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Diane Carr
Patrick Crogan
Gus Cummins
Jessica Curry
John Curry
Rod Dickinson
Seth Giddings
Robert Jackson
Helen Kennedy
Michael Powell
Esther MacCallum-Stewart
David Surman
Dan Pinchbeck
Stephen Webley
Hanna Wirman

 

bad players:

Diane Carr
The Feral Pedagogies of Warsong Gulch

The focus of this presentation is learning, expertise and associated social practices in World of Warcraft’s player v player battlegrounds. The learning and tutoring practices present in battlegrounds such as Warsong Gulch do not resemble those documented in current MMORPG and education literature, which tends to focus on guilds, collaboration, mentoring and community. In this short presentation attention turns instead to the screaming, sulking, name-calling and ranting that characterises the pedagogies of the Gulch. One of the enjoyable aspects of gaming in the Gulch is witnessing the occasional meltdown of fellow players – most commonly suffered by those who attempt to take on a leadership and/or pedagogic role only to be thwarted in various ways. It is also interesting to consider the limits of the game-space itself (a field and two opposing forts), and the apparently clear and simple goals (capture the opposition’s flag) alongside the conflicts over what constitutes ‘correct’ play that manifest as text-based temper tantrums. Through the process of examining these alternative pedagogic strategies it becomes possible to explore some of the rhetoric that weaves through contemporary games and education debates.

Diane Carr is a Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at the Institute of Education, University of London, based at the London Knowledge Lab. Information about her recent research into learning in online worlds is online here http://learningfromsocialworlds.wordpress.com/. More information about publications, previous events, teaching and research can be found at the Playhouse blog.

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Patrick Crogan
Wartime

This presentation will give an overview of my approach to computer games as important elements and vectors of our contemporary technocultural becoming, one in which the century of warfare continues to live out its agonies and anxieties.

Patrick Crogan
Play Research Group, UWE
Patrick.crogan@uwe.ac.uk

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Gus Cummins

INVADERS

Gus is an artist based in Bristol. He is currently working in digital media, print and paint.
INVADERS is an audiovisual work, created from the conversion of the artist's recorded EEG signal during epileptic seizures, using graphical interface software.

www.ictal.net
gus@ictal.net

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Jessica Curry & Dan Pinchbeck
Good Art = Bad Game / Good Game = Bad Art

Can killing a prostitute in Grand Theft Auto be read as a work of art? What if it's done self-consciously and ironically?

Why should games aspire to being art? Why shouldn't they? Does that expose an elitist hierarchy of cultural forms? Generally speaking art doesn't involve killing prostitutes or saving the world from demonic forces. Is the question really about our attitudes towards content? On one hand, do we struggle to conceptualise games as art because they are supposed to be disposable, escapist and not to be taken overly seriously? Do we resist calling games art to protect the medium from po-faced over-analysis and deconstruction? Is there any truth in the idea that games and art are separate entities and if they're good at being one thing, generally speaking, they are pretty bad at being the other? Dan loves games and Jessica is, at the least, deeply ambivalent toward them. Dan is a games researcher and Jessica is an artist. Together they make experimental games and argue about whether they are art or not. One of these, a little mod called Dear Esther, has caused arguments in gaming forums across the net that tap directly into these issues. They'd like to come along and talk about it.

Jessica Curry & Dan Pinchbeck
Advanced Games Research Group
School of Creative Technologies
University of Portsmouth, UK
dan.pinchbeck@port.ac.uk
jessica@jessicacurry.co.uk
www.thechineseroom.co.uk / www.jessicacurry.co.uk

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John Curry
Black Games

‘Black Games’ are a lesser known area of Military Conflict Simulations (a.k.a. wargaming). They are games that deal with harsh morale imperatives that may be seen by wider society as being in ‘poor taste’ or just unacceptable. There is a case for their use in military training, such as one side in the game planning to commit atrocities, in order for military and professionals to use gaming to explore strategies to mitigate such acts. However, they have also been used at universities to explore challenging areas of politics, such as gaming the actions of warlords in Africa, historians to better understand situations in the past and to create conceptual models, and even more controversially, their use has now spread to recreation. The session would give examples of ‘black’ games as used by the military, educational, professional historians and recreation, with a view to exploring the less positive impact on the people involved in such gaming.

John Curry has edited 12 books on wargaming and has an interesting range of consultancy in the area of military conflict simulations and emergency planning. He also teaches games programming in the surreal world of higher education delivered in a further education college. He specialises in using various gaming techniques to enhance student learning.
john.curry@hotmail.co.uk

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Rod Dickinson
Who, what, where, when, why and how

Who, What, Where, When, Why and How is a performative work by UK based artist Rod Dickinson, in collaboration with Steve Rushton, that interrogates the historical form and role of the presidential speech and press briefing. Set in a meticulously constructed press conference environment, two actors will deliver a simulated 45 minute press briefing.

Television and the moving image have long shaped not only how dramatic events such as conflicts are perceived, but also how and if they happen. The script of Who, What, Where, When, Why and How is composed solely of fragments of press statements from the cold war onward and focuses on the way in which similar declarations and political rhetoric have been repeated and reused by numerous governments across continents and through the decades to justify acts of state sanctioned violence.

Mirroring real press briefings, the live address was filmed and photographed. The footage will form the basis for a subsequent video piece. But the obvious presence of the cameras is also more fundamentally connected with the ways in which the press statement is part of feedback mechanism where it is carefully constructed for the template of television and current affairs programmes which disseminate it, and which in turn shape political and social reality.

http://www.roddickinson.net/whowhatwhere/

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Seth Giddings
The joy of death: the inversions and perversions of play

This short presentation will explore the persistence of death across virtual and actual play: representations of death, simulations of death, death as gameplay dynamic, death as delerious event, actual (albeit nonhuman) death. It will address the nature of play as modelling the world, generating worlds, inverting the world. It will refer to the microethnographic movie Happy When He Dies, which will also be screened at BADgames.

seth.giddings@uwe.ac.uk
www.badnewthings.co.uk

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Robert Jackson
Achievements, Trophys and Gamerpoints – transforming the ‘bad’ into the ‘bearable’

This presentation will focus on the recent phenomena of the “Microsoft Xbox 360 Achievement Gamerscore system”, and its Sony Playstation 3 equivalent, “Trophys”, with its potential transformation of videogame criticism in the current commercial platform generation.
Game theorists, critics and academics may have pondered incessantly over the role of videogames, such as the primacy of ‘play’ (Huizinga, 1955), games as an expression of ‘persuasive rhetoric’ (Bogost, 2007) or the questionable ideological underpinnings of simulative content. However what is seldom discussed is the way one particular facet of ‘play’ experience can suddenly become its defining feature. This transformation is not occurring through a change of game design, nor a more immersive technological modification, but through a discrete re-emphasis of algorithm. My claim is that the current collection of contemporary videogames which were once critically judged as being ‘average’ or ‘bad’, are now popular on the account of their notoriety for attaining ‘easy’ Gamerpoint achievements. It can be said, that for some players, videogames such as Avatar: The Last Airbender – Into the Inferno, King Kong and Lost are no longer judged on entertaining or meaningful play experiences but simply on a cumulative achievement value.

Robert Jackson BA (Hons)
MPhil/PhD candidate - University of Plymouth,
A?TEC (Art, Science, Technology Research Consortium)
Research: The dialogue between the social sciences of psychoanalysis and the technology of video game media.
Faculty of Technology – School of Computing, Communications and Electronics.
Robert.jackson@plymouth.ac.uk

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Helen W. Kennedy
Un-natural play

 

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Esther MacCallum-Stewart
A Raeli Bad Thing? A Tale in the Desert

Teppy: IRL I like to blow glass. And I TA'ed a class here, and at the start of the class everyone went around and said what they did in real life... And after I introduced myself, one of the students said "You're Teppy? I'm getting my PhD in Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. Do you realize that every sociologist follows your game?" Anyway, so to all the sociologists lurking out there, your cover is hereby blown :)
(Andrew Tepper in E!, 2009-03-13 18:44:28)

EGenesis’ A Tale in the Desert prides itself both on being a hard game to play, and one in which social manipulation is seen as an acceptable part of daily life. For the residents of Ancient Egypt, this reaches its peak during the so called ‘raeli wars’ that take place in the middle of each game cycle, or ‘Telling’. Raeli ovens are buildings which dredge clay from the ground and produce coloured tiles, and are essential for various parts of the game that follows. However, raelis also cause pollution, and close proximity to another oven causes neither to function. In a game based on quite literally building a perfect society, the raeli ovens constructed around Egypt often act as a locus for feuding, territorial wars and social griefing, bringing the social tension inherent in the game to the fore. A Tale in the Desert is a bad game because it encourages its users to play nasty; even rewards them ludically for this, whilst supporting a community in which such practises are directly linked to griefing; even named as such by players. In a world where players can ban each other, the raeli oven is a symbol of the complex social interactions that take place within the game, not always equitably. Whilst the game itself involves complex ludic interactions (raelis require a basic understanding of the RGB colour spectrum, for example), it also deliberately challenges players on a moral level. What, if anything, is the perfect society, and how does one go about it? It is this complex interweaving of ludic aim and subversive social manipulation that this paper examines.

Esther MacCallum-Stewart
Smartlab
neveah@gmail.com

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Michael Powell
Why ‘Good Games’ are really ‘Bad Games’

The really bad games – so bad that they should be banned – are the so-called ‘serious games’; poorly made, ugly artifacts that masquerade as ‘educational’, the spurious notion that ‘because it’s a game, your disaffected youth will suddenly learn in new and exciting ways.’ In his 2005 book, Everything Bad Is Good for You, Steven Johnson argues that games like The Sims and Grand Theft Auto make us smarter by training the mind in adaptive behavior and problem-solving. I disagree – the problems presented in most games aren’t solved by ‘adaptive behavior’, they’re solved by mindlessly performing the same task over and over again until you finally crack the stupid puzzle or you download the walkthrough. Either way, real life doesn’t come with a walkthrough and does demand adaptive thinking based on deductive reasoning, logic, insight and plain dumb luck. Also, there’s no ctrl-Z in real life. Mistakes stay made. And that’s just the start of the problem with serious gaming… This paper outlines why I find it impossible to endorse ‘serious games’ for educational purposes. It’s a personal and passionate exploration, I’ll list some specific reasons why educational games don’t work, and some suggestions as to how, in future, they might.

Michael Powell
mlp@dmu.ac.uk

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David Surman
shit games

This presentation will address 'kuso ge' - the Japanese 'shit games' avant-garde movement.

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Stephen Webley
The representation of war in computer and video games and the cultural and social significance of participating in on-line conflicts

The Advanced Military Game[ers] Research (AMIGA) Project
This paper offers a work in progress that considers the representation of war in computer games, and analyses the attitudes of game participants. The study aims to juxtapose military and ludological theory in order to question whether conflict based games are simply an adjunct to mainstream media, or they in fact offer new ways of cultural expression, with game participants exhibiting a quantifiable temporal understanding of conflict and military history. The study utilises quantitative data in the form questionnaires distributed to serving military personnel, and military students, to assess gaming habits and attitudes. This approach enables an analysis of the gaming preferences and attitudinal postures of military personnel, and those of potential recruits, thus assessing the potential for games to recruit. The later stages of the project will also incorporate interviews with a smaller selection of game participants, and will offer a comparative analysis of Swedish and British military personnel and their participatory habits. Tentative conclusions indicate that participants in these games question established beliefs that violent games are subversive, instead considering them of potential educational and instructional value. This project also posits that war studies, in the form of Clausewitzian and Kantian philosophy, has much to offer ludological analysis.

Stephen Webley
sjwebley@nildram.co.uk

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Hanna Wirman
And he said, gasping, "Good... Excellent."

Very few game scholars have discussed and/or analysed games thematised round sex and eroticism. However, even lesser, if not nonexistent, is the body of work on how players may become tempted, aroused or simply reminded of their sexualities during gameplay also when the content of the game does not directly suggest such experience to take place. An example of a game facilitating such encounters during gameplay is Bejeweled Blitz, a Facebook application and a timed version of the widely popular flash game Bejeweled. While multiplayer games offer endless possibilities for exploring (cyber)sex and sexualities, my presentation will set out a frame of thought for considerations on gender and sexuality in single player games. It will be based on two tiny snapshot-like materials; 1) an interview with the sound designer of Bejeweled Blitz and 2) forum discussions on a very specific feature of the game: a sound feedback snippet triggered by a successful move in the game. In Bejeweled Blitz, the player is commended with single-word feedback audio clips saying “Good.” and “Excellent.” with a sensual, mature male voice. The same voice welcomes the player to the game with deep “One minute, go.” and finishes the game with “Time up.”. And his sound seems to be exciting for many. The presentation will encourage discussion that bears in mind the studies that suggest casual games as primarily adult female leisure for stay-at-home mothers.

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