10th VAST International Symposium on Virtual Reality, Archeology and Cultural Heritage

First call for papers:

10th VAST International Symposium on Virtual Reality, Archeology and Cultural Heritage
7th Eurographics Workshop on Graphics and Cultural Heritage


September 22-25, 2009, Valletta, Malta


Call for Papers

-Towards a “digital agenda” for the integration of technologies into Archeology and Cultural Heritage-

Nearly every organization whose mission includes promoting access to cultural information, is well aware of the value of digital applications, and digital technologies are finding their way into cultural organizations. Nevertheless, a clear-cut division still exists between humanities researchers, computer science researchers, information scientists, librarians, and campus technologists, which prevents a complete achievement of the  potential represented by the integration of these disciplines. Each community has distinctive practices, lingo, assumptions, and concerns. Understanding technology needs of the humanities, and more specifically of Archaeology, Libraries and Cultural Heritage, has particular relevance to the future of knowledge and education delivery, as well as, to develop shared technology services to enhance humanities research now and in the future.

The main goal of this VAST is to bring together professionals from all fields to start a true dialogue on CH needs and ICT solutions and achieve a true integration of disciplines. This VAST aims at disseminating the idea of a more systematic integration of digital practices in research and education programs for CH, exploring good practices, guidelines and skills development possibilities to structure long-term initiatives and move towards a “digital agenda” for Archaeology, Libraries and CH.

This is why we are seeking contributions that advance the state of the art in the technologies available to support sustainability of human heritage.

– 2/3/4D Data Capture and Processing in CH
– Augmentation of physical collections with digital presentations
– Data Acquisition Technologies
– Digital Libraries
– Digital capture and annotation of intangible heritage (performance, audio, dance, oral)
– Interactive Environments and Applications for CH
– Long term preservation of digital artefacts
– Metadata, classification schema, ontologies and semantic processing
– Multilingual applications, tools and systems for CH
– Multimedia Data Acquisition, Management and Archiving
– Multi-modal interfaces and rendering for CH
– On-site and remotely sensed data collection
– Professional and Ethical Guidelines
– Serious games in CH
– Standards and Documentation
– Storytelling and Design of Heritage Communications
– Tools for Education and Training in CH
– Usability, Effectiveness and Interface Design for CH Applications
– Visualization

Archeology: Dr Zahi Hawass – General Secretary of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt
Museums: Mme. Christiane Naffah – Director of the Research and Restoration Center for France Museums

The best papers presented at VAST 2009 will be selected for re-submission on a special edition of the upcoming ACM Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage (JOCCH), an online, peer reviewed publication.

VAST 2009 introduces the “VAST-STate-of-the-Art Reports (VAST-STARs)”, inspired by the EG STARs. These are papers providing useful novel overviews of research in the fields of computer graphics, computer science  and related fields that can benefit the multidisciplinary nature of VAST. They are survey papers in what the community considers important areas that have not been covered before or recently. Their aim is to give a detailed account of the principles, algorithms and open problems of a research area, so that an interested reader can quickly become up to speed in this field.  We warmly encourage all colleagues to submit to the VAST-STARs reports. The VAST-STARs will be published with the full papers and are also eligible for the best paper award. Two VAST-STARs will be selected by peer review and will be published in the EG proceedings together with the full papers.  VAST-STARs authors will present their work with a 60 minute presentation during VAST 2009.

We are soliciting five types of contributions:

=Full research papers presenting new innovative results. These papers will be published by Eurographics in a high-quality proceedings volume.

=VAST-STARs providing a useful novel overview of research in the fields of computer graphics, computer science  and related fields that can benefit the multidisciplinary nature of VAST.

=Project papers focusing on on-going projects, the description of project organization, use of technology, and lesson learned not innovative technical content. These papers will have an oral presentation and will be included in a “Projects & Short Papers” proceedings volume. Authors will have the option to present a poster during the breaks to provide more information regarding the project.

=Short papers presenting preliminary ideas and works-in-progress. These papers will have an oral presentation and will be published in the “Projects & Short Papers” proceedings volume.

=Tutorials and Workshops: half-day and full-day working sessions that provide an opportunity to educate and share on key topics of interest face-to-face. Tutorial submissions will be published in the “Projects & Short Papers” proceedings volume. Workshops that provide supplemental materials in time for the CD-ROM printing will also be included. All material will be made available on the VAST 2009 website.

All types of submissions will be reviewed and feedback given to the authors. See detailed information on the VAST 2009 website under Submissions.

Event Committee: Kurt Debattista – University of Warwick, Sandro Spina – University of Malta
Program Committee: Cinzia Perlingieri – University of California at Berkeley, Denis Pitzalis – The Cyprus Institute, STARC
Local Organisational Committee: Sandro Spina – University of Malta, Chris Porter – University of Malta, Keith Bugeja – University of Warwick.
VAST-STARs Committee: Fotis Liarokapis (Coventry University – UK), Michael Ashley – University of California at Berkeley

– ISC –
Achille Felicetti (PIN – University of Florence)
Aderito Marcos (Universidade do Minho – Portugal)
Alan Chalmers (University of Warwick – UK)
Alan Smeaton (Dublin City University – Ireland)
Alberto Proenca (Universidade do Minho – Portugal)
Daniel Pletinckx (Visual Dimension – Belgium)
Daniel Thalmann (Virtual Reality Lab – Switzerland)
David Arnold (University of Brighton – UK)
Erik Champion (Massey University – New Zealand)
Eva Zányi (University of Warwick – UK)
Fotis Liarokapis (Coventry University – UK)
Graeme Earle (University of Southampton)
Holly Rushmeier (Yale University – USA)
Kriste Sibul (ICOM-CC – Estonia)
Jean Angelo Beraldin (National Research Council – Canada)
Juan Barcelo (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona – Spain)
Michael Ashley (University of California at Berkeley)
Milena Dobreva  (Institute of Mathematics and Informatics – Bulgaria)
Karina Rodriguez-Echavarria (University of Brighton – UK)
Luis Paulo Santos (Universidade do Minho – Portugal)
Mercedes Farjas (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid – Spain)
Nadia Thalmann (MIRALAB – Switzerland)
Paolo Cignoni (ISTI – CNR -Italy)
Robert Sablatnig (Vienna University of Technology – Austria)
Roberto Scopigno (ISTI-CNR – Italy)
Sofia Pescarin (CNR – Italy)
Stephen Stead (Paveprime Ltd – UK)
Vittore Casarosa (CNR – Italy)
Maria Theodoridou (FORTH – Institute of Computer Science – Greece)
Bianca Falcidieno (CNR – Italy)
Isabelle Bloch (ENST – France)

Abstract submission (full/project/short/workshops/tutorials/VAST-STARs): 12th May 2009 (23:59 PTZ)
Paper submission for full papers and short papers: 15th May 2009 (23:59 PTZ)
Author notification: 21st June 2009
Camera-ready: 28th June 2009

Conference Web Site: http://www.vast2009.org/
Event Chairs: Kurt Debattista, Sandro Spina – org_committee<at>vast2009.org
Program Chairs: Cinzia Perlingieri, Denis Pitzalis – prog_committee<at>vast2009.org
General Info/Organisation/Logistics: Sandro Spina – info<at>vast2009.org

Report on the Greek and Roman Games in the Computer Age Conference, Trondeheim, Norway

From Andrew Reinhard, a report on the recent short conference detailing the nascent Classicists-discover-computer-games movement:

A revolution is happening now and the flashpoint is Scandinavia. Both Sweden and Norway have fought and won to keep Classics as a vital and viable subject of study at the secondary school and university level. Activist bloggers like Moa Ekbom in Sweden (see her Latinblogg), and activist students like Magnus Eriksson in Norway have been responsible for rescuing canceled Classics programs while at the same time finding ways to resuscitate Classics, promoting and publicizing both Latin and Greek as important for contemporary audiences, not just relating to scholarship, but also to popular culture, stripping the stigma of elitism from Classics and proving that Classical Studies is indeed essential for anyone.

The Greek and Roman Games in the Computer Age conference was organized by Classics professors Thea Selliaas Thorsen and Staffan Wahlgren, both of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology just outside of Trondheim, Norway. The first of its kind, this conference sought to survey Classics in computer games and virtual worlds as presented by fifteen speakers from Norway, Sweden, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Full report here. I note one of the games mentioned is Caesar IV, which I’ve written about a number of times on this blog. Another series of blog posts from the conference floor live here. I look forward to future iterations of this conference, and hope they come to this side of the pond so I stand a chance of attending.

Stone Age Online Game: Greenland

From Terra Nova:

A main goal of the synthetic worlds initiative at Indiana University is to develop large games as research environments. To test some ideas, we have prepared a browser-based game of kingdoms, trade, diplomacy, and warfare in the stone age. The world is called Greenland and it enters open beta today. We invite those interested in such things to help us by testing the environment and contributing reactions and criticism to the forums.

To enter Greenland, go to http://greenlandgame.com/ and choose the Mercator server (the other two servers are closed for internal testing).You will need a code to register for the server; it is GLOPENACCESS.

If you have questions or problems, please contact our community manager Matt Falk at mfalk@umail.iu.edu.

They say ‘stone age’, but I doubt they mean an archaeologically-informed rendering of the Neolithic in code. But I could be wrong:

Greenland is a game of late neolithic society. Tribes of hunter-gatherers have begun to settle into farming communities. Players are leaders of these tribes, claiming spaces on a browser-based hexagonal map that contains rivers, woods, mountains, and grassland. They can assign the populations of these spaces as a labor force to extract resources from the various types of terrain. With good management, players can grow their populations and lay claim to more hexes. In so doing, players will come into conflict with other players over space and resources.

Contact: Edward Castronova (castro@indiana.edu)

From their website, it appears a bit more Civilization-ish:

The goal of Greenland is to gain the highest rank possible and expand your kingdom, accumulating territory, resources, and the respect (or fear!) of the other budding nations you’ll come into contact with. Greenland is a turn-based game, and you can input one turn per day. You can place commands and update or change your commands until 3am (US Eastern) server time, but the turn locks and all players’ orders are finalized at 3am (US Eastern).

How to survive your first turns:

1) You cannot expand your clan unless you are an active leader. Thus, MAKE SURE YOU SUBMIT ACTIONS EVERY DAY. Moreover, make sure you do this BEFORE 3am (US Eastern).

2) In particular, Folk DIE if they are not fed. And when the population of a given hex dwindles below 100 Folk, the hex is lost. Every turn, there will be two actions automatically added to all of your hexes. These actions will automatically allocate some of your current resources towards the creation of Bread in order to sustain your current population level. If you decide that you want to grow your Folk rather than merely sustain your current population level, you can submit additional Bread and Folk Build commands. In this manner your Folk will not die if you forget to feed them, and you can grow your population if you desire! As your population grows or dwindles, adjust the number of Folk allocated to Bread production accordingly to keep your population stable.

3) To produce Bread, click or hover over the CLAN menu (at the top of the page, just above the game area). Select BAKE, from the drop-down menu. On the right hand side of the screen, adjust the amount of folk you wish to allocate to baking bread. When you’re sure of your decision, click on the SUBMIT button to perform the action. It will then be added to your Actions Log at the bottom of the screen.

4) In addition to Folk, Tools and Water can also each be applied towards Bread production in order to increase the amount produced. You start off with 500 Tools, so why not allocate them to Bread production for now? To do this, follow the instructions above mentioned for producing Bread, and then also allocate Tools before clicking the SUBMIT button. And remember, unlike most other resources, Tools are not lost when used, so you can re-allocate them again on the next turn.

IMPORTANT!!! Once you have created Bread, you must actually feed it to your Folk! Remember that the automatic actions will feed enough of it to your population to sustain it, but you want to grow more folk, you must do it manually. To do this, once again open the CLAN menu. From the menu, select FEED and then allocate the desired amount of Bread to keep your population alive. After you input the desired amount of Bread, look below the submit button. There you will see a report of your population change based on the number of Bread you have entered.

5) Once you get a feel for the share of Folk you must allocate for maintaining your population, start experimenting with the Folk that are left over. Extract resources, Build more Folk or Tools. Your population will be easier to maintain and expand if they have Houses to rest in at night. Once you get a big enough population, you may even try to take the first step in empire-building: Settling into an adjacent hex. All of these actions are available through the drop-down menus at the top of the game screen.

There, now you’ll be ruling like a pro! May your folk be prosperous and your empire strong! And remember, if you have any concerns not addressed here, feel free to visit the Greenland Forums (http://forum.swiprojects.com) to post your questions.

Your First turns: You will start with 500 Folk, 500 Houses, and 500 Tools. Click on any hex that you currently occupy or any hex adjacent to an occupied hex and select available actions from the drop-down menu. TIP: Folk with Houses require less Bread, as Houses are built your population will grow and you will be able to allocate your Folk to harvesting resources surrounding your hex or to building Houses.

Settling: When settling you should send at least 300 Folk in order to colonize a new hex. Be careful, if your hex falls below 100 Folk, it will be abandoned. There is also a 1000 Folk limit, as well as a limit of 1000 of each resource per hex; overflow will be discarded.TIP: It is important to bring bread and, if possible, materials with you when you settle a new hex. Settling a new hex is dangerous and difficult, so you do not want to waste time and Folk harvesting what you already have in surplus.

Resources: Different terrain hexes yield different resources. To extract a resource, click on the resource hex and select “Harvest Resources” from the Production drop-down menu. While not always necessary, Resources increase productivity when creating Refined Resources or extracting other Resources. Water is used in making Bread. Wood is used for nearly everything (including Houses, Tools, Paths, and combat forces). Stone is used for making Paths, Ditches and Tools. Ore is used for making weapons and can also make Tools.

TIP: The only required resource when extracting and creating in your first few turns are Folk. The other optional resources increase the amount yielded from the extraction or allow you to create more efficiently. For a complete list of required and optional ingredients please consult the “Resources” section of the game manual.

Player-to-Player Interaction: It is up to you how you choose to interact with the other prospective nations being forged in Greenland. Resources are finite: forests die, mines dry up. Resources replenish if managed properly, but you will need to cooperate or compete against nearby players in order to share resources, if you want to avoid a skirmish that is… When violent conflicts arise, it is important to have an army built up to guard your kingdom or to invade those of other players.

Not all players will prefer the bloody route of war, however. The market will allow you to buy and sell resources to other players, an important way to acquire goods and resources that you may not have access to in your territory. Without proper pathways connecting your kingdom and the seller’s kingdom the carting cost will increase. Such a cost increases the price to buy the desired goods, while also decreasing the amount that will safely get to your hex. A healthy balance between trade and martial strength will ensure the brightest future for your burgeoning kingdom!

My lord, please consult the Game Manual for further information about all the advanced aspects of Greenland!

So, archaeologists: run, don’t walk, to Greenland and sign up now!

Greek and Roman Games in the Computer Age

If you’re going to be anywhere near Trondheim in the next while, you might want to take in ‘Greek and Roman Games in the Computer Age‘. If you go, steal all the handouts & powerpoints you can, and send them to me…

I’ve had the pleasure of correspondence with some of the presenters, so I know it’ll be a stimulating programme; I note that Caesar IV is under discussion too – I play way too much of that game… I have mused elsewhere on its possibilities as a counterfactual approach to Roman economics. Ah to be in Trondheim in February…


FRIDAY 20th – SATURDAY 21st of February at Campus Dragvoll, Trondheim, Norway


Auditorium DL33 (’Låven’)

10-10.20 Welcome address and introduction by Dean Kathrine Skretting and Staffan Wahlgren

Session 1: Chair: Marek Kretschmer

10.20-11.00 Martin Dinter, (King’s College London, Classics): ‘Ludological Approaches to Virtual Gaming’

11.00-11.40 Frank Furtwängler, (Universität Konstanz, Media): ‘”God of War” and the Mythology of New Media’

11.40-12.00 Coffee break

12.00-12.40 Stephen Kidd, (New York University, Classics): ‘Herodotus and the New Historiography of Virtual Gaming’

12.40-13.20 Dunstan Lowe, (Reading University, Classics): ‘Always Already Ancient. Ruins in the Virtual World’

13.40-14.20 Lunch

Session 2: Chair: Jan Frode Hatlen

14.20-15.30 Richard Beacham, (King’s College London, School of Theatre Studies) and Hugh Denard, (King’s College London, Computing in the Humanities): ‘Observations on Staging the Ludi Virtuales’

15.30-16.10 Thea Selliaas Thorsen, (NTNU, Classics): ‘Virtually There? Women in Ovid, Tatian and the 3D Theatre of Pompey’

16.10-16.30 Coffee break

16.30-17.10 Gian Paolo Castelli, (Rome, Classics): ‘The Emperor’s Seal. On Producing a Roman Computer Game’

17.10-17.50 Adam Lindhagen, (University of Lund, Archaeology): ‘Constructing and Governing a Province – between Fact and Fiction in Caesar IV’

20.00 Dinner


Auditorium D3

Session 3: Chair: Thea Selliaas Thorsen

10.00-10.40 Andrew Gardner, (University College London, Archaeology): ‘Entertainment and Empire. A Critical Engagement with Roman Themed Strategy Games’

10.40-11.20 Leif Inge Petersen, (NTNU, History): ‘Siege Warfare in Computer Games. Problems and Possibilities’

11.20-11.40 Coffee break

11.40-12.20 Kristine Ask, (NTNU, Technological Studies): ‘Technology in Games and Games of Technology’

12.20-13.00 Jan Frode Hatlen, (NTNU, History): ‘Students of Rome: Total War. A Socio-Educational Approach’

13.00-14.00 Lunch

Session 4: Chair: Staffan Wahlgren

14.00-15.00 Daniel Jung, (University of Bergen, Computing in the Humanities) and Barbara McManus, (The College of New Rochelle, NY, Classics): ‘Latina Ludens. Educational Gaming in VRoma’

15.00-15.40 Andrew Reinhard, (Bolchazy-Carducci, eLearning, USA): ‘eLearning Latin’

15.40 ConcLVSIOns (Thea Sellias Thorsen)

17.00 Guided Tour of the City Centre

Do games actually achieve curricular learning objectives?

I’m working on a paper right now on what might be called ‘games for history’, but I’ll admit, I’m stumped. The anonymous reviewer wants to see some stats, some formalized quantitative or qualitative results demonstrating that students have learned something, and a discussion of the metrics used.

So in a mad dash today I’ve been burning the aether, trying to find anything other than anecdotal evidence for something I firmly believe: that game-based learning in the humanities can achieve deep learning.

In one sense, it seems a bit much to demand of game-based learning something we rarely demand of chalk-and-talk or other approaches used in higher ed… but that’s really not a useful response. It should be out there… Any ideas?

Last word to FAS:

These higher-order knowledge and skills [learned in games] are typically not revealed by tests of facts, or standards of learning-types of examinations. Instead of concrete measures of learning outcomes, what is available is typically strong anecdotal evidence — kids that participate in game- and simulation-like learning are very excited, they’re motivated, they’re immersed, and they seem to do better. In addition, games and simulations tend to blur the line between education and training, as they involve learning-by-doing. For example, decision-making may be best assessed in a test of its practical use.

If assessments are not measuring the right skills and knowledge — the higher order skills that games may be able to develop — then the use of educational games and simulations may be viewed as having poor efficacy. In reality, the assessment is designed to measure something other than what the game is designed to teach.

(FAS, 43-44)

Federation of American Scientists. 2006. Summit on Educational Games: Harnessing the power of video games for learning. http://www.fas.org/gamesummit/Resources/Summit%20on%20Educational%20Games.pdf

Game based learning and Latin Literacy

Recent items I’ve seen concerning game-based learning of language, and the use of ‘fake dead people’ to populate archaeological VR, reminded me of a project I conceived back in 2005 and had hoped to find money to do. So with the unhelpful help of the XP file search thing, I eventually dredged up the original brainstorm, but not the proposal itself. I did float the idea at a Classical Association of Canada conference session that year – but attendance was rather thin in the session on digital media and learning  (… and there’s probably a lesson in that …)

Thinking it might be useful for someone else, here it is below:

CSI – Cicero’s Sullen Ides, or, Get the Tusculum Villa Ready!
A game-based learning experiment for Latin literacy

Game playing – cognitive benefits
-examples of language games
-examples of literacy games
-so why not mash the two together?

-interactive fiction
-how can learning be assessed in interactive fiction
-through scoring based on completion of in game tasks
-different levels of scoring: basic, for very limited tasks
advanced, for uncovering ‘hidden’ tasks
-benefit also: cost, computing resources, also creates a learning environment similar where performing the skill is similar (literacy is text based).


Written completely in Latin, ‘Cicero’s Sullen Ides, or, Get the Tusculum Villa Ready!’ is a text adventure taking place in Cicero’s villa outside of Rome. Settings include every room in the house, as well as locations on the grounds.

The player plays as Terentia, the wife of Cicero. As the game opens, Terentia is in her room in the Villa. The game opens with a description of the room. Out in the hallway, on a table, is a letter from Cicero advising Terentia to get the villa ready as he will be arriving soon from Rome – time is slipping away! Terentia does not know that Cicero is coming. In fact, she is woken by a slave who informs her that a quantity of money has gone missing from the villa strong box, and the same slave neglects to inform her of the letter. She does remember some turns later, and informs her mistress…

The Aims of the Game:

The game then involves two challenges – solving the mystery of the missing money, and getting the house ready for Cicero. The player will have to have an understanding of the daily routines of a Roman villa in order to successfully complete the second task, as well as a grasp of the Latin language. Since most people today do not need to know how to write Latin – and the structures of latin are mostly too complicated for a simple text adventure to parse – the game will be structured to accept simple imperative constructions – read the letter, go north, tell the servant to clean the room. The level of Latin of the descriptions will be aimed at the student entering a second year Latin course, or finishing off a first year course. Indeed, the game could be used as part of the summative evaluation of the course, where the scoring indicates the level of literacy the player has achieved (sub-plots can be explored by the player, requiring higher literacy skills to solve, and accordingly, higher scores when puzzles are solved or ‘rooms’ are unlocked).

Implementing the Game:

The ADRIFT game generator (v4.0, Wild 2005) can display graphics files associated with different rooms and events. Careful selection of imagery then to support the text will help the player to decipher the text or give hints as to what the player should do next. Similarly, sound files may be added to the game, either as background in particular ‘rooms’ (running water by a fountain in the garden) or as auditory clues for particular events (a chiming bell indicating that a meal has been laid out in the Tablinum, heard from elsewhere in the Villa. A player understanding the significance of the bell would process immediately to the tablinum…) Non-player characters will be roaming the house, doing tasks, and the player will be able to interact with them to a degree, directing slaves to do particular tasks, or interrogating them to discover what happened to the money. Terentia will have to interact with the non-player characters correctly in order to proceed.

Concerning the language capabilities of the game generator software, a simple text file can be created that swaps the english in-game commands for their Latin synonyms. Students should be advised before playing the game of the correct mood, tense, and voice to use when playing; alternatively, they could be left to figure that out on their own and the score adjusted accordingly once they’ve issued their first successful commands in the game. Scores may be adjusted too to reflect how many ‘hints’ the player needed before successfully completing a task. Finally, the game generator can scale the total score within the game against a maximum. That allows the game creator to decide that ‘all easy tasks will be worth 5, all medium tasks will be worth 20, and all hard tasks will be worth 50 points’ and then the game will rescale the total points during game play to, say, 100 points, allowing the final score to actually represent a score out of 100. This allows the game creator to create appropriate game tasks without having to worry about the ultimate weightings and point calculations.

Finishing the Game

The game could end with Cicero’s return to the Villa, which could be triggered by Terentia completing a particular task, or it could be triggered by a certain number of turns expiring. At that point, Cicero might interrogate Terentia about the missing money, asking very simple questions to which the student would have to compose (equally) simple responses. These might be in the order of – where are my slippers? –who took the money? –has the bath been heated? That is, he could ask a series of questions that relate to all of the various tasks that Terentia may or may not have completed, or objects she may or may not have collected. Because these would be simple responses (and because the creator knows what kinds of possible answers there might be and can accordingly let the program know what to expect), scoring would be simple in this part of the game. A certain number of ‘correct’ answers, and Cicero could pronounce himself well pleased, and the player would win the game. A certain number of incorrect answers, and Cicero could become very petulant and sullen, making Terentia go back and complete the missing tasks and then return to him (at which point, the correct answers would be worth half as much).

Game play and learning

In this fashion – through play and immersion in an imaginary world that relies on the student’s knowledge of Roman civilization and the Latin language – the game would reinforce the student’s grasp of the language, and through game play the student would be able to display an understanding of the language divorced from the usual ‘sight translation exam’.

[… you can see that I ran out of oompf in that last session, though now I have a much greater grasp of the relevant literacy, case studies, etc. If I was to do this over again, I’d move that section first and flesh it out greatly, as classicists sometimes need greater prodding than others – though, in fairness, this isn’t always the case.]

Interacting with Immersive Worlds II – Call for Papers Deadline February 2


Interacting with Immersive Worlds:

Second Brock University Conference on the Interactive Arts & Sciences

Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario

JUNE 15-16, 2009

The first Interacting with Immersive Worlds conference was held in the beautiful Niagara Peninsula at Brock University in June of 2007. Presenters and attendees from a multiplicity of disciplines heard keynote presentations by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Claremont Graduate University), James Gee (Arizona State University), Chris Csikszentmihalyi (MIT Media Laboratory), and Denis Dyack (Silicon Knights). The 2009 conference will be just as provocative, with keynote speakers such as Janet Murray (Georgia Institute of Technology) and Espen Aarseth (IT University of Denmark), so be sure to electronically submit your abstracts to the program committee by February 2, 2009.

The primary focus of the conference is to explore the growing cultural importance of interactive media. All scholarship on, and creation of digital interactive media (including but not limited to computer games and interactive fiction) will be considered in one of four broad conference streams:

The Challenges at the Boundaries of Immersive Worlds stream features creative exploration and innovation in immersive media including ubiquitous computing, telepresence, interactive art and fiction, and alternative reality.

The Critical Approaches to Immersion stream looks at analyses of the cultural and/or psychological impact of immersive worlds, as well as theories of interactivity.

The Immersive Worlds in Education stream examines educational applications of immersive technologies.

The Immersive Worlds in Entertainment stream examines entertainment applications of immersive technologies, such as computer games.
We welcome the submission of abstracts for a 20-minute presentation plus a 10-minute discussion. Send a 500-word abstract plus a brief biographical statement. Please include a separate cover page with the following:

· Author’s name and affiliation

· Email

· Mailing address

· Title of presentation

Since all abstracts will be anonymously reviewed, include the title of the paper on the abstract but not the author’s name, affiliation, email or mailing address. Deadline extended – deadline for receipt of abstracts is February 2, 2009.

Please email your abstract to jmitterer@brocku.ca

Acceptance of your paper for presentation implies a commitment on your part to register and attend the conference. Notification of acceptance will be sent out by February 15, 2009.

Visit the conference web site for details


Organizing Committee:

Jean Bridge, Centre for Digital Humanities, Brock University, jbridge@brocku.ca

Martin Danahay, Department of English Language and Literature, Brock University,


Denis Dyack, Silicon Knights, Catharines, Ontario, denis@siliconknights.ca

Barry Grant, Department of Communication, Popular Culture and Film, bgrant@brocku.ca

David Hutchison, Faculty of Education, Brock University, davidh@brocku.ca

Kevin Kee, Department of History, Brock University kkee@brocku.ca

John Mitterer, Department of Psychology, Brock University, jmitterer@brocku.ca

Michael Winter, Department of Computer Science, Brock University, mwinter@brocku.ca

Philip Wright, Information Technology Services, Brock University, philip.wright@brocku.ca

Classics and MMORPGS: not classic mmorpgs!

Think Greek. Think Trojans. Yessir, turns out that the Trojan war, as recounted in the Iliad, can be understood through the lens of a MMORPG… check out the latest from The Escapist:

Think of the Achaean warriors (the ones we usually call “the Greeks”) at Troy, and the Trojan warriors (led by Hector) themselves, as toons at the level cap. The most important gameplay mechanic for the Achaeans and the Trojans is called aristeia. Call it “prowess” if you want, but it really means “best-ness.” In this context, Aristeia is a kind of mini-game all its own. The internal evidence of the Iliad suggests that this mini-game is actually the ur-genre of the epic tradition, the earliest and most basic development of oral bardic convention that ended up giving us the written fossil we know as the enormous, 24-book masterpiece called the Iliad….

…Once again demonstrating that a Classical education is all you really need to understand everything…

At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

So you’re interested in Alternate Reality Games – some readings

[snipping all the ms-office crap that somehow made it into this post the other day without me noticing]

Things you should read: more ****** = you should really *really* read these

*****Jane McGonigal “This Is Not a Game: Immersive Aesthetics & Collective Play.” Digital Arts & Culture 2003 Conference Proceedings.  May 2003 http://www.seanstewart.org/beast/mcgonigal/notagame/paper.pdf

***** Jane McGonigal “Why I Love Bees: A Case Study in Collective Intelligence Gaming.” Ecologies of Play. Ed. Katie Salen. Forthcoming, spring 2008. http://avantgame.com/McGonigal_WhyILoveBees_Feb2007.pdf

***** Adam Martin and Tom Chatfield, editors. IGDA Alternate Reality Games – Special Interest Group – Whitepaper 2006 http://www.igda.org/arg/whitepaper or for continuously updated wiki version of the same, http://www.igda.org/wiki/index.php/Alternate_Reality_Games_SIG/Whitepaper

**** Shannon Drake ‘Breaking the Fourth Wall’ The Escapist Magazine June 27 2006 http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_51/308-Breaking-the-Fourth-Wall

**** Nova ‘Chimaera’ Barlow ‘The making of World Without Oil’ The Escapist Magazine September 18 2007 http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_115/1959-The-Making-of-World-Without-Oil

**** “History” unfiction.com http://www.unfiction.com/history/

*** Penelope Green “Mystery on Fifth AvenueNew York Times June 12 2008 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/12/garden/12puzzle.htm

*** Jane McGonigal”Massively Collaborative Science.” Op-Ed. Seed Magazine. Special Issue: The Universe in 2008. February 2008. http://avantgame.com/SEED%20Gaming%20Article_JanFeb08.pdf

*** Frank Rose “Secret Websites, Coded Messages: The New World of Immersive Games” Wired Magazine http://www.wired.com/entertainment/music/magazine/16-01/ff_args

** Shannon Drake ‘Wrapped Inside A Mystery In An Engima: Perplex City Revisited’ The Escapist Magazine February 14 2007 http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/editorials/interviews/1232-Wrapped-Inside-A-Mystery-In-An-Engima-Perplex-City-Revisited

** Russ Pitts “Horror 2.0: Lance Weiler’s Cinema ARG” The Escapist Magazine November 12 2007 http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_123/2621-Horror-2-0-Lance-Weiler-s-Cinema-ARG

** Richard Perrin “Art is Resistance” The Escapist Magazine September 18 2007 http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_115/1956-Art-is-Resistance

** Jane McGonigal “Making Alternate Reality the New Business Reality.” Op-Ed. Harvard Business Review. Special Issue: Top 20 Breakthrough Ideas for 2008. February 2008. http://www.harvardbusinessonline.org/hbsp/hbr/articles/article.jsp?ml_subscriber=true&ml_action=get-article&ml_issueid=BR0802&articleID=R0802A&pageNumber=1

* Edward Castronova “ARGs and Utopian Dreams” Terra Nova November 21 2005 http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2005/11/args_and_utopia.html

* Cory Ondrekja “Tombstone Hold’em” Terra Nova October 16 2005 http://terranova.blogs.com/terra_nova/2005/10/tombstone_hold_.html

* Clive Thompson “Fun Way to Lose Weight: Turn Dieting Into an RPG” Wired Magazine August 11 2008 http://www.wired.com/gaming/virtualworlds/commentary/games/2008/08/gamesfrontiers_0811

Quibus Lusoribus Bono? A Classicist Shakes Things Up

Recently, in the Escapist, an article entitle ‘Quibus lusoribus bono?‘ appeared, by Roger Travis, a Classicist at the University of Connecticut. On his blog site, he argues that “video games are actually ancient, […] they reawaken the anicent oral epic tradition represented above all by the epics of the Homeric tradition, the Iliad and the Odyssey.” I am going to have to go carefully through his posts, because this is a great argument to make… anyway – in his Escapist piece, Travis writes:

The problem with game studies – the thing that gives rise to opinions like Wilson’s – is that the effort to create and maintain the discipline is keeping gaming from winning the respect it deserves. Against all appearances, scholars are pursuing game studies to the detriment of gamer culture.

By pretending that game studies stands alone as a unified discipline rather than at the nexus of various other fields, scholars of game studies (and those of departments that call themselves things like “digital media studies”) are institutionalizing exactly what Wilson feels: antipathy to the real culture of gaming. The more entrenched the notion becomes that gamers are abnormal and defective, the longer it will take for real works of art like Sins of a Solar Empire, BioShock and, yes, even Halo to vindicate gaming as a worthwhile pursuit.

Comments, critiques and a bit of old-style flaming are all over the games-related blogosphere; but for an interesting dialogue, see Ian Bogost – whom Travis refers to on a number of occasions in his piece – at “A Response to Roger Travis who misconstrues my work and that of my colleagues“.

For the most part, the discussion is moderate in tone, though clearly Travis has upset the apple cart – one commenter writes:

Whatever is said here, it boils down to this: Roger, do you let people with Marketing degrees tell you how to teach “Topics in Advanced Latin”? I’m guessing you don’t. Why is acceptable for you to tell Ian how to do his? I’ll give you a hint. It isn’t.

It’s one thing to question the legitimacy of a professional. It’s another to question the legitimacy of a profession. I really don’t think you want to open that can of worms. While I can see the worth of the classics and how they are basically the basis of all modern thought, I’m thinking it’s probably hard for payroll to justify paying your obviously bloated salary.

I suppose it’s only a matter of time before somebody invokes the Nazis. But in the meantime, the last word by Travis on Ian Bogost’s blog (and then the conversation switches to the forums at the Escapist):

“1. I see the analogy of a marketing professional telling me how to do classics as very unpersuasive. Ian and I work the same job, more or less, and we both (I’m sure) spend time on committees where we’re doing, intramurally, precisely what we’re doing publicly in this discussion. The suggestion that my salary is bloated would have made me laugh if my salary weren’t such a sad little thing.”

And finally, for completeness, here’s the link to the Escapist forum discussion.

So… what do I make of all of this? I admit, I got a bit lost in the original article, since I haven’t read all of the related pieces (nor indeed, the one to which Travis was originally responding).  In essence, it looked as if Travis was warning of the danger of academics sucking the fun out of games (which may be to simplify).  But that’s something every discipline or subject needs to watch out for, the people who take things too seriously. Archaeology sure has a hard time paying the bills, but at least it’s still fun to do…