Norway, Philosophy and Games

Last week I had the pleasure of being invited to deliver one of the keynote lectures at the Philosophy of Computer Games conference in Bergen, Norway. The conference was really well organised, friendly and had a great range of papers. There was everything from affordances in Mirror’s Edge, to conquering empires in Total War , to Games as Landscapes and Wandering in the Wilderness.

Alongside the event there was the Konsoll festival, meaning we had a chance to look at some of the games being developed in Norway on the first evening of the conference. There was some really interesting work. I especially liked the ‘Sleepy Sheep’ game (I can’t find a link for this online…) It is a simple ‘sheep jumping over a fence’ game that’s supposed to relax you and help you go to sleep. Although there was some debate about the use of screens and sleeping, it was very relaxing indeed, and a few tweaks in terms of maybe hiding the points gained would see it being really useful to some. The double jump feature of the touchscreen was well implemented and the overall design worked really well.

The other game I tried was Teslagrad made by Rain Games. It is a puzzle based platformer, using positive and negative attractions/repulsions to move levels, and allow you to move through the space. It had moments of wraparound space, allowing you to revisit and explore places you had already been too, which I really liked. Learning the initial mechanics of the game on the first play was also built into the design (such as icons showing you to jump up, etc), which I enjoy when playing new games, without having to go through longer tutorials all the time.

What was really great was the fact that both teams had female members who were keen to talk about their work and involvement in the process (and how much they had grown up really enjoying playing computer games). It was noted about the Philosophy of  Games conference as a whole about the lack of female speakers, which is something the organisers recognised they could explore in future events (but it is on a par with females in certain areas of philosophy in general it seems). I’ve found that it does depend on what game studies conference I go to, as the history of games also had fewer female attendees/speakers, whereas more general events such as DiGRA seem to be slightly more even.

All in all it was a great three days, and I even had a chance to go up the funicular to see Bergen from above on the last day (it was really beautiful…despite the rain!)

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