Call for Papers
Digital Games and/as Theatre: Retooling Entertainment, Art, Learning
The histories of gaming and theatre figure rich connections dating to the early-modern period. According to Gina Bloom’s Gaming the Stage (2018), theatre was established in the entertainment market, in the first place, largely due to the similar experiences of attending a play and playing a game. Moreover, the position that games can be approached and studied as theatrical media and theatre “as an interactive gaming technology” is being supported by ludologist and game studies scholars such as Johan Huizinga in his seminal work Homo Ludens (1938) and Sara Lynne Bowman in The Functions of Role-Playing Games (2010).
Both gameplay and theatreplay have taken a decisive digital turn in the past decades. However, the advent of the digital revolution shifted the terrains of gaming more radically than those of theatre. It certainly affected the theatre as art, craft, industry, and the sweep of applied theatre, and it also gave rise to forms of theatre native or adapted to the digital environment that now fall under the rubric of “digital theatre.” Still, generally speaking, the basics of theatre (especially mainstream theatre), namely its aesthetics, politics, and ethics, have not so far undergone any radical transformation owing to the integration of digital technology into the theatre praxis.
The case is different with games. Digital games’ prevalence over analog games in the last decades, and the proliferation of the former, have had a deep impact on the design, production, distribution, and reception of games as loci of sociality and socializing, as well as on their uses beyond the entertainment industry, in education, and in the intersection of games and the arts (Quandt and Kröger 2014; Dillon 2020). Digital gaming signals a dramatic change in the ontology and epistemology of gaming: what games are, what they do, and how we make meaning out of/with them. Ubiquitous and technologically forward-facing, digital gaming is not simply an intrinsic part of convergent media culture incontemporary societies, as game scholars Johannes Fromme and Alexander Unger have argued (2012); rather, it has emerged as one of the major actors therein. This could partially explain why contemporary theatre has turned to digital gaming in search of tools and to engage new audiences.
While the mutual feed between games and theatre was already there, it may be that the unique qualities of the digital (flexibility, mutability, openness, generativity, etc.) favored a more pronounced interrelation between digital games and theatre in recent years, in theory and practice. Additionally, the dawn of the performance studies paradigm has also fortified the said interrelation by pulling the spotlight from traditional theatre scholarship toward an expansive understanding of performance and an interdisciplinary multiplicity of entry points for performance analysis. Importantly, the connection between theatre and gaming is present in the very founding of the field of performance studies. Seminal texts that essentially instituted the field of performance studies clearly establish that connection at least as potentiality.
But in the nascent field of game studies too, as Clara Fernández Vara has showed, “[d]ramatic models have been repeatedly invoked to study virtual environments, . . . in game design, [and] to refer to different strategies to create uncertainty and tension in gameplay.” The way performance is currently defined corresponds to what people experience when engaged in digital gameplay. Fernández Vara has expounded on this issue in a 2009 article that delivers a theatre-based performance framework for understanding digital games, and Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games in particular (MMORPGs for short), as software and as gameplay. Without equating theatrical performance and digital gaming, the scholar renders our grasp of both and of their relationship with more nuance. This is also the approach that the present volume adopts.
Among other things, this volume seeks to probe into the question of why there are good reasons for theatre to be chosen as one of the basic reference models to study digital games (including MMORPGs). More generally, it sets about to explore affinities and intersections between theatre—analogue, digital, or mixed—and digital games of various kinds, as well as the benefits that the theatre-digital games alliance entails for both sides of the hyphen, and for the social domains of entertainment, art, and learning in which both are involved and which both affect.
We are looking for papers which are theoretically informed and well-grounded in relevant research, irrespective of whether the said research falls within the field of game studies, theatre studies, cultural studies, popular culture studies, etc. We welcome papers that engage with both theatre and digital games and are written in a compelling and accessible prose. The length of each paper should not exceed 6,000 words, including bibliography. Authors should follow the format and citation style of MLA guide, 9th edition. All submissions will undergo peer review.
Topics may include (but are not limited to):
- Connections between theatre and games from the past to the present
- Digital games as theatrical media
- Theatrical performances in digital gameplay
- Theatre as a reference model to study MMORPGs
- Theatre as gaming technology
- The tools of digital gaming in contemporary theatre
- Digital (or mixed mode) theatre and digital games
- Digital gaming and gameplay in applied theatre contexts
- Actual and potential benefits of the theatre-digital games alliance
- The implications of the theatre-digital games alliance for the entertainment industry
- The implications of the theatre-digital games alliance for the realm of the arts
- The implications of the theatre-digital games alliance for education
- Digitally enriched Live Action Role-Playing Games (LARPs)
- The theatrical dimension of serious play tuned to the digital mode
Please send a well-developed abstract of 300–500 words and a biographical note of 150–200 words to Dr. Aikaterini Delikonstantinidou (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Dr. Dimitra Nikolaidou (email@example.com) by November 30, 2022. The abstract shouldstate clearly the author’s thesis, outline the author’s theoretical framework, briefly describe the research method and/or design, and identify the aims of the work. Your proposal should also include 3–5 keywords and selected bibliography.
Formal invitation to contribute to the volume by December 31, 2022.
Deadline for the submission of the book chapter, April 30, 2023.
Projected date of publication and publisher: TBA.
Aikaterini Delikonstantinidou, Adjunct lecturer, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens