Key Note

Key Note Speakers 2014

The key note speaker for UTM 6 will be announced early in 2014.


Key Note Speakers 2012

Esther MacCallum-Stewart

Esther MacCallum-Stewart is a lecturer at the University of Chichester, and Vice President of the Digital Games research Association. Her work examines player narratives and their influence over gaming texts. She is currently completing her book Players vs Games; Online Communities, Social Narratives and has written widely on roleplaying, gender, deviant behaviour and online gaming communities.


Diggy Holes and Jaffa Cakes; the rise of elite fan-producer in videogaming culture

Abstract

Whilst much research has looked at communities within MMORPGs, there is a notable absence of studies investigating gamer behaviour in other types of game world. Most interestingly, players are often confined to their games, and the artefacts that they produce outside the game are largely ignored. This paper examines the player activity and community development which has arisen around platforms such as Steam, forums like Reddit, and games with less direct, or temporal access to social interaction such as MoBAs or single player games with large fan followings. I will examine the role of players in creating and sustaining these communities, and also more closely discuss how they act to produce spokespeople and celebrities within this formation. Interrogating the ways in which these communities form, their behaviour and their rolemodels, is a useful way to examine how online gaming groups form dynamic communities. It also problematizes the understanding on online gamers, in that these groups are creating new modes of expression and activity, engendered by their close relationships with the ideologies of gaming itself.

In order to contextualise this, I will look at two interconnected examples. The first is the runaway Indie hit of 2011; Minecraft. Minecraft is frequently hailed as a success story for community empowerment, and developer Mojang is keen to stress that endorsement and publicity of their game has arisen entirely from community development, not marketing. Whether this is true or not, a huge populace exists around Minecraft; a game with no tutorial, an infamously precipitous learning curve, and few ludic objectives. However, the game has a huge, extremely proactive following of fans whose ethos to ‘build, mine and create’ extends far beyond play within the world.
At the same time, the rise of Minecraft has coincided with a grassroots movement in which gamers are starting to promote themselves through web or livecasting. This has become an extremely popular way for gamers to keep up with news, watch each other play, review and discuss games, and coalesce into more esoteric groups. Specifically, I will look at the rise of the Yogscast, a trio of webcasters whose humorous series Shadow of Isprahel catapulted them into the gaming spotlight. By the end of 2011, they had gone from relative insignificance to becoming the most subscribed YouTube channel in the UK. This is partly as a result of the charismatic, entertaining nature of the three main presenters, but is also indicative of a gaming community desperate to find spokespeople able to represent them in articulate, visible ways.

The growth of the Yogscast, and of Minecraft, can both be seen as symptomatic of wider trends in gaming. They point to a community which lacks cohesion, and yet yearns for form. They also demonstrate the proactive nature of gaming fans (or fan-producers). By looking at recent fan studies, as well as theories of online community interaction, I aim to sketch a rough typography of gamers which has huge significance for future developments in player behaviour.


Key Note Speakers 2011

Jason Rutter

Jason Rutter is a Marie Curie Research Fellow at the School for Mass Communication Research, Catholic University of Leuven where his research is focused primarily community and the piracy of digital content. He has been involved in projects funded by the European Commission, Northern Ireland Office, NESTA, DTI and ESRC. His publications include Understanding Digital Games (2006, Sage) and special editions of Game Studies (2003) and Information, Communication and Society (2003). His recent projects include ‘COUNTER: Socio-economic and cultural impacts of the consumption of counterfeit goods (EC)’, ‘Hidden Innovation in the Creative Sectors’ (NESTA), ‘Intellectual Property Theft and Organised Crime’ (NIO) and ‘Mobile Entertainment Industry and Culture’ (EC). He chaired the European Commission Marie Curie Conference ‘Putting the Knowledge Based Society into Practice’ (April 2006) and the international conferences ‘Mobile Entertainment: User Centred Perspectives’ (2004) and ‘Playing with the Future’ (2002) as well as running the ESRC-funded seminar series “DigiPlay: Experience and Consequence of Technologies of Leisure”. He was the inaugural vice-president of the international Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA). More information can be found at http://madebyjase.com/

Tadhg Kelly - What Games Are

For a long time, on Gamasutra.com and in other forums, game designer and theorist Tadhg Kelly has advocated the view that video games are an expressive art, but unlike the arts that we've known before. Whether it's the magical feeling that you get with playing games, the way that they engage you, or the apparent shallowness of their attempts to deliver stories, Tadhg proposes a range of new terms and new ways of looking at the artform that aim to re-invigorate conversations about what games are, and their artistic and cultural significance.

Tadhg Kelly is speaking at Under the Mask courtesy of BAFTA. BAFTA's public events and online resources bring you closer to the creative talent behind your favourite games, films, and TV shows. Find out more at www.bafta.org/newsletter, www.facebook.com/bafta or www.twitter.com/bafta

Bio: Tadhg Kelly has been working in games for nearly twenty years, and has been a regular blogger (most recently at http://whatgamesare.com/ ) and contributor on industry-leading sites such as Gamasutra. He is currently Chief Creative Officer at Simple Lifeforms, a social game development startup based in the UK. Previously he has worked as Senior Game Development Manager for several casual titles on Sky's set-top box platform; as Lead designer on DS/PSP projects at Climax Studios; and provided content and interactivity design and implementation for Lionhead Studios’ BAFTA-winning The Movies.


Key Note Speakers 2010

Ste Curran

In the beginning, way back in the beginning, Ste Curran loved videogames. Every kid does. And like most kids he fell out of love with them for a while too, studied to be a writer, but a life-changing encounter with PaRappa the Rapper at a house party altered everything. Ste applied for a job at Edge magazine on a whim and stayed there for three years, finishing as Editor-at-Large, writing the popular, furious (and often wrong) RedEye column. Then he ran out of words to write about games and left to try and make games worth writing about. After spending some time learning the realities of game production at Sony, Ste went to work as a designer at Zoe Mode where he's now the studio's Creative Director. Based in Brighton, UK, Zoe Mode make social and music games and it's part of Ste's job to concept, prototype and guide these games through production. Another part is to be an evangelist, to speak at conferences across the world and preach about bringing gaming to a bigger audience. Ste pretends that is hard work but secretly it is fun because Ste likes showing off. Related to that, Ste presents One Life Left, an award winning (and sometimes award losing) radio show on London's Resonance 104.4FM. One Life Left is a weekly broadcast that's mostly about games only not really. Videogames are stupid most of the time and breathtakingly brilliant some of the time. So One Life Left teases videogames, even though it loves them unconditionally. Even though they can change lives.

Ste has no practical skills to speak of. He lives in London, likes short stories about the end of the world and will dance to anything given enough time and vodka. Cheryl Cole once held his hand. You can find him at twitter.com/steishere or ste[at]onelifeleft.com.


Key Note Speakers 2009

Garry Crawford

Garry Crawford is a Senior Lecturer in Cultural Sociology at the University of Salford. His teaching and research primarily focus upon audiences, fan cultures and the everyday uses of media, and it is these interests that have led him specifically into writing on video gamers in recent years. Garry Crawford is the Director of the Salford University Digital Cluster (www.digital.salford.ac.uk) which is a centre of excellence for research on digital media, and new and convergent technologies. He is the author of Consuming Sport (Routledge 2004), and the co-author of the second edition of Introducing Cultural Studies (Pearson 2008, with B. Longhurst, G. Smith, G. Bagnall, and M. Osborn), the Sage Dictionary of Leisure Studies (Sage, 2009, with T. Blackshaw), and is currently working on two books on gaming for Routledge: Gamers: Video Gaming and Everyday Life (with V.K. Gosling) and an edited collection entitled Online Gaming (with V.K. Gosling and B. Light). Garry is an executive of the British Sociological Association (BSA), and review editor for the journal Cultural Sociology.

Download the full paper - Garry Crawford.doc


Forget the Magic Circle (or Towards a Sociology of Video Games)

There have been several sociologists who have written, sometimes quite extensively and informatively, on video games, and more commonly many within video games studies have tapped into wider sociological literatures. However, more generally, the willingness of sociology to engage with video games and gamer analysis has been rather underwhelming, and this is particularly significant, for as Neiborg and Hermes (2008) argue, video games offer a key area for developing our understanding of contemporary audience, consumer and production patterns. Similarly, the general level of engagement with sociological literatures within games studies has at times been fairly limited. Though writers sometimes draw on philosophical/sociological ideas, such as ‘the magic circle’, which they claim are ‘social’ concepts, there is little understanding or engagement with what this actually means. Hence, this paper offers a (further) critique of the magic circle and similar concepts, but argues that the key weakness of these concepts is their lack of engagement with, and applicability to, other spheres of social life. To this end, I suggest that the (also sometimes used in game studies) concept of frame analysis, does offer a more social theory; however, what is truly needed in game studies (reflecting the arguments of early criminological debates in the 1960s and 70s) is a ‘fully social theory’ (Taylor, Walton & Young 1973) of gaming.


Ernest Adams

Ernest Adams is an independent game designer, writer, and teacher, working with the International Hobo design group. He has been in the game industry since 1989, and is the author of three books, includng "Fundamentals Game Design," with Andrew Rollings; and "Break Into the Game Industry: How to Get a Job Making Video Games." Ernest was most recently employed as a lead designer at Bullfrog Productions on the Dungeon Keeper series, and for several years before that he was the audio/video producer on the Madden NFL Football product line at Electronic Arts. He has developed on-line, computer, and console games for everything from the IBM 360 mainframe to the Playstation 2. He was the founder of the International Game Developers' Association, and is a frequent lecturer at the Game Developers' Conference. His professional web site is at http://www.designersnotebook.com.


The Philosophical Roots of Computer Game Design

This lecture is a theoretical discussion of the historical, social and technological forces that produced the contemporary culture of computer game design and development. Although game design might seem to be primarily about making successful commercial products, in fact the subjects we choose to explore in our games are not necessarily dictated by the market, but are the product of our own peculiar philosophical origins. As digital technologists we work with the classical tools of logic and order; as creative people we strive for the expression of romantic ideals. This tension between the classic and the romantic sides of our medium is the source of some of our more intractable creative problems. This lecture is not intended to offer specific solutions, but to enlighten and entertain.


Key Note Speakers 2008

Tanya Krzywinska

Tanya Krzywinska is a Professor in Film and TV Studies at Brunel University, West London. She is President of the Digital Games Research Association (www.digra.org) and has published widely on different aspects of videogames, co-authoring Tomb Raiders and Space Invaders: videogames forms and contexts and co-editing ScreenPlay: cinema/videogames/interfaces and Videogame/player/text. She is also the author of: A Skin For Dancing In: Possession, Witchcraft and Voodoo in Film and Sex and the Cinema, plus co-author with Geoff King of Science Fiction Cinema: From Outer Space to Cyberspace ). (Wallflower Press, 2000).

You can read more about Tanya at her website


Reanimating HP Lovecraft: The Ludic Paradox of Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

Abstract

'Experience the horror of HP Lovecraft like never before in the most chilling survival horror game ever', spouts the back cover marketing tease for Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (Bethesda/Ubisoft, 2006). Out of the darkness I hear the creaking sound of a stiffly indignant corpse rotating in its grave, motioned by the horror of having been 'remediated'. Fantasy projections aside, Lovecraft was convinced that writing for commercial purposes diminished its value as art. Nonetheless, his adjective-encrusted tales of cosmic horror and strange cults, set against the backdrop of fantastical dreamscapes twisted by incipient insanity, hold an oft-revered place in the history of the horror genre. While certainly owing a debt to the fantastical writings of Poe and Lord Dunsany, the particular brand of sublime terror found in Lovecraft's Cthulhu tales eschew action-based good-triumphs-over-evil horror, favouring instead the vertiginous, mind-blowing contours of cosmic space, where the alienating other is never humanized or overcome.

It might seem therefore that the lack of muscular action and highly present pessimistic ethos of the Cthulhu mythos is ill-suited to the mainstream videogame market, where, like so much popular fiction, the pace is furious, the hero prevails and human values are consolidated through a feel-good resolution. Yet, in the re-animated and endlessly echoing environs of the contemporary mediascape, which increasingly thrives on the fat of established brands, various game designers and developers have become possessed by the spirit of the Cthulhu mythos, some paying tacit homage-Alone in the Dark, Silent Hill, Bioshock— and others more fully mantled, as with Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth and Cthulhu Nation.

Part of my labor in this paper is to account for the appeal of the Cthulhu mythos for game designers working within the particular parameters of videogame form. A core factor in this regard is that Lovecraft created a fictionally coherent world (if we want to be literal, a cosmos), built around an expandable myth system, and he actively encouraged others to share in the process of deepening and expanding the world and its myths, while remaining faithful to its general ethos. Fictional world creation such as this, emergent in this case from a range of different tales written over several decades, lends itself well to games but Lovecraft's 'world' has not the heroic ethos, human comforts, moral and metaphysical certainties of Tolkein's near contemporary Middle Earth. And, rather than the vigorous hacking and slashing, shooting and leaping, that lies at the heart of many videogames, Bethesda's Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth takes a different approach by exploiting the spatial, temporal, architectural, cinematic and multimedial features of games. These are used in a variety of ways (as I will show) to create the atmosphere and mood that is integral to Lovecraft's work and which he thought more important to the creation of 'horror' (or weird as he called it) than muscular action (which I would suggest is prevalent in some survival horror games). One of the central concerns of this paper is how atmosphere, pessimism and inaction of associated with truly affective fiction-based horror squares with the fact that games are sold and defined in terms of 'doing', of being/becoming an agent, of acting in progressively decisive and controlled ways. To explore this apparent paradox in greater detail and to open up questions about what is pleasurable about horror fiction I develop some of my earlier work on the dynamic relationship between agency and determination in games. Building on analysis of these features I will then seek to suggest what aspects and powers of Lovecraft tales have been lost and what might be found in their re-animation into videogame form.


David Hayward

David Hayward is a games industry consultant and freelance writer. He is project coordinator for Pixel Lab Ltd. Pixel-Lab is a UK-based consultancy and production company that works to expand and support the videogames and digital content industries. Pixel-Lab’s portfolio includes regional development agencies, universities and the London Games Festival. David also writes for the Gamasutra website.

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