Hello, and welcome to the new Play/Pause blog!
What, and Why?
Play/Pause was initially born out of a desire from 3 postgraduate students to broaden the academic consideration of videogames and virtual reality across academic disciplines: away from the consideration of them as niche, relatively new technologies, towards mediums that have the capacity to encourage and create academic discourses that reflect the cultures they are created in: just as literature, film, music, drama and other mediums are considered to be academically viable aspects of culture, why can’t VR and videogames be, too?
We understand that new media studies and game studies have been asking (and answering) these questions for a number of years: we now want to bring these discussions to the University of Birmingham. Thus, we devised this new, extracurricular seminar series at the university in order to facilitate the discussion of two relatively new technological mediums. The seminars will (hopefully!) perform multiple functions:
- Be an informative and informal introduction to game and VR studies: covering a range (by no means exhaustive) of themes, such as gender, embodiment, and narrative. This is by no means a prescribed, fixed seminar series – it is a learning experience for us as well as you – so we don’t want to dictate each week. The seminar is intended as an informal environment for discussion, so we are keen for attendees to input into the content of the series so we can all learn from the experience.
- Provide an environment that fosters academic interest in VR and videogames: we hope that, through the feedback and discussions of the seminar’s attendees, we (as a seminar group) can see what is considered as the most interesting aspects of the study of videogames and VR at the moment and build upon those interests.
- Interrogate the practicalities of videogames and VR in academia: do any issues of accessibility crop up in the facilitation of academic discourse (such as access to videogame platforms, the problems of skill level, etc.)? Can we overcome them? If so, how?
- Approach game studies and VR studies from multiple perspectives: As 3 English postgraduate students, our approach to game and VR studies is informed by a humanities background and the seminar is grounded in the School of Arts and Law. However, while we will bring aspects of humanities discourse to the seminars, fascinating discourses about games and VR have come from myriad areas of academia: history, music, computer studies (just to name a few). We want to consider all forms of discourses from all schools of thought – not just our own English perspective – and encourage game and VR discussions in all schools of study.
At the moment, we have access to current-gen and past-gen consoles, as well as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and the Playstation VR. At the moment, we are limited by the games we own, as well as the accessibility of the devices we want to use. For now, the games or VR experiences we want to showcase each week will be done so during the seminar itself, either throughout the seminar or at the beginning of the seminar (dependent on what we are showcasing that week).
The three students that curated the series, currently communicating to you through the magic of the blog-o-sphere, are:
I am a first year PhD student in the English department at Birmingham. My research interests are primarily centred around the cultural contexts of virtual reality and how its current conceptualisation reflects our embodied relationships with technology. I am eager to learn more about how mediums such as video games both shape and are shaped by our real world experiences. I hope to engage with phenomenological concerns of perspective, embodiment and immersion: how do first-person games impact our relationship to the character and the world in which they exist? How do non-visual cues, such as sounds, music and touch, influence gaming narratives and how we respond to them? Where am I (player/user) situated in relation to this technology? I hope that the PLAY/PAUSE seminars will provide a casual environment for students from a conglomerate of research perspectives to share and discuss ideas about our ever more pertinent multimedia experiences.
My research examines how the aesthetic category of the realistic is being reconstituted in the twenty-first century by our habitual use of new technologies. Not intrinsically connected to the conventions of any genre, style or epoch named ‘realism’, ‘realistic’ is a colloquial term for describing a certain affective structure in our encounters with aesthetic objects. Bringing literary theory and aesthetic philosophy into dialogue with new media studies and recent political theory, I map the technocultural constitution of the ‘representative’, ‘experiential’ and ‘intuitive’ modes of the realistic in a broad range of literature, media and discourse. Examples include: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Tao Lin’s novelistic depictions of the digital present; the digital-urban virtual environments of Rockstar Games and Ubisoft; and neoliberal political narratives about our technocapitalist future.
I am currently a taught MA student (Literature and Culture) at the University of Birmingham, videogames have always been a passion of mine and in academia I am fascinated by how games operate as a cultural medium, both in the consideration of their unique traits (what makes videogames different from other mediums) and how they reflect societal discourses (e.g. “Gamergate”). My current research interests are mapping instances of unintentional collaboration in games; the perception of authorship in videogame development; and the contemporary, internet-connected environment of videogames. I’m excited to see what interests and discussions come out of this seminar, and finally getting more hands-on with VR technology and seeing how it will be used by consumers, players, and developers.
Where and When?
The seminars are open to anyone that has a passing interest in videogames and VR in academia: undergraduates, postgraduates, and academic staff from all schools are welcome!
Please note: we are limited by the size of the room, so we will be operating a first come, first serve process.
Twitter – @PLAYPAUSE_UOB – please follow us for the most up-to-date information about the seminar series!
We look forward to seeing you there!
Becky, Vicki, and Richard