Keynote speakers 2020

Spatialising Game Histories

Dr. Aphra Kerr is a Professor at the Department of Sociology at Maynooth University in Ireland, where she researches and lectures on the sociology of media, technology and digital games. She has researched the digital games industry and games production for over 20 years and is the founder of the community website in Ireland. Current projects are focussed on AI in digital content development and how digital tools and platforms influence diversity.  She was a founding member of the Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) and in 2016 she received a Distinguished Scholar award from DiGRA for contributions to the field of game studies. She has previously held visiting fellowships at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Pennsylvania. Recent publications include Global Games: Production, Circulation and Policy in the Networked Era, Routledge, 2017.

Spatialising Game Histories

In this talk I outline the usefulness of a socio-spatial perspective on game histories. Drawing upon the concept of ‘spatialisation’ (Lefebvre, 1991; Mosco, 2009) I argue that taking a relational approach to space enables us to go beyond the restrictions imposed by the local/national/ global and asks us to explore how space is constructed, negotiated and reshaped by game makers, companies and other institutions. Further it may be useful to explore how digital games operate as code/spaces (Kitchin & Dodge, 2005) that interact with and transduce our experiences of space. Drawing upon my own research on the Irish and international digital games industries I will explore how these contemporary theories of space can provide a useful basis from which to interrogate existing game histories, and to construct new ones.

Dr. hab. Aleksandra Klęczar is a classicist and specialist in Ancient Jewish Studies. Her main areas of interest are Greek and Roman literature, ancient legendary history and mythology as well as Greek and Roman cultural practices and the reception of classical themes in modern popular culture. She published books and papers on such topics as the poetry of Catullus, “The Alexander Romance”, Hellenistic religion and culture and modern phenomena such as the novels and comic books of Neil Gaiman, J. R. R. Tolkien, J. K. Rowling, Star Trek and Doctor Who.

Win the best death and meet the Player-Creator! The meanings of games and gaming in ancient Greek and Roman cultures

The remnants of Greek and Roman games are not something to which an average classicist or archaeologist would pay much attention. Yet their presence in the material preserved from classical era is important and meaningful: from the physical remnants of boards, descriptions of playing and illustrations of players to the residue of metaphors and comparisons preserved in linguistics and philosophy, the games are present in numerous aspects of a Greek or a Roman’s life. To understand their role and character for that society, we must look into their place in the broader context of social and cultural practices of the Greek polis or Roman city. And conversely: understanding the meaning of gaming for the Greeks and Romans gives us yet another valuable insight into their way of thinking and their internal world.

In my presentation I would like to look at social constructs, metaphors and political ideas, associated with gaming in the ancient Greek and Roman world, and to place them in the variety of cultural contexts. Thus I would like to observe how the games and players are rooted in, understood and represented and recontextualized in Greek and Roman societies.

Piotr Marecki is a scholar, artist and publisher. He is the author and co-author of conceptual books, games, bots, demos. Marecki is Associate Professor at the Jagiellonian University. He is also the head of UBU lab and Ha!art Based in Kraków.

Practice and experiment: Atari, demoscene & games

Demoscene is a field of cultural production that is centered around a platform and its creative use. This key aspect distinguishes the demoscene from other fields of creative expression in digital media (games, electronic literature, media art), where the platform usually remains transparent, in the background. The demoscene is present practically on every platform (from 8-bit computers, through 64-bit computers, to consoles, smartwatches etc.). Once such platform, the 8-bit Atari, once a symbol of commercial digital entertainment in the early age of digital media, when appropriated by demonsceners in Poland, Czechia and Slovakia became also a symbol of independent, non-commercial, experimental creative activity. The Atari XL / XE demoscene developed mostly behind the Iron Curtain (to a lesser extent in Western or Northern Europe), which makes it a prime area of investigation for digital media research interested in issues of localness, diversity and decentering.
My talk will be devoted to discussing a selection of digital creative works created on the Atari platform albeit in circumstances that are not typical for the Atari demoscene, that is, in the academic context of the UBU lab at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. My focus will be specifically experimental productions thematizing local games. Works discussed in my paper include textual generators, mods as well as subversive games developed during gamejams, which straddle demoscene, media art and electronic literature. One common characteristic of the works at the center of my paper is that they have a ‘meta’ aspect, describing in various ways both the community and the platform itself. Examples include the textual generator  Robbo. Solucja (2017, ‘Robbo. Walkthrough’) or the mod Zmierzch. Niedokończona przeróbka (2018, ‘Twilight. An unfinished mod’).
My broader  aim in presenting these programs is also to present the laboratory model of work we adopted at the UBU lab, where alongside research and teaching in the field of digital media, we also produce digital works ourselves. These works are created on and for original platforms (the lab is equipped with working 8, 16, 32, and 64 bit consoles and computers with relevant peripherals). The works are usually created in collaboration with active Atari 8 bit demosceners, eg. Kaz, Bocianu, Gorgh, TDC, Lisu, Kroll, Pin, Tbxx. A relevant aspect of the production-focused approach in science is that it is accompanied by specific means of communication about the ongoing research, like technical reports. My presentation will also touch upon the challenges and advantages of basing research projects on the foundations of passion, fun, experiments and creative practice.