INTERPLAY Graduate Student Conference, October 24-25, 2014, Chicago, IL

full name / name of organization: 
Ian Jones (Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago), Chris Russell (Screen Cultures, Northwestern University)

Over the past decade, the diversity, reach and influence of games have expanded to new heights. Between the ever-mounting profits of the mainstream video game industry, the explosion of "casual" and mobile games, and the emergence of independent game development, gaming culture has witnessed a rapid proliferation of new voices, genres, demographics, and markets worldwide. Beyond the sphere of game development, games and play have become dominant metaphors for understanding culture. From the high-stakes gambling of the stock market to the computerized virtualization of warfare, from the calculated rhetorics of politics to the networked exigencies of modern entrepreneurship, our social vocabulary has become increasingly saturated with ludic reference points. At the same time, we have witnessed a new faith in the power of games and play to enact systemic change, with designers such as Jane McGonigal proposing gamified solutions to political problems, and such organizations as the Chicago-based Game Changer Lab and Chicago Quest charter school developing game-based models for social outreach and education.

Due to the increasing cultural prominence of the medium, game studies now finds itself facing challenges and opportunities distinct from those that characterized the founding moment of the discipline. As game studies secured its position, the predominant concern was to create new systems of interpretation and analysis fitted to the specific affordances and cultures of the medium. Initially, it seemed that this required the drawing of boundaries to prevent the colonization of game studies by other already established disciplines. Those at the vanguard of game studies have since succeeded in introducing and adapting a suite of novel critical methods committed to interrogating the specificity of games. From the paradigms of procedural rhetoric and platform studies to recent developments in software studies and media archaeology, game studies has established its position by attending to the unique materialities and signifying practices that inhere in games and gaming technologies.

Yet now, with the expansion of game language, structures, and metaphors into so many cultural fields, is it time to reopen the field to the multiplicity and indeterminacy that marked its origins? While acknowledging the contributions of game studies thus far, we contend that moving forward the most promising path to critically engaging with the myriad cross-overs that mark contemporary gaming culture is to actively multiply exchanges and dialogues between disciplines, approaches, and objects, as well as between theorists, historians, and practitioners. We envision this conference as a site of such interplay, and encourage the potential for encounters between disciplines and across boundaries. Engaging with the various resonances of this term, we invite submissions that consider the:

Interplay between different disciplines and methodologies –
• global and transnational perspectives on games
• feminist and queer approaches to games and platforms
• critical race theory and games
• the political economy of game industries
• game ethnographies and anthropologies of play
• games as objects under the law
• games and history and sociology of domestic space
• games and disability studies
• games and ecology
• textual, formal, or narrative analysis of games
• musicological and sound studies perspectives on game sound
• reassessments of the intersections of game and cinema studies

Interplay between objects –
• expanding the boundaries of games studies to include board games, role playing games, or toys
• the roles of play and games within artistic and literary movements (e.g. Surrealist parlor games and Situationist derive)
• representations of games in film and television
• the interactions between gaming practices and other industrial cultures
• understanding other media as playful or gamified

Interested graduate students should submit abstracts no longer than 350 words along with contact information (including institutional affiliation) to by August 15, 2014.

Co-sponsored by Northwestern University and University of Chicago.