UTM 2008 - Conference Abstracts
  1. Anne-Mette Albrechtslund 'Developing story: Understanding narrative practices in online gaming communities’
  2. Gus Andrews Baby Games, Boy Games, Games for Nerds: Class and gender gaming disparities among U.S. youth
  3. Maria Bäcke Avant-Garde and Subversion in an Online 3D World
  4. Dean Chan On Gaming Cultures and Asian American Gamers
  5. Alec Charles Worldplay: Reflections upon the Global Reality Game
  6. Garry Crawford and Victoria K Gosling Towards a Game Scene? Narrative, Gaming Audiences & Scene
  7. Deirdre Devers Shooting First Person: Productive (Role) Play and Performance in Player Created Content
  8. Marie Griffiths and Ben Light Social Networking and Digital Gaming Media Convergence: Consequences for Appropriation in Habbo Hotel
  9. Holin Lin and Chuen-Tsai Sun Invisible Gameplay Participants: The Role of Onlookers in Arcade Gaming
  10. Esther MacCallum-Stewart You Guys Suck! Social, Ludic and Spectacle Griefing in Online Worlds
  11. Souvik Mukherjee I Am a Paddle, I Am a Stalker, I Am a Game: Locating the Player in the Zone of Becoming
  12. David Surman From Grey Boxes to Silver Screens,The Single Female Intruder as High Trash Heroine
  13. Jan Van Looy Player Identification in American McGee’s Alice: A Comparative Perspective

Anne-Mette Albrechtslund

Developing story: Understanding narrative practices in online gaming communities

This paper offers a discussion of the creative processes of gamers producing, exchanging and negotiating narratives in the context of the extremely popular online game World of Warcraft (Blizzard 2004). I describe some of the many ways that narratives arise, espe-cially in player-created forums dedicated to in-game guilds. I also introduce Paul Ri-coeur’s theories on narrative, mimesis and identity as a way to understand the underlying mechanisms and the importance of these narrative activities in creating meaning and forming identity in relation to the game.

Gus Andrews

Baby Games, Boy Games, Games for Nerds: Class and gender gaming disparities among U.S. youth

While gaming differences among youth by gender and nationality have
received much attention (Bannert, 1996; Kafai, 1998; McNamee, 1998;
Suess, 1998), less attention has been devoted to class differences.
This study surveyed 294 students between the ages of 13 and 19
attending either a high-income college preparatory or a low-income
public school in the New York City metropolitan area. Once themes in
responses were identified, twelve students representative of their
school and gender pile-sorted games into categories they developed and
were interviewed about their gameplay habits.

Genre and platform preference differed greatly by income level.
High-income boys preferred World of Warcraft, a game whose popularity
in high-tech workplaces has some calling it "the new golf" – what one
plays to network with colleagues or build rapport with the boss.
(Pinckard, 2006) Low-income students and girls, meanwhile, indicated
they did not like or had never heard of WoW. Low-income students
generally expressed frustration with "too-complicated" computer game
controls, indicating that even in play they may be losing ground to
the computer competencies of high-income students.

Gender was still a major factor. Girls at both schools went out of
their way to dis-identify themselves with video games, dismissing them
as "baby games," "for boys," or "too violent" – while elsewhere they
indicated playing as much as boys did. Girls' gaming preferences
mirrored those of middle-aged women, who have been recognized by the
games industry as the "silent majority" of gamers. (IGDA, 2004)
However, girls described play patterns more like boys' when they were

Maria Bäcke

Avant-Garde and Subversion in an Online 3D World

The 3D online world Second Life provides ample opportunities for both role-play and social interaction. Moreover, the relative lack of explicit game-rules (at least initially) on the part of the creator, Linden Lab, provided the gamers with a carte blanche to be anyone they want and give them the freedom to do almost anything. It has become clear, however, that Linden Lab has found reasons for making alterations in their legislative framework. Additionally, local game rules are being developed in many places and there are huge differences in how these rules are maintained and enforced.

Using theories of the avant-garde (Greenberg, Poggioli, Bürger) as a stepping stone, as well as Manuel Castells’ four-layered theory of Internet cultures (the techno-meritocratic, the hacker, the virtual communitarian and the entrepreneurial culture), my intention is to explore the actions of, and the attitudes towards, the type of digital avant-garde that is exemplified by gamers/hackers/grievers/deviants. I will look at this both on a "global level" and on a local level, where communities and sim owners use different strategies to control their land and gamers’ behaviour on it. The global data will be taken from the”Incident Management Report” which is issued by the Second Life Governance Team on violation against Linden Lab rules. Additionally, I will carry out interviews with sim owners and community representatives, as well as with some of those who are labelled grievers. I will also look at blogs and articles that address the issue of grievers and disruptive behaviour in an online world.

Dean Chan

On Gaming Cultures and Asian American Gamers

Critical attentiveness to the interrelationship between vernacular practices
of gaming and their socio-cultural context invariably complicates any
attempt at narrowly defining gamers in overarching national terms. Indeed,
Asian American specificities highlight the importance of continuously
interrogating any such national fictions. The presence of American gamers of
Asian descent especially in local game arcades, e-sports tournaments, and
Internet cafes has been often noted in online gaming forums. Yet, this
dominant stereotypical perception of Asian American ubiquity and prowess is
largely circulated at the expense of diasporic subjectivity and agency.
These gamers are generally spoken for, elided, and seen through by others.
Why are these subjects rendered, paradoxically, both hypervisible and out of

Writings by and on Asian American gamers serve in this paper as situated
contexts and discursive sites for examining contemporary idioms and
practices of racial identity formation in the United States. This
hermeneutical approach is underpinned by the premise that gamers do not play
in a ludological vacuum; they are first and foremost social beings. Case
studies under discussion include Dennis Fong (a.k.a. “Thresh”) the former
professional gamer, the “Garden Grove incident” (which involved shootings at
net gaming cafes in California in 2001-2002), and game critiques written by
Asian American gamers and scholars. By offering such a wide-ranging
meditation on the localised constituencies of play, this paper contributes
to a broader topical conversation within games studies about the need to
cultivate differential frameworks for analysing communities, practices, and
types of gamers, and their complex relationship to the wider socio-cultural
and spatio-temporal milieux.

Alec Charles

Worldplay - or final doom: reflections upon the global reality game

George Orwell wrote in 1946 that “things like the dropping of the atom bomb on Japan, can be defended only by arguments which are too brutal to face. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism.” Raymond Williams, writing of the Malvinas War, referred to television's “antiseptic presentation of the images of war.” Nine years later, the Gulf War's emotionally sterile images of bombings - images captured by cameras mounted on warplanes, images which saturated the television reportage of the conflict - further diminished the human dimension of warfare, not only exposing a complicity of military and media perspectives, but conspicuously translating mass destruction into the visual idiom of the videogame. Lifton and Markusen have observed a similar shift in this political-military discourse from the euphemistically neutral to the positively glamorous: it “can be overtly sexual, such as 'orgasmic whump'. Or it can be a mixture of the sexual, technical and obscurantist, as in 'optimizing penetration dynamics.'” From Ronald Reagan's aborted Star Wars initiative to the events of 9/11, the imagery of the high-technology entertainment industry has suffused this discourse. In October 2001, for example, ABC news marked the invasion of Afghanistan by heralding a new generation of laser-guided missiles beneath the headline 'Guided by the Stars': these military technologies have come to represent an amalgam of heavenly power, of celestial science fiction and of celluloid celebrity. This (post-)postmodern 'hyper-reality' - as Baudrillard has called it - finds its ultimate expression in the simulacrum of the videogame, and, like the videogame itself, represents a Lacanian mirror which (in Althusser's terms) interpellates its citizen-consumers as transcendental avatars of its totalizing ideology. In 1982 Martin Amis published a study of videogames entitled Invasion of the Space Invaders - but today the iconic virtuality of the videogame, and specifically of the war game, no longer threatens to overwhelm contemporary reality: today it is our reality - a world that has been digitally remastered.

Garry Crawford and Victoria K Gosling

Towards a Game Scene? Narrative, Gaming Audiences & Scene

This paper develops, and expands upon, ideas first set out in both Crawford (2006) and Crawford and Rutter (2007), which posits the idea of considering gamers as a (media) audience — enabling parallels to be drawn with wider literatures and debates on audience research and media fan cultures. In particular, drawing on some illustrative examples from ongoing ethnographic research (currently funded by the British Academy) into the everyday lives of gamers, this paper suggests that the concept of ‘scene’ (borrowed most notably from music fan studies) allows us to understand how gaming, and also significantly game-related narratives, are located within the everyday lives of gamers, and the significance that this takes on in certain (physical) locations — such as arcades, LAN events and bedrooms.

Deirdre Devers

Shooting First Person: Productive [Role] Play and Performance in Player Created Content

First person shooters (FPS) remain a popular genre especially in terms of multi-player, online collaborative and competitive game spaces. First person shooter Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 offers a unique features such as face scanning and extensive character customisation that further enhance the degree to which one can identify with the game avatar. Drawing on Pearce’s notion of ‘productive play’, the study examines North American players that create movies using their individually customised avatar from Rainbow Six: Vegas 2. Findings indicate that play as performance and identification-through-customisation are significant motivational factors in compelling these players to contribute their time and effort to the creation of game-based content.

Marie Griffiths and Ben Light

Social Networking and Digital Gaming Media Convergence: Consequences for Appropriation in Habbo Hotel

Digital gaming is recognised as incorporating collaborative in addition to competitive elements. Moreover, technologies of play, such as social networking sites, are also incorporating gaming activities. With this in mind, we offer a field study of the appropriation of an online play space known as Habbo Hotel. Habbo Hotel, as a site of media convergence, incorporates social networking and digital gaming functionality. Our research highlights the problems such a dual classification of technology may bring. We focus upon a particular set of activities undertaken within and facilitated by the space – scamming. Scamming (as grief play) involves duping members of their virtual objects that have online and offline economic value. Through our analysis we show that sometimes, online activities are bracketed off from those defined as offline and that this can be related to how the technology is classified by members – as a social networking site and/or a digital game. In turn, this may affect members’ beliefs about rights and wrongs. We conclude that given increasing media convergence, the way forward is to continue the project of educating people regarding the difficulties of determining rights and wrongs and how rights and wrongs may be acted out with respect to new technologies of play online and offline.

Holin Lin and Chuen-Tsai Sun

Invisible Gameplay Participants: The Role of Onlookers in Arcade Gaming

Gaming experience is not limited to what takes place between the gamer(s) and screen, or among players who cooperate with/compete against one another in virtual or physical worlds. In this study, we attempt to explore the roles of an important, yet often invisible group of game participants, the onlookers, in shaping the gameplay experience. Amusement arcades in northern cities of Taiwan are chosen as research sites for observing interactions between gamers and onlookers, and for selecting interviewees.
In amusement arcades, social interactions among gamers and onlookers are complex and dynamic. Players sometimes play in more social settings as pre-existing networks of friends present on the sites, sometimes play in more showing settings as on-looking crowds watch the players’ performance. The roles of onlookers in amusement arcades are flexible and fluid, too, which could be players waiting for their turns to play, friends of the current players, or by-passers attracted by the performance. Together, the sites offer fertile ground to explore the mechanisms of player-onlooker interplay.
Major analytical questions include: How do the factors like game genres, gaming time-span in a day, settings of amusement arcades, the relative skill-levels of players and on-looking potential players, and the presence of pre-existing social relations among them, affect gaming behaviour in amusement arcades? How do onlookers help to define/enhance/expand the boundary of gameplay? How do the players and the onlookers ‘negotiate’ the right to play? By bringing the audience/bystanders of gameplay into the front stage, we try to demonstrate the important role they play in affecting players’ behaviour, maintaining the “magic circle”, and shaping the gaming experience as well as the game culture.

Esther MacCallum-Stewart

You Guys Suck! Social, Ludic and Spectacle Griefing in Online Worlds.

We know that players are social in online worlds, but how are they social? This paper develops my ideas on the tribal nature of players by looking at the subject of griefing – or intentionally causing another player harm. Hitherto, griefing has often been defined as ‘cheating’ or through more nebulous categories of harm, frequently configured through ludic activities such as ‘ganking’, ‘corpse-camping’ or gold-farming. Little attention has therefore turned to the social devices that players use to harm each other.

This paper posits three terms to classify griefing. Ludic, social and spectacle griefing reconfigure the idea within a framework that pays more attention to the social actions that players use to cause harm. It also argues that the social and tribal constructions within online worlds often encourage these acts, although this is sometimes inadvertent. I consider how players respond to grief, why it occurs, and how tribal units within games act to prevent it.

Souvik Mukherjee

I Am a Paddle, I Am a Stalker, I Am a Game: Locating the Player in the Zone of Becoming

Recent analyses have revealed an increasing complexity in the processes of gameplay. The resultant pervasiveness of the so-called ‘magic circle’ and the problems in separating reality from the game-world have affected another key element of gameplay: the players themselves. As Galloway maintains, games function as feedback systems with the players; hence, it is impossible to see them as absolute agents traversing a passive game-world. Instead, this intense connection with the game-algorithm raises many questions about the player’s identity and situation. Earlier ideas of her holodeck-like immersion in the game-world have been challenged by newer concepts like meta-outmersion. Yet, the experience of intense involvement in the game-world still remains. What happens, then, in the zone between the player and the screen? How do players connect to their in-game characters and reality?

When seen in terms of Gilles Deleuze’s concept of becoming, however, these questions are easier answered. Deleuze sees ‘becoming’ as a process of filiation but he maintains that what is real is the becoming itself, thus showing how intense ludic involvement is possible without losing awareness of the real. Prior to the actualization of ludic acts, both game and player exist in what Deleuze terms the ’ zone of becoming’. This paper will show how the model of the ‘zone’ is useful in situating the player. For this analysis, I shall refer to a literal example of a ‘zone’ – as found in the FPS, STALKER: Shadows of Chernobyl. The development of the player’s identity shall be revealed as she undergoes the process of becoming-stalker and becoming-ludic.

David Surman

From Grey Boxes to Silver Screens, The Single Female Intruder as High Trash Heroine

In this paper the author examines the history and aesthetic of the ‘single female intruder’,
a transmedia character archetype, prevalent in contemporary digital culture, through
science fiction films, videogames, manga and anime. The author argues that this
recurrent figure is synonymous with the movement of new cultural flows from Asian-
Pacific media centres into the West, where it interacts with certain permissive prior
aesthetics, to produce a transnational and transmedia archetype that is metonymic of the
relations between body, technology and urban society. To argue for the consistency and
currency of this recurrent figure, the author traces its development from historical
transformations in feminine identity in Japan, from the Genroku era (1688–1704) to the
Tenmei era (1781–89), though the later impact of Meiji reforms, and exposure to Western
societal values (circa 1860). The author moves to a critique of post-war Japanese
aesthetics, and examines how the ambiguous single woman, dressed in characteristic
Rikyu greys, is retrieved from antiquity, to become a metaphor for a triumphant and
spiritual relationship to the industrialisation of space and aesthetics. In a final move, the
author examines how, through the popularisation of Japanese film, manga and anime, this
archetype has moved into the international arena, to become a transnational archetype
representing the “soft power” politics of Japan’s technonationalism, cyberculture, and
presence as a first world media producer.

Jan Van Looy

Player Identification in American McGee’s Alice: A Comparative Perspective

In this paper I analyse personal identification in three incarnations of Alice in Wonderland: the original novels, the 1950s Disney animation film and the computer game American McGee’s Alice. After presenting the research corpus, I lay out the analytical framework derived from Kendall Walton’s theory of representational artefacts as props for evoking imagining in games of make-believe. From this perspective, the Alice heritage relies on spectacle rather than plot to entertain. This spectacle differs across media as each medium’s strengths are played out: language-play in the novels, colour/motion/sound in the film and challenges in the game. There are two types of imagining involved: objective, whereby a person imagines a scene outside of himself, and subjective, in which
case the imagining revolves around a version of himself. Both the novels and the film primarily evoke objective imagining whereas the game invites the player to be introjected into the Alice character evoking subjective imagining. The picture is not unambiguous, however, as the novels and the film stage a broad array of subjectifying techniques and the game objectifying ones. This gives us some indication as to the nature of representation which, to be of interest, presents a tension between here and there, between the self and an other.