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.
Graduate Program Game Research at Utrecht University
Within this graduate program Game Research, excellent student can be offered a PhD position on a research project written by themselves. There is room for four such PhD positions funded by the NWO Graduate Program, two starting September 2015, two starting in September 2016.
On 22 May, a Friday afternoon, the Nest, the cradle of entrepreneurship at the Heidelberglaan, was crowded. In a ‘Science Meets Business’ seminar researchers from the focus area Game Research (Utrecht University) and various market participants gathered to discuss game research and how they could cooperate in this field. Present were large serious game companies from the Netherlands and researchers Joost Raessens, Remco Veltkamp, Stefan Werning, and Robbert Jan Beun.
There are several target groups for serious games. Think of games for education, government and organization, games for health, sustainability, smart cities, conflicts and safety. The Netherlands is globally renowned for its production of and research into serious games, as argued by Christel van Grinsven (Dutch Game Garden) and Joost Raessens in the recently published book Video Games Around the World (MIT Press, 2015). In the world of academia, serious games are called persuasive games, i.e. games aiming to change attitudes and behaviour.
Research into the functioning of persuasive games
One of the most important questions is: do these games really work? If that can be ascertained, reliable quality assessments can be made. This would be useful, for instance, with regard to education games and apps for (primary) schools, many of which are already operational. A school would then be able to make grounded decisions.
To clarify whether and how persuasive games and apps function, Utrecht University cooperates with companies. Within the NWO-research programme ‘Persuasive Gaming’, researchers such as Joost Raessens chart best practices and produce models that can predict the success of newly developed games.
Applications in various disciplines
Research into persuasive games finds interest in many different disciplines. Stefan Werning, assistant professor on game research, for instance looks at educational infrastructures. ICT, psychology, sociology and communication also increasingly address persuasive games.
Robbert Jan Beun works with persuasive apps with a particular focus on interaction technology. He researches opportunities for personalised self-help therapy for sleep difficulties using mobile technology. A troubled sleeper himself, through his research he develops an app for fellow sufferers, collaborating with TU Delft and Philips.
Remco Veltkamp (UU) en Michaël Bas (Ranj, serious game-bedrijf)
Michaël Bas (Ranj, serious game company) and Remco Veltkamp (UU)
The afternoon was concluded with a lively discussion. Representatives of game companies argued they would benefit from research taking up shorter cycles: “We want interim results every two months, not after four years.” Next to that, creative designers desire predictability, i.e. research into whether the apps or games really work. For the researchers it is preferable if companies present demands collectively. What does the market actually require and how can researchers meet that demand?
It is striking that considerable fragmentation exists among both parties (game companies and researchers). Closer cooperation is required within and between universities. On that note, the focus area Game Research at Utrecht University fulfils a pioneering role. Contrariwise, the landscape of media companies is too dispersed for many researchers to work with. Many small parties exist, each with their own area of expertise. This makes it hard to determine who to appeal to for what. The ultimate conclusion that it would be better if both sides cooperated more is shared by all. It is easier to apply for EU2020-projects in unison but also when approaching larger market participants such as ING, Shell, Alliander and, for instance, Philips. These are after all companies that do not only come with concrete demands, but also do have the funds to finance research.
15.00 – 15.10 Welcome and Opening: drs. Mirko Lukács
15.10 – 15.45 Persuasieve communication, gaming and apps in UU research (prof. dr. Joost Raessens)
15.45 – 16.15 Apps as persuasive technologies in culture and education (dr. Stefan Werning)
16.20 – 16.50 Case ‘Persuasiveness in the SleepCare App’ (dr. Robbert Jan Beun)
From the ‘science’ perspective are present, apart from the speakers: Fiemke Griffioen and Thomas Dohmenfrom Informatica and Martin Kempen and Jeanette Verstappen from Utrecht Holdings.
From the ‘business’ the following participants will be present:
– DGG (Christel van Grinsven)
– RANJ Serious Games (Michael Bas)
– Little Chicken (Tomas Sala)
– G4 (Monique van Rijen)
– Boldmindz (Rowan van ‘t Hoogt)
– QLVR (Jaap Gerretsen)
– VICTAS/GBGGZ Utrecht (Mirjam Simons)
– Vrije Ruimte/Stichting Volte (Henk van Zeijts)
– Expertisecentrum Beroepsonderwijs (Pieter Baay)
– SOON/RABO NEST (Suze Klaverstijn)
On Monday May 11 the Centre for the Study of Digital Games and Play (GAP) will host its second seminar at Muntstraat 2a, room 1.11 from 10:00-12:00. Sjors Martens and Joleen Blom (both RMA students) will share their game-related work with us. For these discussions we will read short texts in preparation (see attached).
Connecting the Dots: The Playful Ontology of Media Constellations – Sjors Martens (RMA Media & Performance Studies)
Transmedial universes rank amongst the most elaborate entities in current media culture. Despite their current prevalence little holistic approaches exist that address the worlds themselves instead of singular instalments. In his presentation Sjors provides a model based on Miguel Sicart’s definition of play to deal with what he understands as Transmedial Universes. The different characteristics of play shall be scrutinised and related to the main characteristics of transmedial universes. This model shall then be tested on different cases that fit with the discussion group, such as videogames and urban practices. In this discussion we will critically examine this theoretical framing of play and the model’s limits.
In preparation we will read the the first chapter of Miguel Sicart’s latest book Play Matters (2014).
Japan and Games: A Hybrid Culture in a Hidden Environment – Joleen Blom (RMA Media & Performance Studies)
During this presentation Joleen discusses the issues and revelations she discovered in her on-going thesis research on Japanese Studies and Game Theory. She will adress questions such as “why can we not speak of a clear division between Japanese and Western Games?”, “Why do we need to take manga (Japanese comics), and anime (Japanese animation) into consideration when addressing Japanese Games?”, and “from what perspective is she planning to approach Japanese and Western gaming in regad to each other?”. Through this presentation, Joleen will try to bring forth a better understanding of the background she is coming from, while at the same time, trying to open up a discussion on how one might be able to open up the bridge between the Western and Japanese gaming culture on an academic level.
In preparation we will read chapter three, starting from page 94 “Disney as Model and Rival“, of the book The Soul of Anime (2013) by Ian Condry.
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.
– 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.
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.
The full programme of the upcoming Learning from Video Game Music conference, hosted by the Ludomusicology research group, is now available online here.Keep an eye on ludomusicology.org for further updates and news.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
DEADLINE FOR PROPOSAL SUBMISSION: 31 JANUARY 2015.
Organizers: Michiel Kamp, Tim Summers, Mark Sweeney.
Amsterdam University Press has now published the edited volume “Playful Identities: The Ludification of Digital Media Cultures”. See here.
Digital media technologies increasingly shape how people relate to the world, to other people and to themselves. This prompts questions about present-day mediations of identity. This book explores the notion of play as a heuristic lens to look at changing media practices and identity construction. Playful media culture is analyzed far beyond its apparent manifestation in computer games. The central argument of the book is that play and games nowadays are not only appropriate metaphors to capture post-modern human identities, but also the very means by which people reflexively construct their identity. Playful Identities presents academic research at the intersection of media theory, play and game studies, social sciences and philosophy. The book carves out a cross-disciplinary domain that connects the most recent in- sights from play and game studies, media research, and identity studies.
The book is one of the results of the Research project Playful Identities, that was funded by de Dutch Organization of Scientific Research (NWO), see here. The book will also be made available as an Open Access publication through http://www.oapen.org.
“Playful Identities is an illuminating study on the increasing complexity of digital playgrounds, ludic media, ludic interfaces and technologies of the self. The book presents a variety of roles and identities such as: players, learners, gamblers, users, fans, role-players, theory crafters, cheaters, and digital savages.” Prof. Dr. Mathias Fuchs, Leuphana University Lüneburg
“What a brilliant, refreshing, and positively playful approach to the ludic imperative. In stark opposition to the business world’s cynical application of “gamification” to productivity or even the social do-gooders urger to make games “serious,” these essays reveal and reify play as the essence of human experience. Herein lies access to the truth: the play is the thing. These are the smartest, most articulate, and up-to-date essays on this subject, by the very people creating this field of study” – Douglas Rushkoff, author, Present Shock, Program or Be Programmed, and Playing the Future.
The PhD thesis Persuasive Structures in Advergames by our own Teresa de la Hera has been awarded as the best academic work by a Spanish scholar in the field of audiovisual communication. The prize was awarded by the Consell de l’Audiovisual de Catalunya, a Spanish organisation committed to promoting research in the audiovisual sector. The jury was composed of renowned professors in the field of media studies.
De la Hera’s thesis aims at broadening the understanding of how advertising messages can be embedded within digital games. In recent years marketers have shown a keen interest in using digital games for advertising purposes. Digital games specifically designed for a brand with the aim of conveying an advertising message, are known as advergames. In the thesis an interdisciplinary framework is used in order to outline a theoretical model aiming to structure the existing knowledge to help explain how persuasive communication works within digital games.
Teresa de la Hera currently works as a postdoc researcher in the NWO-funded project ‘Persuasive gaming‘, a collaboration between Utrecht University, Erasmus University Rotterdam and the University of Technology Eindhoven.
On Monday 30 of June took place the kick-off meeting of the interdisciplinary and interfacultary focus area Game Research of Utrecht University, in which GAP is involved. Games play an increasingly important role in (arts) education, healthcare, safety, creative industries, and other economic, cultural, and societal sectors. It is a “game changing” phenomenon. The unique position of UU in gaming will be reinforced and used as a lever to expand scope, quality, volume, and impact of its research and education.
All UU groups involved in game research contribute to this focus area, from disciplines such as computer science, humanities, social sciences. Together, these groups form the Utrecht Center for Game Research and Technology (U-GATE, www.u-gate.nl). The research and education in the center address aspects of game research, such as the design, development, and application of serious games and simulations. During the kick-off meeting we informed about the plans of the focus area Game Research of Utrecht University, and we presented examples of game related activities at UU.
You can find more information about the Focus Area Game Research of Utrecht University and its activities at: www.u-gate.nl.