Mario is Missing! Inaugural Lecture

Professor James Newman (Bath Spa) delivered the Bristol Digital Game Lab inaugural research seminar on Friday 4 November 2022 at the Pervasive Media Studio. James’ title was Mario is Missing! Playing, not playing and preserving videogamesIt was a tremendous talk, full of side quests, easter eggs, and nostalgia, not to mention a call to arms for how to preserve all the different ways to play video games. After the talk, the Bristol Digital Game Lab were special guests at the First Friday social event, where we introduced our aims and networked with creative professionals working at the Studio. Many thanks to James for headlining our seminar series, and to the Pervasive Media Studio and the Watershed for hosting us.

One attendee kindly wrote the following feedback on Twitter.

A fantastic talk! Full of ideas for cultural historians thinking about the problems from the other direction: what practices of play history *didn’t* preserve, and what we do now. Thank you #BristolDigitalGameLab!’

For those unable to attend, you can gain a sense of the talk from James’ summary:

At a time when there are more gaming platforms and titles available than ever before, it might seem strange to claim that videogames are disappearing. And yet, despite their apparent abundance, the processes of material and digital deterioration render hardware and software unusable as hard drives fail, discs become unreadable, activation servers are re-allocated and newly released systems offer no compatibility with existing libraries of games and peripherals. Adding to this, journalistic, retail and marketing practices fuel a marketplace of perpetual innovation that rationalises and justifies the rapidity of supersession and obsolescence. As such, videogames are, without doubt, disappearing and the continued – and accelerating – loss of this material denies future generations access to their cultural heritage and robs the next generation of developers historical reference material to draw on. As Henry Lowood (2009) pointed out more than a decade ago, we need to take action ‘before it’s too late’.

Building on ideas outlined in publications including Best Before (2012) and the *Game Over* (2018) and *Time Extend!* (2020) White Papers, this session considers different approaches to preserving, interpreting and exhibiting videogames. In particular, the talk revisits some underlying presuppositions and proposes a rethinking of the objective of game preservation that shifts away from the dominant assumption that the aim of game preservation is to retain long-term playability. Instead, the talk suggests ways of considering play as a complex collection of practices that need to be captured and preserved. The session concludes by exploring the application of these ideas and some innovative uses of emulation in exhibits such as the ‘Game Inspector’ developed for the National Videogame Museum where Newman is a curator and researcher.


Lowood, H. (2009) ‘Before It’s Too Late: A Digital Game Preservation White Paper’, American Journal of Play, 2(2) pp. 139-166.

Newman J. and Simons I. (2020) *TIME EXTEND! The future of curating, preserving and exhibiting videogames*. White Paper.

Newman, J. and Simons, I. (2018) *Game Over? Videogame preservation, exhibition and curation*. White Paper.

Newman, J. (2012) Best Before: videogames, supersession and obsolescence. New York; Routledge.

Computer Science Society Game Jam

On the 2nd & 3rd November 2022, the Computer Science Society at the University of Bristol held their annual games jam. The theme: It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!

The Bristol Digital Game Lab sponsored two prizes, including Most Accessible Game and Best Engagement with History and Culture. We were delighted to take part in the judging alongside colleagues from Ardman, MyWorld, and the University of Bristol.

Huge congratulations to the students, who built fantastic games from scratch in ~30 hours incorporating innovative artwork, design choices and narratives. It was difficult to select a winner, but Jordan’s appropriately titled Magnum Opus impressed us in most categories, with its stop motion aesthetic and nod to video game history. You can see Jordan’s work online: Magnum Opus by LeverSoftware (

Made in Bristol: Games Showcase

Advertising image for the Bristol Games Showcase

We were delighted to sponsor the Made in Bristol: Games Showcase event on Thursday 27 October 2022. This event, run by the fantastic Bristol Game Hub, took the form of a public showcase of games released or in development from local developers. The Bristol Digital Game Lab was also there in person, demonstrating both the AD4Games project and the Virtual Reality Oracle (pictured below). We thoroughly enjoyed this lively, social evening, and the chance to share ideas with, as well as take feedback from, local industry players. We’re looking forward to getting involved with more industry-led events!

A banner of the Virtual Reality Oracle Project and VR headsets on chairs

Bristol Digital Game Lab Events 2022

We are delighted to share details of several upcoming events and activities that the Bristol Digital Game Lab is organizing and/or involved with. We hope to see many of you there!


Come and help us launch the Bristol Digital Game Lab! On Wednesday 7 September at 18:00, we will be hosting a launch/networking event in Clifton Hill House, following a full day workshop on game accessibility. We look forward to sharing our vision with you.


On Thursday 27 October at 18:30, the Bristol Digital Game Lab will be sponsoring the Made in Bristol: Games Showcase, organized by the Bristol Games Hub. We will also be sharing the outcomes from University of Bristol game-based and immersive projects at the event, including the AD4Games project and the VR simulation from the Virtual Reality Oracle project. All welcome to come and enjoy some games, pizza, and drinks. Please sign up via Meetup.


On Thursday 3 November, the Bristol Digital Game Lab will be helping to judge the University of Bristol GamesJam, which will see up to 100 Computer Science undergraduates take part in a games design challenge. We will also be sponsoring two prizes, including one on accessibility.

Join us on Friday 4 November at 15:30 for the inaugural Bristol Digital Game Lab research seminar, Mario is Missing! – Guest Lecture by Prof. James Newman. This event will be held in the Pervasive Media Studio at the Watershed, Bristol. The lecture is in person only; please register via Eventbrite as there are a limited number of spaces. The seminar will be followed by the First Friday November social at the PM Studio at 17:00, where we can continue to discuss all things game related; everyone is welcome to join us.


Come and play some games with us!  

To mark the end of the year, on Wednesday 7 December 18:00-20:00, the Bristol Digital Game Lab will be hosting a social play session. Thanks to the support of special guests and local developers Catastrophic Overload and Play Well for Life, you will have the opportunity to try out some of the latest social games, and playtest others that have not yet been released! 

We will also hear from international special guest Loki, who are visiting from Spain, about their work translating games across languages and cultures. 

The event will be held at the University of Bristol, in the Humanities Research Space (1.H020), 7 Woodland Road, Bristol, BS8 1TB. We look forward to seeing you there, and to hearing your thoughts on the games. 

Book now to avoid disappointment

2023 and beyond…

We have lots of plans in train for 2023, including an early career research showcase in January, a UK Game Lab Summit in February, and a conference on Virtual Realities as Time Travel in May. If you have any ideas for future events that we can help out with, please just let us know!

Gaming and VR Workshop for Bristol Data Week

A collage featuring a Zoom call and people looking at banners for research projects

Back in June, as part of Bristol Data Week, the Bristol Digital Game Lab ran an introductory seminar and gaming/VR workshop.

In the seminar, we looked at using historical data to reconstruct the past virtually, analysing audience data and the impact of games, intellectual property challenges for videogame preservation, using audience feedback to build accessible games, and discussed the aims and vision of the Game Lab.

We also hosted a play session where participants could try out two virtual experiences being developed at the University of Bristol. These included:

  • The AD4Games project which investigates how audio description can improve game accessibility by working with professional audio describers, game developers, and visually impaired participants. The project uses the BAFTA nominated game Before I Forget, developed by two of the project partners, to conduct experiments, testing ways audio description can enhance game accessibility.
  • The Virtual Reality Oracle, which recreates an immersive, virtual reality experience of visiting the ancient oracle of Zeus at Dodona in the 5th century BCE. The Virtual Reality Oracle is an AHRC-funded research project led by Professor Esther Eidinow at the University of Bristol, with an interdisciplinary team from Bristol, KCL and the University of Bath.

You can catch the recording of the seminar on YouTube.

The Bristol Digital Game Lab – Launched!

Attendees of the launch event smiling at the camera

The Bristol Digital Game Lab was formally launched on Wednesday 7 September 2022 in the beautiful surroundings of Clifton Hill House, following a successful full day workshop on game accessibility. The event was opened by Professor Hilary Carey, the Faculty of Arts Research Director, who spoke about how play is essential to the human condition. Attendees also heard about the vision for the Game Lab, including the focus on networking, partnerships, research, and innovation. Xiaochun and Richard also shared their inspiration for starting up the Lab (hint, they both love games, work in the same Faculty, and happen to have research interests in gaming!). The remainder of the event was given over to networking between local game developers, academic researchers in Bristol and Bath, and industry professionals. Our thanks to all who came.

Introducing the Bristol Digital Game Lab at the University of Bristol

Article originally posted on LinkedIn on 6 September 2022.

How can we study and contribute to the development of digital games today?

The Bristol Digital Game Lab is a new research group at the University of Bristol launching in September 2022, coordinated by Dr Xiaochun Zhang and Dr Richard Cole. The Lab, which is based in the Faculty of Arts, will bring together researchers and practitioners from a radically diverse range of perspectives. This includes translation and accessibility, history, comparative literature, law, computer science, AI, game design, and beyond.

The aim of the Lab is to chart new possibilities for collaboration, both across disciplines and between Higher Education and the gaming industry, with digital games as a shared object of interest. By exploring crosscutting themes in a collaborative environment, we hope to contribute to ongoing debates about the nature and impact of games, while also co-creating new ways to develop, play, and test ideas using games. To this end, the Lab will offer researchers and practitioners the opportunity to experience a variety of games on the latest hardware, as well as the chance to get involved in generating their own.

Our areas of interest are as follows:


The Lab will establish a cross-disciplinary network of researchers and industry professionals working on games as well as extended reality more broadly, from early career scholars to creative directors. The network, like the industry itself, will be regional, national, and international. The Lab will support colleagues through brokerage events and themed meetings.


The Lab will connect researchers to a thriving regional, national, and international industry with the aim to facilitate knowledge exchange and explore collaborative outcomes. The Lab will host industry showcases, invite guest speakers, and foster sustainable partnerships with the creative industries.


The Lab will support research in gaming and extended reality through a series of research-sharing events and discussions focused on crosscutting themes. Such themes will include, but are not limited to, game localisation and accessibility, history and cultural heritage in games, VR and immersive technologies, audience experiences and analytics, the Metaverse and gaming ethics, (serious) games and education, games and society, intellectual property, modding, and game design. Building on the University’s investment in state-of-the-art gaming facilities, the Lab will also encourage play-as-research and interactive brainstorming to identify future outputs and areas of interest.

For a taster of our current research, you can hear from Xiaochun, Richard, and Dr Yin Harn Lee in the Bristol Digital Game Lab Seminar that we delivered for Bristol Data Week in June 2022.


The Lab will act as an incubator for innovative projects by opening up the University of Bristol’s gaming facilities and expertise, as well as by connecting interested parties. We will deliver skills development workshops, playtest ideas, and co-create new experiences.

How can you get involved?

  • Please email us if you would like to join the Game Lab and hear about our research/events. We will be offering both remote and in-person activities.
  • Let us know what you are working on and what you would like the Game Lab to do. We particularly welcome enquires from those working in the games industry or at the intersection of gaming and other sectors.


Dr Xiaochun Zhang ( is Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies. Her research interests lie primarily in audiovisual translation with a specific interest in video game localisation and accessibility. Currently, she is working on the AD4Games project which applies audio description in video games to enhance accessibility for players with vision loss.

Dr Richard Cole ( is an interdisciplinary scholar working on digital/virtual representations of antiquity. He is currently part of the multi-disciplinary team on the Virtual Reality Oracle project at the University of Bristol, where he holds the role of Research Associate in Ancient Greek History and Virtual Reality. Richard has published on the role of video games and historical fiction more broadly in shaping public perceptions of history.