CoE Alumnus Jan Švelch Recaps His Time in Tampere

Written by Jan Švelch. This post is a part of an ongoing blog series by members and alumni of the CoE. See the full list of published posts and the introduction to the series.

When I joined the Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies in May 2018, I was among the first international hires to the CoE. Relocating to Finland was not without its difficulties and heartbreak but it promised to be a great opportunity to pursue my interest in game studies scholarship. During my PhD at Charles University (Prague, Czechia), I was exploring video game paratextuality (primarily focusing on video game trailers but also patch notes or board game errata). I was interested in how video game industries promote their commodities, managing audience expectations but also fixing bugs and glitches. This is why CoE’s Theme 2 Creation and Production of Games (coordinated by Olli Sotamaa) appealed to me as an avenue to broaden my research. I applied with a project on video game authorship, hoping to use my knowledge of paratextual elements as platforms where authorship is established and negotiated from in-game credits to trailers or postmortems.

Coming from a department where game studies was a niche subject, I was excited to be among experts in the field and to be able to learn from them. Tampere’s CoE unit, which is embedded in the GameLab community of researchers who worked together on multiple successful grant projects before the CoE, holds fortnightly sessions during which scholars discuss their work-in-progress papers. These seminars provided an opportunity to stay in touch with what my colleagues were working on at the moment and to get suggestions and constructive feedback on my own papers. Thanks to Dale Leorke, we also started a reading circle focused on game production and political economy, giving us motivation to read new research and not just skim through it. Being able to assemble a team of talented game scholars is one of the CoE’s greatest strengths.

On a day-to-day basis, the CoE leadership gave me the freedom to pursue publication projects that felt timely and relevant, allowing me to branch out from my initial proposal. This way I was able to follow side projects that resulted in articles such as Resisting the Perpetual Update: Struggles against Protocological Power in Video Games in New Media & Society or Mediatization of a Card Game: Magic: The Gathering, Esports, and Streaming in Media, Culture & Society. At the same time, Olli Sotamaa and I started working on an edited collection Game Production Studies, which will soon be published by Amsterdam University Press. This is a culmination of my stay in Tampere – something that I would not be able to do by myself and where the support and backing of the CoE helped significantly.

As a game scholar, I also had the unique chance to play games with my colleagues, from trophy hunting on PlayStation 4 with Maria Garda to board gaming sessions with Dale Leorke and Tom Apperley. The 27 months at the CoE were a privilege and an invaluable learning experience. I wish the Centre of Excellence good luck in pursuing its research goals and providing an inspiring workplace to a new batch of scholars.

Jan Švelch is a game production studies scholar, currently based at Charles University, Faculty of Arts. His research interests include video game production, monetization, paratextuality, and Magic: The Gathering. Between May 2018 and July 2020, he was a post-doctoral researcher at the Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies at University of Tampere. Besides research, he has more than ten years of experience as a freelance journalist covering video games and music for various Czech magazines, including the Metacritic-aggregated Level. For a brief period, he worked as a data analyst for the leading Czech video game studio Bohemia Interactive

Recent publications

Švelch, Jan. 2019. “Resisting the Perpetual Update: Struggles against Protocological Power in Video Games.” New Media & Society 21 (7): 1594–1612.

———. 2020a. “Paratextuality in Game Studies: A Theoretical Review and Citation Analysis.” Game Studies 20 (2).

———. 2020b. “Mediatization of a Card Game: Magic: The Gathering, Esports, and Streaming.” Media, Culture & Society 42 (6): 838–56.

———. 2020c. “Redefining Screenshots: Toward Critical Literacy of Screen Capture Practices.” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, September, Online First.