CfP: Game Studies Panels at SCMS 2016, Atlanta

 Please find below a list of game-related panels seeking participants for the Society for Cinema and Media Studies annual conference in Atlanta, March 30 – A6ril 3, 2015. Proposals should be submitted directly to the panel organizers — please note that deadlines vary. Panel organizers are responsible for reviewing, compiling, and submitting final proposals by the SCMS deadline of August 28th, 2015, through the SCMS website at www.cmstudies.org.


This list is compiled annually by the SCMS Video Game Studies Scholarly Interest Group (VGSSIG), and is intended to help increase the profile of game-related research at the conference.

Best regards,

Harrison Gish and Felan Parker

VGSSIG Co-Chairs


Diana Pozo and John Vanderhoef

VGSSIG Graduate Student Representatives





Independent Game Scenes


Independent game research tends to focus on the North American indie scene, regardless of the rich and diverse history of independent game production around the globe. Not every independent scene shares the ethos and characteristics of the North American indie movement. The differences run much deeper when we look at a broader temporal frame, especially looking back at the 1980’s and 1990’s. What is more, even the North American scene is not a homogenous phenomenon but an ever changing cluster of various local communities and histories centered around different places, companies and designers.


This panel seeks contributions from academics who are interested in independent game scenes from different locations (cities, regions or countries) and time periods (since the 1970’s until today). The possible areas of investigation could include specific case studies or more comparative approaches. These could encompass: scene specific aesthetics and genres, formative titles and narratives, characteristic technological platforms or development tools, community practices (e.g. festivals or game jams), as well as the relation between independent game production and other areas of media art creation (i.e. other independent scenes).


Please send 250 word abstracts for papers to Maria B. Garda mbgarda@uni.lodz.pl by 16th August 2015.




Let’s Play: Production, Pedagogy, Theory, and Culture


In recent years, the recording and sharing of gameplay, otherwise known as Let’s Plays, has become a widely popular viral video phenomenon. Aesthetically differing from machinima and walkthroughs, Let’s Plays document an individual or group’s subjective playing experience, often including humorous, critical, or ironic commentary. Key to the formula is the explicit presence of players, via voiceover and/or actual footage, presented alongside previously captured or live streamed game play. On a political economic level, Lets Plays have become an important generator of advertising revenue for video hosting sites, with the currently most subscribed You Tube personality (PewDiePie) earning an estimated 68, 000 – 1,100,000 dollars a month (Social Blade, 2015, July 6). ). Culturally, the YouTube phenomenon is also contributing to the popularity of games, with franchises such as Minecraft and 5 Night’s at Freddy’s gaining large online followings partly in response to fan videos. As a result, Let’s Plays are becoming important cultural artifacts in their own right, with some videos having “the power to set the tone for discourse” (Postigo, 2014, p. 2).


By intersecting ludic, cinematic, and popular digital cultures, the viral video phenomenon raises a host of fascinating research questions, specifically in the context of cinema and media studies. For these reasons, I would like to invite proposals from scholars interested in joining an interdisciplinary panel on Let’s Play policy, theory, pedagogy, and culture.


Possible topics include, but are by no means limited to:

– Production (copyright, user license agreements, and the monetization of play)

– Pedagogy (Let’s Plays as a methodology for game criticism, both inside and outside the classroom)

– Theory (Let’s Play forms and aesthetics)

– Culture (the performance of player identity in terms of gender, race, age, and ability)


If you are interested in participating, please send a brief outline of your paper to david.murphy@ryerson.ca by August 12, 2015.




Machine Vision Documentaries: Algorithms, Data-Visualization and Double Absence


In Techniques of the Observer Jonathan Crary suggested that “computer-aided design… holography, flight simulators, computer animation, robotic image recognition…are only a few of the techniques that are relocating vision to a plane severed from a human observer…vision is being relocated from the human observer to the machine”. Paul Virilio’s The Vision Machine describes this phenomenon as the proliferation of images created by machine viewpoints, synthetic images, products of info-graphic software and data visualization that lead to a process of computer-aided design. As these technologies develop, diverse forms of imagery flourish in fields of non-fiction such as documentary, informatics, military, journalistic and scientific contexts. Whereas the camera used to be thought of as the extension of human vision, technologies of representation such as computer animation, scientific imaging, algorithmic visualizations, drones and satellites do not necessarily resemble the way the naked human eye would have seen the event. As a result, viewers become accustomed to receiving information in non-fiction contexts in varied visualizations, expanding the field of non-fiction aesthetics accepted as credible. Furthermore, since machine vision and data visualization may depict human subjects as dehumanized abstract shapes or icons (such as symbol in informatics, stylized animation or infrared imagery etc) these images embody various notions of absence. In a way, the result is imagery that may no longer directly involve a subject on either end – neither on the production end nor in the portrayal of the human referents depicted, resulting in a double absence.


This panel aims to engage with the transformation of discourses about documentary in an era where the aesthetics of information become more machine-oriented. In a period characterized by ambiguous combinations of fact and fiction and hybrid forms of documentary, a major shift in contemporary scopic regimes raises many representational, theoretical and ethical issues regarding the use and reception of such imagery today. The panel welcomes a variety of theoretical perspectives including art, film, gaming, informatics, media studies and more.


Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

· Agency versus automatism in non-fiction aesthetics

· Transhumanist and/or posthumanist aesthetics

· Historical paradigms regarding non-human viewpoints in non-fiction

· Technology-oriented visual dehumanization

· Machine vision and algorithm-based non-fiction imagery

· Technology-oriented conceptions of witnessing

· Changing documentary visualizations in today’s technoculture

· Serious games

· Post-photographic aesthetics


Please send a 300 word abstract with 3-5 bibliographic sources and a brief author bio by August 5 to neaehrlich@gmail.com.





Selling games, gaming sells: promotion and videogames


Advertisements do not lie to us. They show the mediating role that commodities could play in the relation between individual and expectations. (Jhally 1990; 18)


‘Games are particularly difficult texts to examine using textual analysis. There are some elements that are easily dissected and discussed. For example, the rules form a type of text that we can read as both instructional and algorithmic in its interpretation. The game pieces, as well, can be a form of rhetorical text in that they encourage players to perceive the game in a particular way through their artwork and aesthetics.’ (Paul Booth 2015; 12).

Given the well-documented complexities in studying games and gaming culture on and off screen, one area of games culture remains largely absent from academic discourse- that of games promotion. In respect of comments by Jhally and Booth; considering advertising and promotion of games allows us to develop our understanding of the ways in which games and their associated media systems are positioned prior to their consumption. Considering few products could ever exist as products without promotion, the lack of discourse in this area is an unfortunate by-product of an emphasis on the product (whatever it may be), rather than the tools used to construct the notion of product. Promotional materials essentially serve a dual role; they inform and educate audiences as to the availability and possibilities of a new product, yet simultaneously hold back key information. In doing so, promotion in its broadest sense alludes to, references, and sometimes reconstructs the notion of the product as the stakeholders in the industry want their products to be seen. Given the tendency within the existing games literature to overlook promotion as an area of study, this call for papers offers contributors the opportunity to jumpstart the discourse on games promotion and to develop a more balanced study of a global entertainment industry. This panel seeks papers that consider the role/history of games promotion, games as promotion, games connected with promotion and seek papers to compliment an existing panel outline along these themes; we’re flexible to suggestions, so please get in touch.


Expressions of interest to be sent to Dr Ed Vollans (edwinvollans [at] gmail [dot] com) by August 5th 2015.




Queering Game Studies


Studies of interactive media emphasize that consumers do not simply read images, they occupy and play through (or with) them; and the narrative space is often conflicted, the contextual elements and plot details never fully sewn up. Game narratives are often purposefully messy, and the discussions about images and stories are an important aspect of framing any consideration of the industry’s representational practices. But rather than looking at and evaluating the representation on screen, we need to explore the cultural dimensions of technology, and examine the coded mechanics of play. We need to excavate the space of the screen, and chart an intersectional approach to game studies, while holding onto the more obvious signposts of engagement. We need to read across image, interface, and interaction, and examine the varied industrial frameworks that contour our technologies of play. The complications in video game studies have resulted from locating narratology and ludology in opposition, often at the expense of any deeper study of hardware, software, code, networkability and industrial design. While these distinct discourses have occasionally been stitched together, and the field of video game studies has expanded to consider platform and software, these are commonly located in the same cultural space as reception, and as distinct points of production and analysis. This panel seeks to queer the field, and open up non-binary approaches to game, platform and software that synthesize and call to question linear and otherwise bounded approaches to game studies.


For more information please contact Eric Freedman at freedmane@queens.edu. Full abstracts (including complete contact information and a short biography) are due August 1, 2015.




Video Games and Social Change


Video games provide a unique forum for social change. The democratization of video game software offers opportunities for diverse groups of designers to create alternative narratives. The interactive nature of video games can raise awareness about a range of social issues, such as hunger, war, and global warming, persuading people to empathize or change behaviors. And, persistent sexist and racist representations in mainstream video games has led to changing industry practices to encourage more diversity in game design.


This panel seeks to better understand the intersection of video games and social change, exploring both the promises and limitations.


Topics may include, but are not limited to:

· Historical understandings of video games and social change

· Video games and empowerment

· Feminism and video games

· Social activism in gaming

· Political uses of video games

· Gamification

· Youth and video game design

· Video game industry advocacy

· Regressive social change

· Modes of video game activism


Please submit a title and 250 word abstract, 3-5 bibliographic entries, and a brief biography to Carolyn Cunningham at cunninghamc@gonzaga.edu by August 5, 2015.




Playing Pleasure: Exploring the Intersection of Pornography and Gaming


This panel explores the intersection of gaming and pornography. Within academia, the study of pornography and games arrived independently as agitative epistemologies, appearing in relative concomitance, but the two discourses are not often put into conversation, even though they share several similarities. Discursively, they have occupied a historically marginal position within academic film and media discourses. Both fields have also had to account for patriarchal violence and masculinist heteronormativity that have often circumscribed the meaning and consumption of these modes of entertainment. In the case of the objects themselves, similarities extend to formal and functional qualities as well. Gaming takes play as its primary function, whereas pornography takes pleasure as its intended project, but the distinction between pleasure and play proves rather slippery. While clear distinctions remain in each’s conceptualization of form, utility, consumption, power, and politics, the space between gaming and pornography is fertile ground for theorizing technology, the body, fantasy, and capital. This panel intends to explore the porousness between the two fields as well as the two entertainment objects, notably in moments of conjuncture. Recently, pornography has begun to adopt formal features of gaming as a central component to its reception, while video games have increasingly been a site for exploring embodiment, gender, and sexuality. This panel seeks to address the intersection of pornography and gaming more productively in order to eke out dialectical resonances that emerge when we think the two together. For more information, please contact John Stadler at john.stadler@duke.edu or Jordan Wood at jwood05@syr.edu. Submit abstracts (300 words maximum), contact information, and brief biography to both email addresses by August 1, 2015.


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