Between February and June 2021, I was an intern at the Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies as part of my master’s degree in Utrecht University. As my educational background is in history and international relations, I did not have much prior knowledge about the history of gaming and game cultures but I was excited to learn more about the field. In fact, I was initially drawn to the centre due to my passion for video games. I am also very interested in the process of how they are made and received by the audiences. This, in addition to my background in history, is why the centre’s research focus immediately piqued my interest.
Perhaps for this reason, I expected the research also to focus on digital games and the cultures around them. However, the projects I took part in centered more around board games and questions relating to sustainability. I found this focus very interesting, and during the five months in the CoE Game Cult, I was able to utilise my skills on the new research avenues relating to these topics.
I was part of a four-person team in Turku’s unit that focused on the societal framing of games. This meant researching the institutionalisation of digital game cultures, public discourses of gaming and gamification of culture and society. Therefore, my tasks included assisting my team and conducting individual research on these topics. For instance, I took part in a project on institutionalisation of game cultures within Finland, for which I created different timelines and designed an interactive meta-timeline that displayed the data in 3D view. In line with my teams’ research focus on sustainable development in the context of digital materiality, I also helped by mapping out the CoE Game Cult’s partner universities and the Academy of Finland’s sustainability practices, which included the ecological, social, cultural and economic dimensions.
Nevertheless, my favourite project was to research a Finnish printing company called Kuvataide Oy/Bildkonst AB that had published multiple games in the 1900s. This required me to conduct archival research by going through the Finnish National Archive’s digitised sources and the university’s small print archive that holds historical everyday prints related to practical life, such as store advertisements and event programs.
In my case, by going through and photographing Kuvataide Oy’s price and product lists, adverts and game rules, I was able to create a chronological list of the company’s game publications – which numbered well over 200 games – from the beginning of 1920s to the end of 1960s. Through this project, I came across a board game called “Lapuanpeli”, which was published by Kuvataide in 1930. The game stood out from the company’s other publications with its overtly political nature; it centered around Lapuanliike (Lapua movement), a radical Finnish nationalist and anti-communist political movement that existed between 1929-32, and their infamous march to Helsinki on 7 July 1930. After mentioning this game in one of our meetings, together with Tero Pasanen, Jaakko Suominen decided that we should write an article about it. I was able to locate the game’s board and rules, and after that the board’s illustrator and her diaries in Helsinki National Archive.
This article, namely the research on Kuvataide Oy and Lapuanpeli, turned out to be one of the biggest projects during my internship. It also taught me the most; for one, I was able to push my research skills to the limit and I could improve my archival research skills. I enjoyed working as a part of a team during this project and I learned a lot from my colleagues, not the least about cultural history of games and gaming. My time in Turku’s CoE unit also taught me that within a group such as this, each academic can at the same time be an individual with their own research interests and projects, and a member of a team with commons goals and tasks.
Due to the pandemic situation, the internship took place mostly online. This was challenging at times, especially because I had to split my time between internship work and thesis writing. Nevertheless, my team was incredibly supportive and welcoming throughout my internship. For that reason, I want to thank Jaakko Suominen, Maria Garda and Tero Pasanen for making my time with the CoE Game Cult interesting and memorable.
Karoliina Koskinen is University of Aberdeen graduate of 2020 and will graduate from her Masters in International Relations in Historical Perspective from Utrecht University in August 2021. Between February and June 2021, she was a research intern at the Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies at the University of Turku.