Second International Conference of Video Game Studies: “Video Games as a Challenge to Academia – 50 Years of the Gaming Industry”
December 10th-11th 2022
Novi Sad, Serbia
Deadline for proposals: October 10th, 2022
Organized by the University of Novi Sad, Academy of Arts, the University of Belgrade, Faculty of Philology, and the Serbian Games Association (SGA)
Call for papers
Exactly fifty years ago, in 1972, Magnavox came out with the first home gaming console, designed by Ralph Baer. That same year, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney founded Atari, the first game development company. Atari achieved immense success with Pong, a game that inspired many to try their luck at the game development business, first in the US, then in Japan and Europe, and finally across the globe. These events mark the birth of the largest media industry in existence today. In honour of this anniversary, the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad, in cooperation with the University of Belgrade, Faculty of Philology, and the Serbian Games Association (SGA), are organising the second international conference dedicated to the study of video games in Serbia, Video Games as a Challenge to Academia: 50 Years of the Gaming Industry.
As the product of computer science, video games have been tied to the academic world since the 1950s, when scientists began to create computerized versions of games like chess, checkers, and tic-tac-toe to explore the capacities of artificial intelligence and solve various technical problems. The first commercial games were created by computer scientists, electrical and television engineers; as microprocessors developed and the manufacturing of games evolved, designers, artists, and programmers were gradually included in the process. Today, video games have evolved into something more than mere playthings: they have become a medium in their own right, capable of integrating various existing media and communicating complex messages and meanings. It comes as no surprise then that, over the last few decades, video game production has increasingly required new, practical and artistic skill-sets (programming, illustration, animation, modelling, sound design) and has become the object of a whole range of disciplines (from IT and organizational sciences, narratology and semiology, media and film theory, cultural studies and anthropology, to psychology, sociology, and pedagogy). This convergence points to the necessity of founding the study of video games as a new and interdisciplinary academic field.
Focusing on the scholarship and production of video games, the conference Video Games as a Challenge to Academia: 50 Years of the Gaming Industry examines various aspects and links between them. It was conceived as an opportunity for re-examining and furthering the conclusions reached at last years’ SVI conference, where, for the first time in Serbia, Game Studies were promoted as a new academic field. The previous conference tried to broadly map research areas dedicated to video games in all their variety and managed to bring together researchers from the US, Russia, Germany, China, Great Britain, the Czech Republic and Finland. Unlike its predecessor, SVI 2 strives to examine how academia and the video game industry converge and map out the points where video games and scholarship meet and part ways. It aims to open a dialogue between the gaming industry and academia and foster an understanding of their sometimes diverging goals and interests. Such a dialogue revolves around several key questions: What can scholarship, without giving up on critical thinking, offer the industry, and vice versa? Can the industry survive its crises alone, and should scholarship lend a hand? Can academia remain separate from the industry? Finally, is the market changing gaming, or is gaming conquering the marketplace?
The conference is organized into three broad thematic sections dedicated to exploring the relations between video games, industry, academia and criticism:
The publication of Olli Sotamaa’s and Jan Švelč’s Game Production Studies (2021) filled a gap in our understanding of how video games are actually made and the social impact of this process. Their approach has ushered new ways of studying video games from different contexts and opened the discussion on a broad range of topics, e.g., the role of (creative) industries in the production of video games, the creation of study programmes that follow developer training and professionalisation trends, indie developers and their opposition or support of mainstream tendencies, global economic shifts in the manufacturing, distribution, marketing, publishing and monetising of video games, neo-liberal labour issues, the aesthetics of workspaces, and the challenges and possible solutions for issues such as the precariat, crunch, high turnover rates and gender (dis)parity.
Despite the traditional link between video games and IT, humanities and social sciences have been involved in Game Studies from the very beginning. In addition to the vital contributions of psychology, anthropology, sociology, and, more recently, archaeology to the understanding of video games, the humanities made their greatest impact by applying narratological methods and philosophical insights to the study of video games. This conference aims to draw attention to the diverse perspectives that the humanities can bring to the study of video games, where even traditional philological methods and issues can provide fresh and innovative perspectives. These include, amongst other things, topics such as localisation, the relationship of traditional and transmedial narratology in the study of video games, the relation between video games and (literary) archetypes and genres, the rhetoric and semiotics of video games, video game adaptations of literary works (case-studies), the link between video games and (national) culture(s), as well as questions of aesthetics and philosophy, like the difference between the phenomenology of reading and phenomenology of gameplay, emotional investment, estrangement (ostranenie) and imaginative resistance in the context of video games, and many more. Contributions dealing with the possibility of interdisciplinary collaboration between hard sciences, social sciences and humanities in the study of video games are especially welcome.
The professionalization of video game criticism is one of the key points of convergence between the humanities and the video game industry. Criticism has been a crucial agent of gaming culture since the foundation of the first gaming magazine, Electronic Games, in 1981, where journalists (and enthusiast gamers) presented their thoughts and ratings of the games they were playing. Today, magazines and forums attract large audiences, mainly passionate gamers, that look to them for cultivating their taste and forming their attitudes toward video games. If video game criticism is to become something more than amateurish impressionism or company-solicited advertisement, a greater presence of theory and direct communication with gamers is necessary. The industry should understand that the professionalization of criticism and the promotion of critical discourse is instrumental in revolutionizing the role and value of video games in our society. This is all the more important given that video games are still frequently cast as trivial pursuits and even as dangerous for the mental and physical health of young people. With that in mind, the participants are being encouraged to reflect on the ways that scholars could introduce future generations of students and gamers to different frameworks and politics of interpretation, methods of textual (critical, semiotic, narrative, and mechanic-centred) and contextual (ideological, economic, technological, sociological, and cultural) analysis of video games.
15 September 2022
10 October 2022
Full papers: 28 February 2023
Notification of Acceptance
10 October 2022
01 November 2022
Full papers: 30 April 2023
Online (Zoom) and Live in English language (official language of the conference)
Live attendance: 30 eur (lunch included)
Online attendance: 20 eur