My brain is on the 'splody side, as I've been in excellent presentations pretty much all day, and have been networking like mad for the rest of the time (except a brief hour-long nap, spurred by the worst headache I've had in about five years - fortunately sleep fixed it). I'm planning to transcribe and post at least some of my notes, and some of the random ideas that I've had about research projects, games and random other things. I might not get to that today, unfortunately, since I do need to go buy some food before Shabbat, so you can have the short version.
Sessions started at 8am and went through until 5pm - fortunately with a lunch break! - followed by a panel and then a networking reception which I just left. It started with breakfast and a keynote speech by Janet Murray, one of my very first teachers about all of this stuff. She talked about the evolutionary function of games which set off a bunch of my sociobiological detectors. I'm going to need to run what she said by some people who know more about the whole biology thing, and to read the books that she cited, but what she was talking about sounded pretty interesting - that play predated language and may have had a role in the development of language. After that, panels on a social history of games (totally fascinating, because it puts the development of games into a political and cultural context that I've rarely heard invoked - i.e. Reagan's rise and its effect on videogames), game classification theory (interesting because I was once working on a similar project, but I'm not sure it's hugely useful), the "future orientation" of games (kind of obvious, that games are about thinking about your future choices, but with some interesting references), and the best talk of the morning, a psychological/game-theoretical explanation of "grinding" in massively multiplayer games. The grind talk argued that the grind is there for a reason, and talks about player tolerances for grind, etc. I have many, many thoughts about this one which I will hopefully post later.
Lunch was fantastic Japanese food (and cheap!) with a guy from University of Wisconsin's game group who studies Civ, and a Finnish scholar who's also publishing in bneuensc's RPG volume. Conversation was a little weird, as I could easily talk to both of them but they didn't have much to say to each other, but at least it was conversation. Afterwards, though, I developed a massive headache; after sitting through half of a terrible panel on games and social activism, I went up to the room and slept for an hour. That seems to have fixed things, though I'm going to make sure to pick up more Advil since I popped the last of mine. Post-nap, I went to a pretty good panel of short papers about "point of view" - i.e. dealing with game interfaces somehow. The paper on how the game interface is itself a fictional device which we take seriously as recording the truth of the virtual world was really terrific, and the others were solid. Finally, there was an industry panel - I think the idea was to connect industry to academia - which was mostly really boring except when the industry people got into arguments with the academics. Oh, yeah, and the guy whose company had only 7% women got booed by the crowd. Yeah!! I kind of missed the food part of the reception, though, because I ended up having a long talk with a woman from Syracuse who's doing research on how to use games to teach underprivileged populations about technology - the same research angle that originally got me into games - and she wants me to come up to Syracuse for a week to do a workshop there. I told her she'd have to pay my train fare, but I'd be totally into it, so I'm hoping that goes somewhere.
I did have slight social anxiety meeting up with my old boss, whose job I had to turn down in order to stay in school, but it went okay. I do think he likes me and thinks that I'm a good designer, and he showed no signs of resenting me for choosing an academic path. Whew. I also ran into a guy I had meant to follow up with after the Nokia conference in October but didn't have a chance. I was worried he'd think I was rude, but he said that he'd been really busy too. We talked for almost half an hour, so no ill will there.
I do wish that I had actual faculty in my department who were doing games research; the freedom we have is amazing but talking to all these people with their years of experience made me really want to have the benefits of structure too. I know it's a trade-off and mostly I'm happy with the way things are, but I'd like to work on finding more active mentoring from people in my field as well as from people in my department, and on helping the two aspects get a little more synergy.
I do have to say that it's very, very sad spending Shabbat away from my boy. But I hear that he's having Shabbat without me, which is awesome. If Shabbat means enough to him that he wants to do it on his own, I'm a very happy young woman.
Speaking of which, I'd better get some food before Shabbat starts. See you all tomorrow night!