Beyond games: Tinkering and Creative Appropriation of Video Games

Bilingual Conference (French/English)
Montreal, November 17th-18th, 2019

Active fan communities have long been engaging with the object(s) of their fandom. Sports teams, popular movies, television franchises, videogames, comic books, toys and many other cultural phenomena have inspired generations of collectors and enthusiasts, who make, buy, sell and trade in different ways objects and contents featuring their favourite characters, personae, and iconography. From these communities also emerge fans of genres or franchises that hone their skills and use the tools they have available to go past what is offered on the market. They propose their vision to whomever knows of their work or stumbles upon their creation. Therefore, fanart, fanfiction, mods, Youtube videos and Instagram posts are where many of these cultures situate themselves. This includes the toy makers, fanzine creators, the DIY game and tech communities, the chiptune composers and many others that cast themselves beyond the role of fans to become artists. That said, in each case, a form of self-distribution of content occurs that often defines their marginality.

In the field of games, more precisely of videogames, it is not uncommon to come across that phenomenon since, historically, videogames were created following tinkering practices conducted in margins of official activities (Bertie the Brain et Nimrod, 1951; OXO, 1952; Tennis for Two, 1958; Spacewar!, 1962). In this way, many games that ensued (Computer Space, 1971; Pong, 1972; Zork, 1977; Ultima, 1981) were invented by enthusiastic fans of this new media (Crowther, 1976; Adams 1979; Williams, 1982; Fulp 2003). Role playing games were also born from the appropriation of the popular Kriegspiels (war simulation games) by its players (Barker, 1940; Wesely, 1969; Arneson, Gygax et Perren, 1971; Stafford, 1974). Still today, videogame and role-playing game industries wouldn’t be as they are without the activity of their fans in margins of more official communities.

These activities by collectors, creators and tinkerers continue to grow in popularity, particularly since the arrival of the Internet where fans were able to gather, discuss and share their productions more easily. They even organise certain events (Comic Con, DCon, Maker Faire, Otakuhon, etc.) in order to celebrate their sense of belonging to these groups, in parallel to commercial productions. Some researchers have reported on this participative culture (Fiske, 1992; Jenkins, 2006; Postigo, 2007) and an entire field was also created around fan studies (Booth, 2010; Harris and Alexandre, 1998). However, in the majority of cases, those studies discuss the dimensions of these communities and engage in discourse about them, rather than creating the framework for dialoguing with them, keeping in mind the historic perspective of their practices.

As such, the co-chairs of the 5th annual game history symposium, happening during and in collaboration with two gaming conventions (MEGA and MIGS) in the Old Port of Montreal, invite members of collecting and creating communities to participate with scholars in two days of conversation and events. These activities will be centered on the personal and oral histories of fandom and hobbyist designers, their preoccupations, practices, and political economies. We are not only interested in the manifestations and history of these scenes, but also in how fandom themselves participate in the creation and distribution of historical discourse about the objects of their affection.

We aim to have proposals on a wide variety of subjects regarding the margins of gaming communities. For example, the following topics could inspire some of your proposals, without being an exhaustive list:

• Conventions, swap meets and social events;
• Collecting cultures: toys, games, videogames;
• Display and interpretive techniques through “everyday” curation;
• Social media as curatorial display: YouTubers, the “shelfie”, etc.;
• Preservation and restorations;
• User-generated content such as gaming, fanzines, filming, audio and artwork composition;
• Hobbyist and independent game designs;
• Crowdfunded games;
• Mods, modders;
• Etc.

Our vision of this year’s symposium is one where scholars will engage in discussions with members of local and international communities through panels, short presentations and round tables, but also through expositions built and shared by this event’s participants. In this spirit, we would like to extend this call for paper and invite members of those communities to present their collections and creations, either with pictures, videos or a stand that would be installed in a gallery specifically set-up for this event.

Conference features

• In partnership and during the Montreal Expo Gaming Arcade (MEGA) and the Montreal International Gaming Summit (MIGS)
• Exhibits of fan creations during the symposium
• Social events and gatherings in the evening
• Publication of selected papers in a peer reviewed journal (Kinephanos)
• Strategically located in the famous Old Port of Montreal


• 500 words plus references
• Please send your anonymized proposals to:
• Deadline for the reception of proposals: September 16th, 2019
• Notification of acceptance: September 30th, 2019
• Proposals will be blindly evaluated by the organizers with the support of the scientific committee.

This conference is a joint venture between the Faculté de communication (UQAM), Faculté des Arts et des Sciences (Université de Montréal), Homo Ludens (UQAM), LUDOV (Videogames Observation and Documentation University Lab, Université de Montréal), and TAG (Technoculture, Arts and Games, Concordia University).