Games and Language Conference

Norbert Krek's picture
October 20, 2023 to October 21, 2023
Subject Fields: 
Cultural History / Studies, Digital Humanities, Humanities, Journalism and Media Studies, Languages

The Institute of English and American Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Debrecen, Hungary invites you to participate in the conference titled

“Games and Language”

Debrecen, Hungary 20-21 Oct, 2023

Two decades ago, the primary stake of the then nascent game studies was to define the discipline and to describe the new medium as a meaning-making and affective tool that was clearly distinct from other cultural products. The word “language” in the title thus, in its first sense, refers to the delineation of a set of medium-specific, non-linguistic features, in line with how, for example, the widely used textbook Understanding Video Games means it: “games can be considered an art form of game design through their own ‘language’” (Egenfeldt-Nielsen, Smith and Tosca 2020, 116). “Language” is therefore understood in quotation marks and refers to a set of symbols and rules that define how machine-to.player and player-to-player communication works and how meaning is produced. One of the primary aims of the conference is therefore to encourage an interdisciplinary and intercultural discussion of this medium-specific language of video games, and to delve into the novel and constantly evolving game mechanics that can act as syntax for this emerging game language.

However, the primary goal of game studies in the decades since its inception has been not only to draw new boundaries but also to create new, mutually productive interdisciplinary relationships, and the conference will therefore also explore the relationship between games, gaming and language. Language in games, written or spoken, often shapes world-building practices in video games, offers unique modes of engagement with optional in-game content, but is also apparent in as varied forms as text messages, books (see for example Escande), adaptations, transmedia narratives, or even code. The reliance on language and textuality in a game’s design can vary depending on the game’s genre or industry practices that produced it. Due to the rearrangement of video game industry in the last decade, independent game development (Juul 2019) increasingly turned its attention towards the imitation of earlier game aesthetics  and game mechanics that utilise or take advantage of textual elements that was previously deemed obsolete in favour of more cinematic techniques (Freyermuth 2015). Parallel to this, the repository of paratexts (Švelch 2020; Beil, Freyermuth, and Schmidt 2021) surrounding video games has extended, for example, with the advent and popularisation of streaming (Johnson and Woodcock 2019) or with the appearance of alternative funding opportunities, e.g. Kickstarter (Gilbert 2017). The conference aims to demonstrate that this changing landscape of media and video game industry offers new possibilities for researchers in the context of language and games.

Finally, the intersection of language and video games encompasses commentaries on how the methodological blueprints of literary studies – e.g. discourse analysis (Ensslin 2011), narratology (Fuchs 2015), theatre studies (Fernandez-Vara 2009) or hermeneutics (Arjoranta 2022) – can be utilised in game studies focused inquiries (Alberti 2008). The reverse is also true: game studies may inspire novel understandings of written texts.  Furthermore, a cultural studies inspired game studies considers language as a building block of identity displayed in video games (Malkowski and Russworm 2017), but also allows for methodological inquiries of scholarly and journalistic (Perreault and Vos 2020; O’Donnell 2022) writing about games or issues of translation (O’Hagan 2013) in the medium.

The conference is intended to provide room for productive conversation in the Hungarian, regional and international scholarly community working with both table-top and video games of all genres within the field of humanities and social sciences. With the special focus of language in-and-of video games considered, proposals may address but are not limited to:

  • blogging about video games
  • books as in-game objects
  • textuality and worldbuilding in video games
  • code as language
  • examples of close reading/close playing
  • explorations of transmedia narratives
  • game mechanics as game language
  • game-to-novel and novel-to-game adaptations
  • in-game uses of various textual formations
  • inter-, intra-, hyper-, para-, metatextuality in (video) games
  • experimental hybrid pieces offering a literary-ludic experience
  • text-based games
  • playfulness and gameliness in literature
  • the ethics of language use in video games
  • the language of video game journalism
  • the medium-specific language of video games
  • the role of video games in language learning
  • the use of analytical language and the question of avatar in academic game analyses
  • video games referencing other media
  • games as arguments
  • novels about gaming and video games
  • literary and ludic immersion

The conference is planned as a bilingual and hybrid event, to be held in English and Hungarian, with remote participation options along with the on-site event on 20-21 Oct 2023 at the University of Debrecen. Depending on the dynamics of the pandemic, we might have to adapt the set-up of the conference according to the regulations. Participants will be informed about any changes via email in due time.

Registration fee for on-site participants: 20 euros

Registration fee for online participants: 10 euros

Reduced fees (15 euros) are available for students and upon individual consideration.

Please send a 250-300 word abstract of your proposed paper with a brief, max. 100 word biography and affiliation to by 30 April 2023. Responses will be given by 21 May 2023.

Contact Info: 

Norbert Krek, PhD Student, University of Debrecen