Seminar back on: “What You Should Know about Simulation if You Care about Videogames”

This Friday the Department of Computer Science and Information Science Seminar Series is hosting Associate Professor David Ciccoricco for a talk titled:

“What You Should Know about Simulation if You Care about Videogames”

ABSTRACT: This talk historicizes the tangled relationship between two kinds of simulation, the mental simulations that happen in human minds and the digital simulations that happen on computer screens, and speculates about that relationship’s transdisciplinary future. It also suggests some ways in which aesthetic appropriations of simulation – as seen in videogames and other creative media – can play a significant and revealing role in mediating between the cognitive and the computational.

WHEN – 4 September at 1PM

WHERE – live & streamed online

Room G34 (Owheo building, 133 Union St. East)  (places limited – to secure a seat you must email: )

& online on Zoom at:

Password: 965073

David Ciccoricco is Associate Professor in English and Linguistics at the University of Otago. His research is focused on literary and narrative theory with an emphasis on emergent forms of digital literature, as well as digital culture and posthumanism more generally. He is the author of Reading Network Fiction (2007), a book on pre-Web and Web-based digital fiction, and Refiguring Minds in Narrative Media (2015), which is focused on cognitive approaches to narrative and literary theory in print novels, digital narratives, and story-driven videogames.

[Literary Games Group] 29/7/20 Paratopic and Exploring Literary Gaming

Today we read the next chapter of the book Literary Gaming – “Playing With Rather Than By Rules” in which we examined games as not just entertainment, but as political tools and weapons for activism and hacktivism, which is how such a popular medium will likely be used more and more as we begin to enter a more mature age of video game storytelling.

There are also several different ludology theories we learned about, my favourite concept being that of Johan Huizinga’s “magic circle” – the space and state that we enter when we play a game, where we buy into the fantasy or essentially “sign a contract” with the game allowing you to be immersed and follow rules that are different from the regular world, whether they be scientific or ethical rules.
Over the next week, we’ll be looking at the next chapter, which you can read here if you are interested.

Later in the session we booted up the short 2018 game, Paratopic, which I have played before but was keen to introduce the other members of the group to. The developers (Arbitrary Metric) themselves describe it best, saying that “Paratopic [is] an atmospheric retro-3D horror adventure through a cursed fever dream.” It subverts how we regularly experience video game stories and challenges our interpretation of events by making things deliberately unclear. It is an excellent, very unique, game that I have been a fan of since I played it last year, which I can highly recommend to anyone who is interested in non-linear narrative and experimental video games.

Interestingly, when asked to describe how the game made them feel, the player and viewers who hadn’t played the game could only say – “I don’t know”, and  “disgusted” which I believe means that the game is doing its job very well, utilizing its game design and story together to create a potent experience, like a forbidden game you stumbled across in an archive somewhere.

Hope to see you around, looking forward to seeing what kinds of literary games other people have played and recommend!

[Literary Games Group] 22/7/20 Deciding On A “Game As A Project”

Today we discussed the kinds of games that might appeal to us as a  running project or thing to analyze in the weeks to come. There are plenty of worthy candidates, but we want to find something that’s not overly long while still being deep enough to really sink our teeth into.
And also something that is entertaining for others to ask questions of while we’re watching the person playing on the projector!

One of the more recent games that comes to my mind is Hideo Kojima’s latest release, Death Stranding, which is essentially a game as a societal statement. Walking simulators are an oft-derided genre for their simplicity, but they have the capacity to tell interesting stories, even if the gameplay can be considered undercooked. Kojima took it upon himself to make a walking simulator about the feeling of isolation and reuniting a divided country. It’s a great game, and one to keep on the radar as we continue.

Death Stranding (2019)

We also explored a superb Twine experiment that you can access for free here, which is an immensely challenging game, but not in the traditional, gameplay sense. Won’t spoil anything about it just yet, in hope you’ll experience it for yourself blind!
It makes for a great taster for the sort of games we’re looking at and the kind of projects we’d love to find out more about.

Finally, we began reading the book Literary Gaming by Astrid Ensslin, and figured out how to define literary games going ahead with the group. In it, she describes how literary games can grow to encompass fields previously unthought of, and how the melding of video games and traditionally literary media can advance storytelling and video games at once in leaps and bounds. On to chapter two!

Hope to see you round!

[Literary Games Group] 15/7/20 First Update

After our first meeting, we’ve come away with a good understanding of the kinds of places we want to go, the experiences we want to share, and the aspects of games that we want to explore.

No one lives under the lighthouse (2020)

Games are a young  medium, and a medium catering to a very broad audience, that unfortunately doesn’t always appreciate the kinds of very intelligent and subversive game design that new developers, especially indie developers, are coming up with – games that challenge you not just as a player, but as a person. I think there is a lot of fun to be had from exploring games and their ultimate potential, exploring choice, consequence and how games allow us to inhabit roles in fantastic worlds we wouldn’t otherwise be able to be a part of. We can assert our will and our choices on a game, and I think that’s a really interesting thing to be able to explore. Watching others play games and see the choices they make compared to you is a great way to gain a deeper appreciation for a game, and it’s one of the ways we’ll be proceeding from here.

To start the group we’ll also be looking at a book available here, reading the introduction for this week as we figure out how we approach games as things to be analyzed and enjoyed as works of art in their own right.

Hope to see you around!

INTRODUCING… the Literary Games Group

We’re thrilled to announce the start of Otago’s Literary Games Group – an open, informal, undergraduate group devoted to the critical study of literary videogames.

The group will meet weekly in the Digital Humanities Hub (Arts Building room 1W4, on Wednesdays at 11am.

Contact literary gamer Jacob Cone for more details:  



Aotearoa Digital Arts (ADA)-affiliated Research Assistant

Photo by G. Ashworth

We’re pleased to announce our first “Aotearoa Digital Arts (ADA)-affiliated Research Assistant” for the University of Otago Humanities Division Digital Humanities Hub.

Gavin Ashworth, an artist and art history/linguistics student who has worked in artistic spaces in Sydney and Dunedin, started his role earlier this month.

The main task of the ADA-affiliated Research Assistant is to conduct data analysis of the Aotearoa Digital Arts Network online archive and compare that to other online collections internationally, with the aim of increasing the presence of NZ digital art and literature in those collections.

[Open Hours February 8th] Finding & Cleaning Data

Join us on Friday 8th Feburary for a one hour discussion between 12 noon and 1pm at the Digital Humanities Hub for our weekly Open Hours!

Topic – How to find and clean data

Humanities data is often messy and hard to access. This session will introduce us to using OpenRefine to access and clean up data, using DigitalNZ collections as an example.


A Gentle Introduction to Data Cleaning

The Quartz guide to bad data

WHEN: 12pm – 1pm, Friday 8th Feburary 2019

WHERE: Digital Humanities Hub, Room 1W3, First Floor, Arts Building

WHO: Anyone in the University community – there’s no advance registration required, but we always appreciate knowing in advance if you are planning to come along!