CFP: Thinking, analysing and designing Expressive Games

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International seminar


Thinking, analysing and designing Expressive Games


24-25 November 2014, METZ, FRANCE
CREM / LORIA, University of Lorraine

Selection Process

Proposals are expected by 1st September 2014. They must be sent in the form of an abstract of 800 – 1000 words (excluding bibliography). Each proposal shall indicate the last name, the first name, the status and the institution the author is affiliated to.
All proposals should be sent to

Keynote speakers

Espen AARSETH, Principal Researcher, Center for Computer Games Research (IT University, Copenhagen).

Gonzalo FRASCA, game developer, researcher, entrepreneur and Chair of the Videogame program at ORT University.

Jean-Louis LEBRETON, game developer, entrepreneur, founder of Froggy Software.


After the conference, the authors will have the possibility to submit their full-text that will be “double blind” reviewed for publication in journal.

Theme and topics

Inquiries on the kind of contents that might be expressed by video games, and the way they are expressed, appeared soon after the birth of the industry, particularly during the first financial crisis in the sector, as shown in Chris Crawford’s book The art of computer game design (1984). Nevertheless, in the academic sphere, these issues were really addressed during the early 2000s, with the emergence of game studies as a field. One might think at the work of Gonzalo Frasca, who stressed in 2001 that unlike other media (film, television, etc.) videogame has little addressed everyday life’s problems. However, in recent years, a growing number of games, frequently released by the independent scene, directly or indirectly address individual, social, psychological, societal topics related to everyday life (Cart Life, Gone Home, Papo & Yo, Papers Please, etc.).

Unlike serious games designed to use game in a precise goal and within a specific context (with the aim to change an initial situation), these kinds of works do not necessarily have a persuasive vocation and falls within the broader context of entertainment, even if their topics are serious. We propose to qualify as an expressive game a game that allows to explore psychological, social, cultural issues. As a game, it will confront the player to choices and dilemmas that these issues create. This kind of games allows to express individual or social issues while opening back the opportunity to think about it.

To clarify this concept, it may be noted that in his book Persuasive games, Ian Bogost argued that compared to other forms of representation (film, photography, etc.), the “expressive power” of videogames is based on procedural rhetoric that opens a new field of persuasive expression. In this context, video games can be used to produce arguments about how political, economic and educational systems work in the “material world”. The purpose of “persuasive games” is to convince their target audience with the help of an interactive system. Compared to persuasive games, the aim of the concept of expressive games is to have a broader approach of expressiveness. Games can also be used to express views about broader societal problems and foster public debates without aiming at prescribing attitudes. In this perspective, expressive games may be useful to make people think, to raise their awareness or point out the relevance and importance of serious subjects in order to contribute to social debates prior to trying to find possible solutions.

In this research framework, a first independent game, Keys of a gamespace, was developed at the University of Lorraine in order to test the interest of the concept of expressive game among gamers, non-gamers, developers ( This led to an ongoing research projects on expressive games. One of the milestones of this project is the organization of a seminar which offers to interested researcher the possibility to discuss this approach. This may also help to establish a network on this topic. Proposals may address (without being exhaustive):

– Thinking expressive games: How to think the expressiveness of video games? How does comparative research allow us to clarify the specificities or similarities of expressive games? How to think the role of the player in the expressive process? Etc.

– Studying expressive games: In the history of video games, what works could be anchored in this type of approach? For example, during the mid-80s in France, the games company Froggy Software, created by Jean-Louis Lebreton, is known to have addressed individual issues, social or political matters (mental illness, dictatorship, etc.. ) with a strong sense of humor. What are the contextual factors that promote the emergence of this kind of games? Why does the independent scene today foster serious topics in games? Etc.

– Designing expressive games: How to design games which aim to entertain while addressing difficult and/or mature topics? What challenges do expressive games raise in terms of game design or user acceptance? Etc.

The seminar precedes the international conference From Traditional Games to Digital Games to be held in Nancy (1 hour from Metz) from November 26 to 28 (free access).

Author: frans

Professor of Information Studies and Interactive Media, esp. Digital Culture and Game Studies in the University of Tampere, Finland.