Video Games as Text; Text as Play

full name / name of organization: 
University of Wyoming Department of English
contact email: 
uwplayology@gmail.com

Video Games as Text; Texts as Play

The University of Wyoming is accepting abstracts for its upcoming graduate student conference: Video Games as Text; Texts as Play. The conference will be held the second weekend of April, Thursday the 12th to Saturday the 14th. Abstracts will be due by January 15th. Our keynote speaker will be Judd Ruggill, Assistant Professor, Arizona State.

When the average person looks at the genre of video games, they see the graphic violence depicted on the news, the laziness of sitting on one’s couch for hours in front of a television, and the adolescent appeal of throwing yourself into another world via a joystick. But, as many of the growing number of gamers and game scholars could tell you, video games are so much more. The texts that games present are an emerging field of study and an emerging field of narrative. Video games are growing in terms of size, story, and maturity, and are an important part of modern day popular culture. This is why we must examine them more carefully in an academic setting. And those tools used to critique and appreciate video games can also be used on more traditional texts in the context of play, allowing for fresh looks at classic texts.

Just as video games can be analyzed as forms of narrative or rhetoric, texts can be analyzed via the idea of play. Play presents itself in a variety of forms, like the outright leisure aspect of novels, comics, and film, as well as the more serious "play" presented in a variety of theoretical approaches, or any other method of examining how texts and the idea of play could interact. We would welcome any papers that look at this idea in creative ways.

Video games also offer the academic community new opportunities as educational tools, allowing educators to reach their students in more hands-on ways. For example, students can examine historical conflicts and controversies from the perspective of those directly involved, choose how they would act in those situations, and see what their actions lead to. We invite you to submit your conference papers on a variety of topics that will allow us to better understand what, as a culture, we appear to be moving towards as the narrative form of choice.
We also welcome works of creative nonfiction that deal with these topics.

Possible Topics:
How does the role of first person narrative change in video games? What does the reader experience while actively undergoing the events of the narrative, vs. passively experiencing them?
What does the ability of choice in a narrative do for the experience of reading the text? Is the player more connected to the characters by choosing the actions and outcomes of that character? Or is a specific, single narrative path that allows all players to experience it in a similar way a better kind of narrative?
How is sexuality dealt with in video games? How is sex depicted, and what happens when controversy arises? How does this differ from more traditional narrative forms? What about games with all characters being unrealistically bisexual?
How is feminism handled in video games? What, if anything, establishes characters like Samus as feminist characters? Is there a double standard with women with exaggerated female characteristics, like Lara Croft, being attacked as problematic from women, while exaggerated male characteristics in characters, such as Marcus Fenix, are not?
What impact does race have on games? Why are so many player characters white; what does that do to the narrative? How could/should race be used? Why are games like Resident Evil 5 criticized because the villains are black?
What is the difference between reading an evil character and actively playing one? How does that change the experience of the text?
Why are video games so oriented towards violence? What about the textual form of video games makes violence such a common choice in game play? Is this healthy for the medium? How does this affect games in the larger culture?

You are of course not limited to these. Also feel free to submit a proposal for a panel at the conference, on any related topic.

However, we discourage any papers about whether violent video games lead to violent behaviors in children.

Both merit-based and need-based scholarships going toward conference attendance may be available to interested parties. If you would like to apply for a need-based scholarship, please contact uwplayology@gmail.com for more information.

Please submit your 200-300 words abstracts before January 15 via www.uwplayology.com. We will let you know no later than February 15. Please include contact information, your institutional affiliation, and any audio/visual requirements. Any questions can be answered by contacting the conference organizers using the website or emailing the conference organizers at uwplayology@gmail.com.

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