While the mingling of producers and theorists is unheard of in other academic disciplines such as film or literary studies, the young discipline of game studies takes pride in bridging the culture gap. After all, the question “What is a game?” is notoriously tricky to answer, and all help in answering it is welcome.

Accordingly, there was a wealth of sessions focusing on subjects such as “What games are made of”, “Time, repetition and immersion”, “Game environments” and “Game Analysis and Creation”. Due to the number of participants many of the sessions took place at the same time, so there were some tough choices to be made.

But the designer’s side is only one side of the story, of course. As the voluminous Level Up proceedings show, more and more academics focus on the players of games as worthy objects of study. This kind of research could produce insights into the minds of consumers, helping designers to reach new audiences, such as elderly or disabled gamers.
It would not have been a real games conference, had it been all work and no play. On the evening of the second day, researchers and designers alike gathered at a Utrecht club to celebrate and play some games. And while some were content to play the newest PlayStation2 and Nokia NGage titles, others were drawn to the award-winning PainStation by artists Volker Morawe and Tilman Reiff, or the “interactive drama” Façade by GeorgiaTech’s Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern.

The newly formed Digital Games Research Association (www.digra.org) held its first full assembly on the last day of the conference. With Jason Della Rocca of IGDA as one of its members, the association will strive to strengthen the ties between developers and academics further, while at the same time deepening and broadening the field of digital game research.

More information can be found at http://www.gamesconference.orghttp://www.gamesconference.org

The proceedings can be ordered at http://www.gamesconference.org/2003/index.php?Proceedingshttp://www.gamesconference.org/2003/index.php?Proceedings

Another summary can be found at http://www.igda.orgthe igda website.