June 16-17, 2011
T.L. Taylor, Miguel Sicart, Douglas Wilson
T.L. Taylor, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Miguel Sicart, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Bart Simon, Concordia University, Canada
Johannes Grenzfurthner, monochrom & University of Applied Sciences in Graz, Austria
A number of academics and independent game designers have pushed the notion that computer games should primarily be understood in terms of formal rules and mechanics – that computer games are, first and foremost, a “procedural” medium. Yet “procedurality,” as the idea is frequently spun, represents more than just a neutral descriptor of the computational properties of digital media. Often, discussions of procedurality position the author (the game designer) as a guaranteer of meaning, charged with the task of embedding meaning in predefined computational processes in order to elicit reflection or even persuasion. Here, meaning is locatable in the object itself – if not in the audiovisuals or the story, then in the rule system as formalized in code. Arguably, this perspective suffers from a subtle (even if unintentional) technological determinism.
This PhD course probes the pitfalls of privileging the formal system as a conceptual lens – not just in relation to understanding computer games, but also in terms of designing them. Games, even computer-mediated ones, are not merely sets of rules established by a designer but are complex arrangements actualized, negotiated, and modified by human players, within specific material and cultural contexts. Nothing is guaranteed by the game system itself – not the meaning, not even the rules. While these insights have been echoed time and again in the literatures on everything from playground games to MMOGs, they are often forgotten in analyses of other kinds of genres and settings. For both theoreticians and practitioners, the implications are many, and thus this course seeks to open up a conversation “against procedurality.”
This critical assessment opens up for discussions on, but not limited to:
• Indeterminacy and contingency in play
• Formalism and essentialism in the study of games
• The “worldness” of games
• Player reinterpretation and transgression
• Designing for player-generated rules
• Game design and performance art
• Player as artist/performer
• Games, festivity, and laughter
The course will draw from a variety of perspectives and disciplinary approaches including game studies, design research, anthropology, media studies, internet studies, and art practice. In this interdisciplinary milieu, students will reflect on their own and each others’ research, the course readings, lectures, and group discussions.
TBD – will be drawn from a selection of pieces written and suggested by the organizers and guest lecturers around the area of play, games, context, and contingency.
Day One (Thursday, June 16)
10:00-10:30 - Welcome and brief introductions (TL Taylor)
10:30-12:00 - Thematic brainstorm
12:00-13:00 - Lunch
13:00-14:00 - Afternoon lecture – Johannes Grenzfurthner
14:00-15:00 - Discussion
15:00-15:15 - Break
15:15-17:00 - Student presentations/discussion
Day Two (Friday, June 17)
10:00-11:00 - Morning lecture – Miguel Sicart
11:00-12:00 - Discussion
12:00-13:00 - Student presentations/discussion
13:00-14:00 - Lunch
14:00-15:00 - Afternoon lecture – Bart Simon
15:00-16:00 - Discussion
16:00-16:15 - Break
16:15-17:00 - Closing discussion
Preparation & Course format:
Enrollment is limited to 15. Each day’s sessions will be devoted to a combination of guest lectures, discussion, and presentations by the students.
All students must submit with their application to the course an abstract of their work as it relates to the course. Approximately one month before the course, students will receive the reading list and the assigned articles. Students should come to the course having prepared with this material. The week before the course, students will submit a two-page conference-quality position paper that relates to the subject of the course. The papers will be used to shape the discussions during the course.
No formal exam but full participation, including two-page position paper, required.
5 ECTS (for preparation, participation, and a two-page conference-quality position paper)
Students will be preparing for the course in two ways:
1) preparing the reading material which will be about 10-12 articles
2) preparing a conference-style/quality two-page position paper on the subject of their own research project as it relates to the course.
As per ITU policy, the course is free of charge. However, students are responsible for covering their own meals, transportation, and accommodation.
Accommodation and Transportation:
Practical information regarding accommodation and transportation can be found here.
How to sign up:
Sign up by sending an e-mail to Douglas Wilson (email@example.com).
All students must submit with their application to the course an abstract of their work as it relates to the course and the subject of their position paper which will be used to help organize the sessions. Applications should be submitted by May 18.