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seminars, conferences, other events

Panel: From Game Studies to Studies of Play in Society

The first day of DiGRA 2015 conference featured panel titled “From Game Studies to Studies of Play in Society”, which included Sebastian Deterding, Mia Consalvo, Joost Raessens, Seth Giddings, Torill Elvira Mortensen, Kristine Jørgensen and myself as speakers (Sybille Lammes unfortunately could not make it; check out the panel position paper here: DiGRA 2015 panel paper). The immediate incentive for me to start planning this panel was related to the stimulus of our ‘Ludification and the Emergence of Playful Culture’ research project (Academy of Finland, 2014-2018). The scope and conclusions drawn from the discussion, however, point into several directions, now only those related to the opportunities and challenges provided by ‘ludification’ or ‘gamification’ to game studies. In my introduction and outline of panel agenda I was talking about how game studies had been changing over the recent years, with possible transfers of focus in the subject matters, methodologies, theory frameworks as well as in the institutional placement and allegiances of the work carried out in this field. I shortly provided some suggestions on how such developments had featured in the expanding scope of work carried out in the University of Tampere Game Research Lab, and then put forward the questions: Is research of games and play now becoming more relevant for other fields of learning? And on the other hand: Are game studies in danger of losing its distinctiveness in this process? I have no room to fully capture insightful position statements of the distinguished panellists, nor the ensuing lively discussion, but here are some quick notes:

  • Sebastian Deterding moved to position game studies in the context of convergence culture, comparing the situation with games to that of television (and television studies), where also the “classic television” had been recontextualized and complicated by the emergence of “crowdsourced YouTube series television” and similar phenomena. He urged game studies to move away from seeking some “eternal essence” of gameness to research of more granular units, putting more emphasis on particular cultural forms and conditions, and relying on empirical studies.
  • Mia Consalvo eloquently outlined the “choice fatigue” that is facing students (and possibly also scholars) who are moving to the (expanded, emphatically complex) field of digital games. She also talked about the agency and identity of people working on game studies: if I only play ‘peek-a-boo’ with my baby, am I allowed to have a voice in studies, or research, of this field?
  • Joost Raessens was questioning the implicit narrative suggested by the title of panel: we are not really moving from studies of games to studies of play, because those two have been inseparably linked and integrated from the very beginning of game studies (Joost was also quickly highlighting some lines of this thought running from Heraclitus, Schiller, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Gadamer, Marcuse, Deleuze and Derrida – to Sutton-Smith, Zimmerman and Sicart). Himself working on the ludification of culture, he saw the study of play element in culture at the centre of game studies project, explaining how Huizinga’s broad-ranging thought in Homo Ludens still resonates strongly within game studies community. Pointing towards the recent book Playful Identities, Joost concluded by suggesting how ‘ludic identity’ could be articulated and analysed from at least three key perspectives. From ontological concepts we should move to more epistemological approaches.
  • Seth Giddings was putting forward a beautifully written (and read) argument on how the play of animals and children can not be fundamentally separated, and what kind of consequences it has on including ecological and ethological approaches to the repertoire of this field.
  • Torill Elvira Mortensen took issue with ‘dark play’, discussing the internal conflicts and frustrations of (unemployed) youth – something that can perhaps been positioned at the background of the hatred and aggression that has recently exploded to the forefront of digital “gamer” cultures. Games and play can easily be utilized as a sort of “disarming rhetoric”, where “boys will be boys”, “it is just play” or “it is just trolling” can be used to justify all kinds of acts of violence and dominance. Torill reminded us that play and games, while ancient, are not “natural” or beyond critique, and that the entire field is deeply embedded in various (hegemonic) power structures.
  • Kristine Jørgensen kind of summarised the entire panel by at first outlining the current situation, where game studies is highly relevant for surrounding culture and society, with play infusing many different aspects and dimensions of culture and society. Player demographics are currently emphatically diverse, players hold high profile as consumers, paralleled by highly visible roles that game industry holds in (popular-cultural) economics, and game forms as a medium of expression. But such notable position also comes with a price: there are increasing pressures from within and outside of academia to how games and play should be approached – or exploited. Game studies are being challenged by other fields and disciplines that also want to include games and play into their agenda, and the distinctiveness of game studies is indeed under increasing pressure to dissolve, or disappear.
  • In the ensuing discussion, the “pyrrhic victory of game studies” (Sebastian) was debated: had game studies made itself ‘unnecessary’ in the process of becoming the highly successful ‘science of everything’ through the expanding range of gameful, playful and otherwise play-related approaches and expansions of its research field? Some, like Joost celebrated the success and potential of game studies to bring together and build bridges between theoretical and practical, humanistic, social-scientific and design research work. Sebastian suggested that the best “survival strategy” for game studies would be to adopt design science approach at its core, since that would be the best way of arguing for its sustained societal impact and relevance. From the audience, Annika Waern commented that HCI (human-computer interaction) research field is an example of how this already has been attempted for more than two decades, without resounding success – even while design practitioners are indeed frequenting HCI conferences, more than game designers would be participating in DiGRA or other game studies’ scholarly events. Annika saw that game studies academics are much stronger currently in analytical, theoretical work on foundational issues of games and play research, and there is also the danger of becoming subservient to industry (with its typically more practical, and short-to-medium-term interests), if design science would be emphatically set as the sole, dominant organising principle of game studies.
  • Other key themes in discussion was the one thread that related to the “built-in anti-essentialism” in studies of games and play: the academics in this field are typically emphatically suspicious of essentializing views, or fixed definitions of their subjects of study – it was suggested that this is rooted in the fast change in new media as the context of this field, and on the other hand, on “new and innovative”, the next thing, always being more inviting to these academics (us) than the questionable idea of stopping at any kind of ‘fixed’ or stabilizing identity. On the other hand, Joost provided the example of gender studies, where it had been recognised that “strategic essentialism” might be necessary to maintain some kind of ‘core’ of disciplinary identity for gender studies, while analyses and awareness of gender studies issues has certainly also expanded and transformed work carried out in multiple other disciplines. Similarly, “strategic essentialism” of maintaining the core of game studies (as in conceptual, theoretical, methodological and pragmatic dimensions of game studies as academic, institutionally organised and recognised field), in addition to having interdisciplinary collaborations, explorations and experimentations fruitfully altering and evolving games, play and related research and development practices. (This is something that I actually discussed in my “Getting into the Game: Doing Multi-Disciplinary Game Studies” chapter, in The Video Game Theory Reader 2, Perron & Wolf, eds., 2009.)
  • Other take-aways from this stimulating session included e.g. Sebastian’s suggestion that the optimal game scholar is “T-shaped”: she is capable of maintaining wide-ranging collaborations and discussions on topics that cross disciplinary boundaries, while having also “in-depth” knowledge and academic capabilities in some area of specialization.

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DiGRA 2015

The next major DiGRA conference to take place in European soil will start tomorrow in Lüneburg, Germany. There are several interesting dimensions to this year’s event, including its chosen theme on “Diversity of Play” and the research papers that highlight the multiple phenomena that bound together games, cultures and identities (sometimes in problematic, as well as constructive ways). Myself, I will be e.g. celebrating the original Level Up conference (2003; see the re-opened website), chairing the “From Game Studies to Studies of Play in Society” panel (related to our “Ludification and the Emergence of Playful Culture” research project), and talking about Finnish games and game cultures in the “Video Games Around the World” session (based on a new book of the same title). See you soon in Germany! The conference program is here:

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SciFest, SciEdu

[I will be talking about play, games and new technology in the context of learning in Joensuu] Matkustan tänään Joensuuhun, missä on laaja SciFest 2015-tapahtuma 23.-25.4. Itse puhun tapahtuman yhteydessä toteutettavassa SciEdu-seminaarissa la klo 13 otsikolla “Leikkiä, peliä ja uutta teknologiaa: oppiminen ja kulttuurin muuttuvat puitteet”. Lisätietoja:

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Knutepunkt book 2015

Knutepunkt (Solmukohta in Finnish) books have for a long time been inspiring mix of role-play theories, artistic manifestoes, and practical, larp design or game-running advice. The Knutepunkt book 2015 is no exception. Here is link to the PDF version (published ahead of the actual event), and outline of the contents:

The Knudepunkt 2015 Companion Book
Eds. Charles Bo Nielsen & Claus Raasted

Foreword 6
Claus Raasted

6 levels of substitution: The Behaviour Substitution Model 8
Lauri Lukka

Behind the larp census: 29.751 larpers can’t (all) be wrong 16
Aaron Vanek

Four Backstory Building Games You Can Play Anywhere!: Simple and effective 24
Peter Woodworth

Infinite Firing Squads: The evolution of The Tribunal 30
J.Tuomas Harviainen

Ingame or offgame?: Towards a typology of frame switching 34 between in-character and out-of-character
Olga Vorobyeva

Learning by playing: Larp as a teaching metod 42
Myriel Balzer & Julia Kurz

Looking at you: Larp, documentation and being watched 56
Juhana Pettersson

Now That We’ve Walked The Walk…: Some new additions to the larp vocabulary 62
Bjørn Flindt Temte

On Publicity and Privacy: Or “How do you do your documentation?” 70
Jamie MacDonald

Painting larp: Using art terms for clarity 78
Jacob Nielsen

Processing political larps: Framing larp experiences with strong agendas 82
Kaisa Kangas

Safe words: And how to use them 88
Nathan Hook

Steering For Immersion in Five Nordic larps: A new understanding of eläytyminen 94
Mike Pohjola

The Art of Steering: Bringing the Player and the Character Back Together 106
Markus Montola, Jaakko Stenros & Eleanor Saitta

The Blockbuster Formula: Brute Force Design in 118 The Monitor Celestra and College of Wizardry
Eirik Fatland & Markus Montola

The D-M creative agenda model: An axis instead of a pyramid 132
Nathan Hook

The Golden Cobra Challenge: Amateur-Friendly Pervasive Freeform Design 138
Evan Torner, Whitney “Strix” Beltrán, Emily Care Boss & Jason Morningstar

There is no Nordic larp: And yet we all know what it means 142
Stefan Deutsch

Workshop practice: A functional workshop structure method 148
Mo Holkar

Ending: The larper’s burden 156
Claus Raasted

For more, see:

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Pelialan opinnäytekilpailu 2015 / Game Studies Thesis Competition 2015

[Spread the word: Finnish Game Studies Thesis competition, English text below]

Pelialan opinnäytekilpailu 2015
Kolmatta kertaa järjestettävä pelialan opinnäytekilpailu tekee näkyväksi pelien parissa tehtävää korkeatasoista suomalaista koulutus- ja tutkimustyötä. Kilpailun järjestävät yhteistyössä pelitutkimuksen verkosto DiGRA Finland ja Suomen pelialan keskus Neogames. Opinnäytekilpailuun voi osallistua työllä, joka on hyväksytty kalenterivuoden 2014 aikana (1.1.-31.12.2014).

Tunnustukseen sisältyy 800 euron rahapalkinto, joka voidaan jakaa yhden tai useamman palkitun kesken. Palkitun opinnäytteen tekijälle on varattu mahdollisuus esitellä työtään keväällä 2015 järjestettävässä Pelitutkimuksen päivässä.

Kilpailuun hyväksytään niin suomalaisten yliopistojen kuin ammattikorkeakoulujen peliaiheiset opinnäytetyöt. Opinnäytteellä tarkoitetaan tässä yhteydessä perustutkinnon valmistumiseen liittyvää lopputyötä. Kilpailuun ei siten voi osallistua opintoihin muuten liittyvällä projektityöllä tai muulla vastaavalla suorituksella. Samaten väitöskirjat on rajattu kilpailun ulkopuolelle.

Opinnäytteen tulee tavalla tai toisella liittyä peleihin. Tutkimuskohteeksi voivat asettua pelit itsessään, niiden pelaaminen, niiden tekeminen tai jokin muu peleihin elimellisesti liittyvä ilmiö. Työ voi olla otteeltaan esimerkiksi teoreettinen, soveltava tai kokeellinen.

Opinnäytteen voi ilmoittaa ehdokkaaksi 13.2.2015 mennessä. Työn voi asettaa ehdolle joko työn tekijä itse tai vaihtoehtoisesti oppiaine/koulutusohjelma tekijän suostumuksella. Kilpailutyöt lähetetään pdf-muodossa osoitteeseen: digra.finland [at]

Jos lopputyön tarkastajien lausunnot on saatavissa, nämä tulee toimittaa kilpailutyön yhteydessä. Mukaan tulee lisäksi liittää työn tekijän ajantasaiset yhteystiedot. Raadilla on oikeus hylätä myöhässä tai puutteellisina toimitetut ehdotukset.

Lisätietoja kilpailusta antaa kilpailuraadin sihteeri, dosentti Olli Sotamaa (olli.sotamaa [at ]

Game Studies Thesis Competition 2015

In order to parade the excellence of Finnish games research and education DiGRA Finland and Neogames Finland Ry have joined forces to award the best Finnish games related bachelor or master thesis through an annual competition.

Prizes: The best thesis will be awarded a monetary prize (this years’ prize sum is 800 euros that will be split between the winners). In addition, the author of the best thesis will have an opportunity to present her or his work in the Finnish Game Research day organised in the spring 2015.

Requirements: We are looking for an ambitious games-related thesis accepted between 1.1.2014 and 31.12.2014 in a Finnish higher education institution (this includes both universities and the universities of applied sciences). The focus can be e.g. on games themselves, in playing them, or in developing them.

Selection process: The decision is made by a peer review panel of experts co-ordinated by Neogames and DiGRA Finland. Based on the reviews, finalists will be short-listed and awarded by the panel.

Documents for submission: 1) the thesis as a single pdf file, 2) the evaluation statements of the thesis (if available) and 3) up-to-date contact details of the author.

Submission details: Send your submission to digra.finland [at]

Submission deadline: 13.2.2015.

Contact: For further information contact Olli Sotamaa (olli.sotamaa [at]

Crossposted from:

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Tieteen päivät: peliteollisuussessio

[Session about Finnish game industry in Tieteen päivät 2015 event] Tervetuloa ilmaiseen tiedetapahtumaan: Tieteen päivät 2015 -tapahtuma sisältää myös session “Demoskeneä vai Tekes-tukea – suomalaisen peliteollisuuden menestystekijät”, jonka puheenjohtajana toimin. Asiantuntijanäkökulmia tarjoaa kolme puhujaa: Olli Sotamaa, Sonja Ängeslevä ja Jani Niipola. Tarkemmat tiedot sessiosta löytyvät ohjelmasivulta:

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MEC 2015: Midnight Sun conference on media education, ICT and games

Spread the word of this interesting conference – I am one of the keynotes and the call for papers is now open:

Welcome to the MEC 2015!

Media Education Conference – MEC 2015 (former NBE) is an informal and friendly conference which participants attend to exchange ideas and information dealing with media education, educational use of ICTs and learning environments. MEC is organized on 15-17 June 2015 in Sallatunturi with the theme In the Light of the Midnight Sun. The event organizer is the Centre for Media Pedagogy at the University of Lapland (CMP).

Keynote Speakers:
Professor Roger Säljö, Department of Education, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
Associate Dean Sandi Feaster, School of Medicine, Standford University, USA
Professor Frans Mäyrä, School of Information Sciences, University of Tampere, Finland

Important Dates and Deadlines:
Deadline for abstract submissions: 2 February 2015
Notifications of acceptance sent to authors by 16 February 2015
Deadline for paper submission of accepted abstracts: 13 April 2015
Deadline for early-bird registration: 30 April 2015
Review results notified to authors by 11 May 2015
Deadline for camera-ready papers: 29 May 2015

Please check the conference website for full details of programme, keynotes, paper submission and registration:

Please forward this message to all the persons and organizations you think will be interested in the conference.

Looking forward to seeing you in Salla in June!

MEC 2015 Organizers

Professor Heli Ruokamo, Director, Chair
Ph.D. Päivi Rasi, University lecturer, Title of Docent
Ph.D. Mari Maasilta, University lecturer
Ph.D. Hanna Vuojärvi, University lecturer
MA (Education) Tuulikki Keskitalo, Researcher
Marja-Leena Porsanger, Conference Coordinator, Rovaniemi-Lapland Congresses, University of Lapland

Ystävällisin terveisin / With best regards,

Marja-Leena Porsanger
Konferenssisuunnittelija / Conference Coordinator

Postiosoite / Mailing address:
Lapin yliopisto / University of Lapland
Rovaniemi-Lapland Congresses
PL 122 / PO Box 122
96101 Rovaniemi, Finland

Käyntiosoite / Visiting address:
Hallituskatu 20 A, 96100 Rovaniemi

Tel. +358 (0)40 721 8260
Fax +358 (0)16 362 940 and

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