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DiGRA 2009 Conclusion

So, here is my conclusion on DiGRA 2009!

I thoroughly enjoyed most of the conference. Lets get over the parts I didn’t enjoy; presenting since I just didn’t feel I did a good job (rushed, little practice), so next time, more practice and less rushing. Vocabulary both needs to be clearer and, simply, have more of it – or at least have it better explained in talks. This might have just been me being an “outsider” though. The programme which was sadly poorly organised, even if the days were actually well organised (3 sessions of 20 minute talks with 10 minutes each for questions). I hope the next one is much better in this regard. :)

So the bad is out of the way. The good thing is, I made lots of notes, and will update these more thoroughly with the abstracts and other people’s notes links when I’ve sorted the photographs (since to me, knowing who is who is important!). I did attend a few sessions I didn’t take notes on for bad reasons – transcript reading and incomprehensibility (then again, others might love these, but I stand by what I have put up mainly since the actual papers they’ve done might be much better!), and of course there were at least 5 times the amount of sessions then those I attended.

The breadth of research was quite good (noting so little I saw!) – with a high proportion of MMO/Virtual Worlds research (which I’m only half interested in), but a lot of good things on design, criticism and journalism (more needed!), technical aspects and issues like sex, gender, death, achievements – a whole host of metagame items actually – and art. If you need to find some first point of information on a subject in some detail, it is a good idea to check DiGRA (or research in general) to see if they’ve worked on it first, whatever the area might be.

Sadly the DiGRA proceedings are not freely available (so I’m wary about posting the 70% or so that were available on the CD provided to us), but I’ll get up the preservation ones on the IGDA wiki since they are our own to post up.

Additionally meeting such a varied amount of people from around the world was great. People did know what they were talking about (generally, depending on if they knew about the subject at hand 😉 ), and it was a lot easier discussing topics in person since the papers are pretty hard to read without first reading lots of other papers, and getting a handle on the language used.

There were several good talks (apart from us doing the preservation panel), in date order with a short description of why there was:

Ethics in Videogames Workshop – cut short, but was some good discussion on ethics, moral choices and examples of both. So few examples though, really.

The Achievement Machine: Understanding the Xbox Live Metagame – very “positive” about the effects of achievements, the paper itself likely is much better and more in-depth then the limited 20 minutes he had to explain the entire recent history of achievements.

“Remembering How You Died”: Memory, Death and Temporality in Videogames – Very rough cut since it isn’t full research, but interesting comparisons between Hindu death and rebirth comparisons with games.

Sex and Videogames: A Case of Misappearance and More Than Just a Combo of Slaps? Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Trans Gaming give good overviews of sex and LGBT activity in games. Not much analysis, though.

“You Played That?” Game Criticism Meets Games Studies – a call to do critical writing as academics, with a mix of game journalism questions, examples of good writing and how to do critical writing, reasons it is necessary and the problems with game reviews. A great presentation The New Gatekeepers? On the occupational ideology of game journalists brings to light the problems with European (specifically Dutch, Finland areas) game “journalism”, although Americans did say it mirrors America. More research into the area is needed – I hope to write a piece on the history of game journalism (with it’s pitfalls and all) at some point, but I doubt it’ll readily change without more critical dialogue on the subject. I wonder if they discuss it with themselves often (I’ve not heard of a “Videogame Journalists Conference” as it were).

What I Don’t Want To Hear About MMOs was a fine ranty keynote on MMO research, with some valid points for many types of game research.

Evolution of the tetromino-stacking game: An historical design study of Tertris – a history paper – basically, boils down to reciting the fascinating and long history of Tetris, especially “what is Tetris” as a whole. I have permission to upload the paper somewhere significant for the Digital Game Canon project, which is great (also, 20 minutes is not nearly enough time to recite the history of Tetris).

Gameplay Design Patterns for Game Dialogues was pretty inspiring – basically, recounts the various ways of “dialogue” in games (usually dialogue trees) and puts forwards ways of improvement (more in the paper then the presentation), all while acknowledging the massive amount of work it is.

A little on other things; the conference location was okay – Brunel as a whole is nice neat little university. The London Tube is pretty random, so I missed my original train back, annoyingly, so that’s £35 for me not leaving early enough and no seat until Bedford. I would have loved something organised in the evening apart from the conference dinner – an (optional) game thing or quick pub quiz is always nice, but that’s just me sometimes. The games at the event – well, I’ve no idea who won them for starters (a proper closing talk would have been great) but they were okay, just not my thing (twitter was one of them). I don’t know about the Keynote placement either – if there hadn’t been one cancelled, 4 in a row would have been killer. I guess spreading them out would have been nice (1 a day?), but it doesn’t matter much since 3 in the afternoon would (and did in this case) work.

The actual way of presenting – 20 minutes to do it/10 minutes for questions was okay – sometimes much too short, sometimes much too long depending on the topic and speaker. At least it only meant you had to be board for 30 minutes if you really didn’t enjoy the talk, but vice versa you hadn’t enough time to get all the information from some sessions – but the fact there were submitted papers helps mitigate that significantly.

So, that about wraps up DiGRA. I’ll probably do some pieces inspired by DiGRA in the future, and I hope to get in contact with some of those I saw at the event about their material. First comes sorting out my gallery though :)

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