Abstracts of plenary lectures

Espen Aarseth

Brave New Game Worlds: Ludoformed vs documentary ludic chronotopes

When using existing (real, historical, fictional) landscapes  as setting for their works, game designers can choose between ludoforming (making them more playable) or staying true to the original (keeping the chronotope correct and intact).  I will examine several examples of both, and try to answer the question, “Is (involuntary) ludoforming impossible to avoid?” In other words, can chronotopes stay intact when used as playground? Among the ames to be analysed are the first person shooter S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl, the massively multiplayer roleplaying game The Lord of the Rings Online, the sniper simulation JFK Reloaded, and the single player roleplaying game Fallout 3. While some are fictionally derived and others historical, they may yet follow the same ideals of source fidelity, but to what effect?


Frans Mäyrä

 Fantasy Games as Constructed Worlds, and Gaming as World-Construction

There are multiple different relevant approaches to the “worldliness” of games and game worlds. Professor Frans Mäyrä’s talk will address several of them, including how games can immerse their players in multiple different ways, how the “magic circle of play” is related to the experienced separation of game reality from the everyday world, and how games and play as a whole can be seen as particularly “ontological” activity of world-construction.

The examples in talk will focus on games that belong to fantasy as a genre, but also the more general aspects of fantasy as a particular, creative impulse that is related to our imaginative needs and capacities will be discussed. There are multiple interesting developments in how games, toys and media link together to form wider “transmedial storyworlds”. The creative potentials and affordances of The Lord of the Rings, the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien and the movie version directed by Peter Jackson are distinctively different from LEGO Lord of the Rings toy set, or LEGO The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game, for example. The position of toy player and game player can be contrasted with the reader and movie audience positions, but even more interesting is to trace the underlying similarities and connections as fantasy worlds are created, experienced and shared through multiple media. Are games and books also “construction toys”, by heart?


Aki Järvinen

Presence from text adventures to VR

In his talk, Aki Järvinen will explore how sense of presence influences our experience of a game world. How is our feeling of being transported into another place – i.e. presence – predicated on world-building techniques such as visual details, experience of seamless space, or verbally presented ‘lore’? From a game design perspective, he will highlight different techniques that video games have used over the last 30 years to create sense of transportation to a virtual world: how do maps, characters, level of detail, or particular game objects contribute to world-building and presence? Case studies and examples will range from text adventures to recent virtual reality titles.


Olli Sotamaa

Co-creating gameworlds

These days, digital games are commonly conceived as co-created, dependent of both the labour of industry professionals and the creative investments of players. At the same time, different platforms, genres, economic principles and regional game cultures play a significant role in producing a multitude of “co-creativities”. Starting from the idea that game industry practices can and need to be studied as cultures this talk explores the everyday insights and conflicts related to co-creating gameworlds.

While the processes of game development have become increasingly global, games are not created in a vacuum. Instead, they are shaped by networks of human and non-human actors that are dependent on cultural, technological, and economic contexts. Within the age of free-to-play games, the close integration of design, culture, and economics has become increasingly visible. Accordingly, more comprehensive theoretical and methodological approaches are needed as the traditional divides between research fields can no longer hold. Based on collaborative work with local game studios, this talk introduces a model that can be used to analyze game development cultures in general and the processes behind co-created gameworlds in particular.


Agata Zarzycka

Immunization as a Worldbuilding Strategy in Video Games

What Roberto Esposito argues to be crucial in the process of defining, sustaining and protecting identity is immunization based on the negotiation of boundaries through controlled internalization of otherness underlying the pressures of community.

In the first part of my presentation I analyze the logic of immunization as a factor shaping both the game world and the relationship between the game and the player in the Mass Effect trilogy. Specifically, I focus on the ways the series uses the relations between biological life and technology as a worldbuilding tool. I also consider the notions of bíos (individualized life) and zōē (life as an impersonal force) as an alternative approach to the localization of immunizing processes in the discussed games.

The second part of my presentation shifts from Mass Effect as a case study to a broader reflection on the applicability of bíos and zōē to video-game worlds.


Piotr Kubiński

Emersive Factors as Elements of World-Construction?

Immersion – commonly defined as a feeling or sensation of being present in another, fictional place – is often considered as one of the main goals that videogame creators want to achieve when creating their digital gameworlds. However at the same time some games use elements and mechanisms, which can be called emersive, since they point out mediated character of the game. As a result such factors may intentionally break player’s immersive experience. But is it possible to use these emersive factors in a meaningful way during the process of world-creation? Various case studies will help answering this question.


Tomasz Z. Majkowski

Cartography in digital games and imperial imagination

In this presentation is will offer the analysis of interaction between gamescape, avatar and map in digital open-world, mass-market, single-player games (The Elder Scrolls series, The Witcher 3, Assassin’s Creed series and similar).

The player and protagonist’s relation to gamescape is quite similar to XIX-century explorers: she ventures into Great Unknown and creates personal account of the journey. Simultaneously she fills the blanks on the map, using exclusively pre-determined set of markers. But the map itself exists independently from the player/protagonist’s journey and predates it: it is available from the very beginning and lures the heroine into unknown with gleaming question marks, promising the high adventure – and the reward. This way the second important imperial trope appears: the map as a key to great riches and prosperity, the motif quite popular in Victorian prose and inspired by Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines. Clearly related to the popularity of explorers’ journals, the map simultaneously represents the power the white man holds over the world and lure the protagonists into danger. During the perilous trip, virtues of the Victorian hero are confirmed and his ingenuity established: after all, he’s the only one capable of reaching the treasure.

The pervasiveness of this model is not without consequence. It contributes toward general tendency within single-player digital games to employ imperial imagination in developing fictional worlds as something to be wondered, explored, violently conquered and exploited.