Culture and Computer games

With the working title: Humans, culture and computer games: methods for exploring how people use and live with their chosen online activities, a group of European games researchers have put together a symposium to be held in Umeå in March 2008. As organiser and initiator of the project, I am extremely happy to be able to bring together such a diverse, colourful and enthusiastic group of researchers working cross-disciplinary on the same topic.

 As a special guest star, HUMlab is bringing in Mia Consalvo. Mia is an associate professor at Ohio University, and the author of Cheating; Gaining Advantage in Videogames. I am absolutely delighted to have Mia here, and with her being the one who wrote the book on cheating, I am going to make sure she is on my team!

This seminar is taking place in the HUMlab space. It’s open for all who are interested, and consists of lectures, seminars and workshops. The lectures are targeted at a general audience, the seminars more towards researchers as they discuss issues of games research: on different methods and approaches, and how these need to be adjusted and renewed in order to work for studying computer games. The workshops are open to all, but due to considerations of the limited resources, you need to register for them. The first two workshops are on machinima production, and you get to see how to make a movie using a computer game as your movie set. The third workshop is about web integration, and demonstrates ways to create connections between games and the internet, by making World of Warcraft information talk to other social online networks.

 World of Warcraft is a recurring topic for most of the presentations, as it is one of the world’s most popular games at the moment and clearly the world’s largest online multi-player game. It is also the topic of an anthology with articles written by several of the participants to this symposium. Digital Culture, Play, and Identity; A World of Warcraft® Reader is just about to be released, and offers further reading for any who are interested in either WoW or the research on games.

 One feature about most of the presenters at this conference is that we all play the game we study, and we play it together. The anthology on WoW, this symposium and several other joint projects have come out of having a common digital meeting space in WoW. Every Wednesday, if you look closely at the right time and the server, you may find a little group of avatars gathered in what perhaps looks like quiet contemplation, but is intense communication about past and future projects – on anything from how to make a level 19 twink to organizing international research cooperation and publishing. Digital worlds may be designed for play spaces, but like other areas of leisure and relaxation they become a place to network and to be creative together. And the 26th – 28th of March, we share the results of some of that cooperation with those who would like to join us for three days of talking about games and research.