Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Game of Phones

I was recently interviewed by Dutch broadcaster VPRO for the 90m long documentary created by Maarten Slagboom on the role and impact of smartphones in the ongoing ludification and gamification of culture and society. It's was broadcast on June 10 and can be viewed below or by clicking here (all in Dutch).


Please also have a look at the great mobile short film they made to accompany the documentary. It's called MarkyMark87 and can be watched here. Please watch it on a smartphone though or the effect won't work.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Let’s Play Game Exhibitions: A Curators’ Perspective

Together with the Netherland Institute for Sound and Vision's Jesse de Vos and my Utrecht colleague Jasper van Vught I contributed a piece on game exhibitions in relation to Let's Play videos in the new Video Game Art Reader journal. It's called "Let’s Play Game Exhibitions: A Curators’ Perspective" and you can read the abstract below. It's not open access I'm afraid, but one can buy a copy of the Video Game Art Reader here
The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision is home to The Experience, a museum exhibiting the history of media in the Netherlands. For ten months in 2016 and 2017, The Experience hosted a temporary exhibition entitled Let’s YouTube. During the Let’s YouTube game month, we programmed a ten-day exhibition with a focus on video games as Dutch cultural heritage. The games were selected along two axes: popularity in the Netherlands, and made in the Netherlands. To connect this exhibition to the YouTube theme, we used Let’s Play videos as a contemporary phenomenon to engage younger visitors with “old” and often obscure games. For the Let’s Play installation, we selected games from our archives, produced in the Netherlands, and to which we had made agreements with the makers about the rights for online distribution. Over ten days, approximately 5,100 people visited the exhibition, mostly families with children, the museum’s target demographic.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Janet Murray: "Who's Afraid of the Holodeck: Facing the Future of Digital Narrative without Ludoparanoia"

On May 21, Hartmut Koenitz and I hosted a public lecture by Janet Murray at Utrecht University in close cooperation with the new professorship in Interactive Narrative Design at the HKU.

 Who's Afraid of the Holodeck: Facing the Future of Digital Narrative without Ludoparanoia
In the light of MIT's 2017 publication of an expanded and updated version of her classic 1997 book "Hamlet on the Holodeck," Janet Murray examines the ways in which the vision of the Star Trek Holodeck still serves as a reference point for the many things we desire and fear about the future of digital narrative. Murray also revisits the often contested territory where games and stories intersect.

Hartmut and his team have uploaded the lecture to YouTube, so have a look!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

DiGRA paper on play as a method

The paper Jasper van Vught and I wrote on play as a method, titled "Considering play: From method to analysis" has been uploaded to the DiGRA Digital Library as part of the DiGRA 2017 Melbourne proceedings. You can find the full paper here, below is the abstract:

Considering play: From method to analysis

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.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Two book chapters out now

Within just two weeks from each other, two edited volumes came out to which I contributed a chapter.

The first one is actually a co-authored one which I mentioned in an earlier blog post on the Let's Play game preservation projects I have been involved in. The book is The Interactive Past: Archeology, Heritage, and Video Games, edited by  Angus A.A. Mol, Csilla E. Ariese-Vandemeulebroucke, Krijn H.J. Boom & Aris Politopoulos of the Leiden University Value group. It's a great collection of diverse chapters on the relationship between digital games and the past. The book was made possible through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, and one of the chapters was actually crowdsourced by Kickstarter backers.

Our contribution to the book - I co-wrote it with Jesse de Vos, Jasper van Vught and Hugo Zijlstra - is called "Playing the Archive: Let’s Play videos, game preservation, and the exhibition of play". It presents the findings of a research project we did at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, where we investigated the potential uses of Let's Play videos as part of game preservation and exhibition practices in order to not just preserve games but also capture gameplay. 

Have a look at the chapter and the book: you can buy it but also download an open access version here

The other chapter is part of a Dutch-language book titled Onderwijs in Tijden van Digitalisering (Education in Times of Digitization), edited by Ad Verbugge and Jelle van Baardewijk of the Centrum Èthos at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. It's a collection os articles and essays on the use and misuse of digitazation in education to counter overly optimistic, almost utopian visions we often see in the "digital revolution" in education. 

My contribution to the book is titled "Van Spelenderwijs naar Wijs over Spel(l)en" which is somewhat difficult to translate but focused on game literacy, or lack thereof, when it comes to educational games used in classrooms and beyond. It's a critical take on the type of games which call themselves "educational" but are very limited in scope and ambition, and points towards alternative ways of thinking about games as educational. It's also a call to action for those who find themselves dealing more and more with games as part of educational curricula (as teachers) or as part of the children's media consumption (as parents) but are not necessarily equipped enough to fully understand and engage with them. Game literacy, I argue, should become part of media literacy practices in and around educational settings, not just because learning and playing are related, but also because digital games and play have become an essential part of our media and culture.   

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Let's Play game preservation

It has been rather quiet on this blog, but I nonetheless wanted to share some interesting results of a research project I have been involved in which deals with digital game preservation as part of national cultural heritage, a collaboration with the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision. It started as a Seed Money project colleague Jasper van Vught, Sound and Vision’s Jesse de Vos, and I got funded through Utrecht University’s Focus Area Game Research (a project overview of which can be found here), which had as its goal to set up “the first unified effort between game research, cultural heritage institutions and the Dutch game industry to define, preserve, archive and exhibit the history of Dutch digital games and game development”. The project continued as an NWO funded Musuem grant called Game On, with Jesse the Vos as main lead, with our MA student Hugo Zijlstra acting as research assistant and later research intern.

The results of the Game On project are a significant first step into creating an archive of Dutch digital games as part of our cultural heritage, as well as thinking about exhibiting such history in a museum setting. I’m proud I could play a part in this effort, but a lot of the actual game preservation (in all its facets) took place at Sound and Vision. They have an overview of all the projects’ results up now at the Sound and Vision’s website here. I’m afraid most of it is in Dutch, but some highlights I participated in are:

  • A symposium organized by Utrecht University and Sound and Vision called “Let’s Play Dutch Game History” on November 18 2016 with various talks by scholars and practitioners as well as panels including one with the founding fathers of the Dutch game industry. For an video impression of the symposium see the video below. The symposium itself was part of a larger game exhibition at the Institute called Let’s Play, a full evaluation of which became Hugo Zijlstra’s internship research report which can be found here.  
  • During the symposium I presented the research Jasper, Jesse, Hugo and I had been doing as part of the seed money project, which dealt with the Let’s Play video format as part of game preservation strategies (see a video of it here, in Dutch too I’m afraid). We presented initial findings of the project at the DiGRA/FDG conference in Dundee in August 2016 and will publish a full article on the matter soon in the edited volume The Interactive Past as well as a shorter manifesto-like piece in the first issue of the new Video Game Art Reader journal (on which more soon!).   

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Full paper DiGRA/FDG online

The full proceedings of the DIGRA/FDG '16 - First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG are now online in the DiGRA digital library. The conference itself was held in August in Dundee, Scotland (see here). Many members, both staff, students, and affiliates of our Game Studies group were present and presented their work. Below, you will find and overview of all the full papers which wound up in the proceedings, including my own:

Glas, René. Paratextual play: Unlocking the nature of making-of material of games.

Hurel, Pierre-Yves. "Playing RPG Maker"? Amateur game design and video gaming

Ottens, Michel. Enacting aporia. Roger Caillois' game typology as formalist methodology

De Smale, Stephanie. Game essays as critical media and research praxis