Last week I attended the annual spring seminar arranged by Tampere University, this year on the topic of games and monstrosity. When I read the call for papers, I was surprised to see that in-game toxicity and hostility towards other players was listed as potential topics. On an abstract level, most can agree that for example racism can be considered monstrous. However, this made me question if I, as a researcher, have the authority to brand someone who uses racist language online as a monster? I raised this discussion with Fredrik Rusk and we decided to submit an abstract addressing this particular ethical discussion. Thankfully, our abstract was approved for the seminar and we submitted a work in progress paper on the topic!
Due to the pandemic, this years seminar was arranged online. The topic monstrosity in games was covered from a number of perspectives, where the different sessions focused on for example non-human monstrosity, folklore monsters as well as gendered monstrosity in games. The seminar was arranged on three afternoons with two sessions and a keynote each. The keynote by PhD candidate Sarah Stang (York University in Toronto, Canada) on ”Succubi, sirens, harpies, and hags: Unpacking misogynistic female monstrosity in games” made a huge impression on me. Perhaps it was her focus on monstrosity in games that were familiar to me, but it opened my eyes to how misogynistic some female monsters in fantasy game environments can be.
The short presentations was followed by expert commentators providing feedback on the respective work in progress paper. I highly enjoyed this format and the informed discussion than followed, rather than the session chair coming up with a question like ”where are you going next with this project?”. Keeping the participant discussion on a separate channel and questions for the presenters in the Zoom chat was a wise move on behalf the organisers! That way the participants can be as engaged as they wish and the moderators can easily find the questions for those presenting. We presented in the final session on Monstrous players and toxic gamer cultures. The commentators gave great feedback and we now know in which direction to go when we develop this draft into a full paper! I have said it before and I will probably say it again; although the seminar was inspiring and well organised, I miss talking face to face and networking over a cup of coffee.
UPDATE! In line with the idea of sharing our experiences of arranging online events, Mikko Meriläinen has now published a blog post on an organiser perspective on the seminar. Follow this link to check it out!