Call: Wandering Games Conference 2019

Call for Papers: Wandering Games
July 10–12, 2019
Bangor University, UK

Abstracts and author biographies due by February 1st 2019

  • What does it mean to be a wandering body in a game world?
  • What does it say about the game?
  • The world?
  • The body?
  • What can the act of wandering do?

We seek proposals on wandering games from academics, game designers, and creative practitioners for a conference at Bangor University from July 10–12, 2019. Walking Simulators, the genre of videogame in which there are no points, goals, or win/loss conditions, have for the last several years served as a catalyst for (sometimes furious) debates about anti-game aesthetics, changing gamer demographics, and the radical potential of poetic spatial storytelling in videogames. From Myst to Gone Home, The Path to The Stanley Parable, what began as the derogatory sneer “Walking Simulator” has become a catch-all term for games that are interested in alternative modes of expression, drawing together considerations of embodiment, environment, orientation, and community. We are interested in work, on Walking Simulators and their context, that focuses on some aspect of wandering in games but also could draw connections and intersections from long traditions of walking thought in performance, philosophy, pilgrimage, and protest.

Proposals are invited for contributions in the following formats:

  • Games & game ideas (digital, physical, AR, VR, site-specific, experimental, etc.)
  • 20-minute papers
  • 5 minute splash talks
  • Full panel proposals
  • Alternate formats: performance pieces, workshops from game devs, hikes/VR hikes, team brainstorming sessions, workshops, protest designs, any other format you want to propose

Papers will be considered for inclusion in a special issue of Gaming & Virtual Worlds.

Abstracts of 250 words and brief author biographies by February 1st 2019.

Possible topics could include but are not limited to:

  • Walking Simulators: ludological analyses of the narratives and mechanics of walking sims, spatial storytelling, ludonarrative consonance and dissonance
  • Designed Wandering: how to design a wandering game (physical, digital, performance-based, site-specific, etc.), how to prepare for/market towards community responses, experiments in counterwalking
  • Wandering Bodies: How wandering intersects with identity. Walking while black (Carvell Wallace, Sarah Jane Cervenak), walking while female (Rebecca Solnit, Lauren Elkin), disability and wandering, avatar bodies in sandbox games
  • Early videogame wandering & electronic literature: 1980’s and 90’s exploration-based puzzle games like Myst and Riven, early electronic literature, text-based adventure games like Colossal Cave Adventure and Infocom’s Trinity, Rogue-likes with walking sim conducts, textual spatial storytelling of all stripes
  • Wandering as a practice of play: analyses of mis-played games (RPGs, MMOs, theatrical works, etc.) as walking sims, how the walking sim took a common player practice and made a whole genre out of it, suppositions on other gaming practices that could be made into new genres
  • Locality, environment, & ambient gaming: hiking and Wanderkultur, futuristic environmental exploration, site-specific performances, ambient literature, geocaching, augmented reality (Pokemon Go, Zombies, Run!), Welsh-medium game design, Welsh-site-specific games
  • Pedestrian performance: onstage wandering & set design (Wagner’s Parsifal, Beckett’s Footfalls, Stanislavski technique), Augusto Boal, Alan Kaprow’s Happenings, Marina Abromavić, Punchdrunk, Wrights & Sites, the Walking Artist Network
  • Walking as protest (playful to political): Dandi March, Situationist International and the revolution of 1968, Walter Benjamin, March from Selma, Occupy movement
  • “Not real games”: Tale of Tales’ “Not Games” initiative, gamer pushback against walking sims as “casual” or “not real”, #GamerGate, the gendering of wandering and of certain kinds of interactivity, queer gaming and Halberstam’s Queer Art of Failure, Juul’s The Art of Failure, autotelic experiences as failed games
  • Wandering as pilgrimage: walking as religious or ritualistic practice from Camino de Santiago to Mecca to the Philosophenweg, and how such practice translates to poetic gameplay design
  • Simulators of Walking: QWOP, Octodad, punishing games that make the simulation of walking into a defamiliarizing challenge, games that make walking style into a choice included during character creation


Dr Melissa Kagen

Melissa Kagen is a Lecturer in Digital Media & Gaming at Bangor University. She received her PhD from Stanford University (2016) in German Studies, where she researched the concept of wandering in early 20th-century German/Jewish opera. Her work has recently been published in Game Studies, The German Quarterly, The Opera Quarterly, and The Year’s Work in Nerds, Wonks, and Neocons. Her current research focuses on walking simulators, gender, and intersections between participatory theatre and video games.

Dr Eben J. Muse

Eben Muse is a Senior Lecturer in Digital Media and Senior Editor on the Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds. He was co-editor of Creating Second Lives: Community, Identity and Spatiality as Constructions of the Virtual (Routledge Studies in New Media and Cyberculture) and the author of The Land of Nam: Vietnam War in American Film. He teaches game design and animation, and his research is on the impact of the digital on our cultural sense of space and place.


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