Modern Games: Institutions and the Colonization of Indeterminacy

The Department of Music, Art and Culture Studies and the Department of History and Ethnology at the University of Jyväskylä present

A lecture by Thomas Malaby (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

Friday 12 April 2019, 11:00 am – 12:15 pm

University of Jyväskylä, Musica, Building M, Boombox, Seminaarinkatu 15, Finland 40014

Taking inspiration from Weber’s recognition of the relationship between fortune and meaning, in this talk I sketch the path of games under modernity, tracing how this cultural form has transformed from something quite unruly for modern institutions into something they have begun to domesticate. At the same time, I contemplate modernity itself as characterized by the rise of game-like systems, by the contrived and legitimate indeterminacy that characterizes games. On this view, the increased prominence and use of games, especially those that are digitally mediated, is consonant, I suggest, with a particular thread of classical liberal thought as well as raising ethical questions of governance. If any game is in important respects understandable as a domain of contrived contingency that, if done well, is compelling, then the creators and sponsors of games today are in a quite powerful position to architect contingent experiences for us that can generate meanings and subjectivities, and those in accordance with the interest of certain projects. In both familiar and new ways, then, digital games and game-like processes raise questions about ethics and public policy.

A picture of Thomas Malaby.

Thomas Malaby is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His research interest is in the ever-changing relationships among institutions, unpredictability, and technology, especially as they are realized through games and game-like processes. He has published numerous and widely cited works on the status of games in human experience. Dr. Malaby’s work suggests that the increasing use of digital games by institutions marks a fundamental transition in modern governance. His most recent book, Making Virtual Worlds: Linden Lab and Second Life (2009, Cornell University Press), is an ethnographic examination of a San Francisco high tech firm.

The lecture will be followed by a seminar on “Ritual, Bureaucracy, and Games” with Dr. Malaby and researchers from the Centre of Excellence in Game Culture Studies at 1 pm. Contact Dr. Aleena Chia at for details.

This is a free event and open to all – no registration required. Please feel free to share this with anyone who may be interested in attending.

The recorded lecture can be viewed online.

CoE presents OASIS Lunch Time Talk series

The CoE in Game Culture Studies proudly presents a series of OASIS Lunch Time Talks! These talks will take place in Tampere during the spring 2019.

See you in OASIS!


Thursdays, 12-13, Tampere University City Center Campus, OASIS (Pinni B, 2nd floor)

21.2. Tom Apperley, The Gamer Logic of “Selfies are Avatars”: Toxic Masculinity and James Franco’s Strategic Vulnerability

7.3. Sabine Harrer, Intimate Games: Queering the Conventional Mouse Controller for Cooperative Play

14.3. Jan Švelch, Resisting Patches & Updates: Struggles against Protocological Power in Video Games

28.3. Dale Leorke, Games and Play in the City (postponed to a future date)

4.4. Brendan Keogh (Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane), Understanding the Australian Videogame Field through Formal, Informal, and Embedded Gamemakers

11.4. Jussi Holopainen (Games Computing, University of Lincoln) and Andrew Westerside (School of Fine and Performance Arts, University of Lincoln), Sense of Place in Videogames: Case Red Dead Redemption

25.4. Marleena Huuhka, Performing the Anthropocene in Video Games (canceled)

2.5 Pauliina Raento, Title to be added

People start playing Pokémon GO because of the franchise and fandom, but stay to catch ‘em all

Alha, K., Koskinen, E., Paavilainen, J., & Hamari, J. (2019) Why do people play location-based augmented reality games: A study on Pokémon GO. Computers in Human Behavior. 93, 114-122.

Pokémon GO’s unforeseen success brought location-based games into the attention of both media and the game industry. To understand why people play location-based games, specifically Pokémon GO, we created an online survey (n=2612) with open questions about the reasons to start, continue, and quit playing Pokémon GO, and composed categories of the answers through a thematic analysis.

The reported reasons to adopt the game were categorized into previous experiences, interest, social influence, popularity, positivity, technology, situation, keeping up, social features, mechanics, and the nature of the game. The most common reasons from these were earlier experiences especially with the Pokémon franchise and fandom. The starting reasons were not associated with how much the players played the game after adoption.

Progression, situation, positivity, game mechanics, social features, social influence, interest, expectations, nature of the game, previous experiences, keeping up, and technology were the categorized reasons to continue playing the game. Progressing was clearly the most frequently reported reason to continue playing, whether trying to collect all of the Pokémon, advancing in the game, or reaching personal goals. Continuance reasons were more clearly associated with playing frequency than the reasons to start playing. Progressing in the game had the strongest correlation to playing frequency, whereas technology was negatively associated, indicating that the novelty of the technology might wear off quickly.

The player’s situation, various problems, shortcomings, poor game mechanics, slow or difficult progression, the nature of the game, changes, the company behind the game, and social influence were mentioned as reasons for quitting the game. From these, the player’s personal situation outside the game and playability problems as a whole were the most significant reasons to quit the game.

Based on our findings, utilizing well-known brands and IP in their games is important especially in location-based alternative reality games. Games that utilize novel technology usually have a higher threshold for adoption, hence familiar characters, themes, and concepts lower the barrier of entry. For retention purposes, focus on versatile progression mechanics is important, as it was the most common reason to continue playing. On the other hand, slow progression was the second most common reason to quit the game, further underlining the importance of good progression mechanics. Lastly, the design quality in the form of playability should be a high priority as problems related to functionality, usability, and gameplay mechanics were common reasons to quit the game.

Our study complements the earlier research on the topic, and found new, important motivations for playing or quitting the game. These reasons should be taken into account when further studying and designing location-based alternative reality games. After exploratory studies have revealed the key reasons for playing, these categories can now be transformed into variables, and used and verified through quantitative studies.

Want to read more? Go see:

Alha, K., Koskinen, E., Paavilainen, J., & Hamari, J. (2019) Why do people play location-based augmented reality games: A study on Pokémon GO. Computers in Human Behavior. 93, 114-122.

Vedonlyöjä riskinhallinnan asiantuntijana

Dosentti Pauliina Raento on johtavia rahapelikulttuurin tutkimuksen asiantuntijoita ja hän on aloittanut tammikuussa 2019 tutkimustyön Pelikulttuurien tutkimuksen huippuyksikössä. Hän esiintyi Tieteen päivät 2019 -tapahtumassa “Riippuvuuden rajalla” -sessiossa otsikolla “Vedonlyöjä riskinhallinnan asiantuntijana” – alustuksen tallenne on katsottavissa alta:

Call for Papers: GamiFIN 2019

Levi scenaryWelcome to the 3rd Annual International GamiFIN conference, April 8-10, 2019, Levi, Finland!

GamiFIN is a leading international conference for gamification research. GamiFIN is chaired by the professor of Gamification, Juho Hamari and gamification scholar Jonna Koivisto. The conference is organized by the Gamification Group and past keynotes have included notable scholars from the field of Gamification such as Sebastian Deterding, Richard Landers and T.L. Taylor.

GamiFIN 2019 conference welcomes 1) paper submissions, 2) posters, and 3) doctoral consortium applications from a wide array of topics around e.g. gamification, serious games, VR/AR/MR, eSports, streaming, free-to-play.

The GamiFIN conference will offer an entry to the Gamification Publication Track that can help authors develop their papers from the first manuscript version to the final journal paper and thus aim to increase the predictability and rigorousness of the publication process. Papers accepted to the GamiFIN 2019 conference will be welcomed to a fast/light-track in the HICSS 2020 conference and to a journal special issue in Internet Research (revealed in more detail soon).

For more information please see: