Diseases in Digital Games. Theories, Topics, Analyses.

deadline for submissions: 
July 13, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Arno Görgen / Bern University of the Arts, Switzerland; Stefan Heinrich Simond / Philipps University Marburg, Germany
contact email: 

„There are no healthy people left in the world“ – This profane announcement appears in Plague Inc. (Ndemic Creations 2012), a digital disease[1] simulator. It proudly proclaims that the pathogen, which was raised to deadly infectiousness and efficiency by the player, has now conquered the world and thus irreversibly driven human civilization to the brink of its existence. The disease as the destroyer of worlds in Plague Inc. is thematically related to the widespread zombie virus, disfigured inmates of psychiatric institutions, survivors of hazardous genocides and traumatized heroes.

 Diseases, regardless whether they appear as psychological or somatic, come in a variety of forms and faces. Their representations in digital games are not a hermetic field, producing knowledge from within itself. Rather, they draw from epistemic processes, in which frames, concepts, language and their aesthetic as well as ludic manifestations appear to be part of an epistemological culture (Knorr-Cetina 1999). If the understanding of health and disease is being considered as historically ever changing (Foucault 1961/2015; Franke 2012), the representations of diseases and ‚total institutions‘ (Goffman 1961/2016) become a relevant phenomenon of academic analysis. As aesthetical, narrative and ludic artifacts, digital games participate in the struggle for interpretive dominance, the perpetuation of stigma, but also in the dynamics of self-reflective empowerment and identity politics for and by affected players and developers.

 The here proposed volume intends to approach the subject of diseases in digital games from an interdisciplinary perspective. Not only are contributions from the fields of media and cultural studies most welcome, but also from philosophy of medicine, science and media, historical and ethical approaches, literature studies as well as specific medical research. Contributions may focus on theory or analysis and may be handed in either in German or English.


The following topics may serve as an inspiration:

⁃                  Theories of diseases and their manifestation in digital games

⁃                  Knowledge about diseases in popular culture and digital games

⁃                  Mental illnesses

⁃                  Lifestyle diseases

⁃                  Diseases as an economic factor

⁃                  Assisted suicide

⁃                  Hospitals, psychiatric institutions and, by extension, topographies of pathogenesis

⁃                  Doctors and patients

⁃                  Epidemiology

⁃                  Diseases as gameplay

⁃                  Aesthetics of pathology

⁃                  Diseases represented within the spectrum of the occult or the mythological

⁃                  Diseases as an instrument of othering and stigmatization

⁃                  Games as an instrument of self-empowerment and de-stigmatization

⁃                  Cinematic traditions of the representations of diseases

⁃                  Games for Health: How digital games educate on diseases and assist in diagnosis or therapy

⁃                  Citizen Science: Digital games as an instrument of medical research

⁃                  Ludonarrative autopathographies


Please send an abstract of no more than 500 words and a short biographical sketch to arno.goergen@hkb.bfh.ch until July 13th, 2018.


Please use a common file format (doc, docx, rtf).

Authors will be contacted by July 31st, 2018. The deadline for full papers (15 to 20 pages, Din A4, Calibri, 1,5 line spacing) is December 14th, 2018. The final publication is scheduled for late 2019/early 2020.

 Should you have any additional questions or special requests, please feel free to contact the editors: stefan.simond@staff.uni-marburg.de and arno.goergen@hkb.bfh.ch.






Foucault, Michel (1961/2015): Wahnsinn und Gesellschaft. Eine Geschichte des Wahns im Zeitalter der Vernunft. 21. Aufl. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp (Suhrkamp-Taschenbuch Wissenschaft, 39).

Franke, Alexa (2012): Modelle von Gesundheit und Krankheit. 3., überarb. Aufl. Bern: Huber (Programmbereich Gesundheit).

Goffman, Erving (1961/2016): Asyle. Über die soziale Situation psychiatrischer Patienten und anderer Insassen. 20. Auflage 2016. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp (Edition Suhrkamp, 678).

Knorr-Cetina, Karin (1999): Epistemic cultures. How the sciences make knowledge. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

[1] Here and following the term ‚disease‘ is being used merely for the sake of consistency and may be understood as broadly applying to any form of illness, ailment or sickness, in brief: any phenomenon, which is generally considered pathological.