Harald Koberg

Harald is a games researcher, media pedagogue and cultural mediator based around Graz, Austria. He works for the Styrian Government as an expert in digital culture. At Ludovico – an NGO focusing on the culture and pedagogics of play – he is responsible for all activities concerning digital play and organizes the annual button Festival of Gaming Culture. He frequently speaks and teaches at the University of Graz and other universities and educational institutions. His first book »Freies Spiel: Digitales Spielen und die Sehnsucht nach Wirkmächtigkeit« was published by Büchner Verlag.

For Play’s Sake: What makes us play and how we can fight it

FROG 2022 – Keynote

It’s not play if you have to. That is one part of a definition of play that most of us might be able to agree on. Foucault probably wouldn’t. Because it is power structures that make us decide. What we want can never be fully separated from what we ought to want. And games offer counter-places and counter-publics to live up to those needs.

To play, at the same time, is to be rebellious. It’s about choosing new sets of rules and testing them. But it’s happening in the in-betweens of the analogue and the digital, reality and fiction, the actual and the virtual, earnestness and fun. And it’s happening on the turfs of huge corporations. So how rebellious can it be?

Based on his qualitative research among players and their social surroundings, Harald understands play as a source of experiences of empowerment. He analyses them against the background of social realities that are increasingly guided by what is being called libertarian paternalism and that invoke in many people a feeling of not being able to reach what they are owed or supposed to achieve.

In this talk he will ask how real this empowerment can be and how it might impact social dynamics. Are games the padded cells of a system that lets us romp and rage for a while, until we are ready to fit in again, into the roles it has in store for us? Or might they also encourage us to rethink the system itself?


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