to raise issues about the ethical representation of heritage sites that have not only been destroyed and reconstructed, but are part of a national heritage.

14:20-15:40 Session 9D: Child’s Play
Chair: Bjorn Nansen
Location: AMDC 504
14:20
Jane Mavoa

(close abstract)In this paper we present the results of a survey of the parents of 753 children aged between 3 and 12 in Melbourne, Australia. In one section of the survey parents were asked to list up to three of their child’s favourite digital games at the time, on any device whether connected to the internet or not. Our results reveals a number of clear trends in children’s digital gaming habits and how they change over time with age and by gender. This extends our understanding of children’s gaming activities beyond the limited measures currently used that focus on time spent gaming, devices used, or researcher determined genre popularity. This will be of interest to games researchers and points to the need to consider age and gender as crucial variables when asking questions about children and digital games.

14:45
Suzanne de Castell, Jennifer Jenson, Kelly Bergstrom and Katrina Fong

(close abstract)In this paper we describe the design and implementation of a 2-week classroom unit that used the iPad game LostWinds 2: Winter of the Melodias (Frontier Developments, 2009) to teach the elements of narrative as specified in the learning objectives of the Grade 6 (age 11-12) Language Arts curriculum in Ontario, Canada.

15:10
Hartmut Koenitz

(close abstract)The “Aristotelian tension arc” (Mateas & Stern, 2005), and variations thereof (‘story arc,’ ‘dramatic arc’) is a particularly well established model of narrative, commonly referred to in GDC talks and Gamasutra articles1. While there are seemingly successful applications in narrative-focused analysis of video games (Laurel, 1986; Mateas, 2001), several scholars (Bogost, 2006; Jenkins, 2004; Jennings, 1996) have questioned the appropriateness of the very same model. This discrepancy is curious. How is it possible that the same models are embraced and rejected simultaneously? In this paper, I investigate the origins of the term and consider the implications.

14:20-15:40 Session 9E: [Panel] Navigating Status as a Department, Centre or Program
Location: AMDC Lecture Theatre
Speakers Mia Consalvo, Roger Altizer, Lindsay Grace and Emma Witkowski
(close abstract)
This panel session is designed for existing educators who have already designed, and most likely implemented, a game creation major (or minor, certificate, or so on). It explores the context in which such programs are set, and what effects those contexts have on games education. It also delves into the innovative ways that games programs are interacting with industry partners beyond internships and serving as mentors for schoolbased projects. This four person panel draws on the expertise of educators who have innovated in areas including industry collaborations, publishing, and working outside of typical academic structures. It explores the meta level of games programs and how they are navigating complex structures including the establishment of centers, offering programs outside of traditional departments, and building innovative relationships with industry that include dev work as well as space sharing.

15:40-16:10Afternoon Tea
16:10-17:30 Session 10A: Poetics, Environment and Travel
Chair: Melissa J. Rogerson
Location: AMDC 501
16:10
Ben Abraham and Darshana Jayemanne

(close abstract)In this paper we offer a provisional typology of the primary categories of environmental or ecological relationships depicted, represented or simulated in games. We explore four main approaches to environments in games: environment as backdrop, as resource, as antagonist, and as text. These four provisional types are not clearly delineated, or equally common amongst all games and game genres, nor are they mutually exclusive within particular games. We argue that consideration of ecological notions in gaming reveals their frequent subordination to higher level game design decisions, and that analysis through this typology can reveal the shifting relationships between technologies of simulation and videogame strategies of representation – as well as orient game design towards the possibility for more expansive thinking about environmental relations (and hence, the most significant political issues of our time) as seen in the work of scholars such as Timothy Morton.

16:35
Alex Mitchell, Yuin Theng Sim and Liting Kway

(close abstract)
There has been much discussion of whether games can be considered art. Regardless of the outcome of these discussions, some games stand out as clearly different in a way that can be considered “poetic”. Much work has been done to discuss how these games achieve their effects, and how they differ from mainstream games. There have not, however, been any empirical studies of how players respond to the techniques used in these games, and whether these techniques result in poetic gameplay. This paper describes an empirical study of poetic gameplay in The Graveyard, Thirty Flights of Loving, and The Stanley Parable. Using retrospective protocol analysis and semi-structured interviews with 21 participants, we observed that although these games did encourage participants to reflect upon issues beyond the immediate game experience, this tended to happen when the gameplay was made unfamiliar in ways that directly supported the emerging meaning of the game.

17:00
Tom van Nuenen

(close abstract)The ExTraVid project (Exploring Travel in Videogames) collects travel experiences and memories in the realms of video games. Currently in its first stage, the project has led to a series of unstructured interviews, as well as a questionnaire, in which participants are asked about their favorite virtual place. The explorative findings index a number of dominant themes in such descriptions of virtual place, and help with providing suggestions about the relation between virtual and corporeal travel.

16:10-17:30 Session 10B: Game Research Methods
Chair: Ben Abraham
Location: AMDC 502
16:10
Jose Zagal

(close abstract)Little work has examined the philosophy of war and its relation to videogames. This seems unusual since videogames have traditionally engaged with war as its subject matter. We provide a framework informed by traditional war ethics for analyzing and articulating ethical issues and concerns in videogames. Our framework consists of five lenses: the perspective offered to players, the scale and scope of war represented, the centrality of war to the game experience, the type of military that appear in the game, and the authenticity of a game’s representation. For each lens we also provide guiding questions that can be used to examine the subtleties and nuances of how war is represented in a game. These could hopefully lead to deeper and more insightful ethical analyses. We conclude with thoughts on how this approach could be productive and outline additional areas for future work.

16:35
René Glas and Jasper van Vught

(close abstract)This paper deals with play as an important methodological issue when studying games as texts and is intended as a practical methodological guide. After considering text as both the structuring object as well as its plural processual activations, we argue that different methodological considerations can turn the focus towards one of the two. After outlining and synthesizing a broad range of existing research we move beyond the more general advice to be reflective about the type of players that we are, and explore two methodological considerations more concretely. First of all, we discuss the various considerations to have with regards to the different choices to make when playing a game. Here we show how different instrumental and free strategies lay bare different parts of the game as object or process. Secondly, we consider how different contexts in which the game and the player exist, can function as different reference points for meaning construction and the way they can put limitations on the claims we can make about our object of analysis.

17:00
Marcus Carter

(close abstract)In this talk, I propose a constructoinist approach to understanding multiplayer games through studying the way that different types of play are given different values by players, that is, by studying their ‘moral economies’. This approach is necessary for understanding sandbox games in which player behaviour is not clearly demarcated by rule-based win conditions and conflict over player behavior is not limited to boundary-work around cheating. I argue that this approach provides a useful way to understand player behavior, and I illustrate this through an analysis of Final Tribal Council arguments in the US Reality TV Series Survivor.

16:10-17:30 Session 10C: Non-Traditional and Industry Track Part 2
Chair: Leena Van Deventer
Location: AMDC Lecture Theatre
16:10
Megan Beckwith And Alison Bennett
Queering virtual reality with drag realness

(close abstract)This paper will unpack intersections between virtuality and drag that informed the creation of a virtual reality artwork called Virtual Drag (http://virtualdrag.net/) made by Alison Bennett, Megan Beckwith and Mark Payne. What we discovered was that drag offers some useful pathways for thinking about virtual reality. The intersections between virtuality and drag stem from ways of speaking about virtual reality as simulation and the drag definition of realness. We will discuss the thinking behind the design of the project, how it was made and the impact of the work. We will then outline the conceptual and theoretical frameworks that underpin the work.

16:35
Peter Nelson
Autosave: The Shing Mun Redoubt

(close abstract)This project is a reconstruction of a historical site in Hong Kong made as a playable map in Counterstrike: Global Offensive. It examines how historical landscape narratives transition into competitive game environments, and how the conventions of player behavior are challenged by an environment that prioritises geographical and historical accuracy over conventional gameplay design. By working with local historians, surveyors and players, we discuss what aspects of the local history are communicated through our Counterstrike conversion, but also how the historical narrative is effected through its co-option into this popular competitive gaming format. By creating a slow and labyrinthine Counterstrike map, we disrupt the conventions of gameplay, and allow other elements of historical memory to influence the player experience. Our project will use this combination of disrupted player expectations, and the transformation of a historical narrative through a competitive online environment to examine the function of landscape in computer games.

17:00
Max Myers
The evil of the Greatest Good

(close abstract)This talk will explore the development and design of micro survival game The Greatest Good. With no more than thirty cards, and a play time of around fifteen to twenty minutes The Greatest Good aims to be one of the smallest and fastest survival games, while still offering the same high tensions and harsh experience of bigger games. The talk will focus on how the game deals with self sacrifice and selfishness, the design overall and its aims, and the history of the game, along with the people involved in making it what it is.

16:10-17:30 Session 10D: Game Design Industry
Chair: Lindsay Grace
Location: AMDC 504
16:10
Christopher Paul and Christopher Wysocki

(close abstract)This project uses rhetorical criticism to make the argument that biases exist against free-to-play games among players, journalists, and academics. Interrogating those biases is worthwhile in an effort to better understand the values of those in and around video games in an effort to address systematic problems in game design and play..

16:35
Brendan Keogh

(close abstract)The Australian videogame industry is one undergoing an era of “creative destruction” (Banks and Cunningham 2016) where the vacuum left by the retreat of international publishers has afforded a kaleidoscope of approaches to videogame development and distribution, to such an extent that even the term ‘videogame industry’ no longer fully encapsulates the vast range of creative practices happening around the videogame form—if indeed it ever did. This paper presents preliminary research on the contemporary context of Australian videogame creation to highlight the challenges that adequately accounting for informal videogame creativity poses for game studies. It provides an overview of contemporary informal videogame creativity in Australia, the technical and cultural affordances that shape their practice, their impact on the formal videogame industry, and proposes ways to account for such emergent informal creativity within game studies.

17:00
Karen Pearlman and John Banks

(close abstract)This paper draws on qualitative fieldwork data collected from an action research project undertaken in Australia (2012-2014) with artists and videogames developers that explored the potential of artists from backgrounds other than videogames to catalyze innovation in videogames development processes and associated workplace cultures.
This research project found that the participating artists can potentially catalyze innovation and contribute value to videogames development by introducing ideas and processes that disrupt routine thinking about games development. However, the focus of this paper is not so much with these project outcomes as the tensions and incommensurabilties that emerged among the craft and discipline understandings of the participating artists (whose primary skills were from outside videogames development) and the videogames developers. We consider the importance and value of such dissonance in catalyzing or impeding innovation.

16:10-17:30 Session 10E: [Panel] Game History and the Local
Location: AMDC 503
Speakers Jaroslav Švelch, Helen Stuckey, Melanie Swalwell and Maria B. Garda
(close abstract)Game history did not unfold uniformly and the particularities of space and place matter. Yet most digital game and software histories are silent with respect to geography. The orthodoxy that the U.S. and Japan – and to a lesser extent the U.K. – constituted the ‘centres’ at the outset of the industry has enjoyed such legitimacy that many accounts do not even bother to mention the ‘where’ that their material or statistics pertain to. Whilst there is burgeoning interest in discussing locality with respect to game history, the local needs to be critically-situated if it is not to simply become a new orthodoxy, celebrated for its own sake. This panel brings together scholarship addressing the critical potential of the local for game history, asking how this might encourage a maturation of historical work on games.

18:00-20:00 Session : Birds of a Feather Dinners
At this year’s DiGRA, we are facilitating a small number of ‘Birds of a Feather’ dinners; small dinner groups organised around similar interests. These smaller, more intimate groups are intended to help you meet and network with people working in your area in this broad interdisciplinary field. Of course, you’re welcome (and encouraged) to make your own separate dinner plans!
Sign-up to these dinners will be at the registration desk on July 4 & 5. Please bring sufficient cash, as you will be paying for your own dinner.
Groups will leave from the conference venue at 6pm and travel together after the dinner to the Centre City Social event from 8pm.
20:00-22:59 Session : Centre City Social
Wednesday night’s social function is being held at ACMI X in Melbourne’s Arts Precinct by the river, next to the National Gallery of Victoria and the famous Arts Centre Spire. There will be drinks, snacks and entertainment to fire you up for the final day of DiGRA!
We will be showcasing Multibowl!, the never-to-be-released game history compilation described by Motherboard as “the first real videogame mixtape” (created by Australia’s own Bennett Foddy, along with AP Thomson). Light snacks and drinks will be provided (have dinner beforehand)
Chair: Douglas Wilson

July 6, Conference Day 3

10:00-11:20 Session 11A: Talking About Games
Chair: René Glas
Location: AMDC 501
10:00
Veli-Matti Karhulahti

(close abstract)This article starts with a literary review of the conceptual frames through which esport has been labeled academically. It shows how the concept of ‘electronic’ has been taken as the core term for labeling esport, often accompanied by a strong emphasis on ‘professionalism.’ The literary review is followed by the submission of an alternative conceptual frame based on the economic notion of executive ownership, which provides a theoretical grounding for esport as a cultural phenomenon. In accordance with the above, the article concludes with a reframed look at the history of esport and suggests commercial analog gaming (especially Magic: The Gathering) as its point of origin.

10:25
Michael S. Debus and Pawel Grabarczyk

(close abstract)This paper argues for the necessity of adding a hierarchy to Aarseth and Calleja’s Cybermedia model (2015). The cybermedia model describes games as the player’s perspective on a cybermedia object, which consists of materiality, a sign system and a mechanical system. The author’s description, as well as visual representation, of the model suggests an equal importance of these three dimensions. We claim that such symmetry is unattainable. Through the exploration of the three dimensions relationships to one another, we will show that the mechanical system has a higher importance to games than the model’s other dimensions. Through this argument, we arrive at an improved weighted cybermedia model. This weighted model enables us to explore the ontology of concepts such as ports and clones of games, amongst other things.

10:50
Darshana Jayemanne, Justin Clemens, Adam Nash and Joseph Delappe

(close abstract)This paper will explore the possibilities that mathematical set theory has to offer the scholarly study of videogames. Videogames are highly heterogeneous objects of study, comprising what Linderoth (2015) has called a ‘composite form’: complex arrangements of material, symbolic and computational capacities. This composite is becoming ever-more heterogeneous, ‘recruiting’ increasingly volatile bodies and relations as computing resources are newly distributed throughout both built and natural environments to create locative, alternate and virtual realities that have been used by designers in various ways (Pokemon Go being only one example).

10:00-11:20 Session 11B: Expanding Game Studies
Chair: Jose Zagal
Location: AMDC 502
10:00
Peter Nelson

(close abstract)The analysis of landscape in computer games has had a brief but productive history in game studies. This paper clarifies how the term ‘landscape’ should be used, and updates the references to landscape theory that are both appropriate and useful to computer game studies. The focus in computer game studies on the phenomenology of player experience would benefit from a consideration of how landscape theory balances phenomenological approaches with the wealth of contextual histories they have accrued. Often referred to as “the backcloth of human history”, landscape theory brings together fields such as geography, anthropology, art history and philosophy to discuss the processes by which societies shape the physical environment and how the physical environment shapes them. I demonstrate the methodological congruence of these two areas of study, and how landscape theory can greatly enrich the field of computer game studies.

10:25
William Goddard and Alexander Muscat

(close abstract)Game design research is a growing field within game studies. Design in research, however, raises new questions. What should game design research investigate? How generalizable should its claims be? Considering the ‘ultimate particular’ of design, this paper explores how design research should investigate particular demarcations of works. This paper suggests genre as an approach in game design research, arguing that genres meaningfully, albeit reflexively, demarcate ‘likenesses’ worth investigation. Genre demarcations can be used to ground and orient research; lists of genre-games and informal descriptions suggest, what to, and how to, investigate genre, respectively. However, scholarly propositions of genres are necessary to support research. These propositions must make explicit, contestable, and substantive designerly claims about that genre, such as design values, structural patterns, and aesthetics, laying a scholarly foundation for future claims. These foundations support scholarly tradition in game design research by providing a context to ground, situate and disseminate findings.

10:50
Espen Aarseth

(close abstract)This paper will argue that ‘videogames’ as found in a number of central, critical texts (King & Krzyvinska 2002, Newman 2004, Juul 2005, Bogost 2006, KirkPatrick 2011) does not hold enough conceptual power to function as a terminological boundary tool for a critical field. But far from the claim that ‘videogames are a mess’ (Bogost 2009), the games referred to by this name are not particularly messy. Merely the term/concept itself.
While some conceptual alternatives already exist, such as playable artifacts (Leino 2012) or performance evaluators (Karhulahti 2015) these either consciously or automatically privilege certain forms of (single player) games. Instead, the paper will first document the inadequacy of the current conceptualizations, then explain why they necessarily must fall short, and finally propose an alternative, where the monolithic and untenable term ‘videogame’ is replaced by a matrix of media characteristics, where ‘video’ is but one potential aspect among many. This is not a call for a ban on the term videogame, but a corrective exploration of the politics and semantics of a central and popular but not very analytical term. A critique of the term videogame may not be popular, but it is necessary.

10:00-11:20 Session 11C: Diversifying Games
Chair: Leena Van Deventer
Location: AMDC 503
10:00
Alayna Cole, Adrienne Shaw and Jessica Zammit

(close abstract)Representation of diverse sexualities and genders has traditionally been uncommon in games (Shaw 2009). As the influence of independent developers grows (Anthropy 2012) and interest in queer content increases (Gravning 2014), the heternormative nature of the medium is beginning to be challenged; however, gaps remain in the study of queer content in games. In collaboration with in-progress qualitative and quantitative studies that are attempting to holistically analyse the history of LGBTQ representation in digital games (Shaw, Lauteria, Persaud & Cole 2017), the research we are presenting examines titles featuring queer content in games released from 2013–2015. Prior research for an existing project (Queerly Represent Me 2017) revealed a statistically significant increase in titles featuring queer content in this three year period, highlighting this period as warranting further study.

10:25
Jennifer Jenson and Karen Black

(close abstract)Studies on game construction pedagogy (GCP) indicate compelling links between game construction and increased confidence in computational literacy for middle and high school students. However, research continues to demonstrate sex-based differences related to computer programming confidence and STEM-related educational and career choices – girls and women are under-represented in computer science and engineering programs and the tech-industry in general (Ashcraft, McLain & Eger, 2016; Hill, Corbet & Rose, 2010; Anderson, Lankshear, Timms & Courtney, 2008; Denner, 2011). The goal of this study was to address this gap by administering a classroom-based GCP program in same sex girls and boys only groups.

10:50
Kyla Allison

(close abstract)This paper will present the notion that contingency is significant in the formation and execution of certain game mechanics within the Dark Souls trilogy (2011-2016), and also in the hyper-masculine imagined status quo of gaming culture that has formed around it. In particular, the ‘orange guidance soapstone’ mechanic promotes contingency by encouraging players to either help or hinder each others progress throughout the game – therein weaving the hyper masculine norms of ‘trolling’ from the status quo of gaming culture into the very fabric of the game. This becomes problematic as it draws players that don’t comfortably fit this status-quo into a cruelly optimistic (Berlant, 2011) relation-state, whereby that which initially attracted them to gaming becomes that which hinders their full enjoyment of gaming culture. Both Dark Souls and gaming culture share certain affective qualities that can aid in the understanding and dismantling of the exclusionary nature of present day gaming.

10:00-11:20 Session 11D: [Panel] Game History Methodologies
Location: AMDC Lecture Theatre
Speakers Jaakko Suominen, Keiji Amano, Maria B. Garda, Bernard Perron, Carl Therrien
(close abstract)The aim of the panel is to explore different game history methodologies used in practice by scholars around the world. In order to present and evaluate different research methods we would like to focus on specific projects that are being conducted or have been completed by the panel participants.

11:20-11:50Morning Tea
11:50-13:10 Session 12A: Game Worlds
Chair: Tom Apperley
Location: AMDC 501
11:50
Joleen Blom

(close abstract)This paper introduces the character-world relationship as a framework for discerning how a player makes sense of a virtual world.

12:15
Christian McCrea

(close abstract)Concept art and world-building are practices which have been part of games history and pre-history since before the first microprocessor was etched. Game studies has largely cast both practices as pre-production methodologies in order to instrumentalise the topics, depoliticise itself and cut itself off from the arena of art and design culture. This paper will address the two practices as speculative and cultural, using a close reading of the Dune world-building process and the several digital and board games which utilise the Dune intellectual property. The ultimate purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the value of reading games as futurism, to expose games to the political questions surrounding general cultural futurism, and to entangle concept art and pre-production in the same political sphere.

12:40
Ben Abraham

(close abstract)In order to arrest the dangerous climate change threatening the habitability of earth, carbon emissions regulations, either in market based or extreme draconian form, are coming. Digital games have yet to grapple with the fact that they are fundamentally dependent on the cheap and stable generation of electricity and, as a result, stand largely unprepared for drastic change. In this paper I propose to spell out the nature and consequences of the challenge that this will present to the games industry, with flow on consequences for the types of devices we will be able to play games on into the future, as well as the games that are designed for them.

11:50-13:10 Session 12B: Serious Matters at Play
Chair: Laura Crawford
Location: AMDC 502
11:50
Lars de Wildt and Stef Aupers

(close abstract)Our contemporary digital games are filled with religion. Players battle Templars through the ages in Assassin’s Creed; fight for the Chantry in Dragon Age, and against the alien Church of Unitology of Dead Space. Players may summon and commune with gods from various pantheons – from angels to Greek gods and ‘fictional’ deities. Indeed, across genres and platforms, it has previously been assessed that games’ virtual worlds are suffused with such religious and spiritual narratives, cosmologies, narratives, symbols and rituals (Krzywinska, 2006; Aupers, 2007; Campbell et al., 2014). Given the fact that most of such studies are based on textual content analysis (e.g., Šisler 2008; Trattner, 2016; Bosman, 2016), which analyze in-game representations of religion; the question remains:
How and why, if at all, do players relate to religious content while playing such games?
In order to answer this question, 20 interviews were conducted with players of different (non-)religious backgrounds.

12:15
Gareth Schott

(close abstract)As a game mechanic, death has primarily been used to punish players for mistakes and failure. Over-reliance on screen-death possibly constitutes one of the most dated aspects of digital games as a contemporary medium. This paper considers why this artefact of historical forms and content persists (Zimmerman, 2007), and in doing so, how it continues to trivialize the otherwise irreversible nature of the cessation of human life, and the sense of loss and grief experienced by those who are close to the deceased. In particular, this paper discusses the game That Dragon, Cancer (Numinous Games, 2016) for the manner in which it contributes towards a redefinition of the relationship between gaming and death. It is argued that the game allows the medium to tackle contemporary Western issues associated with the experience of death, and avoids contributing further to the ‘emotional invigilation’ (Walter et al., 1995) of death via its re-appropriation as an entertainment form. That Dragon, Cancer’s status as a game is also commented on, and defended, in terms of the player experience it offers.

12:40
Casey O’Donnell

(close abstract)When first exploring the idea that videogames and their respective “controllers” I was convinced there was a highly gendered relationship between the two. I presumed there was a kind of clear narrative link between both the “gender” of connections between devices and the underlying understandings of software/code. It fit into a clean kind of understanding of the affordances of software/hardware. So too did I see these kinds of terminological and predispositions rendered in the very design patterns within software. All of these elements encourage a kind of cisgendered / heterosexual reading. Which isn’t to say that this reading is “wrong.” Rather, I think, read from another possible perspective, we might take the vision of the “angry white male gamer,” and the vision of absolute control and turn it on its head. I seek to do that by asking the relatively simple question, “Who or what’s in control of the game?” As such, in this essay I explore the kind of software / hardware / code roots of the heteronormative vision and question the very foundations of that argument.

11:50-13:10 Session 12C: Game Art and Exhibiting Games
Chair: Daniel Golding
Location: AMDC 503
11:50
Hartmut Koenitz

(close abstract)Video game narrative has come a long way from the antagonistic beginning of the narratology vs ludology debate. A range of recent games can be seen as the current narrative avant-garde that enable a novel narrative experience. After revisiting some of the challenges for the recognition of game narrative, this paper shifts perspective and describes “walking simulators” as the new driving force of narrative expression.

12:15
Emilie Reed

(close abstract)This presentation will detail present research on a preliminary history of videogame related exhibitions in museums and art institutions, with analysis of how they influence game history, the formation of a canon, and collecting and conservation practices. Drawing on New Media and Museum Studies scholarship in addition to Game Studies perspectives, a variety of approaches to presenting games in an arts context will be identified and analyzed for how they appeal to visitors and create meaning and understanding of the games on display.

12:40
Lindsay Grace

(close abstract)This paper outlines the authors’ experiences and best practices for organizing a variety of game exhibits for small and large scale events. The perspectives are provided as cross-disciplinary views, drawing on the decade long experience of the curators of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Indie Arcade (IndiePopup.com), Blank Arcade (blankarcade.criticalgameplay.com) and game installations at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, the Newseum and others. The goal of the paper and presentation is to inspire others to create such activities, facilitate the productive expansion of such work and to help others learn from our experiences. The author has co-organized events with others attracting more than 11,000 visitors in a single day. Heuristic based evidence is provided.

11:50-13:10 Session 12D: [Panel] Ludic Methods: Tales of Research Strategies in the Study of Games
Location: AMDC 504
Speakers Mia Consalvo, Hanna Wirman, Brendan Keogh, Torill Mortensen
(close abstract)
Gamestudies challenges methodologies and research strategies, and common practices surface. Studying games has forced the panel members to rethink our approaches to creating meaning through media-ludic methodologies, extending knowledge exchange beyond games research.

13:10-14:00Lunch Break
13:15-14:00 Session 13: DiGRA Regional Chapter Meetup
DiGRA Regional Chapter representative meet up. This meetup facilitates exchange between regional chapters and serves to introduce them to potential new members. Everyone is welcome!
Chair: Hanna Wirman
Location: AMDC 501
14:00-15:20 Session 14A: Regionality
Chair: Martin Gibbs
Location: AMDC 501
14:00
Stephen Mandiberg and Michael Mandiberg

(close abstract)This paper approaches popular discourses of game localization on Twitter by using an original, but easily replicable method. This working Python hack enables scholars to analyze the large amounts of data within Twitter hashtag protests in order to better approach what gamers think and write about games.

14:25
Amani Naseem

(close abstract)This paper describes traditional Maldivian (Dhivehi) games, looking at existing practice as well as historical literature. The changing social contexts for play in the islands and in the capital Malé are described in relation to festival and carnival games as well as children’s games.

14:50
Nick Webber

(close abstract)This paper explores how games function in the space of British national identity. It opens with an analysis of ‘British’ games through the lens of government cultural policy, and the way that ideas of Britishness are reflected through the promotion of games as part of the creative industries, and as an element of the exercise of cultural diplomacy. I discuss the relationship between the national and the global, and reflect upon how ‘British games’ address the ‘British nation’, before drawing upon the idea of the local as a way to understand the complexity and plurality of Britishness in and around games. I conclude by touching on the concept of hybridity, accepting a discursive and fluid conception of national identity in which games play a critical role through their capacity to present, represent, and allow personal engagement with, Britishness.

14:00-15:20 Session 14B: Let’s Play and Speedrunning
Chair: Mia Consalvo
Location: AMDC 502
14:00
Emma Witkowski and James Manning

(close abstract)In this paper, we explore how videogame ownership and notions of co-creation in videogames intersect with “high performance play” practices. From speedrunning communities to esports leagues, expert play cultures offer rich examples to consider the ongoing negotiations on the conventions of play itself, made through assemblages of creative forces, from performances (on and off screen, by players and spectators), ownership/governance (of the game, of third-party organisations and products), and through the expression of player rights. Via two cases, we look at how two veteran franchises (Counter-Strike and Super Mario) have engaged with the moving foundations and expressions of co-creation practices made by those engaged in high performance careers of play, specifically speedrunner GrandPOOBear and Counter-Strike esports Major tournaments, players, teams, and leagues.

14:25
René Glas and Jasper van Vught

(close abstract)In this paper, we aim to share our experiences implementing Let’s Play videos as a core assignment within an undergraduate game studies course in a media and culture studies department. While primarily an entertainment format, we argue that the concept of the LP video has potential within an educational game studies setting as well, especially when play is considered to be a key part of the textual analysis of games. The LP assignment forced students into a more critical, self-reflective mode of analytical play; promoted more experimental, transgressive forms of engagement with games; and added to the ludoliteracy of participating students through the creation, sharing and discussing of videos of their research project in class.

14:50
Lawrence May and Fraser McKissack

(close abstract)
In this paper, we make a case for the distinct narrative conditions that arise when ‘speedrunning’ the zombie narrative in Valve Corporation’s cooperative first-person shooter games Left 4 Dead (2008) and Left 4 Dead 2 (2009). We will employ concepts from Gilles Deleuze’s Cinema 1 and 2 to frame our discussion of how the player’s narrative body, space, and time – in and out of the zombie apocalyptic gameworld – are impacted by the optimizations and exploits of the Left 4 Dead series’ zombie narrative. While the zombie story pre-programmed for players is largely bypassed, speedrunning through the Left 4 Dead series’ environments is a generative act of rupture that activates narrative tropes of the zombie genre that remain deeply embedded in the games’ virtual spaces and narrative architectures.

14:00-15:20 Session 14C: Gamer Identities and the Other
Chair: Jen Jenson
Location: AMDC 503
14:00
Melissa J. Rogerson, Martin Gibbs and Wally Smith

(close abstract)In this paper, we investigate the ways in which serious leisure hobbyist boardgamers have appropriated, objectified, incorporated and converted boardgames to “serve as “powerful reflections of [their] values and identity”” (De Schutter, Brown, & Vanden Abeele, 2015). Specifically, we describe the value that hobbyist boardgamers place on storage and shelving of games, and identify the ways in which they ascribe meaning to their game shelves not only as furniture but also as metaphors for the game collection itself, as well as for play.

14:25
Michael S. Debus and Ida Kathrine H. Jorgensen

(close abstract)Cultural artifacts bear marks of our time and it is possible to extract these through careful analysis. Non-human characters offer an interesting perspective to this, as we argue they may serve as contrasting images that do not only construct the ‘Other’ but also ourselves. The aim of this paper is to provide a framework for the discussion of non-human characters in games by proposing a taxonomy of non-human game characters.

14:50
Mahli-Ann Butt

(close abstract)This paper presents the qualitative research of interviews with women who play videogames with their partners. The ethnographic data analyses the limited affordances women have for performing their gender and femininity against the normalised acts of toxic masculinity in the new gaming public. Focusing on the intersection between heteronormativity, domesticity and gaming, this research creates a more multifaceted picture of the way women negotiate intimacy and gaming practices within coupledom. Themes to be addressed during this paper include the practice of ‘shaming’, ‘silencing’, and the expectation of women to be ‘self-sacrificing’ within their relationships. Toxic practices and heteronormative assumptions influence how women avoid certain aspects of gaming or else feel pressured to hide their femininity. If there is a manner of ‘Girlfriend Mode’ which exists, it is in the many modes of living – negotiating spaces and time – into which women are attuning themselves and their affective environments.

14:00-15:20 Session 14D: Non-Traditional and Industry Track Part 3
Chair: Douglas Wilson
14:00
Megan Beckwith
Augmenting live performance with stereoscopic 3D projection

(close abstract)Parallax is a contemporary dance performance that uses 3D animation and the stereoscopic illusion within the fabric of the performance. The performance is part of research at the Motion.lab at Deakin University, Melbourne Australia. It premiered at the Substation in Newport, Melbourne, 2013. Since that time the work has gone through several transformations and developments and will be presented in more mainstream theatres in mini tour across Victoria in 2018. This presentation looks specifically at a few of the changes that have become apparent in live dance performance that uses the stereoscopic illusion as a performance environment, contextualization device, dancer, duo partner and corps de ballet.

15:20-17:00 Session 15: DiGRA AGM
Please come along to the DiGRA AGM, including exciting announcements about next year’s DiGRA!
Chair: William Huber
Location: AMDC Lecture Theatre
17:00-23:59 Session : Recovery Drinks at the Glenferrie Hotel
Please join us after the conclusion of the conference at The Glenferrie Hotel, an excellent Australian-style pub 400m from the conference venue (324 Burwood Road, Hawthorn). There will be a function area set aside for DiGRA delegates.
The Glenferrie Hotel serves terrific food, including vegetarian and gluten free options (~$20-$30 per meal).
Chair: Tom Apperley