DiGRA, LonCon, Utrecht, cosplay, travel, etc…

Soon I leave for the USA and DiGRA, then I’ll be off to London for WorldCon/LonCon3, then Utrecht to teach Summer School! Should you want to see me at any of these events, this post is to outline when/where I will be speaking… and also to give you a sneak peak at some of my talks. Prepare to be underwhelmed by feeble, but well-intentioned, attempts at creativity gone horribly awry (a gamebook to teach qualitative methodology-whaaa?).
Anyway, a-here we go!


3-6 August 2014
Snowbird, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
I present the day before my birthday... w00t!
I present the day before my birthday… w00t!

Should you happen to be headed to Snowbird, Utah for this year’s DiGRA, be sure to come on 5th August and see me talk about Georg Simmel’s ‘adventure’ and how this pause in identity development can be applied to erotic role play in games. For those of you who saw me speak in Tampere in 2012, this presentation/paper is a continuation of the ideas discussed there. I try to tie in adventure games, location, wilderness/beauty of the natural world, into discussions about aesthetics, identity, and player desire. Yeah. It gets messy. I recently re-read the paper and determined I achieved moderate success, but then I went to make the PowerPoint and this hot mess emerged…

What is... I don't even....
What is… I don’t even….
So, yeah, come along, tell your friends, bring your smartphone to keep occupied on Twitter, and prepare to witness what is sure to be the neutron star of my budding career!


14-18 August 2014
ExCeL, London Dockland, UK
LonCon is going to rock. So far I am set to moderate/ participate on the following panels. Locations are TBA, I think, but if you are lucky, you might get to see me cosplay (Scroll down for pics).

Queerbaiting (Mod)
Thursday 19:00 – 20:00
Fanlore, the wiki of “The Organization for Tranformative Works”, describes queerbaiting as “the perceived attempt by canon creators (typically of television shows) to woo queer fans by introducing a character whose sexuality seems, early on, to be coded as something other than one hundred percent heterosexual.” Coding queer characters and relationships has an ancient history in literature and art of all forms and has often been a positive and necessary means of representing queer people when censorship and conservative moral norms would deem it (practically) impossible. Today, genre shows such as Lost GirlPenny Dreadful,Orphan BlackGame of Thrones and Defiance prove that same sex relationships do not have a negative impact on genre television viewership and are readily accepted, and invariably welcomed, by the audience. With this in mind, we question the practice of hinting at characters being queer and developing queer relationships. We ask exactly where the boundary lies between fan service, ship-teasing and queerbaiting and whether queerbaiting is homophobic.
Love in Games (Mod)
Thursday 21:00 – 22:00
How do we design love in games, and what does this mean? Creating meaningful relationships in games is becoming something of a holy grail, and there are many ways of representing love in, for and around games. From the heart symbol that empties as Zelda dies, to giving Morrigan presents in Dragon Age, love is a difficult thing to understand, let alone simulate it within games themselves. Yet we ‘love’ games – sometimes too much, and this is key to our relationship with them. Here, we look at the importance of representing and expressing such a complex concept within games.
The Love Games Game
Friday 16:30 – 18:00
We’ve written a book about love in games! But during the course of it, we evolved a game about love, which talks about our love for games. What would a zombie reincarnation of the Zelda franchise be like? How about Super Streefighter II with cupcakes? Come along and play this silly mash up game where we invent some lovely games from the games we love.
Being a Fan of Problematic Things
Saturday 13:30 – 15:00
“I know the writer is a sexist, homophobic bigot but I really love this show and I can’t stop watching.” Statements like this are common refrains but it, and others like it, cause very strong reactions. It causes many fans to feel insulted that their idol or favourite television shows are being accused of some pretty harsh things, yet others feel offended that the fan is still watching despite these things. In this session we ask how it is possible to still enjoy television programmes, movies, books and the works of controversial creators when we as individuals or community groups consider the subject matter or means of representation problematic. We also ask why some fans react so badly to this criticism and if there is a way to make the bitter pill easier to swallow.
Playing with Diversity: Games and Speculative Fiction
Saturday 16:30 – 18:00
Three academics each give a 15 minute presentation followed by a joint 30 minute discussion with the audience.
  • Mika Loponen and Markus Montola, “Speculative Games: A Ludological Analysis of Fictional Games”
  • Jaakko Stenros & Tanja Sihvonen, “Out of the Dungeons, onto the Meadows: Queer Representations in Role-Playing Source Books”
  • Ashley Brown, Elves are from Venus, Dwarves are from Mars: Diverse (sexual) relationships in speculative fictional worlds
  • Diane Carr, “Weird Spheres, Bursting Bodies and Peculiar Tools: Disability, Masculinity and the Monstrous in the Dead Space Series”
Lizard Wizards in Space! Bethesda vs Bioware
Sunday 11:00 – 12:00
Panel examining the impact of Bioware and Bethesda videogames on recent gaming experiences. Baldur’s Gate, Mass Effect, Dragon Age and Skyrim have all advanced player experiences in games, providing us with rich worlds, exciting possibilties and diverse characters to play. Both companies pride themselves on allowing the player to choose their own pathway through the game, and to experience each world on their own terms. This panel investigates the strengths and weakness of these games, and looks at the ways they are influencing play.

Okay, so I plan to do a huge cosplay faux pas and re-use my DragonCon Night’s Watch outfit from last year for at least one of the days, but I promise my outfit for the Masquerade (viewing-not participating) will be so lavish you won’t even notice.
I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children, have no fun, etc, etc.

Utrecht Summer School

16-31 August 2014 (I will be there from 25-27 August)
I am very excited to be giving a lecture about my passion- qualitative methodology. Better yet, I get to host a 3 hour workshop on the topic. Woo hoo!
I promise I'll make epistemology fun!
I promise I’ll make epistemology fun!

Unfortunately, my workshop is limited to only 15 students. That’s because I’ve made my own Choose Your Own (Methodology) Adventure gamebook. That’s right. A CYOA gamebook for qualitative methodology. By the end of the course, my goal is for students of all levels to have a working research design with solid justifications for their choice of methods. If you’re new to qualitative researching, consider this a crash course. If you have already done your fieldwork, come along for the section on the relationship between theory and analysis. Just about to hand in your thesis? No worries, come along for a last-minute tune up and make sure you have the vocabulary you need for your defence.

I hope it is as informative as it is accessible and fun. Also, dragons.

A sneak peak! Can't wait to get these printed. :>
A sneak peak! Can’t wait to get these printed. :>

There will be time during the workshop for Q&A as well as a discussion of preference, controversy, and ethics. I’m super excited for this!

I hope to see you all very soon,


Tampere, Skövde, and Liverpool oh my!

(Apologies for the inconsistency of font regarding umlauts.)

In my last post I promised you a more in-depth account of the Critical Evaluation of Games Studies conference. Then I went to Sweden to give a guest lecture, so… Yeah. Things got a little busy.

There is always time to coordinate your outfit with your co-author, however.

So since I can’t offer you a full run-down of the Tampere conference, I can recommend some clever people who have! I thoroughly recommend that you check out Jonne Arjoranta‘s blog post which not only gives a action-by-action replay of the event, but also uses the Twitter feed to illustrate the types of discussions which happened. Here is the only Twitter screenshot I was able to find about my presentation:


Anyway, Frans Mäyrä has pulled together an overview about the bigger picture of the seminar and the current state of games studies as a field over on his blog. Both blogs are fantastic accounts and do the conference a justice I simply cannot. 

Now onto Skövde. Last week on the 14th May I was fortunate enough to be invited to give a lecture to students and a presentation to staff at the University of Skövde. I was amazed at how well the students responded to the lecture, how happy they were to approach me and their thorough engagement and curiosity. They were very keen to deepen their understanding of how sexuality might be implemented in game design and what this might mean for society/culture overall. They were also kind enough to leave me Twitter feedback. 🙂


And to wrap up this recap, an interview I did with Rami Sihvo about my research is now up and available to read in both Finnish and English over on the perliraati.fi blog. I am very humbled at being published (sorta) in a language other than English. It is really special for me to get my research out to a larger audience and I am very grateful for the opportunity to do that.

I’m super enamoured with reading myself in Finnish… even if I can’t speak it… or read it. Ahem. Thanks, Rami for your translation work!

And now I am off to prepare for an impending trip to Liverpool to give a talk about erotic play and spatiality/location. Phew, this summer is a busy one.

Until next time,


Images from Finland

A quick note: I was able to snap lots of photos over the past week I spent in Tampere and Helsinki which I am keen to share along with some musings over language, food, airlines. Although I was there for a conference, and thus didn’t have too much time to have a look around, I had enough time to snap a few things to think about. I will be back soon with a more ‘official’ account of the conference. In the meantime, languages fascinate me!

I was very fortunate to spend this past week in Finland- even if the last day was a bit of a surprise. This trip was a very special one. In addition to seeing a diverse group of friends I don’t get to spend nearly enough time with (because of geographical issues), I also was able to reflect on several issues- both personal and professional. There really is nothing quite like a language barrier to create a smothering feeling of difference which calls to the mind the politics of language on a very basic level.

Language is present on the front of the pack, but culture is also present.

These jelly beans are a small example. The purchaser is informed in four languages that these pink beans are Hello Kitty’s favourite flavours. Not to go full-Saussure on ya, but there is something symbolic in a fictional character having favourite flavours. Particularly when we consider the fictional Japanese character is being used to sell sweets in the United Kingdom which were manufactured in the United States by German immigrants. Furthermore, that a friend requested I bring these because she cannot source them in Finland (and Finnish is not one of the languages on the pack) brings forth several points about culture, values, capitalism/globalisation, and taste which I cannot get into here. Suffice to say, some things are lost in translation. Like reindeer sandwiches.

My attempts to buy a tomato and mozzarella sandwich were thwarted by smoked reindeer. PS- It was delicious.

Unlike the Swedish subtitles beneath this particular sandwich, the Finnish name is incomprehensible to those only familiar with English. Sure renkött doesn’t look much like reindeer, but there is at least a resemblance in letters- a likely leftover relic from Middle English. Fascinating to trace the history of language through sandwiches. Om nom nom…


What is… I don’t even know…

More so than language, this little gem represents an odd way to sell sweets. I don’t quite understand why the donkey is blonde with breasts, or indeed why the sweets are the same colour as the aforementioned breasts, but hey ho. I very much doubt the package for these sweets has anything to do with Finnish culture and everything to do with a …’creative’… marketing director somewhere, but I could be wrong. Feel free to correct me in the comments. 🙂

A nightclub called Fat Lady, along with Cybershop which, as far as I could tell, was a bit like Cyberdog. I prefer to think instead that they sell cybersex.

The problem with not being able to read the language of the country you’re in are multi-fold. Particularly as when you do find words in your language, they seem to stand out ten times more. In fact, I bet the only word native English-speaking readers will remember from the donkey sweets pack is the word ‘Lady’ because it was the only word in English.

Anyway, I laugh at the Fat Lady nightclub every time I walk down Hämeenkatu. Although I have never been, a review calls Fat Lady ‘classy and sophisticated’. Huh. As much as I hate to admit it, the interior is well designed and they have a Spotify link to their playlists- shockingly cool for such a crude name.

Heh… wiener coffee…

Likewise, when you see something which is slightly rude in English, but used in a totally innocent way, it is also giggle-inducing. (I know it means Viennese coffee, but I can’t help it!)

From the set of Star Trek: TOS.
From the set of Star Trek: TOS.

As I mentioned before, a airline error meant I had to spend an extra night in Helsinki. The airline put me up in a rather modest hotel which featured the ugliest chair I have ever seen and this lift which looks like it was built in the 1960s and left to rot in its avocado glory. I have to admit, it has an aesthetic appeal, which is why I’m including it in a blog post mostly about language.

The ugliest chair ever.
The ugliest-chair-ever-and-airline-pyjamas-selfie.

I had to take a selfie with it in my airline-issued-pyjama glory. Yeah, they also lost my luggage. But no matter! Totally worth it to spend the night with early 90s chairs.

Because claustrophobia of lifts is better when combined with the claustrophobia of a plane.

The interior of the lifts were a cool idea, but unfortunately freaked me out a little. Anyway, enough pictures for now. Expect a proper conference run-down soon.

Until then,