Event – ReFIG Games and Representation

Games and Representation workshop
May 16th UCL Knowledge Lab

This workshop is supported by ReFiG

Convenors: Diane Carr and Caroline Pelletier

Invited speakers: Alison Harvey, Aphra Kerr, Helen Kennedy, Ewan Kirkland, Darshana Jayemanne, William Huber, Nina Seppala

The seminar is free to attend but places are limited and pre-registration is essential. To sign up, email d.carr at ucl.ac.uk

Times – 11:30 to 4 pm.

UCL Knowledge Lab UCL Institute of Education, University College London, at 23-29 Emerald Street London WC1N 3QS


11:30 – 12:30 Representation in games session.  Panel-led discussion.  The panel will share 5 collaboratively identified problems relating to the analysis of representations in games with the workshop participants.  There will be live captioning for deaf participants so all speakers will need to identify themselves if they wish to be named on the transcript. Opt for anonymity if that’s your preference.

Panel members: Alison Harvey, Ewan Kirkland, Darshana Jayemanne, Diane Carr, Caroline Pelletier

12:30 – 1:30 Lunch provided

1:30 – 3:30 Representation and games production session

1:30 – 2:10  Presentation. Speaker: Nina Seppala, from UCL school of management speaking on key concepts and methods for researching representation in workplaces and organisations.

Comfort break and brief update ReFIG project and the UK Digra event on May 5th

2:30 – 3: 30  Panel-led discussion: Representation in games production: contexts, methods and diversity. We’ll be making a conventional audio recording for post-event transcription. All speakers will need to identify themselves if they wish to be named on the transcript. Opt for anonymity if that’s your preference.

Panel members: Aphra Kerr, Helen Kennedy, William Huber, Caroline Pelletier

3:30 – 4 pm Chaired discussion: Working in UK Higher Education 2017 – Measuring Up, Burning Out. Conventional audio recording with audience/microphone, for post-event transcription (anonymized). Chatham House Rules.

4:00 Close



More information: 

10:30 am – Pre workshop session ‘representation in games’ – panel meeting.  The ‘games and representation’ panel are going to meet for an hour before the event opens. We’ll collaborate to identity what we think are 5 key problems with ‘representation in games’ research. The issues might be conceptual, methodological, political, etc.  (note – live captioning is booked so we’ll be keeping to time).

Accessibility issues: Please contact the conveners if you have non-standard requirements. We will do our best to meet these.

Participation: The seminar is free to attend but places are limited and pre-registration is essential.

Address: UCL Knowledge Lab UCL Institute of Education, University College London 23-29 Emerald Street London WC1N 3QS

We will be working in compliance with ReFiG safer spaces policy http://www.refig.ca/safer-space-policy/

Scale: We are aiming for a maximum of 20 participants in total.

ReFiG:  Refiguring Innovation in Games (ReFiG) is a 5 year project supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. More information.


Notes for the day – DC
Representation – aka – is this any way to work? 

For me, representation in games is a way to talk about discourses of identity and power. It is not about saying ‘what games mean’ (though it does involve talking about meaning). Because it draws from media and cultural studies theory, it is not about making claims about the designers intentions, nor is it about predicting what games will mean to different players – although it might mean analysing the ‘ideal player’ or the player implied by a game. It is a way to write about one embodied act of interpretation (mine!) and to call out the ways that games – like other forms of popular culture – reflect the culture they emerge from, and it is a way to articulate aspects of my lived experience.

Recently I’ve been focusing on representations of ability and disability, and I’m working at the moment to expend this into forms of audience studies, and find ways to be more explicit about intersectionality – but I have issues and significant reservations that I’m still trying to address that relate to academic practice and the co-opting of experience that I associate with social methods (even ‘participatory’ methods), particular the co-opting of ‘marginal’ experiences for repurposing within a mainstream context (such as academia). I guess what I think about that, is that in circumstances where it changes the ways in which the topic is framed, then it feels valid. For example, my work on disability in games is a chance to intervene in the naturalized, dominant discourses that surround disability in mainstream culture – including the assumption that as a deaf person I am a person that needs to be fixed. In circumstances where an output empowers the researcher, while leaving the framing of the debate itself unchanged, then I might have questions.

Based on that – some of the questions or problems that I’d suggest for the ‘representation in games’ panel might be:

Shields up! Again. Still.
Do we really have to keep re-iterating the stuff that is really, really long and well established in media studies, i.e. that texts do not determine meanings, that meanings are not fixed, and that audiences (players, in this case) have agency and will make interpretations that are shaped by context, identity and affiliation?

On being clearly labelled.
Yes – feminist, obviously. If you can’t tell, is that your problem or mine?

Crimes of omission
If I don’t write about everything and everyone, every time, is that OK?

Fatal flaws
15 years ago people using media/literary/film/screen theory to talk about games were taken to one side at conferences and cautioned. Or repeatedly reminded to ‘remember the player’. Or denounced as disciplinary colonizers. Has anything changed? Can we be trusted?


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