Pascal Wagner is an M.A. cognitive and cultural linguist with a B.A. in English Studies and German Media and Human Rights Law from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich. His theses concerned gaming-specific language in online settings and fictional spell names in JRPG games. Currently he works at the Goethe-Institut München, developing a video game-based language diagnosis test for primary school children. He founded the blog and ludolinguistics resource page languageatplay.de to further advance the field of linguistics into the game studies. In 2020, he co-founded the anti-fascist network “Keinen Pixel den Faschisten!” Reach him on Twitter as @indieflock and @languageatplay.
Becoming their target: Anti-fascist gaming network “Keinen Pixel den Faschisten” and its right-wing backlash
FROG 2020 – Short Talk
When over 40 bloggers, podcasters, developers, streamers, developers and other content creators from the German-speaking video gaming space launched their anti-fascist network “Keinen Pixel den Faschisten!” in April 2020, hatred from German speaking right wing outlets was sure to follow. Indeed it did: A counter account on Twitter was formed by German GamerGate-followers to ascribe an anti-free speech stance to “Keinen Pixel”. English translations of antifascist texts were seeded onto international messaging boards of the GamerGate campaign to rile up resistance from the English speaking right. Even a conspiracy theory was fabricated in which the German government allegedly subsidised the network financially to further the censoring of free speech in gaming spaces. This talk from one of the co-founders of the network outlines the steps taken against “Keinen Pixel” and puts them in context of well-known right wing activist methodology. It will lead with a short introduction of what lingering influence of the GamerGate movement in German speaking internet communities remains, why a network such as “Keinen Pixel” was and needed to be founded and what said network does to counter fascist tendencies and influence in gaming spaces. The talk will reference common propaganda theory and relevant linguistic basics as well as fundamentalist strategies of arguing and debating.
Ricarda Goetz is a political scientist with a strong focus on popular culture and gender. She works for the City of Viennain the basic research section of the Women´s Department. As an independent researcher she publishes in different media, gives lectures and workshops in the realm of cultural studies.
Empathy and Inclusivity in Games. The Proteus effect
FROG 2020 – Short Talk
Games have become more varied and inclusive. The hero and protagonist is not only a 30 something white heterosexual CIS male. Protagonists in games, avatars, look and behave different nowadays. Women-avatars can be warriors, men-avatars can be vulnerable, and humanoid looking avatars can have same-sex relationships and follow new narratives. “The Sims” is one game that offered to create gender fluid game characters since 2016. Players can create virtual characters with or without any physical attributes. “The Sims”, released more than 20 years ago, was also one of the first video games to allow characters of the same sex to have a (sexual) relationship. This inclusive attitude toward the appearance of gender and sexuality, once a rarity in video games, is becoming more common as games take on more diverse and also weightier subject matters. There are different reasons for creating these sometimes called ‘serious games’ or ‘empathy games’. Many of the reasons are linked to what is known as the Proteus effect. The Proteus effect proposed by Yee and Bailenson (2007) suggests that the human embodiment in digital avatars may influence the self-perception of the player both online and offline, based on their gaming avatar’s aesthetics or behaviors. Different studies since then focused on how players can be influenced by their avatars. Jesse Fox who has been studying how online interactions with avatars and digital games influence people’s offline attitudes, did a series of studies and publications since 2009. She saw that participants responded better to avatars modeled closely on their real appearances, as opposed to generic-looking ‘perfect’ avatars. She also found out that women may be at risk for experiencing self-objectification and developing greater ‘rape myth acceptance’ when their avatars wore revealing clothing. The latter myth refers to the assumption that women´s clothing is responsible if she is assaulted. In another study, participants who were assigned a more attractive avatar in a virtual environment were found to exhibit more confidence and intimacy in the real world than those assigned to a less attractive avatar. Future studies need to clarify the extent of these effects as well as how different avatars can be used to elicit positive changes in attitudes, game play and self-image.
Michael Fleischhacker is a teacher and media educator who has been working intensively with the use of digital tools and games in the educational sector for the last few years. Besides the further development of Flipped Classroom in the classroom, he was co-founder of the first Floridsdorf esport school league. Furthermore, he implements numerous Minecraft projects in the Austrian education sector and is founder of the digital innovation lab “Space 21 Future” in Floridsdorf.
Building a cross-school media lab based on playful learning principles for children and young people in the midst of the Covid-19 situation. A field report.
FROG 2020 – Poster Presentation
Co-Authors: Sandra Stella-Pfeiffer (Danube University Krems) Alexander Pfeiffer (Danube University Krems / MIT Education Arcade)
The Covid-19 crisis has clearly shown that despite attempts by committed teachers and administrative officials, applied media education is not yet where it should be in order to achieve lifeworld and practice-oriented teaching in elementary and middle schools. Therefore, it was decided in Vienna to set up the Space 21 Future as an interdisciplinary cross-school lab and to develop concepts that take into account the didactic and organizational aspects of such a project. This report shows the considerations behind this project and how to build such a lab in the midst of the Covid-19 situation and its inherent limitations in times of the crises. Especially the aspect of playing-learning as a didactic principle of this project is addressed. Furthermore, it will show how the goals can be achieved despite a possible constant change between classroom teaching and home schooling.
Minecraft in the Covid-19 crisis connects
FROG 2020 – Poster Presentation
The Covid 19 crisis and the lockdown had a major impact on learning behaviour and time management in individual families. During the close living together in their own four walls, conflicts often arose regarding the play consumption of their own children. For this reason the Minecraft Environmental Challenge 2020 was developed to support families in their learning process and play consumption. The aim of this project was also to show the educational sector how valuable play can be in educational processes. The present report shows the approaches and processes of this project, which was supported at federal and provincial level. Furthermore, it is shown how a distance learning process is supported with a sandbox game, which effects this has on the family situation and which creative processes were triggered in pupils. Furthermore, the skills of the pupils are highlighted and the change between home schooling and classroom is discussed.
Yvonne Scheer is a multiple national champion in computer games and has worked on several events, such as the Gamecity, in recent years. As a licensed esports referee she has also already supervised major esports tournaments (including eBundesliga). Recently she was elected as gender representative of the austrian esports federation (ESVÖ). Her main goal is the promotion and networking of the female gamers in the gaming/esports scene.
Empowering girls and women in Esports and gaming
FROG 2020 – Poster Presentation
Studies have shown, that nearly half of all gamers are female. But a lot of girls and women are facing gender discrimination and/or sexual harassment in the gaming and esports scene. There are still gender clichés and prejudice towards female competitors in esports as well as in the gaming scene in general – as was very publicly shown in the wake of the #metoo movement. One wonders why? Especially in gaming/esports there is no need to make distinctions based on gender, sexual orientation, skin-color, height, weight or religion of a person. Everyone starts at the same level. There is still a long way to go for this to become a reality. Therefore, it’s fundamental to show successful female role models in the gaming/esports scene and to promote and talk about them. Because it’s easier for others to follow someone’s footsteps than to have to forge a path all on their own. Talking about this issue is one important part. The other being educating the media and people of all ages about equal treatment. With this educational work we will have an increase of successful girls and women in esports sooner rather than later.
I am an independent scholar, activist and artist with over two decades experience combining all three in my ongoing study of sex, gender and sexualities. I am a published peer-reviewed academic writer and visual artist as well as a screen writer, producer and actor. I currently work as a game design consultant at Uppsala University and I hope to soon begin my PhD in trans exploration, expression and embodiment in videogame-based-learning. More information can be found on my website www.josephinebaird.com including a list of my recent articles, papers presented and other work.
The Mechanics and Misdirection of The Missing: Trans exploration, expression and embodiment in videogame-based-learning
FROG 2020 – Short Talk
Hidetaka Suehiro’s (Swery), The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories (The Missing) (2018) is a unique videogame in many respects, but especially for the way in which the mechanics are designed to explore a trans narrative that the player is unaware of until the end of the game. I will present The Missing in the context of a number of recent high-profile LGBTQ representations in videogames and I will discuss the ways in which the game uses misdirection at the outset; which understands the wider socio-cultural context of games, politics and tropes that the player may be assuming are being reproduced initially. This misdirect implies that the narrative of the game is about a lesbian relationship exclusively, with one partner seeking out the other in puzzle-platform gameplay employing the abstract imagery that Swery is so famous for. What the player is unaware of is that the game is rather a dreamlike experience of a trans woman near-death exploring her own identity, experience, and trauma. This is achieved through a number of game mechanics that at first obscure the intent of the game, but in hindsight serve as metaphors and analogies for the experience of the titular character as it is conveyed to the player. I will describe how the unique body-horror mechanic of virtual self-brutalisation of the character serves to encourage the player to explore, express and even embody the trans subjectivity that is being communicated. I will examine this in the context of Swery’s own descriptions of the game’s function and goals to show if, and how, his attempts to convey affect and empathy to the player have worked. I will also present this in the wider context of Swery’s other projects, specifically in relation to the games in which he also represents trans experience. Finally, I will position this presentation in the context of my own wider work, which is to examine the exploration, expression and embodiment of trans subjectivities in videogames that forms the basis of my PhD thesis, and my game consulting work at the Game Design department at Uppsala University, Sweden.
Rudolf Inderst (*1978) enjoys video games since 1985. He received a master’s degree in political science, American cultural studies as well as contemporary and recent history from Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich and holds two PhDs in game studies. Your are welcome to follow him on Twitter: @benflavor
„Here comes a new challenger” Will Video Game Essays be the New Champion of Game Critic?
FROG 2020 – Short Talk
In the recent past, various authors have examined the change of tone within games journalism. There seems to be not only a broader portfolio of topics which is covered by representatives of an elder, sometimes described as ‘classic’ games press (meant here: former and current print game magazines and their online outlets), but the medium itself is getting more and more attention beyond the circles of a tech-savy and service-oriented trade as well as specialized press: General press, especially editors of literary and arts sections started to treat digital games as objects / artefacts of cultural and public interest. Video and computer games have become newsworthy – not only because as an industry, video games keep generating billions and billions in revenue or the familiar and well-known ‘admonisher’ discourses about gaming violence as well as gaming addiction. Digital games are getting more editorial space because journalists increasingly understand them as complex, pop-cultural products that bring forth contrasts, tensions and paradox situations that can be read as meta-medial and political comments. My talk will argue that video game essays today are a part of media criticsm. Broadly translated the findings indicate that these essays are an heterogeneous expression and manifestation of artistic ambition, journalistic curiosity as well as academic receptiveness. The present findings suggest that video game essayists who provide clips with a higher production value use the mechanisms of crowd funding platforms as well as revenue income from display, overlag, and video ads in order to support their channel
Project Lead of the SNF Ambizione research project “Horror – Game – Politics”. Researches the History of Political Ideas in Video Games. Studied History and Political Sciences at the University of Vienna and at the Université de Paris IV- Sorbonne. Wrote his Ph.D. in History of the Political Communication at the University of Frankfurt am Main and at the University of Trento.
The Austrian games industry and the free market economy 1991-2006. A political history of ideas.
FROG 2020 – Keynote
The Austrian games industry was particularly successful with business simulations and construction games. In these games we got to know the beautiful new economic world of the post-cold war period in a playful way: Capital had to be increased, production expanded, profits maximised and competition eliminated. During their heyday, the Austrian developer scene were honoured with state and federal awards, and Austrian politicians presented themselves to the press together with “their” shooting stars. After various bankruptcies, takeovers and company dissolutions, the young model entrepreneurs disappeared just as quickly from the collective memory. It is remarkable that this peak phase of Austrian game production took place at the same time as a political transition phase of Austria, which has not yet been studied much. After the end of the Cold War, Austria joined the European Union. In addition to the paradigm shift in foreign policy, there were also far-reaching changes on the social and economic policy side. For example, the privatisation of Austria Tabakwerke, Telekom and Post took place between 1991 and 2006. In addition, Austrian federal governments have adopted several austerity packages since 1995. It can therefore be said that the development of the Austrian game industry took place in a time of political and social change. In this sense, it is necessary to examine whether the games that emerged can also be read as a sources of direct contemporary Austrian history.
Dr. Doris C. Rusch is a game designer / researcher with a humanities background who holds a position as Senior Lecturer in Game Design at Uppsala University. Her games have won numerous awards and she has been an international keynote speaker and presenter including Clash of Realities, DiGRA, Game Developers Conference, Meaningful Play, Nordic Game Conference, FDG and TEDx. She authored Making Deep Games – Designing Games with Meaning and Purpose (Taylor & Francis 2017).
Andrew “Andy” Phelps is a designer and professor at the Human Interface Technology Laboratory NZ (HITLabNZ) within the College of Engineering at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand where he explores virtual and augmented reality, games and education, and art and interactive media experiences. He is also a professor in the Film & Media Arts division of the School of Communication, holds a joint appointment in the Department of Computer Science, and is the director of the AU Game Lab at American University in Washington DC, USA. Prior to these appointments he served as a professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology where he was the founding director of the School of Interactive Games & Media, the RIT Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction & Creativity, and MAGIC Spell Studios. Phelps is also currently president of the Higher Education Video Game Alliance (HEVGA), and his work in games is recognized internationally, has been presented at numerous academic conferences, published in multiple books and journals, and is supported by grants from multiple federal agencies as well as industry. His latest game is Fragile Equilibrium (XBOX, Steam, Itch.io 2019), and he maintains a website of his publications, popular writing, artwork, curriculum development, and more at andyworld.io.
Games of the Soul
FROG 2020 – Keynote
This talk explores a design framework for creating existential, transformative games – games that directly engage the player in the contemplation of life – with the ostensible goals of reflection, awareness, empathy, and growth. Through this work, we seek to re-contextualize games as experiential, expressive works of art that can move us profoundly and evoke lasting inner shifts. These existential media experiences engage their players directly in the consideration of the human condition writ large, our position in the universe, the role and meaning of our lives and relationships in ways that are complex and at once both deeply personal, and resonant across the human experience. In considering a design framework for creating games of this type, our work draws from the theory and practice of existential psychotherapy and its main themes and goals to inform the conception of game ideas and gameplay experiences. In examining the design of these games with the goal of theorizing a design framework, several elements emerge:
The first is that several of these games use myth to communicate existential ideas in a way that speaks to the unconscious and encourages self-reflection and environmental awareness. In this manner these games can be said to ‘resonate’ with their players in ways that use a shared culture, vocabulary, and societal backdrop to convey ideas well beyond and below the surface of the initial role of myth as a social, cultural, narrative, or aesthetic tool in game design. These games use myth as a shortcut to the contemplation of the spiritual, to questions of existence.
The second is that, often in combination with myth, these games are deeply rooted in ritual (both in their play and, in a certain sense, their creation). The repeated patterns of game play speak to the way repeated patterns, symbols, and practices draw players into channels of thought and reflection in ways so deeply human. These games use myth and ritual as existential navigation and personal calibration tools, and in this manner exhibit similar characteristics to the practice of psychotherapy.
Third, these games can be said to be a form of ‘experiential’ game in which the true narrative and purpose of the game is never overtly stated, and indeed is rarely an explicit narrative at all, but rather seeks to be felt rather than read. These games focus on the experiential nature of the game itself as it is played, seeking to convey their messages and resonances through this very act, to be evocative, and to invite emotional reflection and response via metaphor.
Given these elements and understanding their criticality, how do we go about creating new myths, in creating new resonances? What practices can help designers create more and better work in this area? This talk explores these questions in depth, presents early work on our theory of design for effective games of this type, and ponders the nudge that games can give us, when we listen, for meaningful, transformational change.
Sonja Gabriel has been a professor for media literacy at KPH Vienna/Krems since 2017. She teachers pre-service and in-service teachers for all kind of schools. Apart from using digital media for teaching and learning and media literacy her focus is on digital games and their potential for education. Moreover, she also researches and teaches on media ethics with a special focus on the potential of teaching values via digital games and the darker sides of games and gaming communities like hate-speech.
Hate Speech in Digital Games – Are Online Games a Place of Discrimination and Exclusion?
FROG 2020 – Keynote
The last years have shown various incidents of hostility, racism and hate-speech in many (online) games. Hate-speech always includes verbal attacks in writing or speaking or other kind of behavior that attacks a certain group of people. Discriminatory language, stereotypes and abuses are often used referring to a person (or a group of persons) because of their religion, ethnicity, gender, nationality and so on. Especially, multiplayer games which include a lot of communication as part of their game mechanics are a source of hate-speech. As these games are becoming more and more popular among players of all ages (also among very young gamers), you can find numerous examples of so called toxic environments, meaning game-communities or affinity spaces where certain groups of people are insulted, excluded or discriminated against. But not only in-game communication provides examples of verbal attacks but also in forums and community-spaces which are often provided for popular (online)games are a source of hate-speech. These affinity spaces are based upon communication and social interaction. Also platforms like YouTube or Twitch provide many examples of videos and streams containing hate-speech. Game companies and providers of gaming platforms always provide a code of conduct which is obligatory to obey by players. If these rules are violated, however, consequences for players are quite different – depending on the provider. Sometimes violations are not punished at all. Many platforms already have included mechanisms to report incidents of hate-speech. However, there are still many steps to go to make gaming more inclusive and less toxic.
Agata Waszkiewicz is a PhD candidate researching independent video games. Their two main areas of interest include the formal experiments in metareferential games and the representation of non-normative identities in them. They published in several international journals including Game Studies, Journal of Game Criticism, and Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds. They are currently working on the upcoming book Delicious Pixels: Food in Video Games to be published in 2022 as part of Video Games and the Humanities series by De Gruyter.
Playing with Identities in Metareferential Video Games
FROG 2020 – Keynote
Although metareferential games still remain a niche, there has been a significant raise in their popularity over the past decade. Often created by individual creators or small studios, these games employ a range of formal devices through which they point to their own materiality and fictionality, confronting players with their preconceptions of the genres and subverting their expectations towards the play experience. It can be argued that, like postmodern literature and film which often used the experiment for its own sake as means of pushing the boundaries of the medium, these titles aim at defamiliarizing the players in order to force them to engage with the text in a more critical manner. Although it would appear that the majority of these experiments are formal or aesthetic in nature, in this presentation I will scrutinize the cases in which developers utilized them to represent the marginalized, oppressed, and non-normative identities.