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Refugees in Utrecht explore the city through selfie-treasure hunt

On Tuesday December 1, a group of refugees from the Utrecht refugee center played a selfie-treasure hunt to playfully explore the city. This is the second time the game has been played with refugees. The selfie-treasure hunt is developed by GAP PhD candidates Stephanie de Smale and Sjors Martens, and research master students Nico Lopez Coombs and Arash Ghajarjazi. The main objective of the game was to create a safe and playful way for this vulnerable group to explore the city.

The neighbourhood as playground

The first play test took place in Lombok, since the refugees were staying in the Beatrix building in the Jaarbeurs. However, the present group is staying in Kanaleneiland, so this time the game’s location was Park Transwijk. Tokens were hidden in the park and hints were given via a photomap. The objective was to collect as many team selfies with the tokens, using their own phones. Points were allocated to the selfies, and the team with the most points won the game.


Selfies as digital memory
During the game, players are experiencing the neighbourhood through the lens of play. It provides the opportunity for this vulnerable group to explore the city while at the same time having fun. After the game, players still have the selfies stored in their phones, making these pictures a digital souvenir of a positive memory.


Playing in other cities
This is the second time this selfie-treasure hunt was played, and 32 refugees have participated so far. In 2016, the game will be played in Belgium in collaboration with the University of Liège. However, the researchers hope to play the game in other cities as well.

If you have suggestions for other locations to play the selfie-treasure hunt, or want to join the next run, please contact Stephanie de Smale.

€150,000 Proof-of-Concept Grant Awarded for LBS Game for Higher Ed

ERC project Charting the Digital has just been awarded a €150,000 proof-of-concept (PoC) grant for making a location based game for teaching and instructing students on the intricacies of field-work, in an engaging an playful manner. The project is based in Warwick University, UK and Utrecht. The development will be carried out starting February 2016, with GAP-members (faculty and students) participating in the design, play-testing and subsequent trial deployment as part of the ongoing Go-Go-Gozo project.

For this Proof of Concept we (the Charting the Digital research team) will develop a prototype of a location-based game that can be used for teaching fieldwork in a Higher Education (HE) setting. The rationale behind it is that location-based games are promising educational tools. The game will be designed to facilitate, enhance and structure fieldwork for university courses in the areas of geography, development studies, architecture, history, archaeology and anthropology. The game we intend to prototype will offer an innovative cost-effective package for HE institutions to organize informal learning and team-building experiences. The societal benefits are related to creating an innovative teaching platform for informal learning, thus helping to develop new kinds of teaching for HE that are beneficial to our knowledge society. Such new teaching methods can stimulate a different cultural and social engagement with environments, one that brings learners much closer to lived experiences and contemporary issues on a local scale. Importantly, this approach also sees action and intervention as key elements of reflexive and sensitive fieldwork practice, challenging the existing division between academic student projects undertaken for grades, and their more complex real-world subject matter.

As a result, the approach developed in this Proof of Concept seeks to change set paradigms in higher education, offering young adults more creative, relevant and useful means and methods to gain knowledge about and engage with environments and people.

More about the Charting the digital:
Contact person for inquiries: Alex Gekker,

GAP Seminar #1 – kick-off edition

Monday April 13 is the kick-off seminar organised by Center for the Study of Digital Games and Play (GAP). It is the first out of three seminars organised by GAP this academic year, the aim is to create a new regular meet-up for game scholars and excellent students to present research, to provide room for game-related discussions, and to expand our academic and professional network. The first meeting will be held April 13 from 10:00 until 12:00 at Muntstraat 2a Utrecht University.

The programme:

– Zowi Vermeire (RMA Media and Performance Studies) is going to present her thesis: ‘Good’ Men vs. ‘Bad’ Men: Problematic Masculinities Playing Call of Duty: Black Ops 2

– Alex Gekker (PhD candidate Charting the Digital), Zowi Vermeire & Stephanie de Smale (RMA Media and Performance Studies) are going to share their field work experience of the project Go Go Gozo: Interdisciplinary Playful Mapping Methodologies.

ISIS 2015: Play / Perform / Participate conference


Our colleagues within the department of Media & Culture Studies at Utrecht University will host the second conference by the International Society of Intermedial Studies called Play/Perform/Participate between 16 and 18 April. From the conference website:
In today’s mediatized culture and society, we use media for playing, performing, and participating in artistic practices and also in larger processes of cultural reproduction, social integration and socialization. The aim of the conference Play / Perform / Participate is to discuss the intermedial valences of play, performance, and participation as increasingly intersecting practices. Spread out over three days, with around 50 panels, the second conference by the International Society of Intermedial Studies will take place at Utrecht University in the Netherlands from the 16th till the 18th of April 2015. The panels address the most important themes and topics in contemporary media cultures in an interdisciplinary way: changing processes of participation and co-creation in politics and culture, the complexity of representations and interactions in a media-saturated environment, and the influence of all kinds of mediators on our interpretation of experiences, our sense of presence and affect.
View and download the conference program here (pdf) or visit the Play/Perform/Participate website here.

Call for papers: Learning from Video Game Music

The Ludomusicology research group will be hosting the two day conference on video game audio “Learning from Video Game Music” to take place on the 9th and 10th of April, 2015 at Utrecht University. The call for proposals is open for papers on the topic of video game music and sound. Papers may contain interdisciplinary import of any type. Paper proposals are welcome from both academics and those working in the video game industry.

While all proposals are welcome, there is a particular interest in papers that support the education theme in terms of how we learn with, learn from, and learn about, video game music. Possible paper topics on this theme include:

Instrumental teaching through video games
Pedagogics of ludomusicology
Composition in video games
Music, sound design and video games in higher education
Game audio outside games
Trans-media interactions
Lessons for musicology from game music

A keynote address will be given by Karen Collins, author of Playing with Sound (2013), Game Sound (2008), and From Pac Man to Pop Music (2008). Our second keynote address will be given by David Roesner, the author of Musicality and Theatre (2014), and the leader of the Guitar Heroes in Music Education AHRC research network.

Papers should be a maximum of 20 minutes in length, with 10 minutes allowed for discussion. Shorter papers will also be considered for inclusion. Proposals should be no more than 250 words in length and sent as an attachment to


Organizers: Michiel Kamp, Tim Summers, Mark Sweeney.

Hosted by University of Utrecht.

Supported by The Institute for Cultural Inquiry (ICON).

We are looking for: Assistant Professor in New Media and Game Studie (1,0 fte)

Please spread the news: the Department of Media and Culture Studies, Utrecht University, The Netherlands, is looking for an:

Assistant professor in New Media and Game Studies (1,0 fte)

Job description: 

You will work within the Department of Media and Culture Studies, in particular within the New Media & Digital Culture (NMDC) programme. NMDC is part of the chair of Media Theory and caters to the MA New Media & Digital Culture and the BA’s Theater-, Film- and Television Studies and Communication and Information Studies. You will be responsible for teaching predominantly on courses in the domain of new media, games (entertainment and serious) and gamification, and undertake coordination tasks related to these activities.

In addition to your teaching, you will carry out research which complements and enhances the research profile of the Utrecht Focus Area Game Research. You will also perform various job-related administrative tasks.
We are especially interested in applicants whose areas of expertise include two or more of the following:

  • serious gaming;
  • playful media cultures;
  • playful communication, persuasive gaming and gamification;
  • Mobile and social media, data analysis and software studies.

All of these areas of expertise should be grounded in a critical, media-theoretical approach.

The application deadline is 7 May 2014.

For an overview of all vacancies, click here. Our department is currently also looking for Assistant Proffesors in Musicology, Gender Studies, and Television Studies. For Dutch native speakers, there are also 3 positions as lecturers in New Media and Digital Culture (0,5-0,7 fte).

Research Seminar on Game Studies & Creative Production – May 13

We would like to invite you to an upcoming event, organized on may 13th by the GaP research group with the University of Cologne. During the day representatives of both universities will present their respective research groups and engage in relevant discussions.
Please note that the first part is intended for faculty and has a limited space. Thus please email Alex Gekker [] to RSVP no later than May 5th. The second part is open to all and requires no registration.

Part I – Invitation only – Muntsraat 2a R 1.11
11:00- Introduction: Utrecht Games Studies Focus- Joost Raessens, Utrecht University
11:30- Introduction: Game Studies Cologne- Benjamin Beil, University of Cologne. Followed by presentation with Pablo Abend, Cologne: “Editors of Play: The Scripts and Practices of Co-creativity”
12:30- Lunch and discussion

Part II – open to MA/ RMA students – Achter Sint Pieter 12 R 0.12

13:30 René Glas, UU – Paratextual Play: Unlocking the Nature of Bonus Features and Extras of Games.
13:50 Nicolle Lamerichs, UU: Productive Fandom: Transmedia Play in Audience Cultures
14:15 PhD Presentation: Christian Schmidt, Cologne – Transmedia Topoi: World Building Across Media in Serial Narratives

15:00 Coffee Break

15:30 PhD Presentation: Federico Alvarez, Cologne – Perception of Time in Computer Games
16:15 PhD Presentation: Alex Gekker, UU – Geolocative Play in Non-Game Setting.
17:00 Closing remarks and drinks.

The Research Seminar is organized by the Chair of Media Theory and Games and Play Research Group, Utrecht University


New Media Studies Magazine #8: The Age of Play


We are proud to present the latest issue New Media Studies Magazine, a magazine created by students of our MA programma New Media & Digital Culture. This issue focuses entirely on the theme The Age of Play. Edited by Laura Coomans and Joeri Taelman, the issue compiles some of the best and most innovative research papers written during the MA courses ‘Game Studies’ and ‘Software Studies’.

Taking Eric Zimmerman’s recent Manifesto for a Ludic Century as a starting point, the papers collected in this issue all showcase a move to an increasingly playful culture. From the editorial:
As Zimmerman argues, play is everywhere. From serious games in health care to gamification in business. Even politics is undergoing a ludic turn. Play isn’t only connected to games, and in this edition of the magazine, we would like to play the game of play with you. As you read this magazine, with every chapter, a next level is achieved. Every level of this magazine of play provides you with a new angle, a new perspective on games and play, unlocking more knowledge as you read.


Here are the contents:

– Level 1: Not being square by being square: A paper on non-photorealistic rendering, Minecraft, gameplay and craftsmanship – Lara Coomans

– Level 2: How to ‘VR‘ a videogame – Menno Gottmer

– Level 3: Living another life? Identity formation in The Sims and its effects on the player’s non-virtual life and personality. – Antje Ziska

– Level 4: Is digital game based learning the educational utopia of the future? Constructing youth’s professional identities with epistemic games. – Mara Vandorou

– Level 5: Run for your life: An examination of Zombies, Run! and the use of narrative persuasion in exergames. – Emma Norton

– Level 6: Pollination of Politics: Political polls as pollen for the gamification of politics. – Kevin Willemsen

– Level 7: Gamification: Time to go with the Flow? – Ben Borrow

– Level 8: Building Material: Exploring Playfulness of 3D printers. – Stephanie de Smale


Read the full editiorial here, of download the entire issue as a pdf eBook here!