Call for Papers: Symposium «Comics | Games: Aesthetic, Ludic, and Narrative Strategies» | Nov. 5-7, 2018

Conveners: Andreas Rauscher, Daniel Stein, Jan-Noël Thon
Funded by the Volkswagen Foundation

Exchanges between comics and games have become as complex as their respective source material. Indeed, transmedia activities that extend the aesthetics and narratives of comic books beyond their original medium have become a key element of our current culture of media convergence. Driven by the success of Marvel studio productions, films based on comic book superheroes have come to dominate Hollywood mainstream cinema, while the success of comics-based Netflix television series has begun to reshape contemporary serial television production. Less noted by scholars and non- academic commentators, video games constitute another commercially and culturally pervasive host medium for a sprawling wealth of comic-derived material. Before Lego Batman became a successful animated movie satire of superhero conventions in early 2017, for example, an earlier Lego video game series had already been covering the lighter side of the dark knight since 2008, while the ongoing series of Batman Arkham games continues to deliver the doom and gloom aesthetics expected from Gotham’s Finest for an older demographic. Beyond the franchise-oriented game design of large parts of the games industry, games like Framed (2014) allow the player to experience the formal structures of comics, and the graphic novel adaptation Valiant Hearts (2014) explores the events of World War I from a multi-perspective angle outside the digital battlefields of more mainstream video games.

AG Games | AG Comicforschung | Volkswagen Stiftung

Against this background, the symposium Comics|Games: Aesthetic, Ludic, and Narrative Strategies aims to further our understanding of the ways in which comics and video games interrelate and cross- fertilize each other at our current moment of media convergence. The symposium, funded by the VolkswagenStiftung, is a joint effort between the Working Group Comics Studies (AG Comicforschung) and the Working Group Game Studies (AG Games) of the German Society for Media Studies (Gesellschaft für Medienwissenschaft).

We invite 15-minute papers on issues related to questions of adaptation, franchising, poetics, design, hybridity, gender, representation, seriality, and/or transmedia focused on one or more of the following areas of inquiry:

Aesthetic strategies: What happens to the “sequential art” of the comic when the pictures originally fixed on a printed page are set into motion by the game player? In what ways does the configurative practice of the gaming situation affect the representation of the static comic book page? Can modalities associated with stylistic traditions of the comic book like cartooning be adapted to games, and what are the potential consequences of such adaptations for the experience of gameplay mechanics? Is the role of the player restricted to redrawing prefigured characters and situations, or can s/he subvert even potentially harmful stereotypes of gender and race in a playful way? Does the recurring use of characters, settings, and situations across media affirm the stagnation of comics and video games as cultural-industrial commodities, or can we identify traces of a creative approach toward cultural rituals between repetition and variations as they are emphasized in recent genre theory and seriality studies?

Ludic strategies: What ludic qualities can be discovered in comic book franchises and in serial practices of storytelling in particular? Are aspects of transmedial world-building closer to the non-linear attractions of an adventure playground than to the traditional heroic epic seeking closure in order to create meaning? What detours from the conventional superhero’s journey are enabled by a playful attitude? What practices of textual poaching and which types of fan cultures, involving cosplay, game mods, and fan fiction, can be found in the borderlands between comics and gaming cultures? Does cultural re-evaluation affect the initial pleasures of comics and gaming culture, or are serious games the next graphic novel? And are our current methods even adequate to discuss the possibilities and pitfalls, the pleasure and pain, of franchising practices within the comics and games industries?

Narrative strategies: Is comics’ multimodal configuration in need of emancipation from its narrative function in ways similar to what early ludologists claimed for the ludic structures of (video) games? Does the “drillability” of transmedia storyworlds really create a deeper understanding of a unified narrative experience spread across several media? Does every picture tell a story, or do we have to consider updated models for verbal-pictorial and interactive audiovisual narratives? What are the appropriate methods (from close reading to world mapping) for navigating sequential and spatial art forms? What historical perspectives connect image-, hyper- and cybertext? In what ways can the techniques and stylistic forms such as the use of narrators, the foregrounding of character subjectivity through free indirect discourse, the principles of montage, or pictorial emulation of character point- of-view be adapted from literature and film to comics and games? What are the material modalities and semiotic styles of narrative in comics (from cartoons to graphic novel realism) and games (from early 2D games to 21st-century 3D photorealism and back to current indie game abstraction)?

Please send 200-word abstracts and 100-word biographies by 30 April 2018 via email to the three conference conveners:
Andreas Rauscher rauscher [at] medienwissenschaft.uni-siegen [dot] de
Daniel Stein stein [at] anglistik.uni-siegen [dot] de
Jan-Noël Thon jan-noel.thon [at] [dot] uk

Symposium Comics | Games
Aesthetic, Ludic, and Narrative Strategies
Herrenhausen Palace Conference Centre,
Hannover, Germany
November 5–7, 2018