Call for participation: Games and Monstrosity: A CEEGS Research Workshop


An affiliated event of the Central and Eastern European Game Studies Conference 2017

September 28, Trnava, Slovakia


Jaroslav Švelch, University of Bergen
Daniel Vella, University of Malta


Call text

Since the early role-playing and arcade video games, monsters have been among the most recognizable elements of the medium. From Pacman’s ghosts and Dungeons & Dragons’ beholders to Dead Space’s necromorphs and Dark Souls’ demons, they have provided dynamic challenge as well as audiovisual and narrative attraction. But despite their prominence, they have not been extensively researched in game studies. This workshop will offer a unique opportunity to kickstart research on monsters within the field.

Traditional conceptualizations of monstrosity are deeply connected to the notion of transgression. Carroll defines the monster as “any being not believed to exist now according to contemporary science” (Carroll, 1990, pp. 27–28). In his view, monsters are impure, because they transgress the categories and rules we normally use to understand the world around us. Kristeva’s approach to horror similarly revolves around the concept of the abject, arguing that the cause of abjection is “what disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, positions, rules. The in-between, the ambiguous, the composite” (Kristeva, 1982, p. 4). A canonical example of this kind of monstrosity may be the Lovecraftian “non-Euclidean” monsters which defy human senses (Lovecraft, 2007).

However, these concepts of monstrosity do not take into account the rule-based and playful nature of digital games (Juul, 2005; Salen & Zimmerman, 2003). In games, monsters can never fully stand outside of the computational and rule systems of the game. They become objects of the player’s agency; they are obstacles to be experimented with and eventually overcome. Digital game monsters might inspire awe or shock by the virtue of their audiovisual design, but it could be argued that players tend to approach them analytically and playfully. Do monsters in games then retain the role of the “monstrous other” of myth and of much horror fiction, or is their transgressiveness transformed in a playful environment? It is in this context that the nature of monsters and the monstrous in games needs to be examined – on functional, aesthetic and ethical levels, among others.

We will welcome your input and ideas about monsters in games. The workshop will consist of individual presentations followed by a discussion. Due to the exploratory nature of the workshop, we encourage participants to submit work-in-progress papers, as well as finished research.


Topic suggestions

theories of monstrosity for games
monstrosity and otherness in philosophy or anthropology (as applied to games)
monsters and ethics in games
the reception of monstrosity among players
monsters and player strategies and tactics
“If only you could talk to the monsters”: the encounter with the in-game monstrous
the design and production of game monsters
“Monster Manuals”: taxonomies of the monstrous in games
comparative studies of monsters in games and other media
the monster as a metaphor for games, game technologies or algorithms
fandom’s relationship to and use of game monsters
ludic reworkings of monsters from mythology, folkore and fiction
the player as monster
the relation of the monstrous in games to other aesthetic categories (the uncanny, the marvellous, the fantastic etc.)



To participate in the workshop, please submit a a 500-word (excluding bibliography) abstract of your paper to Jaroslav Švelch (jaroslav@svelch.com). Submissions will be reviewed by the workshop organizers. To take part in the workshop, one has to register for CEEGS 2017 – however, acceptance into the program of the main conference is not required for participation in the workshop.

Deadline: July 20, 2017
Acceptance notification: August 10, 2017


For more information about CEEGS, go to ceegs.eu.



Carroll, N. (1990). The Philosophy of Horror, or, Paradoxes of the Heart. New York: Routledge.
Juul, J. (2005). Half-real: Video Games Between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Kristeva, J. (1982). Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. New York: Columbia University Press.
Lovecraft, H. P. (2007). Tales of H.P. Lovecraft. (J. C. Oates, Ed.). New York: HarperPerennial.
Salen, K., & Zimmerman, E. (2003). Rules of play: game design fundamentals. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

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