Videogames as Folkworlds poster with dates, venue and contact details:

Videogames are a mass medium whose global sales and user numbers have exceeded those of the film and music industries for over a decade. However, they serve much more than just entertainment purposes. As interactive, educational experience worlds, they are used by governments and paramilitary groups as propaganda tools and military training simulators, e.g. in the Ukrainian War. Simultaneously, videogames can serve to convey and critically engage with culturally specific and folkloric content and thus pursue pacifist, democratic and sustainability-promoting goals. Although this dual role forms the basis of much public controversy, there is no comprehensive scientific/scholarly understanding of how videogames as folk worlds can impact intercultural understanding in anti- and prosocial ways. Nor do we have the methodological tools to perform such research in qualitative, quantitative and mixed approaches. To address this lacuna, this international symposium serves to develop a systematic transdisciplinary research program in videogames as folk worlds and as tools for transcultural understanding. The contributions range from media, literary and cultural studies to computer science, anthropology, educational psychology and political science.

Generously funded by the Vielberth Foundation and sponsored by the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies and the Department of Interdisciplinary and Multiscalar Area Studies at the University of Regensburg, this two-day symposium will analyze the dual role of computer games as transregional, nationalistic propaganda machines on the one hand and as democracy and diversity-fostering, critical and prosocial media experiences on the other. It will explore how the social and political actions of players are shaped by nationalist or fascist content, how such content appears in games, and how, conversely, pro-democracy, sustainability-promoting elements can be incorporated, experienced and learned in and through the design of alternative “indie” games.

An extensive conference report by Hanna Weimann (University of Stuttgart) is available here.


9:00hWelcome and reception Coffee/tea
9:15hOpening address by the Dean of the Faculty of Languages, Literatures, and CulturesProf. Dr. Maria Selig 

Introduction, rationale and goals;

Folk Mechanic as Transregional Anthropocene Criticism in Indigenous Video Games

Astrid Ensslin 
9:45hA world to escape to: Gameworlds as otherworlds in datafied societyDom Ford 
10:30hBreak Coffee/tea
10:45-13:00hPanel 1: Folk and Folklore in GamesChair: Tomasz Majkowski 
10:45hWho Are the Folk in 2024”?Kristian Bjørkelo 
11:30h“Popular Heritage in Chinese Gameworlds: From a Tripartite Schema to Straightening?”Bjarke Liboriussen 
12:15h„The Amorphology of Folk Games: Indian Videogames and Folk Narrative Traditions“Souvik Mukherjee 
13:00hLunch Fingerfood buffet
14:00h-16:15Panel 2: Tradition, Nationalism, EssentialismChair: Kristian Bjørkelo 
14:00h„Games and Invented Traditions“Tomasz Majkowski 
14:45h„Decolonizing Sweave: African Tradition and Alternative Cultural Pedagogies“Kwabena Opoku-Agyemang 
15:30h„The European video game exists. Do we need it?“Victor Navarro RemesalZoom
16:15hBreak Coffee/tea
16:30hGraduate intervention / SurpriseChair: Sebastian Richter 
17:30hFree time  
19:00hDinner, followed by guided walk through Regensburg  

Day 2 (12 April)

9:00-11:15hPanel 3: Sustainable Politics and PedagogiesChair: Kwabena Opoku-Agyemang 
9:00h„Materiality of Digitality. The Politics and Ethics of Making Videogames“Sonia Fizek 
9:45h„On the Representation of Repair and Maintenance Cultures in Computer Games“Sebastian MöringZoom

„The Awareness-Creating Potential of Educational Video Games: Supporting Crosscultural Understanding and Sustainability Awareness“

Video recording (extended version, courtesy of University of Tampere)

Xenia Zeiler 
11:15hBreak Tea/coffee
11:30-13:00hThinking Ahead: Utopias, Visions, ActionsChair: Astrid Ensslin 
11:30h„Re-Configuring Petrified Politics: Folk Games as Tools for Progressive Utopian Populism“Holger Pötzsch 
12:15hJoint discussion: where to next? (funding programs, publications, Nordic Digra 2025 panel and brainstorming for topics and RQs)Hosts: Astrid and Holger 
13:00hLunch Fingerfood catering
13:30hSmall group work: designing new projectsHosts: Astrid, Kristian and Tomasz 
15:00hReporting back and closing discussion / forward planning  
16:00hSymposium ends  

Folk Mechanic as Transregional Anthropocene Criticism in Indigenous Video Games

Astrid Ensslin, University of Regensburg

In this talk, I approach Indigenous representation in game design through the lens of critical, Transregional Game Studies. I introduce the concept of folk mechanic as a medium-specific game design concept that communicates relational values and postcolonial anthropocentric critique. Folklore and other folk-related themes manifest variably in video games and game culture, as players respond to and engage with ideas of nation, cultural heritage, and the relationship between land, human and other animate forms of being in a variety of ways and from diverse political angles. Aspects of folk mechanics and narrative world design can, for example, contribute to nationalist identity formation and alt-right community building, where they engender xenophobic, (anti-)social practices intra- and extradiegetically. Conversely, “folklore mechanics” can herald a “third game culture” in a politically left-leaning manner and be read as revolutionary-subversive game practices with culture-specific content; or, folk mechanics can embody folkloristic and specifically Indigenous epistemologies and value systems and thus help transform the colonial-ludological agon principle (Caillois 1961) into anthropocene-critical philosophies of relational play. Drawing on Indigenous games from and about the Arctic Inuit (Never Alone by Upper One Games [2014]), Anishinaabe and other Indigenous communities from Turtle Island (When Rivers Were Trails, LaPensée 2019), and Sámi people (Skábma-Snowfall [Redstage 2022]), I focus on three types of Indigenous folk mechanics: decolonial un-mapping; the relational drum; and survivance through co-species collaboration. They serve to illustrate relational agon as a mutually supportive and respectful interplay between animals (human and otherwise), land, and the environment.

Astrid Ensslin is a settler scholar of German origin and Professor for the Dynamics of Virtual Communication Spaces at the University of Regensburg (Germany), where she teaches and supervises students in Digital Area Studies, critical and transcultural game studies, literary media, and Critical Digital Humanities. She is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Alberta, where she spent five years teaching and researching Digital Culture (2020-2026). During that time, she supervised graduate work in Indigenous Game Studies (Barnes 2021) and took training courses in decolonial curriculum design and research. She is Principal Investigator of the SSHRC-funded “Writing New Body Worlds” project and a Director of the Electronic Literature Organization. Her most recent books include The Routledge Companion to Literary Media (2023), Pre-web Digital Publishing and the Lore of Electronic Literature (C.U.P. 2022) and Digital Fiction and the Unnatural: Transmedial Narrative Theory, Method, and Analysis (with Alice Bell, Ohio State U.P., 2021). At Regensburg she directs the Digital Area Studies Lab (DAS|LAB).


A world to escape to: Gameworlds as otherworlds in datafied society

Dom Ford, University of Bremen

Games and media researchers have long argued that we tear down conceptual barriers between distinction like the ‘real’ world and the gameworld, and for good reason. However, it is important to consider why those distinctions were made in the first place, and what they might offer us conceptually. I do not argue that such distinctions are theoretically defensible, but that there’s a reason why they are difficult to dispense with. I propose that we can better understand gameworlds and their role in our lives and in society through the concept of otherworlding (Frog, 2020), the building of a world defined against and separated from ordinary life. I argue that otherworlding can be usefully applied to gameworlds and the communities that inhabit them. I then turn to notions of datafication and alienation, arguing that an increasingly datafied world feels more and more alienating, but digital gameworlds can offer an ironic escape from this, because games and game communities (when made and maintained well) inject a fundamentally datafied existence with meaning, rather than taking a meaningful analogue life and reducing it into data used only for profit and extraction.

Dom Ford is a postdoctoral researcher at the ZeMKI Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research at the University of Bremen, Germany. He is a part of the Media and Religions lab headed by Kerstin Radde-Antweiler, and his current project focuses on digital game communities and how they are formed, negotiated and maintained through collective mythmaking. He defended his PhD at the IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark, in late 2022, titled Mytholudics: Understanding Games As/Through Myth. Dom has a book contract with De Gruyter for Mytholudics: Games and Myth, expected to be published in 2025.

Who Are the Folk in 2024?

Kristian Bjørkelo, University of Bergen

In order to establish concepts such as folk worlds and folk mechanics, we need to understand how folklore and the folk are entangled in video games, internet culture and contemporary nationalist imaginations and politics. We need to interrogate who or what constitutes the folk in 2024.

 With Dan Ben Amos’ suggestion that folklore was artistic communication within small groups (Ben-Amos 1971), he not only circumvented the notion that folk and folklore were bound to a mythical traditional society, but suggested that the folk consisted of smaller groups of people with something (values, ideals, history, interests) in common. Or as Alan Dundes put it

“any group of people whatsoever who share at least one common factor. It does not matter what the linking factor is-it could be a common occupation, language, or religion-but what is important is that a group…have some traditions that it calls its own” (Dundes 1965:2).

In his seminal work “Who are the folk?”, Alan Dundes further expanded the understanding of the folk, to include those who primarily lived in urban and even academic environments – answering his own question with a solid “among others, we are!” (Dundes 1977). This is an inclusive and democratic understanding of the folk, which has allowed folklorists to understand contemporary, urban and even online folk expressions as folklore (Blank and McNeill 2018; Phillips 2015). And while folkloristics still seek relevance and legitimization in tying contemporary secondary orality (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 1998; Ong 1979) with traditional expressions, I believe we should adopt an even more inclusive understanding of folk and folklore in order to understand the contemporary culture of political memecraft and games.

 In this presentation, I will engage with classic and contemporary scholars in folklore to answer the question Who are the folk in 2024.

Kristian A. Bjørkelo is a folklorist who has researched political extremist culture online and offline. He teaches digital culture and communication at the University of Bergen, and has done so for a decade and a half. Starting in 2024 he will teach communication at Nord University, Bodø as an Associate Professor. His PhD research was on transgressions in games and game culture, while his current research interests include emergent narratives and procedurality in tabletop gaming, the therapeutic use of games, and the creative future of artificial intelligence. In his sparse free time he paints tabletop miniatures and writes short fiction for a small audience. He lives in Bergen with his partner, two children and the cutest cat ever.

Popular Heritage in Chinese Gameworlds: From a Tripartite Schema to Straightening?

Bjarke Liboriussen, University of Nottingham Ningbo China

In a 2020 article on the world’s most popular MOBA, Tencent’s Honour of Kings (2015), Paul Martin and I found existing cultural studies models of hegemony lacking due to their reliance on a binary ‘power bloc vs. the people’ model. Tencent’s use of historical characters from the Chinese past, the State’s 2017 crackdown on such usage and the public’s social media-enabled reflection on the crackdown, called for a tripartite model of corporation, state and people. We observed a fissure in the power bloc as the tension between corporation and state became a source of popular entertainment.

Since then, that fissure in the power bloc has closed. Today, Tencent’s popular heritage strategy aligns more closely with the State’s calls for taking renewed pride in Chinese culture while accepting the Chinese Communist Party’s monopoly on the Chinese past. A more contemporary example of Chinese popular heritage comes with The Yinyang Master (Li 2021), a cinematic adaptation of the mobile game Onmyōji (NetEase, 2016). Both film and videogame draw on natural philosophy (the way of yin and yang) and quasi-historical accounts but whereas the game draws on bishōnen, an aesthetic style that highlights the attractiveness of androgynous young men and boys, the film thematically associates queerness with excess and selfishness. Inspired by Pamela Demory’s 2019 work on adapting as queering, I describe this reliance on narrative and patriarchal tropes that cannot be found in the underlying videogame as straightening.

The usefulness of a tripartite (corporation-state-people) analytical schema might already be obsolete and the concept of straightening more useful for understanding popular heritage in today’s Chinese gameworlds.


I am an Associate Professor in Digital and Creative Media at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China where I teach and research topics around the creative industries and videogames. Since moving to China in 2012, my creative industries research has been based on interviews and focused on the role of tools and technologies in creative labour. As part of my videogames research, I was part of the team that in 2014 launched a Chinese chapter of the Digital Games Research Association, which later inspired the concept of regional game studies (proposed in a 2016 Game Studies article co-authored with Paul Martin). Several of my own publications, for example, on Chinese amateur gold farming, would count as regional game studies. I am currently working on the monograph Cinematic Videogame Adaptation: An Ecoqueer Perspective (under contract with Edinburgh University Press).

The Amorphology of Folkgames: Indian Videogames and Folk Narrative Traditions

Souvik Mukherjee, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta

South Asian narrative traditions are deeply entrenched in local folk cultures but also connect with folk traditions from elsewhere.. From the tales of the Panchatantra to the multiplicity of stories, genealogical and religious, told through the Rajasthani storytelling box or Kavaad, folktale traditions are a composite mix of many storytelling traditions. Then again, Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, often thought by many to be an Indian folktale is obviously a colonial narrative written by a European but it draws on many Indian stories thus making it yet another composite. My presentation looks at Indian videogames in the way they do and do not remediate this phenomenon in Indian folk narratives. Taking as its key case studies, Raji: A Forgotten Epic, which brings together art and narrative traditions from across India and Nobody Knows for Certain, an Indian videogame about the reception of Soviet Russian books (and Russian folktales) in India, this paper intends to think about the nature of the folktale. Instead of seeking a clear-cut morphology, it aims to view folktales as a zone where multiple storytelling traditions come together breaking out of regional boundaries. Recently, Games Studies scholarship has been emphasizing ‘regional game studies’ perhaps in a move to better represent the cultural traditions that are commonly neglected in favour of Euro-American narrative cultures; what is perhaps more apt than such a parochial categorization is the thinking of games as being transregional and as products of contact zones (Pratt 1990). It will also look at examples from non-digital games such as The Myth Bridge, a live-action simulation game that brings to life and connects nine women characters from Bengali and German folklore. In doing so, it will look at how the folk cultures are ever evolving, as especially evident in newer narrative media, and how, instead of being monolithic regionally bound entities, they enable a multiplicity of ideas and perception of cultures.

Dr Souvik Mukherjee is assistant professor in Cultural Studies at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences Calcutta, India. His research looks at a diversity of topics such as videogames and storytelling, videogames as colonial and postcolonial media, gaming cultures in the Indian Subcontinent and currently, Indian boardgames and their colonial avatars. Souvik is the author of three monographs on videogames as well as many articles and book chapters in national and international publications. He was named a ‘DiGRA Distinguished Scholar’ in 2019 by the Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA).

Games and Invented Traditions

Tomasz Majkowski, Jagiellionian University, Kraków

In the talk I will employ Hobsbawm’s and Ranger’s concept of invented tradition to scrutinize the way contemporary games (both digital and non-digital) engage with legitimizing fairly recent practices, ideas and artifact as ancient, traditional and core for the national identity. Such practice not only contribute to the state-sanctioned, sanitized version of national history and identity, but also reinforce cultural essentialism, providing the community the sense of rightful ownership of certain cultural practices, ideas and artifacts: an important issue in contemporary online culture. The talk will be based on both original research by „National Video Games?“ project team, and results of the research seminar on the subject, held in Kraków in November 2023.

Tomasz Majkowski is an Associate Professor at Jagiellonian University in Krakow and the head of Jagiellonian Game Research Centre. Currently, he also serves as the vice-President of Digital Games Research Association. His research revolves around digital games as contemporary equivalent of 19th Century novel (understood as social practice), including the carnivalesque and comedic in games, as well as intersection between game and national cultures. He’s also interested in fairy tales, conspiracy theories, mythology, pornography and other aspects of vernacular cultures up until recently considered fringe and esoteric. 

Decolonizing Sweave: African Tradition and Alternative Cultural Pedagogies

Kwabena Opoku-Agyemang, University of Ghana

Video games are typically played for teleological purposes: the goal is to “win” and complete the tasks associated with the game. However, there is research into alternative reasons for playing video games, with some focus on the quotidian and intentionally failing games. Leaning toward the latter goal, this presentation explores the nexus between alternative purposes and pedagogy through the game Sweave. Created by the African platform Leti Arts, this ball game includes moments of teaching anytime the user fails: the user learns about Adinkra and Ancient Egyptian symbols that recall traditional forms of knowledge production and learning that have characterized African society. This presentation explores the implications of using failure as a strategy to learn about one’s culture, positioning this move as a decolonial turn. Sampling the views of undergraduate students at the University of Ghana for this exercise suggests that even though the game is designed with winning as the primary objective, alternative playstyles that embrace failure unlock unique educational possibilities.

Kwabena Opoku-Agyemang is a senior lecturer at the English Department of the University of Ghana and the academic director for School for International Training Ghana. His scholarship has appeared in several edited volumes and journals, and revolves around African digital literature. He is the West African Anglophone editor of Tydskrif vir Letterkunde, the oldest literary journal in South Africa, and serves on the boards of journals that include Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds, Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures, and Critical Global Issues.

The European video game exists. Do we need it?

Victor Navarro-Remesal, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona

This presentation discusses the idea of the “European video game” as a category separated from North American and Japanese video games, tackling it from the benefits but also dangers it presents to nationalism, identities, and democratic culture. In 2021, we edited a book titled Perspectives on the European Videogame that proposed an inquiry into the shared elements of games made in Europe, including both analyses of transnational aspects of European production and close readings of national specificities. The authors in the collection focused on European works and creators but also addressed contextual aspects within a wider sociocultural and philosophical ground. After that, we saw the need to go to the roots of our object and we are now currently working on a second volume, dedicated to historical elements. Our ongoing experience has shown us that there are benefits to using the concept, such as illuminating contextual factors that might be overlooked in a global perspective and dialogues and exchanges between regions, but also that the label risks being misapplied to construct a unified object with a fix cultural identity that separates its in-group. The European video game exists, and we need it to better understand history and cross-pollination, refusing essentialisms.

Víctor Navarro-Remesal is game scholar from Tecnocampus, Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona, Spain). He is the current president and a founding member of DiGRA Spain and the co-president of the History of Games conferences. His last book as an editor is ‘Perspectives on the European Videogame’ (Amsterdam University Press, 2021). His research interests include player freedom, Zen-inspired games and slow gaming, regional game studies, and game preservation. Currently, he’s one of the two Principal Investigators of the project Ludomythologies: Myths and ideology in contemporary video games.

Materiality of Digitality. The Politics and Ethics of Making Videogames

Sonia Fizek (TH Köln, Cologne Game Lab)

It was high summer 2022. In many regions of Europe and worldwide, temperatures reached record heights. France suffered under unprecedented wildfires, with over 62,000 hectares of flora burned by the end of August 2022. Meanwhile, players of the Riders Republic, a major multiplayer sports video game developed and published by Ubisoft Annecy, engaged in digital reforestation. They planted virtual trees in dedicated locations of the game’s map, bringing to life an entirely new forested area that stayed in the game for others to experience long after the event had come to an end. The Riders Republic Rebirth event culminated in the first ever in-game climate march. The project was conceptualized in 2021 during a Green Game Jam[1], organized by the Playing for the Planet Alliance, the Environmental Program of the United Nations. Boris Maniora, Riders Republic gameplay director, believes that green activations such as Rebirth show the empowering impact games can have on their players, instigating hope and potentially providing them with skills they could transfer to their off-line realities.

However, video games are not only drivers of ecological messages and climate positivity. They are as much objects of culture as they are of nature. As virtual, immaterial and clean as they are portrayed within the framework of postindustrial capitalism (Maxwell and Miller 2012, 5), they are literally made out of natural resources and material labour. Video games rely on technologies and production dynamics that make those media possible in the first place. Amongst many other media scholars, Sean Cubitt in Finite Media. Environmental Implications of Digital Technologies (2017) talks about media as “finite resources in the closed system of planet Earth” (2017, 7), time-bound and tied to their physical dimensions. This talk is an invitation to rethink video games and gaming within the context of climate crisis and environmental sustainability, specifically their reliance on earthly matter – e.g. minerals that build up electronic technology, indispensable for their production, consumption and distribution.


Maxwell, R., and T. Miller. 2012. Greening the Media. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Cubitt, S. 2016. Finite Media. Environmental Implications of Digital Technologies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Sonia Fizek is a games and media scholar. She holds a professorship in Media and Game Studies at the Cologne Game Lab at TH Köln – University of Applied Sciences. Fizek is also a visiting professor at the University of Lower Silesia in Wroclaw (Poland) and a co-editor-in-chief of the international Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds. In her latest book Playing at a Distance (MIT Press 2022), she explores the borderlands of video game aesthetic with focus on automation, AI and posthuman forms of play. Fizek’s current research concentrates on the environmental sustainability of video games. She is a principal investigator of “Greening Games” (, an international project on the sustainability of video games (2021-2024, funded by the German Academic Exchange Service EU/DAAD) and a work package lead in the project „STRATEGIES. Sustainable Transition for Europe’s Game Industries“ (2024-2027, funded by EU HORIZON).

On the Representation of Repair and Maintenance Cultures in Computer Games

Sebastian Möring, Macromedia University, Berlin

In this paper I wish to explore the topics of repair and maintenance in the light of green game studies (Beke et al., 2024; Chang, 2019) as well as green media studies (Parham, 2016). Popular culture – both radical and mainstream – has an important role to play in supporting environmental awareness and translating ecological values in ways that are meaningful to our everyday lives. This comprehensive survey of green media and popular culture introduces the reader to the key debates and theories surrounding green interpretations of popular film, television and journalism, as well as comedy, music, animation, and computer games. With stimulating and original case studies on U2, Bjork, the animated films of Disney, the computer game Journey, and more, the text reveals the complicated and often contradictory relationship between the media and environmentalism. Green Media and Popular Culture is a critical starting point for students of Media, Film and Cultural Studies, and anyone else researching and studying in the rapidly growing field of green media and cultural studies (Parham, 2016; Parks & Starosielski, 2015). The contributors to Signal Traffic investigate how the material artifacts of media infrastructure–transoceanic cables, mobile telephone towers, Internet data centers, and the like–intersect with everyday life. Essayists confront the multiple and hybrid forms networks take, the different ways networks are imagined and engaged with by publics around the world, their local effects, and what human beings experience when a network fails. Some contributors explore the physical objects and industrial relations that make up an infrastructure. Others venture into the marginalized communities orphaned from the knowledge economies, technological literacies, and epistemological questions linked to infrastructural formation and use. The wide-ranging insights delineate the oft-ignored contrasts between industrialized and developing regions, rich and poor areas, and urban and rural settings, bringing technological differences into focus. Contributors include Charles R. Acland, Paul Dourish, Sarah Harris, Jennifer Holt and Patrick Vonderau, Shannon Mattern, Toby Miller, Lisa Parks, Christian Sandvig, Nicole Starosielski, Jonathan Sterne, and Helga Tawil-Souri (Parks & Starosielski, 2015), and waste studies. It has become a common trope in games that players can make their characters collect objects that can be used to repair or maintain other objects that in turn are often integral to the freedom the players of games can enjoy (Leino, 2014). The first quests of games such as Walden, A Game (Fullerton & USC Game Innovation Lab, 2017) or No Man’s Sky (Hello Games, 2016) require the players to gather a diverse range of objects the gameworlds of said games in order to repair either a hut in the forest (Walden, A Game) or a spaceship (No Man’s Sky). In other games, parts of tool or machines deteriorate after some use. These have to be repaired or replaced such as the pickaxe in Minecraft (Mojang, 2011) or a range of car parts in Jalopy (Minsk Works & Excalibur Games, 2018) in order to keep the functionality they provide. Jalopy is set in the time between the fall of the German Wall and the reunification of the two Germanys. The main character drives with an old Laika (a simulated version of the East German car Trabant) from Berlin to Istanbul. Reaching the goal is highly dependent on the successful maintenance of the fragile vehicle which is always on the brink of breaking down. The game is set in an everyday culture known for its dependence on repair knowledge (Hanstein et al., 2022). In light of the current climate crises, we need to understand how our cultures of waste and consumption can be modified to cultures of maintenance and repair. I believe that the analysis of how such cultures are represented in computer games will be of help in this endeavor.


Beke, L. op de, Raessens, J., Werning, S., & Farca, G. (Eds.). (2024). Ecogames. Playful Perspectives on the Climate Crisis. Amsterdam University Press.

Chang, A. Y. (2019). Playing nature: Ecology in video games. University of Minnesota Press.

Fullerton, T. & USC Game Innovation Lab. (2017). Walden, a game.

Hanstein, U., Klaut, M., & Mangold, J. (2022). Reparaturwissen: DDR Einleitung in den Schwerpunkt. Zeitschrift für Medienwissenschaft, 14(27–2), 8–23.

Hello Games. (2016). No Man’s Sky ([PlayStation 4; Xbox One; Microsoft Windows]). Sony Interactive Entertainment.

Leino, O. T. (2014). <∞ min to Oasis of Happiness: Promises of Freedom and Play in Pocket Planes. Proceedings of The Philosophy of Computer Games Conference. The Philosophy of Computer Games, Istanbul.

Lewis, T. (2008). Revealing the Makeover Show: INTRODUCTION. Continuum, 22(4), 441–446.

Minsk Works & Excalibur Games. (2018). Jalopy ([Windows PC, Xbox One]).

Mojang. (2011). Minecraft ([Windows PC]). Mojang.

Parham, J. (2016). Green media and popular culture: An introduction. Palgrave Macmillan.

Parks, L., & Starosielski, N. (Eds.). (2015). Signal traffic: Critical studies of media infrastructures. University of Illinois Press.

Dr. Sebastian Möring is a professor of Game Design at Macromedia University in Berlin. In 2021 he received the Teaching Award of the State of Brandenburg. His research focuses on the philosophy and aesthetics of computer games, in-game photography, green game studies, and games in educational contexts. Most recently he co-edited the anthology Screen Images. In-Game Photography, Screenshot, Screencast (Kadmos, 2023) and co-authored the chapter “Climate–Game–Worlds: A Media-Aesthetic Look at the Depiction and Function of Climate in Computer Games“ (in Ecogames. Playful Perspectives on the Climate Crisis, Amsterdam University Press, 2024). For further publications and more information see

The Awareness-Creating Potential of Educational Video Games: Supporting Crosscultural Understanding and Sustainability Awareness
Xenia Zeiler, University of Helsinki

This presentation highlights environment and climate change-related themes in and around two exemplary videogames. Through discussing examples from the games, interviews with and statements from game developers, discussions and reviews from players, and comments on gameplay videos by interested audiences that might or might not play games themselves, this presentation explores the characters and successes of new Asia-produced gamified approaches to globally creating awareness for and educating about environmental appreciation and mindfulness. How are nature environment-related themes taken up, who are the target audiences, and how are the games perceived? To discuss these questions, two theoretical frames/lenses are touched upon: educational videogames (e.g., Michael and Chen 2006) and gamevironments (Radde-Antweiler, Waltemathe and Zeiler 2014). Educational videogames can be of use when exploring how videogames and their environments support the negotiating, empathizing over, and transcending of conflicts as related to climate change, and environmental awareness. By acknowledging the representations in videogame narratives as well as how this is discussed by persons in the (closer as well as broader defined) vicinity of games, this presentation additionally builds on the approach of gamevironments. Gamevironments encompass the technical and cultural environments of videogames and gaming and acknowledge the diverse global gaming landscapes. Namely, this presentation looks into the two exemplary recently released videogames Tea Garden Simulator (Flying Robot Studios, India, 2023) and Little Witch in the Woods (Sunny Side Up, Republic of Korea, 2022).

Xenia Zeiler is Professor of South Asian Studies at the Department of Cultures, Faculty of Arts, University of Helsinki. Her research and teaching are situated at the intersection of digital media, culture, and society, specifically as related to India and global Indian communities. Her focus within this wider field of digital culture is video games and gaming research, in India and beyond. Closely related to and supporting this are her other major research areas: In order to understand how digital spaces such as social media or video games, and more traditional media formats such as film or TV, shape and are shaped by various actors, she researches and teaches digital religion, popular culture, cultural heritage, and mediatization processes.

Re-Configuring Petrified Politics: Folk Games as Tools for Progressive Utopian Populism

Holger Pötzsch, UiT The Arctic University of Norway (Tromsø)

Our current condition is characterized by a palpable absence of utopian perspectives on the future. Concepts such as capitalist realism (Fisher 2009) or petrified politics (Pötzsch 2023) are meant to address the fact articulated by Fredric Jameson and Slavoj Zizek that “today, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism” (cited in Fisher 2009). An increasing socio-economic precarity of growing numbers of people worldwide combined with technological systems the business models of which systematically create and amplify polarizing negative affects and emotions have created a perfect storm for civil societies already brought to the brink of break down by 3 decades of relentless neo-liberalization (Dean 2009, Brown 2015, 2019, Fraser 2022, Chamayou 2019). Without utopian visions of popular political alternatives, we are left with what Habermas (2019 [1985]) has termed “a desert of banalities and cluelessness”. Within such frames, populism regularly pops up as the go-to buzzword for neo-liberal elites intending to undermine any genuinely popular political movement vying for a real alternative to the current mess (Ali 2015). In this contribution, I argue that to be able to challenge the negative double-bind of growing precarity and increasing polarization under conditions of global finacialized tech-capitalism, we need a genuinely progressive populism that takes seriously the very real fears, anxieties, anger, and problems of a majority of the world’s populations faced with increasingly pathologic levels of hypocrisy and double-standards among globally dominating elites. To make this argument, I follow the framework of Ruth Levitas’ (2013) and combine it with key tenets of critical future studies (Goode and Godhe 2017). Levitas proposes a threefold application of the term utopia as components or steps in a method to facilitate an imaginary reconstitution of societies through progressive future-bound change: 1) archaeology of utopia, 2) utopian ontologies, and 3) architectures of utopia. The archaeological mode asks what utopian visions are out there and which are lacking. Levitas looks into political programmes and social policies. I argue also the cultural sphere – in in particular videogames – has decisive influence on what is, and what is not perceived as possible and preferable futures. The ontological mode directs attention to the types of people and identities that are implicitly or explicitly produced and naturalized in given hegemonic orders, while the architectural mode searches for, highlights, and attempts to actively realize concrete alternatives underneath the surface of the apparently given.

As empirical focus, I will offer some thoughts on how games can contribute to the sedimentation of a static status quo or serve the political mobilization for progressive alternatives. In this endeavor the twin concepts of folk worlds and folk mechanics become crucial (Ensslin 2024). To me, the term folk worlds covers the representational side of videogames while folk mechanics is focused on rule systems predisposing the reconfigurative practice of play. Folk here indicates a specific subgenre of games that serves the articulation of genuinely progressive popular alternatives by means of narrative and/or game mechanics as opposed to hegemonic titles reproducing a hegemonic status quo. By way of Levitas’s (2013) concepts I will outline how developers of folk games can draw upon findings regarding hegemonic game genres to identify possible areas of intervention (archaeological mode). The resulting game design should enable the articulation of alternative ways of seeing, doing, and thinking from below offering exploratory spaces for new identities and collective political practices aimed an imaginary reconstitution of society (ontological mode). Lastly, the architectural mode both highlights necessary conditions for the success of game developers interested in producing folk games and looks into the capacity of folk games to serve as tools for political mobilization and resistance aiming at the formation of genuinely popular counter-hegemonic movements by facilitating the realization of concrete utopian goals and livable alternatives.



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Holger Pötzsch, PhD, is professor in Media Studies at UiT – The Arctic University of Norway. His main research interests are media and war (in particular the war film and war games), educational potentials and pitfalls of digital technologies, and the politics of popular culture. He coordinates the research network ENCODE at UiT and serves as editor-in-chief of the academic journal Eludamos: Journal for Computer Game Culture.