I recently keynoted two game studies conferences – Think Design Play, the Digital Games Research Association conference in Hilversum, Netherlands, and F.R.O.G., the Future and Reality of Games conference in Vienna.

At DiGRA, I gave a talk called “In Defense of Beauty” which made an argument to consider games from an aesthetic standpoint. The FROG talk, which I delivered together with Nathalie Pozzi, was called “Spaces of Possibility” and explored the mechanisms by which games create meaning, leveraging architecture as a model for thinking about game design.

One common theme in both talks was the idea of a “Ludic Century” – a recent turn in our culture that gives games a special relevance to literacy. I also want to challenge game scholars to stop instrumenalizing games and instead use research approaches that foreground their role as educators of the public, while also doing justice to the ineffable spirit of play.

I also presented games at both of the conferences. DiGRA featured a conference-long Metagame, in which each of the attendees were given a starter deck and a tournament was held at the closing ceremonies. At FROG, Nathalie and I premiered a “tabletop” version of Sixteen Tons that groups could play at the conference dinner. Nathalie’s graphic design was quite stunning, and perfectly color-matched the wooden game pieces – perhaps we should sell some of them onlne as a limited edition of the game.

I also enjoyed the culture of boardgame bars in Vienna. “Spiel Bar” and “Brot & Spiel” were right around the corner from my hotel.