CEEGS 2023: Meaning and Making of Games
Organization: Macromedia University
In the roughly 50-year history of video games (and thousands of years of analogue games) both artistic and scholarly explorations of ludic phenomena have generated productive outcomes. While the practical side of game design gave the medium its life and offered many adventures for players to partake in, game studies have analysed these worlds, narratives, and games, as well as their social context to create a theoretical and cultural discourse surrounding the medium. How games produce meaning and function as cultural artefacts has been of the forefront of discussion, but also how this, in return, influences the making of games.
The question arises, however, whether these two fields can be seen as isolated enterprises (with one focussing on ‘creation’ while the other on ‘analysis’) or whether they have successfully worked together. After all, game design and theoretical discussions sometimes go hand in hand. There are many game design theories and handbooks, such as Salen and Zimmerman’s, but also artistic works that value a close collaboration between theory and design: for example, Paolo Pedercini’s at Molleindustria, Michael Mateas’ dissertation on interactive drama and the game Façade, Tracy Fullerton’s exploration of ecology in Walden: Life in the Woods, or Anna Anthropy’s account of gender Dys4ia. Most of the examples are from experimental game design, but if we are correct in assuming that theory, practice, avant-garde experimentation, and mass-market productions will sooner or later influence and complement each other, the question arises as to what new challenges will emerge at the intersection of game design and game studies, and how these can benefit from one another instead of creating an unbridgeable gap.
Games are a cultural phenomenon and often evoke controversial discussions that cannot be separated from academic debates. The Last of Us and Hogwarts: Legacy, for example, have generated intense debate about diversity and inclusivity in games and society at large, which points to the mutual influence that games can have regarding their culture, discourse, and design. Games, in other words, are inspired by real-life experiences, but they can equally shape societies through generating discourse and affecting the lives of millions of players.
It is this question, now, that the conference wishes to tackle how game design practice is influenced and shaped by the theoretical discourse surrounding games (whether in fan forums but specifically in academia) and how game studies and design may create a fruitful interplay between theory and practice.
This is more topical than ever, as games have delved into complex issues—such as mental health, politics, utopian and dystopian futures, diversity and gender, ecology and sustainability, monstrosity and posthumanism, etc.—and are exploring trajectories of modern art and fiction to scrutinise and explore the challenges of the contemporary societies, to warn about certain tendencies and, maybe, suggest solutions or pathways into a better future. The experience of play, then, shows a fundamental regenerative appeal to the human psyche—and in this regard, game designers and scholar alike share an ‘artistic responsibility’ to shape our future through creation, discourse, and action. Without game design there are, of course, no game studies, but game studies and culture may equally shape the design of games and society—with a rapidly changing world, facing new challenges such as AI, automation, new forms of warfare, climate change, continuous racism, as well as diversity issues, and so on.
We therefore cordially invite scholars, researchers, and game design professionals to submit proposals for presentations exploring the intersections between game studies and game design—their challenges, future potentials, and prospect of a fruitful dialogue to learn and benefit from each other.