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Recap: Oregon Game Studies Conference 2016

UO Think.Play hosted the second annual Oregon Games Studies conference on Saturday, Feb. 6, where the group spent the day having serious discussions about video games and the complex culture that has grown around the medium. The conference ran from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and was hosted in Education 176 on the University of Oregon campus.

“It was a huge improvement over last year in a lot of ways,” said UO Think.Play member Dante Douglas of this year’s conference. “Everyone got to talk and was lively. Attendance was also higher.”

The conference’s first panel started at noon and was hosted by Douglas with special guests Kahlief Adams, host of the Spawn on Me podcast, and Austin C. Howe, host of the Critical Switch podcast and creator of a series of academic essays that examine the narratology of video games.

The panel discussed the many effects that gaming has had on our culture and the ways with which our culture is reflected and preserved through gaming. Some specific topics that were discussed include the application of games as a gateway into the tech and science industries, the representation of consumerism and imperialism culture in games and narrative integrity of writing in games.

The second panel examined the way that games are able to represent romance in a unique manner due to their interactive nature. The panel was hosted by UO Think.Play member Ana Lind with guest speakers Sarah Buck, an artist and creator of the upcoming dating sim Space Cat Boyfriend and Nina Freeman, a game developer for Fullbright Studios and creator of the game Cibele. The guest speakers talked about the unique way that video games allow players to experience romantic storytelling, but also criticised games, particularly those in the otome game genre, for not using said potential.

At 2 p.m. the conference broke for a catered lunch and a showcase of local indie games from various guest speakers and attendees. Tegan Valo, a UO computer science major, brought a game he created for a game jam, Sticky Space, a four-player space-shooter that involves shooting random objects onto your opponents to slow them down. Chris Harback of Beardo Games, a Portland-based indie game developer, brought their upcoming kissing simulator game Smooth Operator, which will be released on iOS Thursday, Feb. 11. Cowboy Color Games from Eugene also brought their games Chargeshot and Sumo Puckii. Several other games from speakers and attendees were also available to play over the course of the break.

Austin C. Howe and Aidan Grealish followed this panel discussion; Howe presented one of his academic essays, “Masculinity in Final Fantasy,” which explored the masculine traits of two popular characters from the series – Cloud Strife and Squall Leonheart – and how their stoic demeanor affected their interpersonal relationships and mental health. Grealish then went on to give her presentation, on, which are various methods used by unsavory internet users to effectively ruin the lives of their victims through the exposure of real life information and anonymous threats. She focused particularly on the use of these tactics on women during the #Gamergate controversy.

The final panel of the day was on independent game development, with Nina Freeman, Chris Harbak and Kate Thomas of Beardo Games, and Laura E. Hall, manager of a real space escape game. The discussion focused on the unique way that indie game developers conceive game ideas. The guest speakers highlighted the great opportunities presented during game various game jams and talked about the struggles that one might face trying to create a game while also working a full-time job.

For those that missed the conference but are interested in the content of the discussion, UO Think.Play will post videos of the individual panels and presentations to YouTube within the following week.

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Mathew Brock

Mathew Brock