Workshop in Singapore

I will spend the next week visiting Singapore, where Vivian Chen, from Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information in Nanyang Technological University has put together an interesting international seminar focused on games and play, particularly from the perspective of eSports phenomena. Together with several esteemed colleagues, I also will give a talk there; mine is titled “Evolution and Tensions in Gaming Communities”.

Since I have not found the full program online, I will share the most recent draft that I have, below (this might be a ‘by-invitation-only’ event, though?) – looking forward to interesting dialogues, with academic researchers, gamers and practitioners, alike:

Digital Colosseums: Competitive Video Gaming as Mass Entertainment

Workshop/Conference Schedule (draft, as of 01 Feb 2018)

Day 1: 8th February 2018
0900 Registration
0930 Opening and Introduction

 

Prof. KK Luke, Nanyang Technological University

Associate Prof. Vivian Chen, Nanyang Technological University

0945 SPEAKER SESSION 1

 

Max Sjöblom, Tampere University of Technology

 

e-Sports: The New Face of Game Media

–        e-Sports as a concept and phenomenon has existed for close to 20 years, but only in recent years has e-sports transitioned to the mainstream, partially due to another emerging form of online media: game streaming and game video production. The talk will focus around three main topics.

 

Firstly, the general concept of e-sports will be presented, and we will explore the motivations for consuming e-sports, both online and through live attendance. This will be based on quantitative research published in venues such as Computers in Human Behavior and Internet Research, conducted by Sjöblom.

 

Secondly, we will delve into the world of game streaming (Twitch) and game videos (YouTube), from both the producer and consumer side. We will look at consumption motivations from the consumer side, while from the producer side, we will investigate the affordances used by producers, as well as the motivating factors behind their behavior.

 

Thirdly, we will go into more speculative thoughts about the future of e-sports and game media.

 

Q&A

1015 Coffee break
1030 SPEAKER SESSION 2

 

Mia Consalvo, Concordia University

 

The business and culture of live streaming on Twitch: Evolving paradigms

–        This talk draws from a multi-year investigation of live streaming on the internet site Twitch.tv, where individuals can broadcast themselves playing videogames to a global audience. This investigation began with a seemingly simple question: how does live streaming change the act of gameplay?

 

To find answers, a team of researchers has identified and viewed dozens of streamers and hundreds of hours of gameplay, interviewed both casual and committed streamers, including those who see it as their full time job as well as a hobby, live streamed their own gameplay to understand the affordances and constraints of the process, and also investigated the larger culture of live streaming and the business of Twitch and its related industry.

 

This research — and the talk — explain how live streaming is a constantly evolving practice and Twitch itself is a key business engaged in monetizing play in particular ways. It examines who streams and why, how gameplay practices like success, failure, skill and persistence are re-shaped by live streaming, and how the business practices of not just Twitch but related companies are re-forming play and players in concerning ways. These practices are related to the rise of the gig economy and precarious labor more broadly, as well as the increasing role of technology and always online connectivity in our daily lives.

 

Q&A

1100 PANEL 1 (Industry)

 

Facilitator Intro

–        Ryan Tan – eSports Director (Avalon), Coach and Manager (Duskbin eSports), Community Manager (Garena)

 

The role of online streaming and casting in e-sports

–        Mohan “Lorec” Deitrich – e-sports media and stream manager

–        Leonard “OMO” Loh – e-sports caster and team manager

–        Ruth Lim (SCOGA Coach)

–        Maria Kristin Braberry – Competitive Gamer (Asterisk*) and Narrative Designer (BattleBrew Productions)

 

Q&A

1230 Lunch
1330 SPEAKER SESSION 3

 

Nicholas Khoo – Chairman & Co-Founder, SCOGA

 

e-sports in Singapore

1350 SPEAKER SESSION 4

 

Steven “Amzeyy” Koh – Avalon eSports Pro-gamer

 

e-sports in SEA

1410 SPEAKER SESSION 5

 

Amitesh Rao, Nova Games

 

The challenges of building e-sports communities in emerging markets

–        India is a country with over a billion people, 4 million active PC gamers, and nearly 100 million mobile gamers. Yet the gaming industry remains embryonic, fragmented and largely undeveloped. E-sports in particular has been touted to be the next big thing for several years now but has yet to garner the attention, engagement and viewership that insiders in the industry have been hoping for.

 

There are several challenges which I believe are not unique to India but to several emerging economies that are keeping the inflection point at bay — infrastructural, economic, and cultural. This presentation will investigate some of the challenges, and possible solutions to them that are needed to build healthy, robust and self-sustaining eSports communities in emerging markets.

1430  DISCUSSIONS ON E-SPORTS COMMUNITY
1530 Tea/Refreshment break
1600 PANEL 2: Bridging research and practices

 

–        Leonard “OMO” Loh – e-sports caster and team manager

–        Ruth Lim (SCOGA Coach)

–        Nicholas Khoo – Chairman & Co-Founder, SCOGA

–        Steven “Amzeyy” Koh – Avalon eSports Pro-gamer

–        Maria Braberry – Pro-gamer & Narrative Designer

–        Amitesh Rao, Nova Games

–        Mia Consalvo, Concordia University

–        Max Sjoblom, Tampere University of Technology

–        Olli Tapio Leino, City University of Hong Kong

 

Facilitators: Vivian Chen and Ryan Tan

1700 Closing remarks & Photo taking
1800 Networking dinner

 

Day 2: 9th February 2018
0930 Registration & Opening

Vivian Chen, NTU

0945 SPEAKER SESSION 1

 

Frans Mäyrä, University of Tampere

 

Evolution and Tensions in Gaming Communities

–        e-Sports is one of the most notable social phenomena around digital games in the 21st century. There are large audiences involved; e.g., it was reported that the “Intel Extreme Masters World Championship 2017” event reached more than 46 million unique online viewers, and that there were more than 173,000 attendees participating live in Katowice, Poland. But are these phenomena rooted, or promoting genuine community formation — and what constitutes a “gaming community”, more generally?

 

In his talk, Professor Frans Mäyrä will have a look at research and outline whether games are capable of supporting true communities, and talk about the consequences of such gaming communities or social formations, including both game-internal consequences, and for societal life, outside of the gaming reality. Referring to some recent studies about game playing in culture and society, and of e-sports, the talk will conclude with reflections about the multifaceted character of participation in game cultures, also dealing with the tensions and potential for cultural conflicts that it can contain.

 

Q&A

1015 Coffee break
1030 SPEAKER SESSION 2

 

Olli Tapio Leino, City University of Hong Kong

 

Commodified technological play/work: eSports, free-to-play, and gamification

–        Traditional theories of play (e.g., Huizinga, Fink, Callois, Suits) consider play as free, frivolous, and creative experimentation, non-productive and risk-free in regard to anything apart from itself. For example, Fink described play as an “oasis of happiness”, offering a respite to individuals burdened by hardships of productive activities. Through encounters with contemporary forms of “commodified play”, such as e-sports, free-to-play games, and gamification applications, computer game studies has come to terms with the fact that the traditional notions of games, play, and playing appear romantic, and may not always be applicable for the purpose of defining and describing contemporary forms of technological play.

 

In more detail, on the one hand, the technological materiality of computer games does not always afford the creative self-discovery at the heart of play and may instead give rise only to rote repetition formally indistinguishable from unskilled work.  On the other hand, the ways in which contemporary forms of computer gaming are culturally and economically entangled with useful endeavors in society renders inapplicable the description of play as non-productive.

 

In this talk, I draw upon the recent research on computer games by myself and my collaborators, including mixed-method ethnography on gamers, research for public policy on gaming, and, textual-hermeneutic studies of computer games. I describe how contemporary forms of commodified play challenge the traditional definitions and descriptions of play, how gamers negotiate the slippage between play and work in their experiences, and, how the society is beginning to embrace this new, productive form of play/work.

 

Q&A

1100 SPEAKER SESSION 3

 

Patrick Williams, NTU, and Csilla Weninger, NIE

 

Youth Cultures and Careers in Singapore’s Emerging Digital Economies

–        In this brief talk, we will share some emerging plans related to the entrepreneurial activities through which young Singaporeans leverage digital media to combine their leisure interests with productive labor. Examples of such entrepreneurial activities include e-sports participation, livestreaming and uploading gameplay, various forms of vlogging from health and fitness to unboxing videos, and establishing social influence through social media platforms. Our research questions deal with three sets of concerns: connections between entrepreneurial youth cultures and larger socio-cultural processes and structures; processes of defining and learning appropriate digital media skills; and the social and personal outcomes of these entrepreneurial activities. In the talk, we will tie these concerns existing theory and research on youth cultures and digital literacies, as well as explain some of methodological choices.

 

Q&A

1130 DISCUSSION: FUTURE DIRECTIONS
1230 Lunch
1330 BREAKOUT GROUPS (to be planned at discussion session)
1530 Closing

 

Vivian Chen, NTU

1600 Tea/Refreshment

 

Organised by Vivian Chen and WKWSCI

Supported by the Centre for Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at the NTU College for Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

Chili season 2018

Time to start preparing for the next summer’s chili season. This time I have promised myself that I will not fool around with any silly Ikea “passive hydroponics” system or similar. Just old-fashioned soil, some peat, water and a light. But I will make use of the Ikea cultivation pots and led lights, as much as possible.

I will also try to radically cut down the number of plants that I’ll grow this time. Last summer was cold, damp, dark and bad in so many ways, but one part of the problem was that I had just too many plants in the end. Packing plants too densely into a small greenhouse will just predispose all plants to pests and diseases. Smaller number is also good for getting enough sunshine and good airflow around all plants.

I am again putting my trust in Finnish chili seeds from Fatalii.net (Jukka Kilpinen’s “Chile Pepper Empire”). I am trying to grow five plants:

  • Naga Morich (C. chinense)
  • Carolina Reaper x 7pot Douglah (C. Chinense hybrid, F2 generation)
  • 7pot Primo Orange (C. chinense)
  • Moruga Scorpion (C. chinense)
  • Rocoto Riesen, Yellow (C. pubescens)

You might spot a pattern here: this is apparently the year of superhots for me (the Rocoto Riesen is the odd one out – thanks to Fatalii for dropping it into my order as a “surprise extra”). Originally I was planning on focusing on just my regular kitchen varieties (Lemon Drop, etc.), but losing all my hot chilies last summer left some kind of craving for retribution. If all these grow into proper plants, and yield proper crops, I will be in trouble. But: let’s see!

Tools for Trade

Lenovo X1 Yoga (2nd gen) in tablet mode
Lenovo X1 Yoga (2nd gen) in tablet mode.

The key research infrastructures these days include e.g. access to online publication databases, and ability to communicate with your colleagues (including such prosaic things as email, file sharing and real-time chat). While an astrophysicist relies on satellite data and a physicist to a particle accelerator, for example, in research and humanities and human sciences is less reliant on expensive technical infrastructures. Understanding how to do an interview, design a reliable survey, or being able to carefully read, analyse and interpret human texts and expressions is often enough.

Said that, there are tools that are useful for researchers of many kinds and fields. Solid reference database system is one (I use Zotero). In everyday meetings and in the field, note taking is one of the key skills and practices. While most of us carry our trusty laptops everywhere, one can do with a lightweight device, such as iPad Pro. There are nice keyboard covers and precise active pens available for today’s tablet computers. When I type more, I usually pick up my trusty Logitech K810 (I have several of those). But Lenovo Yoga 510 that I have at home has also that kind of keyboard that I love: snappy and precise, but light of touch, and of low profile. It is also a two-in-one, convertible laptop, but a much better version from same company is X1 Yoga (2nd generation). That one is equipped with a built-in active pen, while being also flexible and powerful enough so that it can run both utility software, and contemporary games and VR applications – at least when linked with an eGPU system. For that, I use Asus ROG XG Station 2, which connects to X1 Yoga with a Thunderbolt 3 cable, thereby plugging into the graphics power of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070. A system like this has the benefit that one can carry around a reasonably light and thin laptop computer, which scales up to workstation class capabilities when plugged in at the desk.

ROG XG Station 2 with Thunderbolt 3.
ROG XG Station 2 with Thunderbolt 3.

One of the most useful research tools is actually a capable smartphone. For example, with a good mobile camera one can take photos to make visual notes, photograph one’s handwritten notes, or shoot copies of projected presentation slides at seminars and conferences. When coupled with a fast 4G or Wi-Fi connection and automatic upload to a cloud service, the same photo notes almost immediately appear also the laptop computer, so that they can be attached to the right folder, or combined with typed observation notes and metadata. This is much faster than having a high-resolution video recording of the event; that kind of more robust documentation setups are necessary in certain experimental settings, focus group interview sessions, collaborative innovation workshops, etc., but in many occasions written notes and mobile phone photos are just enough. I personally use both iPhone (8 Plus) and Android systems (Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and S7).

Writing is one of they key things academics do, and writing software is a research tool category on its own. For active pen handwriting I use both Microsoft OneNote and Nebo by MyScript. Nebo is particularly good in real-time text recognition and automatic conversion of drawn shapes into vector graphics. I link a video by them below:

My main note database is at Evernote, while online collaborative writing and planning is mostly done in Google Docs/Drive, and consortium project file sharing is done either in Dropbox or in Office365.

Microsoft Word may be the gold standard of writing software in stand-alone documents, but their relative share has radically gone down in today’s distributed and collaborative work. And while MS Word might still have the best multi-lingual proofing tools, for example, the first draft might come from an online Google Document, and the final copy end up into WordPress, to be published in some research project blog or website, or in a peer-reviewed online academic publication, for example. The long, book length projects are best handled in dedicated writing environment such as Scrivener, but most collaborative book projects are best handled with a combination of different tools, combined with cloud based sharing and collaboration in services like Dropbox, Drive, or Office365.

If you have not collaborated in this kind of environment, have a look at tutorials, here is just a short video introduction by Google into sharing in Docs:

What are your favourite research and writing tools?

Year 2017 in Retrospect

The past year, 2017, has been so intense and packed to the brim, that it is hard to produce any sort of coherent picture, what it was all about. There remains just some flashes from the road: some new places visited, Wroclaw Poland, Hong Kong China, start as the vice dean of the new Faculty of Communication Sciences, cultivating chili peppers (only to be let down by one of the worst summer weathers in years), testing and adopting to daily use new technologies, Apple Airpods, Lenovo Yoga 2-in-1s, playing Pokémon GO in streets and parks, around the world, making plans and proposals, presenting and negotiating, being happy with the people, frustrated with the people, enjoying nature, enjoying good food, taking photographs, editing and sharing photographs, working late, sleeping badly, sleeping well, playing games, not being able to play games, getting the Centre of Excellence approved, working with colleagues on new degree programs, working with colleagues on Tampere3 university merger, working, taking kids to school, to hobbies, making food and reading bedtime stories, feeding birds, walking out in the snow, in sunshine, in rain, going to sauna. There have been many things worth remembering, some worth forgetting. Have a better year, next year, everyone!

Game researcher positions: CoE GameCult

There are several games researcher positions open right now: the Academy of Finland has granted funding for the new Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies (CoE GameCult: 2018-2025 CoE Program), and there are currently 5 Postdoc or University Researcher (a senior researcher) positions available for application in the University of Tampere Game Research Lab (in UTA/COMS/TRIM). The total number of new researcher positions is larger, as there will be additional calls opening within the same CoE in the University of Jyväskylä and Turku/Pori Unit. There is general text of the call here:
https://coe-gamecult.org/
and link to the UTA recruitment system here:
https://uta.rekrytointi.com/paikat/?o=A_RJ&jgid=1&jid=1062.

DiGRA 2018 CFP: The Game is the Message

The Game is the Message
http://digra2018.com

July 25-28, 2018

Campus Luigi Einaudi, Università di Torino, Turin, Italy
Lungo Dora Siena, 100 A, 10153 Turin, Italy

Conference chairs: Riccardo Fassone and Matteo Bittanti

Games have long since moved out of the toy drawer, but our understanding of them can still benefit from seeing them in a wider context of mediated meaning-making. DiGRA 2018 follows Marshall McLuhan, and sees games as extensions of ourselves. They recalibrate our senses and redefine our social relationships. The environments they create are more conspicuous than their content. They are revealing, both of our own desires and of the society within which we live. Their message is their effect. Games change us.

To explore this change, we invite scholars, artists and industry to engage in discussions over the following tracks:

– Platforms
Game platforms invite new textualities, new technologies and new networks of power relations. Game structures, their integration with and use of the technology, as well as the affordances and restrictions offered by the platforms on which they live, influence our experience of them.

– Users
Games invite new relations between their users, and players strive for and achieve new modes of perception. This reconfigures our attention, and establishes new patterns and forms of engagement.

– Meaning-making
The connection between a game and its content is often interchangeable – a game is clearly recognizable even if the surface fiction is changed. But games still produce meanings and convey messages. We ask, what are the modes of signification and the aesthetic devices used in games? In this context we particularly invite authors to look at games that claim to be about serious topics or deal with political and social issues.

– Meta-play
The playing of the game has become content, and we invite authors to explore spectatorship, streaming, allied practices and hybrid media surrounding play and the players. How can we describe and examine the complex interweaving of practices found in these environments?

– Context
Games are subject to material, economic and cultural constraints. This track invites reflection on how these contingencies as well as production tools, industry and business demands and player interventions contribute to the process of signification.

– Poetics
Games are created within constraints, affordances, rules and permissions which give us a frame in which games generate meaning. Games have voice, a language, and they do speak. This is the poetics of games, and we invite our fellows to explore and uncover it.

– General
Games tend to break out of the formats given them, and so for this track we invite the outstanding abstracts, papers and panels on alternative topics to the pre-determined tracks.

We invite full papers, 5000 – 7000 words plus references using the DiGRA 2018 submission template (http://www.digra.org/?attachment_id=148233), extended abstracts (from 500 words, maximum 1000, excluding references), and panel submissions (1000 words excluding references, with a 100 word biography of each participant). Full papers will be subject to a double-blind peer review. Extended abstracts will be blinded and peer reviewed by committees organised by the track chairs. Panels will be reviewed by the track chairs and the program chairs. General inquiries should be addressed to Riccardo Fassone – riccardo.fassone AT unito.it. Artist contributions, industry contributions, performances or non-standard presentations should be addressed to Matteo Bittanti – matteo.bittanti AT iulm.it .

Submission will be opened December 1st, 2017, and the final deadline for submission is January 31st 2018. The URL for submissions is https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=digra2018 .

Program chairs are
Martin Gibbs, martin.gibbs AT unimelb.edu.au, University of Melbourne, Australia
Torill Elvira Mortensen, toel AT itu.dk, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Important dates:
Submission opens: December 1st, 2017
Final submission deadline: January 31st, 2018
Results from reviews: March 1st, 2018
Early registration deadline: March 15th, 2018
Reviewed and rewritten full papers final deadline: April 15th, 2018