Sessions started again at 8am, this time with the "Best Paper" presentation. I guess the peer review board picked it of the papers submitted? I hadn't even been aware there was such a category, though on the other hand I didn't submit a paper to this conference. (Next time! I swear!) The paperwas really interesting; it was a detailed and complex analysis of the use of lighting in games. The basic argument was that passive lighting (i.e the way things were lit) could be analyzed using film-theoretic techniques, and a similar language could be developed for active lighting in games (i.e. when you can control the lighting in some way). It was one of those papers where everything in it seemed really obvious . . . once it got said. It was the insight and breakdown of the problem that was really smart, and I'm actually more impressed with the paper the more I think about it.
After that, panels panels panels panels - I went to a talk on "Game Design Research" which was essentially about the place of the practice of design in research about games, and why there's no real methodology for it but why it's nevertheless vital. I even had some interesting thoughts from my cognitive science course to add to the debate, though it was one of those very heated discussions where no one's point really got followed up. Espen Aarseth likes to be controversial, I think; he kept adopting an extremist anti-design anti-statistics anti-everything-except-pure-theory position, but more to spur debate than anything else. Then there were a pair of talks on role-playing and the various ways in which role-playing screws with Huizinga's notion of the "magic circle" of play - what does it mean when the real world and the real people in it can be at once within the game and outside the game, as in a LARP for example? The two women presenting are definitely people I need to stay in touch with.
I took a much-needed lunch break (and nap!) in my room, as due to Shabbat I wasn't comfortable going out to lunch with the various people who were going out to lunch. (It can be really socially awkward to do the whole Shabbat thing, at least when I'm not among my own community of friends.) After that I sat in on a series of talks about social relationships in play, including an absolutely fascinating talk about the importance of "griefing" to a healthy perception of play, and why it's derogatorily mislabeled. Unfortunately one woman decided to basically discuss her own experience in World of Warcraft and make giant sweeping conclusions from it, a methodology that particularly annoys me - but I was pretty much able to tune her out. However, she annoyed me sufficiently that I went to find Gus and rant, which ended up with me watching her and some Finns play Pokemon, which led to dinner at yet another terrific Japanese place, which led to me kind of having a stomachache, which led to me skipping the dance party and talking to my boy on IM instead.
I might have been a little cranky with my boy via IM last night . . . oops? Though I'm feeling better now, I was feeling both socially and professionally inadequate. I thought not presenting at this conference was a rational decision, given my workload this past semester, but it made me feel irrationally stupid and voiceless, especially when I had to explain to various professional contacts that, no, I wasn't speaking. Even worse, I'm feeling my usual "OMG everyone else is so smart I will never have a useful idea my ideas are dumb and derivative" panic. I just have to keep reminding myself that it's okay to feel that kind of panic, but it's not realistic. (Yeah, right. Well, a girl can try.) Skipping the party also made me feel like everyone else is doing the whole social-networking thing which I'm not really very good at. On the other hand, I had some really good conversations today, including with a girl who's writing a book on sci-fi and fantasy in games, and who might be able to hook me up with her series editor, which would be super. I'd much rather write for people than talk to them. :) Also, dinner tonight was pretty socially sweet, but more on that in its proper place.
Okay. Bed now.