Call: “Affecting Game Time: Theory and Practice” Conference


2nd September 2022

Submission deadline: July 7, 2022

All games are felt in time. Whether they are live service or archived emulations, interruptible mobile play or unrepeatable roguelikes, quick situational happenings or laborious games of death and resurrection, play is an investment through, in and with time. Last year was a year of looping games that confronted us with both the medium’s core unit of design and the temporal affects of lockdown (Deathloop, 2021; Returnal, 2021; Loop Hero, 2021; Twelve Minutes, 2021; Overboard!, 2021). However, the temporal affects games represent, shape and contain are diverse. When dancing with a game like Superhot (2016) we might agree that games are brought ‘to life’ by players (Hanson, 2018), but conversely games are also vanishing with the closure of storefronts and the material and phenomenological obstacles faced by archivists (Newman, 2012). For Huizinga, games elapse in “free time” (1938: 8), but this ‘freedom’ is not universal (Chess, 2019; Gray, 2020), and playtime is not just ‘live’, but a livelihood (Kücklich, 2005; Taylor 2018). Temporalities may overlap, histories are multiple and game time can be both repetitious and ephemeral. How a game feels is contingent on when a game is felt, but the ‘when’ of play is slippery: does a game exist between moves?; how do save states, ‘let’s plays’ and automation alter game time?; what are the limits of emulation?; how has gaming nostalgia changed over time?; in what ways do games alter our perception of time?; how are game temporalities altered by Power and embodiment?

As the second conference of the ‘Game Worlds’ research cluster connecting theory and design at The University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Data, Culture and Society, ‘Affecting Game Time’ will be built around quickfire online presentations followed by breakout groups, with the potential for demo/exhibition space. We hope to welcome you virtually to a network of like-minded academics and practitioners based at The University of Edinburgh through the spatial video conferencing platform ‘Gather,’ facilitating free movement, conversation and networking.

While Ruffino (2018) highlights game discourses’ obsession with the future, games rehearse and perpetuate troubling histories: Fickle outlines the deep historical permeation and repetition of racial ideology in game tropes (2019); Kocurek (2015) highlights the emergence of a darkly competitive masculinity in the looping arcade play of the 1980s; and for Crogan gameplay emerges from the anticipatory paradigm of Cold War simulation (2011). Yet, as Patterson argues, games can also mobilise affective attachment through the erotics of play to protest the imperial spatiotemporal order of information technology (2020: 7). Indeed, while games may quantify and exploit our movements, players can also develop queer temporalities of resistance in play, such as slow gaming (Scully-Blaker, 2019) and speed-running (Ruberg 2019). Bold designs highlight the medium’s capacity to broach strange and powerful temporal affects: such as the radical etiolation of time in The Longing (2020) which takes 400days to play; games which effervesce in seconds (Queers in Love at the End of the World, 2013; Warioware, Inc, 2003); the fictive deep time of Horizon: Zero Dawn (2017); haunting resurrections of gaming’s recent past (Stories Untold, 2017; Paratopic 2018); games like With those We love Alive (2014) which mark the body over time; and much has been written about the clockwork sandbox of cosmic time, musicality and ephemeral conviviality in the widely celebrated The Outer Wilds (2019).

Building on last year’s conference Affecting Game Space, we hope to explore discussions surrounding the intersection of time, affect and play. We invite theory and practice-based provocations and papers of 15 minutes on topics such as (but not limited to):

  • Intersectionality, power and game time
  • Transnational heterochronicity of games
  • Game archiving methodology
  • Afro-futurist games
  • Changing game nostalgias
  • Rhythm analysis of games
  • Repetition as pleasure
  • Dark play and apocalypses
  • The thick present of play
  • Time loop games
  • Melancholic play
  • Slow gaming
  • Retro aesthetics and hauntology
  • Deep time in environmental storytelling
  • Utopias in future-oriented games
  • The temporal affordances of current gen SSDs
  • Queer/Trans temporalities in games
  • Ageing in games
  • Problematising ‘flow’
  • Playing with histories
  • Boredom and mobile games
  • Leisure time and gender in play
  • Nonhuman time in games

Proposals of up to 300 words to be sent to or Deadline 7th July 2022. Please provide your title, an abstract concerning your work/topic, and contact details. Posters and video submissions are welcome. We aim to make recordings available with consent after the event, hosted on our cluster site. We particularly wish to support and include submissions from BAME, queer, neurodiverse and precarious scholars of all genders – please do email us if you have any questions regarding accessibility or the micro-conference more broadly.

Tom Boylston and Merlin Seller
Game Worlds Cluster
Centre for Data, Culture and Society
The University of Edinburgh

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