The Bristol Digital Game Lab showcased a vibrant array of events throughout autumn 2023, providing a platform for scholars, students, and enthusiasts to delve into the multifaceted world of digital gaming.
The Lab initiated the academic year with a thought-provoking online roundtable on October 24, where experts and major UK game lab leads gathered to discuss the implications of the Video Games Research Framework (launched by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in May) on individual research, and how game labs, centres, and networks could support its aims. The event featured two esteemed keynote speakers: Prof. Peter Etchells, who was involved in drafting the Framework, and Dr Tom Brock, the Chair of British DiGRA.
Later in October, we judged the University of Bristol Computer Science Society 2023 GameJam, offering prizes for Best Narrative and Most Technically Accomplished. A very impressive range of entries, with over 70 students creating a total of 17 games! It was a pleasure to judge alongside the MyWorld Skills and Training team.
The Computer Science Society Game Jam 2023
Following this, on October 31, the Lab collaborated with Digital Scholarship @Oxford and organised a hybrid panel and roundtable titled “Music and Sound in Games.” Expert speakers from both industry and academia dissected the impact of music on gaming narratives, characters, and emotional engagement. The digital roundtable facilitated by Dr Richard Cole further delved into critical conversations surrounding this fascinating aspect of game design.
The Music and Sound in Games hybrid roundtable.
November brought a Research Seminar in collaboration with the Department of Classics and Ancient History. Dr Dunstan Lowe, Senior Lecturer in Latin Literature at the University of Kent, presented on “History is not the Past”: Videogame Design and The Ancient Mediterranean. The seminar explored how video games portray ancient history, emphasising the diverse ways in which different genres and playstyles influence the conceptualisation of ancient worlds within digital games.
Dr Dunstan Lowe presenting his research seminar.
Towards the end of November, the Lab hosted an exciting inaugural event, the ‘Concept’ Game Jam, co-organised with the Centre for Creative Technologies and sponsored by MyWorld. The Game Jam challenged the 40 participants to explore how gaming mechanisms could shed light on the biases embedded in algorithms, especially in the realm of machine learning and AI. It stimulated creative thinking about the intersection of gaming and algorithmic bias and some teams came up with innovative working prototypes. We will be publishing the games developed, along with a film of the event, in the new year.
December started with the Antiquity Games Night, a novel monthly online meetup organised by Dr Richard Cole and Alexander Vandewalle (University of Antwerp/Ghent University). Scholars, students, and designers will gather to play antiquity games, fostering an engaging space that blends academic discussions with gaming experiences.
Closing the year on a festive note, the Lab brought back its “Festive Gaming” event on December 14. This event invited participants to join in for an evening of social gaming, featuring the latest releases and playtests of upcoming games. The lineup included a fantastic lineup of local developers, including Catastrophic Overload, Meaning Machine, and Auroch Digital, as well as a former University of Bristol student group who developed the Escape from Pompeii board game as part of their Classics and Ancient History degree in 2023. Festive Gaming provided a platform for networking, exploration, and celebration within the gaming community.
Festive Gaming 2023
In summary, the Bristol Digital Game Lab’s 2023 events were a testament to the diversity and richness of the digital gaming landscape. From scholarly discussions on research frameworks and ancient history to hands-on game jams and festive gaming, the Lab succeeded in creating a dynamic space that catered to a broad spectrum of interests within the gaming community. The Lab has expanded to a network with more than 150 members, gaining increasing recognition internationally.
Looking ahead to 2024, we will be hosting an ECR/Postgraduate work-in-progress event in January, followed by a series of industry talks with a headline from Ndemic Creations, a roundtable on accessibility, as well as a conference on New Directions in Classics, Gaming, and Extended Reality. We look forward to seeing you there!
Thanks to Dr Xiaochun Zhang for this wrap up to what has been an exciting year.