RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2017

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108 Geographies of digital games (2)
Affiliation Digital Geographies Working Group
Convenor(s) Nick Rush-Cooper (Durham University, UK)
Chair(s) Nick Rush-Cooper (Durham University, UK)
Timetable Wednesday 30 August 2017, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Room Sir Alexander Fleming Building, Room 119
Session abstract Computer, video, mobile and digital games are fundamentally geographical: They are sites of social relation, spaces of exploration and agency, affective experiences and are developed through globalised and globalising technologies and networks. This session seeks to stimulate debate on digital games as sites and objects of geographical enquiry by bringing together papers that examine games, players and the games industry by asking ‘how are games geographical’? These sessions offer a broad approach to games as sites, objects, experiences and flows. Key questions covered include: How might we attend to the embodied, affective and non-representational aspects of games and game playing (Ash 2012)? How might games be understood as social spaces & how might we understand agency and subjectivity in game-playing? What are the global economic and labour geographies of the games industry? Often aligned with colonial, militarised geopolitics (Graham 2010, Shaw 2010) yet also used for critique and contestation, how might we understand games as sites of political representation and agency? By bringing together diverse empirical and theoretical responses focused on games as objects and sites of enquiry, this session will offer a consideration of digital games in their specificity and the challenges and opportunities they present for geographical study.
Linked Sessions Geographies of digital games (1)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2017@rgs.org
The performative construction of videogame landscapes
Phil Jones (University of Birmingham, UK)
Tess Osborne (University of Birmingham, UK)
The construction of landscape within videogames has received relatively limited academic attention. Some blockbuster open world titles create simulacra of real cities, with the designers of these landscapes making comprises between playability and the accurate rendering of real spaces. One could read these landscapes, then, as expressions of strategic power on the part of the game designers, locking down how these spaces are intended to be interacted with to maximise gameplay. We asked 25 participants to undertake a 20-minute navigation activity through the reimagining of 19th century London presented in Ubisoft’s (2015) Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Stress levels measured by skin temperature and electodermal activity were recorded during the exercise. Interviews were then conducted whilst watching footage of participants’ gameplay to explore motivations for different activities undertaken and responses to the landscape. Interview materials were striking in how memory and emotional connection shaped participants’ reading of the game landscape; this was reinforced through an analysis of the biosensing data which showed embodied responses to more than just the game’s designed events. Far from being constrained by the designers’ simulacra, therefore, participants could be seen to performatively construct an imagined London between the game landscape and their own urban experiences.
Never Alone: Exploring the notions of participation, creativity, and situated community through the development of the first digital world game
Ladan Cockshut (Teesside University, UK)
Work in recent decades utilising participatory action research (PAR) and participatory design methodologies have allowed for new insights into community-centred research and sustainable impact (Nardi, 1997; Kindon, Pain, & Kesby, 2007). Whilst these methodologies have either been largely prevalent in health, community, sustainable or social justice endeavours or in technical and systems design, their application has begun to be seen in novel or emerging contexts, including digital game design. These shifts toward increasing forms of ‘participatory, democratic’ (Reason and Bradbury, 2008: 2) engagements between users and designers has led to the recent emergence of world games. The first world game of its kind, Never Alone, a narrative-drive game drawing on Inuit mythology and culture was published in 2015 and represents a novel approach to community-based participatory design toward a commercially viable digital game. This paper presents findings from preliminary ethnographic work exploring the processes for participatory creative development between an indigenous community and a commercial digital game studio. It posits a framework for games development that could allow for new expressions of narrative, place, and identity.
Ethical challenges on the use of games for data collection: the case of participant observation
Vevila Dornelles (University of the West of England, UK)
Digital games are privileged sites of geographical practices and their use as fields of data collection enclose several advantages, including the observation of peculiar social dynamics, only verified through immersion in the sites. Nevertheless, the ‘walled garden’ nature of some digital places represent a challenge to researchers with regards to ethical constraints of data collection, such as players’ presumption of privacy and confidentiality. Previous works about the problem of overt and covert research discuss strengths and weaknesses as well as ethical disputes in both approaches, but there is little discussion about the application of these techniques in online settings. Albeit specialised bodies offer general guidelines for confidentiality protection, informed consent is a major problem due to the impossibility of getting full acquiescence from participants in gaming arenas. Drawing from experiences of a current participant observation within the MOBA League of Legends (LoL), this paper presents reflections around the problematics of ethical constraints for digital games research, notably the dilemmas of data collection in online arenas, and brings some questions about the need for a stronger framework to guide future research. The discussion proves valuable, especially for postgraduate and early career researchers, for it might find an echo on other people’s struggles towards ethical, rigourous research in digital arenas.
WITHDRAWN BY AUTHOR - Geopolitical Futures in Videogame Spaces
Megan Rose O'Kane (Queen's University Belfast, UK)
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Gaming with the south? Cultural economy and the global production networks of videogames in Chile
Sebastián Andrés Baeza Gonzalez (The University of Manchester, UK)
Videogames production has become a global and increasingly diverse industry. While attention has typically been focused on the US and Japanese videogames industries, studios and publishers in various parts of the world create and produce games with the aim to conquer global markets. Considering videogames production as a creative and cultural industry in the Global South, with a focus on the Chilean videogames industry, this paper advances that the market complexity lends itself to apply a Global Production Networks (GPN) analytic framework to ask new questions that to date have been insufficiently covered from a GPN perspective (Johns, 2006). More specifically, the exploitation of emotions and feelings (Bulut, 2015) by the videogames industry and the image of the “playbour”, e.g work activity that feels like play or pleasure (Kücklich, 2005), present in the videogames literature bring new challenges to the explanation of the industry dynamics and characteristics from a GPN perspective. Including elements such as “affective labour” into the categories of “embeddedness” and “value”, the paper will provide initial theoretical implications for the GPN framework when combining political economy and cultural economy, using videogames production as a salient example. Therefore the aim of this paper is to provide a better understanding of videogames production in its economic, cultural and geographical context by revisiting the original categories of power, embeddedness and value used in GPN analysis and reviewing them through the lens of cultural economy.