I just got back from the very interesting, one-day "Under the Mask" conference at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton, UK. The day's first keynote speaker was Tanya Krzywinska, professor in Film and TV Studies at Brunel University in West London. She is also the president of the Digital Games Research Association (DIGRA). She talked about H.P. Lovecrafts influence on computer games in general (especially in the horror genre) and the Call of Cthulhu in particular (Krzywinska's abstract).
Four parallel sessions followed, of which one was my own. Three of the four papers was on griefers in online worlds. Esther MacCallum-Stewart at SMARTLab has identified three types of griefing in online environments — Ludic Grief, Social Grief and Spectacle Grief — and argues that griefing is a very complex issue (MacCallum-Stewart's paper). I discussed griefing in Second Life as an avant-garde, but also subversive, practice (my own paper). Marie Griffiths and Ben Light at the University of Salford had researched similar issues at Habbo Hotel, highlighting the fact that griefing frequently happens for economical reasons (Griffiths & Light's paper). The fourth paper in the session, presented by Dean Chan from Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia, focused on Asian-American gamers and their possibilities for social advancement through gaming (Chan's paper).
After lunch I decided to sit in on a rather diverse session. Alec Charles from the hosting university discussed theoretical implications while comparing different media forms, mainly with examples from cinema and the computer game America's Army (Alec Charles's paper). Souvik Mukherjee presented another theoretical paper relying primarily on Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's concept of becoming (Mukherjee's paper). The last paper in the session was presented by Anne-Mette Albrechtslund from Aalborg University. Her paper focuses on new narratological methods in game research and indicates possible directions for her research project (Albrechtslund's paper).
The day ended with another keynote. David Hayward, games industry consultant, freelance writer, project coordinator for Pixel Lab Ltd. and writer for the Gamasutra website, focuses on games culture and the people who "play games," i.e. most of us.
All in all a very productive and interesting day. A big thank you to Gavin Stewart and the rest of the people at University of Bedfordshire.