Critical Distance: Keywords in Play
Keywords in Play Ep. 21: Gregory Whistance-Smith

Keywords in Play Ep. 21: Gregory Whistance-Smith

June 17, 2022

In this episode we talk with Gregory Whistance-Smith, an independent scholar based in Edmonton, Canada. The discussion focuses on the book "Expressive Space: Embodying Meaning in Video Game Environments" https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/9783110723731/html?lang=en

Video game spaces have vastly expanded the built environment, offering new worlds to explore and inhabit. Like buildings, cities, and gardens before them, these virtual environments express meaning and communicate ideas and affects through the spatial experiences they afford. Drawing on the emerging field of embodied cognition, this book explores the dynamic interplay between mind, body, and environment that sits at the heart of spatial communication. To capture the wide diversity of forms that spatial expression can take, the book builds a comparative analysis of twelve video games across four types of space, spanning ones designed for exploration and inhabitation, kinetic enjoyment, enacting a situated role, and enhancing perception. Together, these diverse virtual environments suggest the many ways that video games enhance and extend our embodied lives.

 

Please consider supporting Critical Distance at https://www.patreon.com/critdistance

Production Team: Darshana Jayemanne, Zoyander Street, Emilie Reed.

Audio Direction and Engineering: Damian Stewart

Double Bass: Aaron Stewart

Transcription: Charly Harbord

Keywords in Play Episode 20 - Jaroslav Švelch

Keywords in Play Episode 20 - Jaroslav Švelch

May 13, 2022

Jaroslav Švelch is an assistant professor at Charles University, Prague. He is the author of the recent monograph Gaming the Iron Curtain: How Teenagers and Amateurs in Communist Czechoslovakia Claimed the Medium of Computer Games (MIT Press, 2018). He has published work on history and theory of computer games, on humor in games and social media, and on the Grammar Nazi phenomenon. He is currently researching history, theory, and reception of monsters in games and his monograph Player vs. Monster: The Making and Breaking of Videogame Monstrosity is forthcoming from MIT Press in 2023.

Keywords in Play Episode 19 - Regina Seiwald and Ed Vollans - Paratexts

Keywords in Play Episode 19 - Regina Seiwald and Ed Vollans - Paratexts

April 21, 2022

In this episode we speak with Regina Seiwald and Ed Vollans on paratexts and their forthcoming collaboration "Not in the Game: History, Paratext and Games", soon to be published with De Gruyter.

Regina Seiwald is highly interested in the relationship between literary theory and narratology across the languages. Her focus thereby lies with the Anglo-American and Germanic tradition. In my PhD thesis, she researched metafiction in the postmodern British novel to determine how texts communicate the relationship between fiction and reality. The insights generated have subsequently been applied to video games and digitalisation more generally (also XR/AI/MR), particularly in the context of paratextuality and Cold War narratives.

Ed Vollans' research interests explore the promotional culture of the entertainment industries, how they promote, market and position themselves within the wider popular sphere. Specifically focusing on film and videogame promotion, his work has explored the emergence of trailers for the games industry, and audience reception of film promotion.

Please consider supporting Critical Distance at https://www.patreon.com/critdistance

Production Team: Darshana Jayemanne, Zoyander Street, Emilie Reed.

Audio Direction and Engineering: Damian Stewart

Double Bass: Aaron Stewart

Transcription: Charly Harbord

Keywords in Play Episode 18 - Esther Wright on Rockstar and History

Keywords in Play Episode 18 - Esther Wright on Rockstar and History

March 11, 2022

Esther Wright is Lecturer in Digital History at Cardiff University. Her work is situated within the field of Historical Game Studies, critically examining how digital representations of the past found in popular visual media have the potential to shape public understandings of history. Her PhD, awarded by the University of Warwick in August 2019, is a study of Rockstar Games as developer-historian, and the company’s long-established project of negotiating and representing U.S. History in their games – in particular, focussing on Red Dead Redemption (2010), Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018), and L.A. Noire (2011). This project is forthcoming as a book entitled Rockstar Games and American History: Promotional Materials and the Construction of Authenticity (De Gruyter, 2022). Esther argues for the importance of studying promotional materials, developer branding strategies, and other kinds of paratextual materials associated with the development and release of historical digital games. These materials are important digital sites and spaces through which game developers, like Rockstar, perform the role of historian and manage expectations for "historical authenticity" among players and critics. She uses promotional materials to offer more nuanced interpretations of the influence of dominant understandings of U.S. History on game development and marketing decisions. These hegemonies, established by and through the conventions of pre-existing cultural "genres" like the Western and film noir, and popular narratives long-centred on the white and male experience, lead to games that exclude and marginalise other people and identities, and promotional practices that reaffirm exclusionary stories about America’s “real” past. Esther is also a convener of the Historical Games Network https://www.historicalgames.net/

 

Please consider supporting Critical Distance at https://www.patreon.com/critdistance

Production Team: Darshana Jayemanne, Zoyander Street, Emilie Reed.

Audio Direction and Engineering: Damian Stewart

Double Bass: Aaron Stewart

Transcription: Charly Harbord

Keywords in Play Episode 17 - April Tyack on Ordinary Player Experience

Keywords in Play Episode 17 - April Tyack on Ordinary Player Experience

February 11, 2022

April Tyack is a postdoctoral researcher at Aalto University and vice-president of DiGRA Australia. April researches player experience and how games facilitate different types of experiences. In this episode, April discusses the paper Off-Peak: An Examination of Ordinary Player Experience (2021), published with Elisa D. Mekler. The paper critiques the focus in game research, culture and development on extraordinary, optimal or peak experiences, and how this focus has shaped the field of HCI in particular. Ordinary player experience is conceptualised as familiar, emotionally moderate, co-attentive, and abstractly memorable, providing a new model for thinking about and researching digital games.

“Keywords in Play” is a monthly interview series about game research supported by Critical Distance and the Digital Games Research Association. As a joint venture, “Keywords in Play” expands Critical Distance’s commitment to innovative writing and research about games while using a conversational style to bring new and diverse scholarship to a wider audience.

Our goal is to highlight the work of graduate students, early career researchers and scholars from under-represented groups, backgrounds and regions. The primary inspiration comes from sociologist and critic Raymond Williams. In the Preface to his book Keywords: a vocabulary of culture and society, Williams envisaged not a static dictionary but an interactive document, encouraging readers to populate blank pages with their own keywords, notes and amendments. “Keywords in Play” follows Williams in affirming that “The significance is in the selection”, and works towards diversifying the critical terms with which we describe games and game culture. For more on games writing and culture (as well as transcriptions of each Keywords in Play episode) please visit https://www.critical-distance.com/

 

Please consider supporting Critical Distance at https://www.patreon.com/critdistance

Production Team: Darshana Jayemanne, Zoyander Street, Emilie Reed.

Audio Direction and Engineering: Damian Stewart

Double Bass: Aaron Stewart

Transcription: Charly Harbord

 
 

 

The paper is available here: https://dl.acm.org/doi/abs/10.1145/3411764.3445230

Keywords in Play Episode 16 - Felan Parker on Cutural Intermediaries

Keywords in Play Episode 16 - Felan Parker on Cutural Intermediaries

November 19, 2021

This episode we speak with Felan Parker about his work on cultural intermediaries and indie games. Felan is Assistant Professor of Book & Media Studies at St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto, and a scholar of media industries and cultures specializing in games, digital media, and film. His ongoing research, supported from 2016-2019 by the Indie Interfaces SSHRC Insight Development Grant, explores the production, distribution, and reception of independent or “indie” digital games with a particular focus on the role of intermediary actors like curators, critics, and community organizers in the cultural ecosystem of the game industry.

Dr. Parker is also co-investigator on the Swarming Comic-Con SSHRC Insight Grant, a collaborative ethnographic research endeavour that examines the famous San Diego Comic-Con and its cultural and economic resonance across entertainment industries. Other interests include game development in Canada, transmedia franchises, blockbusters and spectacle, authorship, genre, and analog games. His work has been published in leading journals and presented at conferences around the world, and he co-edited Beyond the Sea: Critical Perspectives on Bioshock, a 2018 anthology of essays on the influential game series. More on Felan's work: https://stmikes.utoronto.ca/about-us/contact-us/directory/felan-parker

 

“Keywords in Play” is a monthly interview series about game research supported by Critical Distance and the Digital Games Research Association. As a joint venture, “Keywords in Play” expands Critical Distance’s commitment to innovative writing and research about games while using a conversational style to bring new and diverse scholarship to a wider audience.

Our goal is to highlight the work of graduate students, early career researchers and scholars from under-represented groups, backgrounds and regions. The primary inspiration comes from sociologist and critic Raymond Williams. In the Preface to his book Keywords: a vocabulary of culture and society, Williams envisaged not a static dictionary but an interactive document, encouraging readers to populate blank pages with their own keywords, notes and amendments. “Keywords in Play” follows Williams in affirming that “The significance is in the selection”, and works towards diversifying the critical terms with which we describe games and game culture. For more on games writing and culture (as well as transcriptions of each Keywords in Play episode) please visit https://www.critical-distance.com/

 

Please consider supporting Critical Distance at https://www.patreon.com/critdistance

Production Team: Darshana Jayemanne, Zoyander Street, Emilie Reed.

Audio Direction and Engineering: Damian Stewart

Double Bass: Aaron Stewart

Transcription: Charly Harbord

Keywords in Play Episode 15 - Leon Xiao

Keywords in Play Episode 15 - Leon Xiao

October 15, 2021

This episode we speak with Leon Xiao about the paper "What are the odds? Lower compliance with Western loot box probability disclosure industry self-regulation than Chinese legal regulation", co-authored with Laura Henderson and Philip Newall. This empirical study of loot boxes and probability disclosure is (as of this interview) a preprint and hence subject to change during peer-review. The current version is available here: https://osf.io/g5wd9/

Leon is a Teaching Associate at Queen Mary University of London. He researches video game law, particularly the regulation of loot boxes, a quasi-gambling monetisation mechanic in video games. He has appeared before the Law Commission of England and Wales, and submitted policy recommendations to the Spanish, Singaporean, and UK Governments. His research has been published in peer-reviewed lawpsychology, and behavioural public policy journals. He has presented at conferences in various disciplines, including at DiGRA Australia, British DiGRA, and the Chinese chapter of DiGRA. He won the poster prize for student research at the 2020 annual conference of the Society for the Study of Addiction. A full list of his publications is available at https://sites.google.com/view/leon-xiao/.

 

Please consider supporting Critical Distance at https://www.patreon.com/critdistance

Production Team: Darshana Jayemanne, Zoyander Street, Emilie Reed, Bettina Bodi.

Audio Direction and Engineering: Damian Stewart

Double Bass: Aaron Stewart

Transcription: Charly Harbord

Keywords in Play Episode 14 - Adrienne Shaw

Keywords in Play Episode 14 - Adrienne Shaw

September 17, 2021

This episode we speak with Adrienne Shaw about the paper "Encoding and decoding affordances: Stuart Hall and interactive media technologies". This paper brings Stuart Hall's concepts of encoding and decoding into proximity with ideas of affordance and technology. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0163443717692741

Adrienne Shaw is an Associate Professor in Temple University’s Department of Media Studies and Production and a member of the Lew Klein College of Media and Communication graduate faculty. From 2019-2022 she will serve the first director of Temple’s new Graduate Certificate in Cultural Analytics. Shaw is author of Gaming at the Edge: Sexuality and Gender at the Margins of Gamer Culture (winner of the 2016 International Communication Association’s Popular Communications Division’s Book Award)She has co-edited three anthologies: Queer Game Studies (2017, University of Minnesota Press), Queer Technologies: Affordances, Affect, Ambivalence (2017, Routledge), and Interventions: Communication Research and Practice (2018, Peter Lang). She is also the founder of the LGBTQ Game Archive and co-curator of Rainbow Arcade, the world’s first exhibit of LGBTQ game history (Dec 2018-May 2019 in Berlin, Germany).  From 2011 to 2015 she was also part of the multi-million dollar and award winning CYCLES project, which developed games to train users to identify and mitigate cognitive biases. A full list of her publications is available via Google Scholar.

“Keywords in Play” is a monthly interview series about game research supported by Critical Distance and the Digital Games Research Association. As a joint venture, “Keywords in Play” expands Critical Distance’s commitment to innovative writing and research about games while using a conversational style to bring new and diverse scholarship to a wider audience.

Our goal is to highlight the work of graduate students, early career researchers and scholars from under-represented groups, backgrounds and regions. The primary inspiration comes from sociologist and critic Raymond Williams. In the Preface to his book Keywords: a vocabulary of culture and society, Williams envisaged not a static dictionary but an interactive document, encouraging readers to populate blank pages with their own keywords, notes and amendments. “Keywords in Play” follows Williams in affirming that “The significance is in the selection”, and works towards diversifying the critical terms with which we describe games and game culture. For more on games writing and culture please visit https://www.critical-distance.com/

 

Please consider supporting Critical Distance at https://www.patreon.com/critdistance

Production Team: Darshana Jayemanne, Zoyander Street, Emilie Reed.

Audio Direction and Engineering: Damian Stewart

Double Bass: Aaron Stewart

Episode 13 - Alenda Y. Chang

Episode 13 - Alenda Y. Chang

June 11, 2021

This episode we speak with Alenda Y. Chang about games, ecology, literature, and environmental relations. Alenda is an Associate Professor in Film and Media Studies at UC Santa Barbara. With a multidisciplinary background in biology, literature, and film, she specializes in merging ecocritical theory with the analysis of contemporary media. Her writing has been featured in Ant Spider BeeInterdisciplinary Studies in Literature and EnvironmentQui Parle, the Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds, and Ecozon@, and her first book Playing Nature: Ecology in Video Games (University of Minnesota Press, December 2019), develops ecological frameworks for understanding and designing digital games.

 

“Keywords in Play” is a monthly interview series about game research supported by Critical Distance and the Digital Games Research Association. As a joint venture, “Keywords in Play” expands Critical Distance’s commitment to innovative writing and research about games while using a conversational style to bring new and diverse scholarship to a wider audience.

Our goal is to highlight the work of graduate students, early career researchers and scholars from under-represented groups, backgrounds and regions. The primary inspiration comes from sociologist and critic Raymond Williams. In the Preface to his book Keywords: a vocabulary of culture and society, Williams envisaged not a static dictionary but an interactive document, encouraging readers to populate blank pages with their own keywords, notes and amendments. “Keywords in Play” follows Williams in affirming that “The significance is in the selection”, and works towards diversifying the critical terms with which we describe games and game culture. For more on games writing and culture please visit https://www.critical-distance.com/

 

Please consider supporting Critical Distance at https://www.patreon.com/critdistance

Production Team: Darshana Jayemanne, Zoyander Street, Emilie Reed.

Audio Direction and Engineering: Damian Stewart

Double Bass: Aaron Stewart

Keywords in Play Episode 12 - Aaron Trammell

Keywords in Play Episode 12 - Aaron Trammell

May 14, 2021

This episode we talk with Aaron Trammell about challenging canonical thinkers, race, torture and TTRPGs, with special reference to his open-access piece "Torture, Play and the Black Experience" https://www.gamejournal.it/torture-play/. Aaron is Assistant Professor of Informatics and Core Faculty in Visual Studies at UC Irvine. He writes about how Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and board games inform the lived experiences of their players. Specifically, he is interested in how these games further values of white privilege and hegemonic masculinity in geek culture. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Analog Game Studies and the Multimedia editor of Sounding Out! You can get in touch at trammell [at] uci [dot] edu

“Keywords in Play” is a monthly interview series about game research supported by Critical Distance and the Digital Games Research Association. As a joint venture, “Keywords in Play” expands Critical Distance’s commitment to innovative writing and research about games while using a conversational style to bring new and diverse scholarship to a wider audience.

Our goal is to highlight the work of graduate students, early career researchers and scholars from under-represented groups, backgrounds and regions. The primary inspiration comes from sociologist and critic Raymond Williams. In the Preface to his book Keywords: a vocabulary of culture and society, Williams envisaged not a static dictionary but an interactive document, encouraging readers to populate blank pages with their own keywords, notes and amendments. “Keywords in Play” follows Williams in affirming that “The significance is in the selection”, and works towards diversifying the critical terms with which we describe games and game culture. For more on games writing and culture please visit https://www.critical-distance.com/

 

Please consider supporting Critical Distance at https://www.patreon.com/critdistance

Production Team: Darshana Jayemanne, Zoyander Street, Emilie Reed.

Audio Direction and Engineering: Damian Stewart

Double Bass: Aaron Stewart

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