Thinking After Dark: Day One

Panel 1: The Horror Video Game: historical, narrative, and generic aspects

The sessions I made it to yesterday was very interesting, as one of my colleagues, Dominic Arsenault (Introduction à la pragmatique des effets génériques: l’horreur dans tous ses états) presented on the evolution of genres; talking about and demonstrating both our need/desire to categorize video games, and the processes through which these categories evolve over time. Using the example of Doom as the quintessential first person shooter that started the “its like Doom” qualifications of other games that were released after it, in order to show the historical break when games stopped being compared to the one game, and started being discussed as a genre in general.

In the spirit of a bilingual conference, the next speaker – Carl Therrien (Jeux de peur. Un survol historique de l’horreur vidéoludique), another colleague of mine, presented his work on genres in french. An interesting talk that seemed to flow quite well from Dominic’s work. Carl outlined the definitional boundaries of the horror genre, and how, through these conventions, construct a history of the genre, as well as how these conventions are carried over (or not) into video gameplay – and the methodological issues that ensue such as the broadening of the scope that can be considered horror games based on particular traditional conventions. At least this is some of what I understood. Feel free to comment if anyone has a better details on the presentation =)

Finally, the session wrapped up with Ewan Kirkland‘s talk called Storytelling in Survival Horror Video Games. Keeping with the theme of genres, Ewan elaborated on ” … survival horror’s relationship with the narrative and narration” , how the genre relies on certain conventions and how this translates over to survival horror games. I found the talk very interesting, even if I felt a bit out my element with some of the background information.

Panel 2: Figures and Adaptations of Horror

The second session I attend was equally interesting. The first speaker – Clara Fernandez-Vara (Dracula Defanged: Empowering the Player in the Castlevania Series) began her talk by stating that the Castlevania is not a horror game, even though on first glance, it’s imagery and themes may suggest otherwise. Clara talked about the symbolic conventions that would seemingly connect the game to a horror genre – particularly the Dracula series; however, upon further inspection, what appear to be traditional symbols have been re-appropriated for a different cultural audience. Of course, there was much more to her talk, but as always, I get too wrapped up in listening and being game studies, there are always great images to look at at the same time! As always, feel free to add more in the

Finally, the last talk of the day was given by Alexis Blanchet (L’adaptation de films d’horreur en jeu vidéo: réflexions autour d’une absence) who had a more quantitative approach to looking at the history of videogame adaptations of film over approximately the last 30 years (I believe the earliest movies were from 1975 in his analysis). He looked at over 400 films, and evaluated them by the elements traditionally thought of as horror. By doing this, he demonstrated the breadth of what constitutes a horror film (beyond the pre-labeled categories) and then discussed those titles that have been adapted into video games, which essentially were more scarce than one would have thought.

After these two panels, there was a short book launch for Bernard Perron’s upcoming edited collection Gaming After Dark. Welcome to the World of Horror Video Games, McFarland, Jefferson (N.C). due out in Spring 2009. Afterwards, there was wine and videogame play for everyone. Unfortunately, due to living in the same city as the conference I mentioned in my previous post – I had to duck out early for family stuff. But surely the rest of the evening was as great as my afternoon.

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