9 December 2021, 16-17h (CET) 

C. Thi Nguyen, "Games and the Art of Agency"

Meeting ID: 859 2676 1956
Passcode: 910570

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Games are a distinctive form of art — and very different from many traditional arts. Games work in the medium of agency. Game designers don’t just tell stories or create environments. They tell us what our abilities will be in the game. They set our moti- vations, by setting the scoring system and specifying the win-conditions. Game de- signers sculpt temporary agencies for us to occupy. And when we play games, we adopt these designed agencies, submerging ourselves in them, and taking on their specified ends for a while.

Games constitute a library of agencies — and by exploring them, we can learn new ways to inhabit our own agency. When we play games, we engage in a special form of agential fluidity. We can absorb ourselves temporarily in alternate, constructed agen- cies. Games make use of that capacity to record different practical mindsets. Games turn out to be our technology for communicating forms of agency.

C. Thi Nguyen is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Utah. He writes about trust, art, games, and communities and is interested in the ways that our social structures and technologies shape how we think and what we value. He also used to be a foodwriter. His first book is Games: Agency as Art appeared with Oxford University Press in 2020. It’s about how games are the art form that work in the medium of agency.


13 January 2022, 18-19h (CET)

Noah Wardrip-Fruin, "Playable Logics and Immersion"

Meeting ID: 873 4359 2582

Passcode: 899213

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What makes immersion work in video games? Somehow we learn what the moving images in front of us are meant to communicate. Somehow we interpret their movements as the behavior of a world. Somehow we come to understand our potential actions in response, and how games might respond in turn. Somehow the fundamentals of these understandings form a literacy — one that players can transport from game to game.

For nearly two decades (starting with a talk at Universität Siegen in 2004) we have been working to understand these aspects of video games using two key concepts. One is “operational logics” — the fundamental combinations of computation and communication that underlie concepts such as “game mechanics.” The other is “playable models” — combinations of logics and structuring information that games use to represent domains and open them to play.

Noah Wardrip-Fruin is a Professor of Computational Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He co-directs the Expressive Intelligence Studio, a technical and cultural research group, with Michael Mateas. Noah's research areas include new models of storytelling in games, how games express ideas through play, the literary possibilities of computational media, and how cultural software can be preserved, discovered, and cited. Noah has authored or co-edited six books on games and digital media for the MIT Press, including The New Media Reader (2003), a book influential in the development of interdisciplinary digital media curricula. His most recent book, How Pac-Man Eats, was published by MIT in 2020. His work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, Institute of Museum and Library Services, Google, Microsoft, and others. Noah's collaborative playable media projects, including Screen and Talking Cure, have been presented by the Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, New Museum of Contemporary Art, Krannert Art Museum, Hammer Museum, and a wide variety of festivals and conferences. Noah holds both a PhD (2006) and an MFA (2003) from Brown University, an MA (2000) from the Gallatin School at New York University, and a BA (1994) from the Johnston Center at the University of Redlands.



21 January 2022, 14-15h (CET)

Melanie Fritsch, "Immersed in (musical) meaning?: A ludomusicological perspective on music and immersion in digital game design"

Meeting ID: 817 6117 7105

Passcode: 502475

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Similar to other areas in game studies concepts such as immersion, involvement and interactivity are at the core of many ludomusicological debates. How can music contribute to immersing the player in a game? How can designers create meaningful ways of interaction with a game's music that usefully contribute to the gameplay experience rather than disturbing or even destroying the desired effect of immersion? And which opportunities do games offer to create musical experiences that go beyond what audiences know from other media forms such as movies or TV?
Following a brief overview on the field of Ludomusicology, these questions will be discussed by outlining an approach for analysis that builds on the work of scholars and practitioners from the fields of ludomusicology, game studies and game design. This approach will then be applied within the frame of two short case studies on digital games from different genres that fruitfully make use of the medium’s distinct opportunities to create an immersive experience.

Dr. Melanie Fritsch is Junior Professor in Media and Cultural Studies with a focus on Game Studies and related fields at Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf. She is the author of Performing Bytes: Musikperformances der Computerspielkultur (2018) and co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Video Game Music (Cambridge University Press, 2021).


04 February 2022, 16-17h (CET)

Sarah Thorne, "Immersion & Interactivity in Games"

Meeting ID: 832 0325 6499

Passcode: 624555

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AAA games are often marketed as highly immersive and interactive experiences. These qualities are seen as a kind of benchmark for what makes a great game. The interplay between immersion and interactivity, however, is more complex than these popular titles make apparent. Indeed, many theorists have argued that there is an inherent tension and even a mutually exclusive relationship between the two. The contrast between such claims results from the difficulty of defining these frequently used terms. The experience of immersion, for instance, has many forms, including the disappearance of the real world as one becomes engrossed in a digital display; a feeling of being transported to another world; and “flow,” a state of intense focus. Rather than presenting ideal instances of immersion, this talk will examine games that strategically use interactivity and immersion to facilitate critical reflection, such as Draw Me a Pixel’s There Is No Game (2020), a game that disrupts the immersive experience to deliver its self-reflexive commentary on the game industry.

Dr. Sarah Thorne is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador. She is also an adjunct researcher at The Hyperlab, a digital humanities research centre at Carleton University, where she collaboratively designs locative media experiences. Her research investigates the intersections between new media, narrative, and critical theory.


10 February 2022, 18-19h (CET)

Timothy Welsh, "Metaverse, Metafiction"

Meeting ID: 893 2474 4605

Passcode: 413453

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Even as tech industry leaders promise that the future of virtual reality will change everything, the immersive experience they describe has hardly changed at all since the techno-utopianism of the 1990s. The expectation that technology "submerges" its users can in fact be traced back further to similar, low-tech assumptions about how readers get "lost" in a book. Timothy Welsh, Ph.D., will draw print literature and videogames into a conversation about immersion in order to demonstrate that the virtual and real cannot be so easily isolated from one another. He will discuss his concept of "mixed realism" both as an alternative to the immersive fallacy as well as a response to the ubiquitous mediations of modern life.

Timothy Welsh, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of English at Loyola University New Orleans. He is the author of Mixed Realism: Videogames and the Violence of Fiction (University of Minnesota Press, 2016) as well as articles about videogames, modern narrative, and digital culture.


9 - 11 February 2022, Campus Visit Gordon Calleja. Lecture Dates TBD.

Gordon Calleja is a game designer, Associate Professor, and Director at the Institute of Digital Games at the University of Malta. Prior to founding the Institute of Digital Games at UoM, he was the director for the Center for Games Research at ITU for five years. He has also founded Mighty Box, a video game design studio, and Mighty Boards, a board game design studio and publisher. The current focus of his creative work is in board game design and writing. His publications include: In-Game: From Immersion to Incorporation, and academic analysis of player involvement and immersion published by MIT Press; Will Love Tear Us Apart, an art game adaptation of Joy Division’s track that was nominated for several international awards; Posthuman Saga, a hybrid euro-narrative boardgame and its digital cousin, Posthuman: Sanctuary, which adapts the boardgame through a blend of a rogue-like mechanics and interactive fiction and delves more deeply in the issue of human evolution introduced in the boardgame. https://www.gordoncalleja.com/