Call: Video Game Studies Scholarly Interest Group panels at SCMS Chicago 2013

Here are the five prospective pre-constituted panels looking for participants from the Video Game Studies Scholarly Interest Group (VGSSIG) of the Society for Cinema & Media Studies (SCMS) for the Chicago 2013 SCMS conference.

Please note that deadlines and requirements for submissions vary from panel to panel; please contact the panel convener directly if you have questions. Best of luck to all!

Sincerely,

Jessica Aldred jessica.aldred@gmail.com
Daniel Reynolds dreynolds@umail.ucsb.edu
VGSSIG co-chairs

Felan Parker felan.parker@hotmail.com
VGSSIG graduate student representative

1) Sound in Video Games and Interactive Media.

What is the role of sound in video games and interactive media? Topics can include: music, sound effects, embodiment, ambient sound, how sounds are triggered, the connection between sound and narrative, video game music as stand-alone concert experiences, sound in interactive media of any kind from interactive art installations to apps and virtual worlds, the function of sound in gameplay, and more.

Please submit paper proposals to Lori Landay, Berklee College of Music, llanday@berklee.edu by August 10.

2) Debugging the History of Game Terminology: Critical Studies of Key Concepts.

Each speaker on this panel will present one key concept. This should be a concept that has shaped critical terminology in game studies or had a historical impact on game design/development. For example, my contribution to this panel will be a historical paper on the concept “game engine.” Other presentations might focus on concepts in domains ranging from technology to genre studies, such as “real-time” or “level” or “God game.” The panel might work best if the concepts are at least somewhat related; my suggestion to achieve this would be to focus on concepts related to platform and code studies, but a more diverse set of contributions is fine, too. Bottom line: The panel’s goal is to open up terminological discussion in critical-historical game studies.

Please submit proposals for panel papers to Henry Lowood (lowood@stanford.edu) by 10 August.

3) Engaging the Avatar

A decade into the millennium, avatars have become an increasingly important and fundamental element of contemporary media culture in general and video game culture in particular. Numerous games and virtual worlds require players to create digital surrogates before they can begin playing, and social networking websites encourage users to represent themselves through individuated images and icons. Avatars range from personalized yet static self-representations to complex programs that allow—and determine—multifaceted virtual interactivity. Defined through cyberpunk literature (Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash) and critiqued within Hollywood cinema (such as The Matrix and The Thirteenth Floor), avatars have now exceeded science fiction, and have become very much a part of the everyday. This panel seeks to engage the avatar, exploring how the avatar is critically defined, culturally understood, virtually utilized and personally constructed.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Analyses of Avatars in Specific Games
  • Avatar Interfaces/Avatars as Interfaces
  • Avatars and Emotional States
  • Avatars and Game Technology
  • Avatars and Gender
  • Avatars in Ludic and Narrative Contexts
  • Avatars in/as Science Fiction
  • Corporate Avatars
  • Creating Avatars
  • Defining the Avatar
  • Designing the Avatar
  • Gaming the Avatar/Avatars as Games
  • Historicizing the Avatar
  • How Films, Literature, and Games Have Defined, Debated and Discussed the Avatar
  • Modification and Personalization
  • Multimedia Avatars
  • Playing as the Avatar/Playing with the Avatar
  • Social Networking Avatars
  • Video Game Avatars
  • Virtual World Avatars

Please submit a paper proposal no longer than 2500 characters, 3-5 bibliographic sources, and a bio no longer than 500 characters to Jessica Aldred and Harrison Gish at harrison.gish@gmail.com by August 10th. Selections will be made and applicants notified no later than August 15th.

4) War and Science Fiction in Contemporary Media

This panel will investigate the relationship between the science fiction and war genres in contemporary film and media. With the recent releases of Battleship (2012), Battle Los Angeles (2011), and Captain America (2011), Hollywood has created hybrids of the combat film and the science fiction blockbuster. While these are interesting from the point of view of genre history and transformation, they are even more telling for what they say about Hollywood and its relationship with the Pentagon. War films about Iraq and Afghanistan have tended to be extremely critical of the American military and have been shunned by the Department of Defense. (The DoD pulled out of its relationship with The Hurt Locker producers at the last minute over its perceived negative portrayal of American soldiers.) Meanwhile, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) received unprecedented support from the Pentagon. It was the “biggest joint military operation movie ever made,” according to an Army official. (Check out more on this subject in my In Media Res post: http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/imr/2011/06/16/x-men-are-army-strong-military-marketing-and-summer-movie-theater)

Papers for this panel will explore what the military seeks to gain (or, risks losing) by allying itself with science fiction, instead of the conventional combat narrative. What do the tropes of science fiction lend to the war genre, representing combat in a new way? What does this merging of combat and science fiction allow us to say about war that cannot be said with traditional generic codes and conventions? How does the alliance of war and science fiction reflect changes in contemporary warfare (waged electronically from a distance, as with drones) or in contemporary media production?

While this new cycle of military science fiction blockbusters is a recent development, the merging of these two genres goes back at least as far as H.G. Wells and, arguably, Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon (1902). Therefore, historical approaches to this relationship would also be welcome. Furthermore, media other than film have invested even more heavily in this merging of genres, particularly in anime and videogames. Papers exploring other media or other (trans)national contexts are highly encouraged.

Possible topics/media include, but are not limited to:

  • The science fiction blockbuster as military recruitment film: Battleship (2012), Battle Los Angeles (2011), Captain America (2011), the Transformers films (2007-2011)
  • Soldiers and superheroes: The Avengers (2012), X-Men: First Class (2011), Iron Man (2008) and Iron Man 2 (2010)
  • Representations of future warfare in recent science fiction films: Avatar (2009), the Terminator films, Stealth (2005)
  • War/SF videogames: Mass Effect, Halo, Gears of War, Resistance, Warhammer 40K
  • Anime: Robotech, Gundam, etc.
  • Television: Battlestar Galactica, Terminator: TSCC, Stargate SG-1
  • Historical examples: 1980s/90s cycles (Aliens, Starship Troopers), 1950s cycle (The War of the Worlds, The Day the Earth Stood Still)

Please submit a proposal of about 250 words and a short bio to Tanine Allison at tanineallison@gmail.com by August 1. Selections for the panel will be made before August 15.

5) Canon Formation in Digital Game Cultures

Canon is a tool of distinction. Discourses of canon determine what texts in a given medium or cultural form are recognized and what texts are marginalized or forgotten, by presenting a seemingly authoritative categorization that elevates the best or most exemplary texts. As numerous cinema and media scholars have argued, the establishment of a canon is a social and political as well as cultural and aesthetic process, and is tied not only to the legitimacy of individual texts, but also to the overall cultural legitimacy of the whole form.

Canon formation in digital game culture has been under-examined in game scholarship and media studies. Digital games have historically occupied a very low status within what Pierre Bourdieu calls the cultural hierarchy, a material and discursive system that assigns value and significance to cultural practices and objects. According to Bourdieu, the cultural hierarchy produces and maintains distinctions between different social classes, reinforcing existing structures of dominance. The relatively low status of digital games is especially apparent when compared to legitimated forms such as cinema and literature, but these distinctions are historically contingent and socially constructed – indeed, both film and the novel once occupied a similarly “gutter” status to digital games.

Likewise, the cultural status of games is changing. A diverse range of individuals and groups of stakeholders are working to raise the cultural status of games and legitimate them as an art form, and canon formation plays a central role in this process. This panel seeks to examine questions relating to canon formation within digital game cultures from a variety of disciplinary, theoretical and methodological perspectives. Some topics already being considered by panelists include the discursive construction of canonical, critically acclaimed “prestige” games, and how “retro” gaming practices might interrogate or reproduce established canons of “classic” games. While papers on any topic related to canon-formation in digital game cultures are welcome, the following topics would be of particular interest:

  • the politics, ethics and aesthetics of game canons
  • gender, race, and sexuality and canon-formation
  • canonization of individual games or genres
  • transmedia canons
  • alternative or anti-canons
  • the role of institutions in canonization processes (trade or pop. press, academia, etc.)
  • historical studies of game canons
  • game canons in a digital age
  • canon and genre
  • franchise canon

Please send a title, a draft abstract no longer than 2500 characters, 3-5 bibliographic sources, and a bio no longer than 500 characters to John Vanderhoef at johnvanderhoef@gmail.com by August 1. Applicants will be informed of whether they will be included on the panel within a few days.

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