December 9, 2005

CFP : Video Games and the Alien / Other

by Noah Wardrip-Fruin · , 10:32 am

The University of Florida’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is pleased to announce the 2006 UF Game Studies Conference: “Video Games and the Alien/Other,” which will be held in Gainesville, Florida, on April 7-8 2006. Keynote Speaker: Lee Sheldon (writing credits include Agatha Christie: And then there were none [The Adventure Company], Uru: Ages beyond Myst [Cyan], The Riddle of Master Lu, and Dark Side of the Moon.)

This conference seeks to explore the figure of the Alien and the Other and the various ways it has been employed in video games. Since the original Space Invaders, video games have frequently construed difference as the site of conflict and conflict as the principle operation of the individual fighting alone against a hostile Universe. In this game, for example, the aliens which invade the earth are marked as Other by their bodies, and their hostility toward the earth is a foregone conclusion of their difference.

In a different sense, video game quest narratives often position the player-character as an outsider working to protect the status quo (e.g. Link in the Zelda series) or destroy it (e.g. the various protagonists in the Grand Theft Auto series). More generally, one marker of success in any electronic text is the ability for its programmatic characters to overcome the othering difference of the game’s diegesis by exhibiting a high degree of autonomy or human-like individuality. Further, even in their construction of in-game avatars and representations of Alien bodies, many games truncate marks of difference into one monolithic form of otherness, eliding race, gender and religious diversity. Thus, the figure of the alien or other occupies the space of difference in video games in a variety of positive and negative ways which are above all complex renderings of otherness within a specific.

This second annual Game Studies conference will focus on the theme of the Alien/Other. In particular, we seek to emphasize the technological, social, and cultural construction of identity and the Alien or Other in and through video game texts.

This conference will examine these constructions as oriented around several key themes:

* Player-Characters and the role of the outsider
* Gaming cultures and subcultures
* Gender, race, religion and the avatar
* Monstrosity and avatars
* Otherness and online societies (e.g. MMORPG’s)
* Technology as Othering
* Designing the Alien/Other through AI and NPCs
* Video game villains and anti-heroes

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

* The Other and the industry — the role of independent game
* Localization and the alleged erasure of cultural difference through
video games.
* Marketing and approaching new demographics.
* Becoming the Other in online role-playing communities.
* Colonialism and Orientalism within historical simulations.
* The representation (or lack) of religious pluralism in video games.
* Representations of race, gender, and/or sexual preference in games.
* The Evolution of the Alien/Other in games.
* Becoming Other — choosing a path in _KOTOR_ or _Black and White_.
* Subversive game play.
* Psychoanalysis, video games and the other/Other.
* Becoming Alien/Other in online games: how players function as others to
other players.
* Alien/Other and the differences inherent in console or interface
* Close studies of specific Alien/Others and tropes of Alien/Otherness.

Abstract submissions should be approximately 250-500 words in length. Presentations will be 15 minutes with 5 minutes of question and answer following.

The deadline for abstract submissions is Friday, February 1, 2006.

Submissions may be emailed to (preferred) or sent in hard copy to

Zach Whalen
Department of English
Univ. of Florida
4008 Turlington Hall
P.O. Box 117310
Gainesville, FL 32611-7310

4 Responses to “CFP : Video Games and the Alien / Other”

  1. zach whalen Says:

    Obviously, the due date listed should in fact be next year, 2006, and not last winter. Also, we’ll have a website up soon and should be announcing some opportunities for participating remotely if you can’t make the trip down.

  2. nick Says:

    Aha – I changed the date in the post. Good luck with the conference, it sounds like it will be great!

  3. josh g. Says:

    This sounds like an excellent theme. World of Warcraft especially has forced this design theme into my head in recent months – its gameplay and social interaction systems are like a case study in creating prejudice between players.

    I won’t be there, but I’m looking forward to the writeups.

  4. zach whalen Says:


    Extended deadline for submissions – March 1, 2006
    New website –
    New two-track submissions options – “Theory” and “praxis
    New co-sponsor – UF’s Digital Worlds Institute

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