CFP: DiGRA 2007 – Tokyo

It’s out – and they want full papers – due February 14th, 2007. Read below for more details.

Papers and panel proposals are invited for the third Digital GamesResearch Association International Conference (DiGRA 2007) in Tokyo. Thetheme of this conference is “Situated Play.” Its goal is to shed lighton various kinds of situatedness of games. In particular, the conferenceaims to create a bridge between professionally and geographicallydiverse scholars and practitioners. We therefore welcome panel proposalsand papers that tackle various facets regarding the situatedness ofdigital games and attempt to combine a range of approaches in innovativeways.

The deadline for papers and panel proposals is midnight (Apia time),February 14, 2007. The selection will be based on full papers and panelproposals. The time allotted to one paper is 30 minutes, and thesubmitted papers should be between 2500 to 6000 words and an abstractmust be attached. A panel session will have two hours, and a panelproposal should be up to 800 words in addition to all the full papers inthe panel. Authors and organizers of panels will be requested tospecify a relevant thematic focus (see below) and their relevantdisciplinary backgrounds. Submission will be accepted by an onlinereview system. Practical details of submission will be announced on theconference website in January.

Based on the abstracts and the specified disciplinary backgrounds, theReview Committee Chair Douglas Thomas will assign papers and panelproposals to a Review Committee member, who will assign three or morereviewers to the paper. Based on the double-blind evaluation of thereviewers and taking the relevance of the papers to the conference theme into consideration, the Program Committee will select approximately 50 papers.

In addition to full papers, there will be lightening sessions, studentround tables, and poster sessions. A call for papers for these kinds ofsessions will be announced later. The deadline of submissions for thesesessions is planned to be in May. Further details of the conference willbe announced on the conference website (http://www.gamesconference.org)as the preparation proceeds. For inquiries, contact Kenji Ito atkenjiito67 [at] gmail.com.

And Speaking of Pictures

There has been alot of discussion about the nature of the cyberspace. With it’s boundaries between public and private blurred, cyberspace – for some, is a city made of glass houses where curtains and blinds have yet to be invented. Indeed, some have locks on their doors, but more often than not, the peephole is still big enough to get the jist of what goes on.

With the popularity of visual social softwares such as Flickr, the question of public and private is kept alive. Back in the day, it was always my impression that one could not publish a photograph of someone without their permission. To be fair, I believe this was a relatively contrived law reserved for the rich and famous, since we have regularly been bombarded by dying children and injured people across the globe, and something tells me that their consent wasn’t quite obtained before becoming ‘national geographic’s’ most famous photograph. (And who has been caught in the flash in the background of a sports scene splashed across the front of the sports pages without their permission…) But I will continue nonetheless.

If I take photographs at a party, for my personal use, they often remain a private collection, shared only with my limited circle of friends. When these pictures are shared, they are usually contextualized for the viewer by my stories surrounding the event of the picture being taken. I have even been known to speed through or even hide a photograph once in a while due to its personal or simply embarrassing nature (come on – we have all had bad camera angles!!). I have even had friends ask me specifically not to share a particular photograph with others.

So – this brings me to my beef du jour. Why is it perfectly acceptable for people to post every single picture they have ever taken online in a very public, and poorly if at all, contextualized space? From both a personal and legal standpoint, why are the people in the pictures not asked their permission to be billboarded? What makes it ethical to blatantly splash photographs of people across the internet. What I find interesting is that more often than not, the person actually posting the photographs arent even in the picture – so in theory, their own identity is not compromised in any way (if only by association to the events depicted in the image). What makes it different in people’s mind to post these images online but not publish them in a magazine – or put the other way – why do people who post these (private) images in such a public space without conferring with those individuals in the picture? Has our perception of public and private become so entertwined that we no longer see an ethical issue here?

Girl Gamers and the Bigger Picture

Within the field of game and digital studies, there has been much written about the marginalized role of girls (and women) in terms of both in the industry as well as players. Much of the current research if you were to google “girls + games” and “girl + gamers” in google scholar, you would see that much of the ‘literature’ surrounds the notion of exposing girls to video games, the complaint that there aren’t (m)any games our there for girls and that girls are a minute part of the recognized demographic in terms of industry and marketing and looking at ways to changing that fact.
Many research projects who study “girl gamers” tend to gather a group of girls in a school or after-school center environment and offer them a wide selection of games and the technology to play them and then analyse their play choices, styles and social interactions during this time. Whether the girls had previous game experience or not is rarely an issue. Besides this being what I feel is an ‘artificial’ environment, I wonder what it REALLY tells us about girls and video games.
This past week, at the CGSA, there was a presentation (quite a good one for the most part) that ended with the casual statement “the research shows that if we want girls to play games we have to make them playable under 5 minutes”. Personally, I found this a tad insulting and muttered that I will tell that to my sometimes hours-on-end-game-playing daughters. Which, of course earned the reply that there are always exceptions.
But what bothers me, is that although my girls are priveleged in the way of games and technology by having a games researching mom and a hardcore game playing dad – is that I know many many girls whose parents have no background or current interest in games who actually play games. And i dont mean five minute flash games. Most of the young girls I know have a DS and play more than Nintendogs. They like rpg and adventure games, Ratchet and Clank to Rose Online. They are not interested in Barbie’s dress up adventures and Mary Kate and Ashley’s ‘girl games’. They want action, humor and all in all, general fun.
So I asked the question – when talking about needing to make more ‘girl-ccentric, sims like games playable under 5 minutes’ is that really to appease the ‘girl gamers’ – who, in my opinion would be girls who already play video games on their own, or is it to broaden the market share ini the video game industry to create games that appeal to a larger, non-video game playing female population? (Personally, by selecting girls who have never played much in the way of video games, I would suggest the latter). But I was told that that is not the case. So I continue to ask myself, how can you study girl gamers as the unique population that they are, by studying a random, volunteer based sample of girls in a school or community (who dont play games?!).
Maybe it is time to start talking to the girls who love video games, and have been playing them for as long as they can remember and see what makes them tick.

The Role of the Avatar

As I head into writing my thesis – a project that I had been working towards for the last almost 4 years now, what seemed to be a relatively easy task (i mean, this is what i have been working towards over the years, with every paper and every project) has now turned into a relatively monumental roadblock. Not because I don’t know what my thesis is on, but because unlike every other project I have done so far, I have to present a 20 page proposal on what i intend to do.

The thing is, I know what i plan to do, but the way i write, often a mix between organic birth and rigid outlines doesn’t quite cater to the idea of writing a proposal from start to finish of what it is i plan to uncover in the forthcoming pages.

I am currently working on a power point for a workshop we are presenting at the upcoming Canadian Game Studies Association inaugral meeting next week in Toronto. Without getting into the details I am essentially making three statements about my topic of interest and developing them briefly in terms of their abstract elements and concretizing the statement with an examplary anecdote from personal experience or my field notes (preferrably). But I keep stumbling on one… seemingly minor… potentially major detail. When I am writing about identity, who’s identity am I talking about? And in what context? I have many answers – and I know what i DON’T want to be talking about… mainly the psychological development of identity.

But at times, my writing is around the player and other times it is the avatar. Originally, my goal was to discuss the relationship between the player and their avatar – and how it is similar and/or different than other abstract relationships. But quite honestly, the more I think, the more I confuse myself. The more questions I attempt to answer, the more questions I end up with.

So, when I am telling people at the CGSA that the process of identity construction in mmog’s is a complex, interlocking web of negotiation between player/avatar, avatar/environment, avatar/avatar, avatar/player and finally player/player – it remains unclear who’s identity I am talking about. In some respects, I do mean the player’s and in other times, I mean the avatar… So how do i remedy this ambiguous ownership of identity by the time my thesis is due in January?