For both my digital artefacts, I took advantage of the fact that I had two panels approved for PAX Aus. For those who dont know, PAX stands for Penny Arcade Expo, and is the biggest gaming festival in Australia. In the US, there is PAX East, South, West, Unplugged (for tabletop games), and here, PAX Aus.
PAX is held over three days, and part of PAX consists of community driven panels, and that’s where this fits in.
The panel I am focusing on for this DA is the panel on Pokemon Go. Chris advised me that one of the best ways to go about making this panel my ‘group’ DA is to present to you my experience with pitching and making this panel come together.
Panels can be submitted by anyone, regardless of their place in the games industry, and can be pitched about any topic – as long as it relates in some way to gaming (tabletop or video) or games culture (like journalism, game dev etc).
With your submission, you list your panel title, the panelists, what your panel will be about, and why you think it should be at PAX. Once panel submission closes, all the panels are assessed by PAX staff who decide which will be presented that year.
In a way, these panels are user generated content that represent participatory media culture, as content is interpreted, deconstructed, and reconfigured in the form of a panel.
When putting together any sort of event, you can always run into problems. The first ones come with the pitching.
First off – it is incredibly hard to set aside the imposter syndrome when pitching a panel, or putting it together later when it gets accepted. There is ALWAYS the thought of: “Should I be doing this, am I the right person to put this together, there are other people more knowledgeable than me” and that’s REALLY hard to set aside.
Secondly is finding people to be on your panel. As it is all community driven, it is unpaid, so if you find a high profile person who would be great for your panel, it is difficult to approach them and say “Hey I have this idea, but you have to pay your own way to make it happen”.
It is also important to remember to have diverse voices. And this doesnt just mean people from diverse backgrounds, but also just people from different circles. It happens a lot in the games industry, because it is such a small community and everyone knows everyone, that you go to a panel and it seems to be just all inside jokes. All the panelists are best mates, and instead of feeling like an audience that is watching and learning things, you feel a bit like a third wheel.
It can also be difficult to find panelists, knowing that you have to find panelists BEFORE your pitch, meaning you are asking someone to commit to something that theres only a chance of it actually happening – PAX get hundreds of panel submissions a year, and there is only so many that can be accepted.
A final problem comes from criticism, and trying not to take it personally (even if it IS personal).
When you are up on stage, it is incredibly obvious when people sneak in late, or sneak out early. And you just have to try to remember not to take it personally when people sneak out early. Maybe they have another panel to get to? Maybe they just aren’t interested? Or maybe they hate it and everything to do with it? My brain always defaults to the latter.
And then there IS the personal criticism. One comment on the YouTube video so far is “That photographer lady is so self absorbed lol. Get over yourself woman.”
And as much as I like to think I am thick skinned, it does really hurt when you put so much passion and so many hours into something that you end up being really proud of – I think I put about 15 hours into the two panels, researching, planning and writing – to have someone turn around and say “lol get over yourself”.
So that is the overall picture of how I put the panel together. The full video of the panel is on YouTube – the PoGo YouTuber ZoeTwoDots has been on my panel the last two years and has been good enough to upload the panel to her channel to bring it to the masses.
PITCH ONE – Ladies and Gents there Is a Beta & It Includes Virtual Reality and a movie.
Julia’s DA is best summed up in her own words – “The relationship between games and cinema expressed by the technology of Virtual Reality.” It is a video essay, focusing on five parts, analysing the game media text of “Ready Player One”
PITCH TWO – #BCM215 Digital artifact beta
Sheng’s DA is an introduction to massively popular games like League of Legends, and a history of how they got to where they are.
PITCH THREE – The Beta – BCM215
Chris’ DA has changed, originally being about brand exclusivity in gaming, it is now about microtransactions, in the form of a podcast.
The main issue with the quality of the comments I provided would be to do with the timing of them. For personal reasons, my comments were late, and I am worried that their DA’s have since progressed past the point where my feedback can provide any value.
I did my best to engage with each post, offering course-relevant research and readings from the Moodle site. I also suggested Sheng and Julia offer a clear idea of what exactly their analytical framework is.
I hope my suggestions come to some use for the students whose blogs I commented on. As mentioned in the reflection on the first round of comments, I feel uncomfortable offering people research, as for the most part I assume that it is research that they are already on top of. I felt the same way in this round of comments – like I didn’t really have too much to offer to these students, as they seem to have their DA’s pretty well thought out.
While the progress on my digital artefact has been slower than I anticipated, I am happy with the direction I am heading. It has been slow going with creating the content to post, both in terms of the research and content of the captions, and the photos themselves. I have been trying not to ‘force’ myself to produce photos, and because of that, a few hours of gameplay might only yield one or two – or even zero – usable photos. It is for this reason that I decided to break down the project from being from three different games to being from two games – dropping Assassin’s Creed and focusing solely on Horizon Zero Dawn and Spider-Man – the two with the better photo mode.
In terms of research, I have engaged with sources both academic and in the media. I’ve found the sources in the media to be more relevant and helpful for me, on account of the fact that academic research hasn’t really ‘caught up’ to virtual photography yet. The academic readings I have found most useful have been Cindy Poremba’s 2007 article “Point and Shoot: Remediating Photography in Game Space”, as well as an article written by Izabela Zhang exploring in-game photography. And in terms of popular news and media sources, there is just a wealth of articles, think pieces and small essays written on both gaming and photography websites that delve into virtual photography. For my next caption on participatory media culture, I will be engaging with both week six topics – Raessens’ 2005 article “Computer Games as Participatory Media Culture”, as well as diving more into the rise (and fall) of machinima. In terms of my analytical framework, I have four aspects; political economy, media archaeology, participatory media culture, and technical strata, and it is through these lenses that I will be examining virtual photography. I chose this analytical framework as it lends to my experience as a photographer – both in the real and virtual worlds, allowing me to expand on my prior knowledge, and grow my skill sets.
As stated in my video, the statistics on my first two posts have been promising. At the time of writing this I have had 146 views from 83 visitors, indicating the vast majority of viewers read both parts of the essay. Regarding the quality of feedback, it has been mostly positive, but not a lot of the feedback I have received has actually engaged with the content of the caption, and have mostly just been about the quality of the photos. With that in mind, I did receive a reddit message from someone completing their undergrad thesis on the analysis of art and video games. They gave me some interesting insights into where they would like to see from my next few posts, and asked to be updated on the project, and another subreddit pinned my post to the top of the sub for further visibility.
I have been posting and plugging my DA where possible, however I am worried about posting it to too many places when I only have half the project completed. It is hard enough to get an audience to engage with something once, let alone get them to engage with it four times, when each part gets released. It is easier to give an audience a completed piece, than to get them to keep coming back for more. It is for this reason I have stayed away from the larger subreddits like /r/gaming, but I am planning on posting to them once the project is completed. The timeline for the project is to have the final two captions completed in the next fortnight, ahead of PAX Australia, and the final DA submission ready by Week 13.
PITCH ONE: The Atmosphere of Addiction
Ben’s pitch is about examining the physical atmosphere provided by pubs, clubs and casinos in their gaming lounges to encourage poker machine use.
I felt this blog was the easiest of the three to engage with, as I had more to offer on this topic than the other two blogs. My comment was quite long so I will try to summarise it as briefly as possible. I started with suggesting some spelling and grammar issues which were prevalent throughout the post, before moving into suggesting he look at the psychology behind poker machines. I provided links to some sources – news articles and thinkpieces – on this topic, including one on how the psychology of poker machines can be applied to app design. In terms of suggested directions, I provided some background information on the types of companies (specifically Woolworths and AFL clubs) that own poker machines and make a significant amount of money from the pokies, as a potential point of interest for the digital artefact.
PITCH TWO: There Was A Game Here
Emily’s pitch describes the impact that Silent Hill had on the gaming industry, and will be a series of video essays describing what made Silent Hill so great, and how they engaged with it personally.
This one was difficult for me to comment on, as someone who actively dislikes horror games. It is unfortunate that I was assigned something on a topic I dislike, but it forced me out of my comfort zone to try and explore it. I hope that the point of view that I provided could be at least of some interest or help, however I fear that it won’t be, as Emily is someone with a deep knowledge and understanding of the horror genre, I am sure that I – as someone from the outside who dislikes horror – could not provide any new information. My main suggestion was that I wish the contextual post was longer – as someone who doesn’t know the horror genre, and only really knowing Silent Hill by name, I felt like I could have walked away from the post with more of an understanding about what Silent Hill is, what the social and historical context of the games are, when they were made, or even just something as simple as what year they were released and how many games the series of made up of.
In terms of further research, I struggled with this post. I have next to no knowledge of the genre, so any research I could offer would be the equivalent of an anti-vaxxer offering a news article to a scientist. It would be virtually worthless. However with that in mind I was underwhelmed with the background research presented to me in the pitch – I know they have the knowledge, but there were only a few links and no referencing in the post.
PITCH THREE: Gaming in Education
Anthea’s pitch aims to analyse the role of educational games in the classroom, specifically Minecraft.
This pitch was also somewhat difficult to comment on – however not as bad as Emily’s – but for a different reason. It is not that I was disinterested or disengaged from the subject matter, but simply that Anthea seems to have everything down pat. She draws on her own personal experience to help the reader understand why she has picked this topic as her DA. She gives us her medium and a general timeline, as well as plenty of background research, including specific academic sources.
In my comment to her I suggested she talk a bit faster in the video (it came across very slow), and that that would also cut down the 10 seconds extra the video was.
I suggested getting in contact with a friend of mine from Liverpool council who could help with the Minecraft area, and also suggested trying reddit to post her research and blogs on.
What did you contribute and how did you engage with the post? What research did you offer?
For Ben, I provided links to a range of news articles with more information on the psychology of addiction, as well as offering up a different way of approaching the DA – by looking at the sorts of people and companies that benefit from addiction. These articles were from LifeHacker, Sydney Morning Herald, The Conversation, The Guardian and Fast Company. The majority of the research I offered is on the psychology of addiction and poker machines in particular.
For Emily, I wasn’t really able to engage and contribute as much as I would have liked. Firstly, my lack of knowledge about the horror genre made it difficult for me to connect with the post. I also found the pitch to be a little bit vague, apart from finding out that they are doing a series of video essays, I wasn’t really given a sense of what the video essays will entail, so it was hard for me to suggest any research as I do not know what are they want to focus on.
For Anthea, I didn’t really offer any research, but I did suggest she get in contact with someone I know who did a project recently that may be of interest.
What directions did you suggest?
For Ben, I suggested he consider looking at the corporate interests behind poker machines – why there are so many in Australia (and in NSW in particular) and who has a share in the money they are pulling in.
For Emily I suggested looking at the current link between horror fans and true crime fans. True crime recently has become an incredibly lucrative genre, and that link between true crime and horror might be something of interest.
For Anthea, I suggested she try to post her DA on reddit.
How useful was your suggestion and how might you be more engaging and provide better feedback in round two of comments?
For Ben, I believe that the articles I sourced from Fast Company about applying poker machine psychology to app design could be of use to his DA, as well as the articles on the psychology of addiction, however I am unsure on how useful my suggestion about corporate ownership of poker machines will be.
For Emily, in all honesty I don’t believe that my suggestions were very useful. I hope that my comment about putting more background information into the blog post and providing more of a contextual framework would be helpful, but I could not think of any research suggestions that they wouldn’t already have covered. It was also hard to suggest research as I was a bit unclear on the direction the vlogs will take.
For Anthea I am also unsure how great my suggestions will be, but hopefully providing a link to my friend will be of some use.
Overall, I believe that I will be able to offer more direction and useful feedback in round two of comments because the DA’s I will be assigned will be further along in their progression. This will give me a better idea of where they are going with their DA, rather than me trying to give advice on a project that is still in its ideation phase and could really take any direction from there.
I also need to work on how to approach suggesting research. I feel uncomfortable suggesting research to people who have obviously got a lot of background knowledge on a subject, because it feels like I am likely to be passing on information that they already know. In my mind, if I say to someone “You should look at this article” when the article is on a subject they know back to front, it could come off as offensive, like I am suggesting their background knowledge or current research is sub-par. Also, without knowing the exact direction that their DA’s will take, it is hard for me to find and suggest specific research, as I don’t know what direction their DA might go in. This is reflected in my previous paragraph, where I stated that round two comments should be easier as everyone’s DA’s will be well underway. For me, it is much easier to comment on something that exists tangibly rather than commenting on something that is still being ideated.
What did you learn?
I learned that I find it difficult to suggest research to people without the fear of offending them. I also learned how difficult it is to engage with a topic in a meaningful way when I have no background knowledge or prior interest in the topic. I also find it difficult to give criticism to someone on something that they have put time and effort into, especially when it is based on a topic they are passionate about.
What did you get out of the experience?
As this is my 5th year of studying BCM part-time, I have done many subjects that included critical feedback on blog posts. I learned a lot from them the first few times, but by now I am unsure if I got anything new from this specific commenting experience.
How do you plan to improve?
I would like to engage more with the post topics. As stated above, I feel that I can do that better when the projects are further along, and there is more to actually look at/read/listen to, and I will be able to get a better understanding of the topic and the approach. I will also look at ways of being better at giving constructive criticism as it is hard for me personally to criticise someone on a passion project, for fear of discouraging them.
For as long as I can remember, photography has been important to me. And this can all be linked back to one game – Pokemon Snap. Hours upon hours of my childhood were spent photographing Pokemon to the point where every level just became muscle memory to me. From there, my passion turned into what I am now: a freelance live music photographer, and a passionate amateur gametographer.
In-game photography is more than pretty screenshots, it’s about breaking rules and making memories
– Spencer, 2016
Gametography (virtual photography, in-game photography) is a new media art form involved with taking screenshots (or photos) in a game – particularly open world games, with the support of an in game photo mode. Photo mode is now starting to become standard in AAA games, and for good reason: it allows players to create their own art within a virtual world, and creating their own paratexts. For my digital artefact I plan to bring gametography to a wider audience with a photo essay investigating the history of in-game photography, how it fits into the art community, and speculating on it’s future. A large issue I would also like to discuss in my photo essay is the ownership of the photo. It is, after all, a screenshot taken in someone else’s world. Should the rights lie with the gamer who took the photo? Or the developer who created the world? Who should be attributed with making this piece of art?
The majority of my research will be primary qualitative research from talking to both real and virtual photographers to get their opinions on virtual photography as an art form. There are many detractors of gametography, and while I do not always agree with their point of view, their opinions will be represented in my photo essay as well. I will also attempt to contact game developers who have made games with photo modes to discuss both why they decided to add a photo mode, and their views on the aforementioned photo rights issue.
“Just as there is an art to taking a good offline photography, there is an art to taking a good screen capture.”
– Book, 2003
In terms of secondary research, academic sources on gametography are rather sparse, as it is still a relatively new artform. This is not to say that they don’t exist, just that they aren’t as prolific as other topics. However, there are a wealth of resources regarding photography and its place in the art world. Gaining this baseline of information about what photography really is will aid me in discovering how gametography fits into that as well.
With that in mind, I have found some helpful journal articles surrounding gametography which I hope will give me a deeper understanding of gametography as an artform, teach me about its history, and give me the necessary tools to be able to speculate on the future.
Separate from academic resources however, there are a wealth of articles, essays, think-pieces and interviews (and criticisms) on a variety of news and pop culture websites, from Kotaku to even HuffPost, The Washington Post and The Guardian. This is on top of the subreddits, discords and even art gallery talks and exhibitions (including an Australian exhibition – more on that later).
My preliminary research has given me a lot to think about regarding gametography as an artform and has left me optimistic about the trajectory of my DA. The 2007 journal article “Point and Shoot: Remediating Photography in Gamespace” has been particularly interesting to me, with the author Poremba arguing “players are taking real photos, just in virtual spaces… players gain creative control over composition and subject and can thus make creative decisions in the work. This is significant because it allows players to create original works even within existing works” Poremba also notes that photography itself is “an inherently gamelike practice” that promotes collecting and exploring, much like many open world games do.
I believe that a post-structuralist standpoint is the most appropriate approach for this photo essay and analysis, as art is inherently subjective, and different people will assign meaning to art and photography in different ways. There is also a political economy element to be examined, as gametography challenges the notion common among photographers that your camera gear – and the amount of money you have spent on it – is somehow linked to your credibility as an artist. Gametographers need only a console and a game, not the latest Canon gear.
My digitial artefact will take the form of a photo essay embedded in a blog, and will most likely be crossposted to Twitter and Instagram. A while ago I made accounts dedicated to my in-game photography on Instagram and Twitter under the handle ABXY Photo Mode, but I have up to this point failed to utilise them to their full potential – something I am looking to change with this project. Rather than providing the photos week by week, I will use the time available to me to interview artists, gather my information and research, and present it as one essay at the end of the semester.
Earlier in this post I mentioned a photo mode exhibition held in Australia. Throughout my time as a gametographer, I have had the privilege of being a part of PAX Australia’s first in-game photography exhibition in 2017 – showcasing my photo from Horizon Zero Dawn alongside some other amazing gametographers, including work from the hosts of the Gametographers stream.
My digital artefact aims to bring virtual photography to a wider audience. For some people, this will be an introduction, but for more seasoned gametographers I hope to encourage them to engage with and think about virtual photography in new and different ways.
“The resulting image is presented not as an inferior representation of our reality, but as a realistic representation of an alternate reality”
– Poremba, 2007
Links and References: