2024 Conference

History of Games Conference 2024

Birmingham City University, United Kingdom

22nd – 24th May 2024

Conference Theme: Families of Games

In 2023, the History of Games conference celebrated its 10th anniversary. During this time, the conference has visited Montréal, Copenhagen and Zoom. In Philosophical Investigations, Ludwig Wittgenstein (1958: 65-67) says that in games there is a ‘complicated network of similarities’, and that he ‘can think of no better expression to characterize these similarities than “family resemblances”[…]: “games” form a family’. This is the departure point for our conference theme. Games, like families, are central to the creation of our lifeworld. In May 2024, then, we look forward to welcoming you to Birmingham in the United Kingdom to celebrate the growing family of international researchers investigating histories of games.

Games of all kinds have a broad association with families. Early psychological studies of video games (e.g. Loftus and Loftus 1983) focused on transferring the positive reinforcement schedules associated with pay-to-play gaming to the home, where exposure could be more closely monitored than in the public sphere. The widespread effects of the percolation of home computers in Europe and beyond has become more recognised as scholarship in this area gathers pace (Švelch, 2018), centred on networks of families who would swap, code and play games across boundaries.

Tim, Carole, and Chris Stamper. Image via The Digital Antiquarian

The UK, our venue for History of Games 2024, has a particular relationship with families and games, and many historic British software houses were founded on familial relations. Rare was founded by Chris and Tim Stamper, with Carole Stamper particularly active in promotion and distribution, an often-overlooked element of their success which demonstrates the centrality of women’s ‘unseen labour’ in game history. Codemasters, founded by the Darling brothers, made an early name for themselves producing low cost ‘pocket money’ games. These were iterated through a family of sequels to become bestsellers, part of a lineage realised in the present day through annual releases of the Formula One licence.  Elsewhere, video game compilations – software ‘mixtapes’ – brought different families, different genres, and even different media together. One outstanding example is SoftAid, released by UK software house Quiksilva to raise funds for families devastated by the Ethiopian famine of 1985. Including the Band-Aid song ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’ and ten games, this was the first known release of video game software for a charitable cause, and the largest selling title in the UK until 1989’s RoboCop.

Tamagotchi. Image via Wikipedia

Games also centre or mimic families through minutiae and everyday drama, or use family as a backdrop for affective narratives. The Sims allows for experimental ways of living beyond ascribed family boundaries, online games bring us closer to people who share our interests, and games are able to traverse lifeworlds and take us outside of ourselves in a way that is familiar to family. Histories of games from Speak and Spell through Tamagotchi to Pokémon show us that those who educate, accompany and entertain us do not have to be human and are as much part of our family as any other.

With these thoughts in mind, we look forward to the History of Games 2024 conference exploring the organising theme of ‘Families of Games’. Below, we offer a (non-exclusive) list of potential topics as a starting point for thinking and reflection on the state of the field of histories of games.

  • AI and game histories
  • Capital and games
  • Childhood games
  • Critical readings of historical games
  • Cultural and political discourse of games
  • Diversity in/and histories of games
  • Games and everyday life
  • Games and their sequels
  • Histories of games and education (e.g. andragogy, pedagogy of games, using games in and as learning)
  • Histories of game production, promotion, distribution and/or consumption
  • Histories of gender and/or sexuality in play and games
  • Histories of global majorities in play and games
  • Histories of hardware and software (including board, card, table-top, playground, field, hand games, and pinball and arcade games)
  • Histories of video games and addiction
  • Home or lone programming
  • Local, regional, national, international and transnational game histories
  • Material games histories (e.g. storage, curation, display, upgrade, degradation)
  • Methodologies of games histories
  • Political economy of games
  • Sites of play (e.g. amusement arcades, theme parks, bowling alleys, hackerspaces)
  • Theories of games
  • Wargames and political deployment of games

The Call for Papers is now closed. Notifications of Acceptance for submitted abstracts will be sent to authors by 15th March 2024.

Conference Cost:

In person: £150 / €175

Hybrid: £75 / €85

The conference fee includes access to the conference, coffee and tea in the morning and afternoon and lunchtime meal.  Additional social events will be organised on the evenings of the 22nd and 23rd May.  Further details to follow.

Financial Support for Unwaged / Students

A fee waiver for the conference may be available to unwaged / students.  You must present in person at the conference for this to be considered.  This will be considered on a case-by-case basis.  It is hoped that there may be support available for unwaged / students for travel and accommodation costs.  This is contingent on funds being made available for this.  Further details to follow.