Cultures of Play
How are values and beliefs reflected by games? How do games shape cultures and communities?
While games can create new and imaginary worlds, they also reflect the world in which they are made and the people that make them. Games are affected by the social and cultural realities impacting the people making them, as well as the lens through which these designers view the world.
At the Games & Society Lab, we consider games as part of the larger cultural and social structures surrounding them. We view games as works of art that not only reflect culture, but also shape how culture unfolds moving forward. We analyze these works of art in order to understand the ways in which social norms impact them, while also observing the ways in which people use games individually and in groups.
Exploring Cultures of Play
At the Games & Society Lab, we study the contexts within which games are made, played, and discussed. We are particularly interested in issues of inclusion and representation. Guiding questions at the Lab are:
How can we develop methods to make game design and the games industry more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable?
How can we create games that reflect and foster values of diversity, equity, inclusion, conscious representation, and sustainability?
How can we encourage these values in play communities?
We also study games as artifacts that are both shaped by culture and contribute to it. Artifacts are objects of artistic significance to particular cultural or subcultural groups. Questions of particular interest include:
How is the production and consumption of games impacted by ideological values and economic pressures?
How does the content of games reflect broader cultural trends, beliefs, and values?
How do players form social networks and subcultural activities around games?
Do games reproduce the dominant culture and normative behaviors or challenge them?
Can gaming communities become sites of resistance or counterculture?
We invite research from a wide variety of conceptual frameworks related to the theory, design, and study of games with regard to culture including, but not limited to:
Edited books or periodicals
Bowman, Sarah Lynne, Evan Torner, and William J. White, eds. 2021. International Journal of Role-Playing 11. View publication here
Eklund, Lina, Björn Sjöblom, and Patrick Prax. 2018. Spel på museer: Erfarenheter från spelutställningar. In Dataspelens Världar: Digitala spel som kultur och kulturärv, edited by P. Du Rietz Tekniska Museet. Stockholm, Sweden.
Prax, Patrick, et. al. (Forthcoming). “Teaching Sustainable Development: On Systemic Issues and Fake Excuses.” In The Climate Catastrophe: A Creative and Critical Survival Guide, edited by D. Binns and R. Najdowski. Intellect Books.
Prax, Patrick, and Paulina Rajkowska. 2021. ”Spelstudier.” In Digitala metoder i humaniora och samhällsvetenskap, edited by J. Jarlbrink and F. Norén. Studentlitteratur. Lund, Sweden.
Prax, Patrick. 2018. ”Deltagande i produktion av digitala spel som alternative medier.” In Dataspelens Världar: Digitala spel som kultur och kulturärv. edited by P. Du Rietz. Tekniska Museet. Stockholm, Sweden.
Prax, Patrick, and Paulina Rajkowska. 2018. “Problem Gaming from the Perspective of Treatment.” In What’s the Problem in Problem Gaming? - Nordic Research Perspectives, edited by Jessica Enevold, Anne Metter Thorhage, and Andreas Gregersen, 91-106. Nordicom. Göteborg, Sweden. View publication here
Eklund, Lina, Björn Sjöblom, and Patrick Prax. 2019. “Lost in Translation: Video games Becoming Cultural Heritage?” Cultural Sociology 13, no. 4 (June 27).
Nylund, Niklas, Prax, Patrick, and Olli Sotamaa. 2020. “Rethinking Game Heritage — Towards Reflexivity in Game Preservation.” International Journal of Heritage Studies: 268-280. View publication here
Prax, Patrick, Lina Eklund, and Björn Sjöblom. 2019. “‘More Like an Arcade’ – The Limitations of Playable Games in Museum Exhibitions.” Museum and Society 17, no. 3: 437-452.
Prax, Patrick, Niklas Nylund, Lina Eklund, Björn Sjöblom, and Olle Sköld. 2019. “Drawing Things Together: Understanding the Challenges and Opportunities of a Cross-LAM Approach to Digital Game Preservation and Exhibition.” The Nordic Journal of Cultural Policy 22, no. 2: 332-354. Download publication here
Prax, Patrick. 2018. “Between Global Competition, Marketing, Deviant Play, and Cheating – High-End Raiding in World of Warcraft.” Communication Sociali 1.
Prax, Patrick. 2017. “Co-Creativity in Online Games as Alternative Media.” Néothèque: 257-287. (In French).
Baird, Josephine and Sabine Harrer. 2021. "Challenging Systems of Play: Toward Game Design Ethics for Transgender Allyship." In The 16th International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games (FDG) 2021 (FDG’21), August 03–06, 2021, Montreal, QC, Canada. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 6 pages. View publication here
Prax, Patrick. (Forthcoming). “Networked Player Participation Makes All the Difference – A Comparison of Warhammer 40k Analog and on Tabletop Simulator.” In Proceedings of the 2022 DiGRA International Conference: ‘Bringing Worlds Together,’ Krakow, Poland.
Prax, Patrick. 2020. “Boal on a Boat – Teaching Critical Game Making.” In Proceedings of the 2020 DiGRA International Conference: Play Everywhere. View publication here
Prax, Patrick. 2019. “Is This Still Participation? A Case Study of the Disempowerment of Player Labourers.” In Proceedings of the 2019 DiGRA International Conference: Game, Play and the Emerging Ludo Mix. Kyoto, Japan. View publication here
Sihvonen, Tanja, Harrer, Sabine and Khattab, Mona. 2020. "Narrative Transformations and Cultural Appropriation. Placemaking in Assassin’s Creed: Origins Discovery Tour Mode." In The 16th International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games (FDG) 2021 (FDG’21), August 03–06, 2021, Montreal, QC, Canada. ACM, New York, NY, USA. View publication here
Prax, Patrick. 2019. “Nordic Interfaces – Gambling and Gaming from Research to Practice.” Keynote at the Preconference to The 12th SNSUS Conference, eSports, Loot Boxes, and (Ir)Responsible Gaming/Gambling. Workshop. Video linked here
Baird, Josephine. 2020. “The Mechanics and Misdirection of The Missing: Trans Exploration, Expression and Embodiment in Videogame-Based-Learning.” Paper presented at FROG: Future and Reality of Gaming 2020, Vienna, Austria.
Baird, Josephine and Sabine Harrer. 2021. "Challenging Systems of Play: Towards Game Design Ethics for Transgender Allyship." Paper presented at FDG21: Foundations of Digital Games 2021, Montreal, QC, Canada, August 3-6 2021.
Bowman, Sarah Lynne. 2022. “‘Let's Play a Love Game: Role-playing Intimacy and Relationships in Games.” Paper presented at Popular Culture Association, April 2022. (Forthcoming).
Bowman, Sarah Lynne. 2022. “Role-playing Games as Transformational Containers: Community, Skill, and Identity Development.” Paper presented at La Red de Investigadores de Juegos de Rol (RIJR) y la Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC), Feb. 26, 2022. (Forthcoming).
Bowman, Sarah Lynne, Josephine Baird, Kjell Hedgard Hugaas. 2021. “Liminal Intimacy: Role-playing Games as Catalysts for Interpersonal Growth and Relating.” Paper presented at Future and Reality of Gaming 2021, 15th Vienna Games Conference, Vienna Austria, November, 26th & 27th 2021. Video linked here
Bowman, Sarah Lynne, Josefin Westborg, Kjell Hedgard Hugaas, Josephine Baird. 2021. “Agents of Empowerment: A Role-playing Game in Service of Cultivating a Soulful and Sustainable Academia.” Presented at the Gamification for Sustainable Development at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland, December 15, 2021. Video linked here
Bowman, Sarah Lynne, and Kjell Hedgard Hugaas. 2021. “Magic is Real: How Role-playing Can Transform Our Identities, Our Communities, and Our Lives.” In Book of Magic: Vibrant Fragments of Larp Practices, edited by Kari Kvittingen Djukastein, Marcus Irgens, Nadja Lipsyc, and Lars Kristian Løveng Sunde. Oslo, Norway: Knutepunkt, 2021.
Carletto-Leon, Francesca, Marina Diez, Monica Fan, Lindsay Grace, Kate Gray, Sabine Harrer, Aubrey Isaacman, Josie Robo, Aubrey Scott. 2021. “Sexy Microtalks: Making with Emotion.” Artist talk at GDC 2021. Video linked here
Custodio, Leonardo, and Sabine Harrer. “Anti-Racist Literacy in Games? A Conversation.” Presented at Clash of Realities: 12th International Conference on the Art, Technology, and Theory of Digital Games, November 18-19, 2021. Online.
Harrer, Sabine. 2021. “Artist Talk.” Artist talk at UCLA Game Lab, Design Media Arts Department, February 2021.
Harrer, Sabine. 2021. “Performing Whiteness through Play.” Invited lecture at Critical Perspectives on Technology, March 4, 2021.
Harrer, Sabine. 2021. “Playing With Grief: My PhD Journey.” Guest lecture at the University of the Witswatersrand, Digital Arts Department, May 5, 2021.
Harrer, Sabine. 2021. “Trauerarbeit mit Games (German).” Guest lecture at LAG Jugend und Film. YouTube, September 13. Video linked here
Harrer, Sabine, and Outi Laiti. 2021. “Outside the Racist Nostalgia Box: Rethinking Afrikan Tähti’s Cultural Depictions.” Paper presentation at Ropecon Academic Seminar, July 30-August 1, 2021.
Jarrell, Marie, Outi Laiti, Mia Consalvo, and Sabine Harrer. 2020. “Is Trying Our Best Good Enough? Representation in Games Research and Development.” Panel at CHI Play 2020, November 2-5, 2020. Online.
Johansson, Magnus. 2021. “A Better Tomorrow.” Invited panel at BUFF international Film Festival 2021, LadyBug Festival and Sveriges Unga Akademi.
Linnamäki, Jori. 2020. “An Approach to Board Game Design that Centres Allyship and Empowers Trans People.” Paper presented at FROG: Future and Reality of Gaming 2020, Vienna, Austria.
Linnamäki, Jori, and Josephine Baird. 2020. “A Reflection on the Ethical Decision-making Process during Participatory Game Design with and for Vulnerable Populations.” Paper presented at Gender Studies Conference 2020: Reclaiming Futures, Tampere University, Finland.
Prax, Patrick. (Forthcoming). “Gamechangers of 40k - The Professionalization and Commodification of Warhammer 40k.” In The 2022 DiGRA International Conference: “Bringing Worlds Together.” Krakow, Poland.
Prax, Patrick. 2021. “From Talking about Loot Boxes to Discussing Political Economy – Conceptualizing Critical Game Literacy.” Nordmedia 2021. Reykjavik, Iceland.
Prax, Patrick. 2021. “Networked Player Participation makes all the Difference – A Comparison of Warhammer 40k Analog and on Tabletop Simulator.” Ropecon 2021. Tampere, Finland.
Prax, Patrick. 2019. “Two Sides of the Same Game: Esports between Participatory Culture and Entrepreneurship.” Abstract presentation at 2019 DiGRA International Conference: Game, Play and the Emerging Ludo Mix. Kyoto, Japan.
Prax, Patrick. 2018. “Gaming vs. Gambling: Can They be Treated Together?” Presentation at DiGRA 2018. Turin, Italy.
Prax, Patrick. 2018. “Let´s kill it while the devs are sleeping!” – The Struggle for Defining the Game of High-End Raiding in “World of Warcraft”. Panel presentation at DiGRA 2018. Turin, Italy.
Prax, Patrick. 2018. “More like an Arcade” – The limitations of playable games in museum exhibitions. Pre-conference presentation at DiGRA 2018. Turin, Italy. View publication here
Prax, Patrick. 2018. “Where the Logics of Political Economy and Exhibition Meet: Towards an Explanation for the Lack of Subversive and Participatory Practices in Game Exhibitions.” Panel Participation at Nordic DiGRA 2018. Bergen, Norway. View slides here
Prax, Patrick. 2017. “Dimensions of Participatory Game Design in Online Games.” NordMedia: Mediated Realities - Global Challenges. Tampere, Finland.
Prax, Patrick. 2017. “Political Participation as a Lens for Understanding Co-creation and Exploitation Practices.” The ACM SIGCHI Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play (CHI PLAY). Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Prax, Patrick, and N. Carpentier. 2017. “The Multiples Struggles of Participatory Game Design.” IAMCR 2017: Transforming Culture, Politics & Communication: New Media, New Territories, New Discourses. Cartagena, Columbia.
Sihvonen, Tanja, Harrer, Sabine and Khattab, Mona. 2020. "Narrative Transformations and Cultural Appropriation. Placemaking in Assassin’s Creed: Origins Discovery Tour Mode." Paper presented at FROG: Future and Reality of Gaming 2020, Vienna, Austria.
Toft, Ida, and Sabine Harrer. 2020. “Design Bleed: A Community Affirming Game Design Methodology.” Paper presented at QGCon: The Queerness and Games Conference, May 14, 2021. Video linked here
Invited Talks and Collaborations with Civic Society
Prax, Patrick. 2018. ”Klickfiske i spelvärlden – hur ser ansvarsfull speldesign ut?” Invited talk at Almedalsveckans. Organized by Svenska Spel. View event here
Prax, Patrick. 2018. ”Gaming disorder - Sjuk av dataspel.” Invited talk at Almedalsveckans. Organized by Stödlinjen; 2018. View event here
Prax, Patrick. 2018. “Expert in Swedish National TV on User Data Collection in Facebook and Social Media.” TV4 News Morning, March 4.
Prax, Patrick. 2019. ”Går det att prata sig till bättre psykisk hälsa?” Invited talk at Almedalsveckans. Organized by Suntprat. View event here
Prax, Patrick. 2019. “What is Problem Gaming and What Can We Do About It?” Invited talk at Nordsken. Video linked here
Prax, Patrick. 2018. ”What is the Problem with Gaming?" Invited talk at Gotland Municipality.
Service and General Education
Prax, Patrick. 2018. “Problem Gaming and Treatment.” Family Therapy Centre of Gotland.
Popular Interviews and Appearances
Harrer, Sabine. 2021. “Forscherin: ‘Spiele aus den 50ern sind von Rassismus durchzogen.’” Kurier, August 31, 2021.
Games & Society Lab
Click here to learn more about the Transformative Play Initiative Seminar on Role-playing, Culture and Heritage.