Tuesday, August 04, 2009

After Leipzig

I just returned from the GCO - Game Convention Online - in Leipzig. Invited by some of the members of the very interesting Hans Bredow Institute in Hamburg, I was fairly unprepared for the Leipzig experience.

GCO is a new convention startet as a cooperation between several actors with a vested interest in getting a larger "messe" or convention together to work, both as an attraction for the city of Leipzig, as a meeting spot for a group of game developers who are somewhat less oganised than the very established MMORPG designers, and as a place to promote and test games.

Just add academia, and you have quite a lot of different interests in the same object.

The different cultures became obvious from the first evening. In a regular academic conference I'd have been sadly overdressed for an opening, but the formal invitation where I had to write down the name of any company I wanted to bring was a hint that this wasn't a matter of a quick talk by some Headmaster before the wine and the cooling finger-food. Next to the expensive suits of the German businessmen and politicians I was still a sad, rumpled mess. What luck that I am a geek, and could wear an air of excentric distraction with authority obviously only aquired by much practice.

In the next few days the security level, the service in the speaker's lounge and the shuttle service to the hotel indicated that I was still in a culture not quite familiar. Also the sluggish internet connection at the conference grounds (totally lacking in the speakers' lounge - how did they expect us to prepare in there - free coffee does not make up for no net) and the lack of free wireless at the four-star hotel were indications that I was not in Academia any more.

The great part of the conference was however the opportunity to meet and listen to German scholars. I did spend a lot of time agreeing with Ren Reynolds that "There has been research done in this field, you know," but that's a common response in too many occasions, sadly. One of the better moments was spoiled by the speaker suddenly sorting the ludologists under "effect studies" - even after years of "please do a few google searches before you talk" that was a new one.

What I did find was where the psychologists studying games hunt. They are in Germany. According to one game researcher I talked to, most of German game research is on effects and consequences of games, with a heavy bias towards the problems games may lead to.

If we can somehow integrate the German game scholars in the European community, they might be a very valuable asset, as this is an angle which rarely is carefully discussed and explored in more game studies based English language conferences and journals. But such an integration needs to be desired by those who work within the field, and so far the lack of knowledge about what has become "common knowledge" among a fairly large group of game scholars is more a hindrance to being taken seriously than a challenge (which we need) to the hegemony of certain ideas in the game studies community.

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