Keynote Abstracts

The seminar will feature three keynotes! Here are the titles and abstracts:

Wednesday Keynote by Souvik Mukherjee: Reading Games and Playing Books in the Indian Subcontinent: The Indic and the Ludic

The relationship between reading, writing, and play is one that has been commented on at length in Game Studies. In Derridean terms, jeu or play informs the relationship of differance and of writing vis-a-vis reading. While the Derridean supplementarity has been discussed in terms of (w)reading games in the Western context, very little has been done for gamelike texts from other regions.

Such texts, as my talk will illustrate, behave in unique ways. Much like B. S. Johnson’s book in a box, The Unfortunates or Marc Saporta’s Composition No. 1, where the story could be shuffled and read, or like the choose-your-own-adventure books that provide a playful means of (w)reading stories, there are other kinds of storytelling devices that are predecessors of such texts and, by extension, of videogames.

This talk will focus on three such playful texts from India. The first is the kavad, which is used in oral storytelling traditions in Western India by itinerant storytellers who literally open wooden panels of stories and narrate them to their eager listeners. The second example is a snakes and ladders game and its variants, where the story of one’s life (or rather lives) can be constructed over and over. The final example is the ganjifa cards whose arrangement and play form a story. The aim, therefore, is to introduce less familiar examples of game-books from India to a global audience : a proto-book that is playful and games that function as narrative texts. This talk also reiterates that we have been reading games and playing books for many centuries now and across different cultural milieus.

Thursday Keynote by Hanna-Riikka Roine: Limited and Enabled by Imagination: Textual Adventures in the AI Dungeon

My talk focuses on AI Dungeon, an AI-generated textual adventure game. The game, which either be freely played online or via mobile phone app, uses a massive natural language AI Model to generate the story and results of the player’s actions as they play in the virtual world. In their promotional materials of the AI Dungeon, the developers state that unlike in virtually “every other game in existence, you are not limited by the developer in what you can do.” In the talk, I will unpack the idea behind this statement and discuss the ways in which players’ imagination is both limited and enabled by the game in comparison with earlier textual adventures and other forms of fiction.

Friday Keynote by Raine Koskimaa: “The Book Is Just the Beginning.” Augmented Book as a Game Device

Ice-Bound (2015) by Jacob Garbe and Aaron Reed is hybrid work comprising of a print art book Ice-Bound Compendium and a digital application Ice-Bound Concordance. It can be characterized as an interactive fiction, or interactive narrative game, as it is marketed. The authors say they wanted to create a “literary labyrinth”, inspired by books such as Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, and J. L. Borges’ short stories. The digital application occasionally requires scanning of the print pages, for the player to proceed. The book contains much text and illustrations which deepen the game story, but it is wholly possible to play the game just using the book as an object required for certain tasks, without really reading it. On one extreme, we could see the book as a ‘feelie’, a material accessory which’ main function is to give something tangible for the player along the digital game. On the other end, the book is a work of its own, and reading it serves as an incentive to open the application in the first place. In the talk, I will discuss Ice-Bound and how it incorporates book into its science fiction story set some 50 years into future.

While the book and the game application are strongly complementary and requiring each other, the game is very much about a power struggle between the two. The book as a medium plays an interesting role in the struggle, as it is simultaneously a relic of a communication prior to the digital age, and kind of a power object, a talisman, which bears potential to undermine the technological system of the 2050’s with its AI constructs. In its weaponizing of the book, Ice-Bound clearly differs from most other hybrid books, such as Modern Polaxis (by Stu Campbell, 2014).

From the specific case of Ice-Bound, I will continue to the wider question of how books are represented and employed in digital games. Mostly in games, books serve as decorations or source of game lore. They tend to be quite traditional objects, even handwritten illuminated manuscripts, and there might be room for more modern conceptualizations for in-game books. This, in turn, could open up new ways to incorporate books as part of game mechanics.

Social Program: Follow My Lead

During the spring seminar, there is a possibiity to try out a short, two-hour larp!

Larp researcher Hanne Grasmo would like to invite you to one of the art-larps she has written about, both in her first article “Nordic Erotic Larp: Designing for Sexual Arousal” and in the paper for the Spring Seminar. There will be talking, moving, touching and music. We will use covid-masks and hand-sanitizer during runtime.

Follow My Lead is a non-verbal larp (live action role-play) about kink exploration and kink negotiation that gives participants the alibi and tools to artistically play with submission and domination. Most of the experience is the workshop before the larp, where we negotiate, and that is of course verbal. It is a super lesson in consent!

Each character is either a Dominant or a Submissive and has a particular power dynamics kink. During the game they will search for their ideal kink-matched partner while leading, or being led, through the game space. The game is played through a series of rounds (each 15-20 minutes). In each round, all Submissives encounter all the Dominants, one by one, in a series of scenes. Each scene lasts the length of a song.

The event will run from 16.30 to latest 18.30 on Thursday May 5th.

The larp requires between 6 and 10 participants. If there are fewer sign-ups, Hanne will talk about the larp and show-case parts of it.

Sign up for the larp here!

Travel and Venue

The seminar is held in Pinni B building at the Tampere University center campus. The campus is quite centrally located in Tampere, for example, some 300 meters from the railway station.

Traveling by Air

It is possible to either fly in directly to Tampere, or to fly to the capital Helsinki, and cover the last strech of the journey by land. Tampere-Pirkkala Airport (TMP) is located about 15 kilometres from the centre of Tampere. There is a bus connection from airport to the centre. The taxi fare is around 40 euros.

Tampere is located 180 kilometres northwest from Helsinki. The newly opened train line makes it possible to take a train from the airport to the Tikkurila station (travel time ~8 minutes) and then change to an InterCity or Pendolino train headed in the direction of Tampere. Travel time from Tikkurila station to Tampere is approximately 75 minutes, and from central Helsinki to Tampere approximately 90 minutes.

There is also a frequent and comfortable bus connection from Helsinki-Vantaa airport (HEL) to Tampere city center (duration: approx. 2,5 hours). There are also daily flights between Helsinki-Vantaa Airport (HEL) and Tampere-Pirkkala Airport (TMP), the flight time being 30 minutes.

Please see this page regarding public transport from Helsinki-Vantaa airport and the national train operator website for information regarding trains to Tampere.

Accommodations in Tampere

The business hotels in central Tampere include Sokos Hotel VillaSokos Hotel Torni, and Lapland Hotels Tampere. For budget travellers we recommend Dream Hostel and Hotel and Omena Hotel Tampere II. City of Tampere tourist information can provide you with several other alternatives within a walking distance.

Venue map

Pinni B is part of the Tampere University center campus. The building has several entrances. The main entrance is from the eastern side.

Program is out and sign-ups are open

The seminar programme is now published! As stated, we expanded the seminar a little bit and it is now a three day event. Each day has presentations and a keynote. In the evenings there is social program. The seminar takes place at Tampere University, at Pinni B, but also supports remote participation. You can now sign up to participate in the seminar, either physically in Tampere, or remotely. To foster a friendly atmosphere, we limit participation, so book your place soon.

Announcing the Commentators

The Gamebooks seminar will have three expert commentators giving feedback on the papers presented. They are Souvik Mukherjee, Hanna-Riikka Roine, and Raine Koskimaa!

Dr Souvik Mukherjee is assistant professor in Cultural Studies at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences Calcutta, India. Souvik’s research looks at the narrative and the literary through the emerging discourse of videogames as storytelling media and at how these games inform and challenge our conceptions of narratives, identity and culture.  Related interests and expertise include a broad spectrum of topics in Game Studies ranging from identity and temporality in videogames to the videogame industry in South-East Asia.  Currently, he is researching how videogames function within decolonial frameworks and separately, also how certain ancient Indian board-games contribute to the understanding of gameplay. Souvik is the author of two monographs, Videogames and Storytelling: Reading Games and Playing Books (Palgrave Macmillan 2015) and Videogames and Postcolonialism: Empire Plays Back (Springer UK 2017), as well as many articles and book chapters in national and international publications.

Hanna-Riikka Roine (PhD, literary studies) works as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow funded by the Academy of Finland at the Tampere University and as an affiliated researcher in the consortium Instrumental Narratives. Her current research explores the ways in which our entanglement with digital media affects, guides, and shapes our engagement with the possible. Roine is a co-editor of the book The Ethos of Digital Environments: Technology, Literary Theory and Philosophy (2021) and has published articles, for instance, on narrativity and agency in digital RPGs.

Raine Koskimaa, PhD, is a Professor of Contemporary Culture Studies at the University of Jyvaskylä and Vice Director of the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies. He conducts research in the fields of game studies, digital literature, transmedia storytelling and digital culture. He is the co-founder and co-editor of the Cybertext Yearbook (2000-2010) and the author of Digital Literature. From Text to Hypertext and Beyond (2000). Koskimaa has published widely, especially on digital culture and digital literature, and his writings have been translated to several languages. He is a long time member of the ELO Literary Advisory Board. His current research interests are eSports, games and transmedia, and, time and temporality in digital fiction.

Call for Papers Published

The call for papers for next year’s spring seminar has now been published. Gamebooks will be the 18th annual spring seminar hosted by Tampere University Game Research Lab and the Center of Excellence in Game Culture Studies. The seminar follows our traditional work-in-progress format; all papers are distributed to all participants ahead of the seminar. This means that we can have a lively and informed discussion at the seminar.

The seminar dates are May 5-6, 2022. The seminar will be held at Tampere University, Finland. The seminar is free of charge. Remote participation will be possible as well. The seminar is augmented with a physical visit to The Finnish Museum of Games and other social programme.