CEEGS 2014 FTW
On October 10-11, me and my colleagues from the MU Game Studies association organized the first Central and Eastern European Game Studies conference, which took place at the Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. We had a blast and according to the feedback so far, so did the participants.
Sometime in late 2013, we at the MU Game Studies crew were debating what to do next with the annual Czech conference we were holding in Brno. Out of the discussion arose the plan that next time, we will organize a serious “big boy” conference with formalized peer reviews, an international call, and well respected keynote speakers. Although we had next to no budget, we did not want to wait and decided to just go for it.
Along the way, we were greeted with a great amount of interest and support. Espen Aarseth accepted our invitation to become a keynote speaker – a choice fitting the foundational spirit of the conference. We were seriously overwhelmed by the number of abstracts we received and decided to go for a 2-track conference instead of the planned 1-track program. We had over 120 registered participants (organizers and volunteers not included) and around 50 speakers from both academia and game development, including folks from Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Germany, China, Turkey and Austria. The atmosphere was relaxed and inspiring, and thanks to our great volunteers, everything went absolutely smoothly.
As one of our guests put it, the conference started building a regional identity of game studies in Central and Eastern Europe, and discovered some common themes in our research. The history panel was a great example, as it brought together four different perspectives on games in the 1980s and 1990s Central and Eastern Europe. Karla Hoess and Jens Zirpins talked about the unique and forgotten video game consoles and arcade machines of the GDR (including a machine whose production was initiated by Stasi), Maria B. Garda and Paweł Grabarczyk presented on the 1990s “platform adventures” produced by Polish cottage industries for the Atari 8-bit computers, and Tom Bártek talked about the experience of the 1990s “post-communist” gamers. Another theme that was popping up was that of representation and “othering” of the region in Western games, as seen in talks by Pawel Schreiber, Pitor Sterczewski and Bartolomiej Schwaiger. I cannot mention (nor have I seen) everything, but overall, the quality of the talks was amazing given that it was the first year. All the talks will be uploaded soon.
The second day was more dev-oriented and featured great talks by Sos Sosowski of McPixel fame (narrating his personal story of a Eastern European dev), and Jiří Zlatohlávek of Bohemia Interactive, among others. At the end of the day, a discussion opened up about the relationship of game studies and the industry. And despite the puzzlement of some devs over our academic pursuits, a fruitful exchange followed, proving that there indeed is value in meeting of academics and professionals.
Tired and satisfied, we at MU Game Studies are happy about the outcome and eager to see CEEGS continue. At a network meeting during the conference, a consensus seemed to be forming that it is essential to organize CEEGS every year and that it would rotate among various hosting institutions. We have no further announcements yet, but this is most likely the way we will roll on.
Jaroslav Švelch, CEEGS program chair