DIGRA Day One
Souvik Wednesday, September 02, 2009DIGRA at last! When it almost looked like all chances of getting the day off were forfeit, my colleagues at work came to the rescue. Thanks Elaine and Sanj.
The troubles were worth it. Day One at DIGRA was a rewarding experience. Of course, there was much that I missed (e.g. Bernard Perron's paper). The sessions that I went to, however, were brilliant. The Bad Games panel led by Jesper Juul started with the discussion of 'camp' games and a discussion of para-gaming. Juul defined four categories of 'taste': traditional, casual, indie and 'good' (academic) taste. A 'bad' game would be breaking with the requisite elements of the above, as the case may be. Juul highlighted the need for researching 'the great unplayed' comparing this with similar work on the 'great unread' going on Literary Studies (interesting comparison coming from a Ludologist, Jesper). Having come from a department with a strong recovery research presence, the literary side of this I am only too familiar with. I certainly agree with the need to research / resurrect interest in the games that suffer years of neglect and are even tagged as 'bad'. Of course, there's a historical perspective to the creation of the videogame canon. The reasons that the prolific 'bad' game creator Ian Gray's (Anglo-Saxon , mind you) China Miner has been tagged as bad and yet draws many an addicted fan to it are worth investigating.Anyway, I dwell too long on this. All in all, I think this is a great initiative taken by Jesper and co. If your forthcoming book explores more of this, I'm certainly buying it. The two other papers in the panel were also interesting. The comparison between full motion video in earlier games and the way this remediated / even copied B-movies is interesting. The social aspect of these so-called 'bad' games is also a thing to look into.
In the second session, I mistook the panel on film and games for the session on horror games (wonder how) but luckily for me, it was a great one. Michael Nitsche brought back the issue of Ludology and Narratology; although I hope not in the old way (well, i think not) with the famous 'versus'. I have blogged about such watertight categorisations earlier and written endlessly against such positions. Michael, as far as I understood, is doing something much more intellectually informed. He says that the problems that the L-N debate brought to light should not be ignored. I agree. He mentioned the problematics of doing and telling; to me the problem is much more complex than a (mis)reading of Genette on description and narration. Michael identifies the need for a performance studies approach to videogames. Incidentally, there was another lady at the conference who told me about her work on this. Both she and Michael mentioned Richard Schechner whom I now must read / read about. We are probably moving near Frasca's work on 'live theatre' Augusto Boal and games, which I much admire. Michael's uniqueness comes from his deep knowledge of both the theory and praxis of film. He used examples of camera usage in games (read his book for some nice examples) to illustrate how the framing of the action was important in the conflation or otherwise relating of the action and the telling. For me, of course, this is a form of actualisation of the potential. Two things that Michael mentioned struck me as quite important and I'll just copy out these points straight from my notes:
Aram Barthollie FPS glasses
In Natal, how do we control the camera?
After Michael's presentation, there was another nice one by Eric Campion. Again a few points from my notes (i'm tiring out now):
Architecture is narrative
Game uses different parts of brain unlike film.
Not sure I agree with everything Campion says but then again, food for thought.
I went to some other sessions and listened to quite a few papers but either they weren't particularly relevant to my interest or else I was too zombiefied from the tiredness and the tension of having to present.
'Literature is a combinatorial game that pursues the possibilities implicit in its own material [...] but it is a game that at a certain point is invested with an unexpected meaning' - Italo Calvino