May 12-13, 2018, Moscow
Death and Macabre Aesthetics in Games
The third annual Moscow Game Center conference

Link to pre-conference workshop
This year Russian State University for the Humanities hosts its third game studies conference, this time entitled "Death and Macabre Aesthetics in Games". The conference is organized by Division of Socio-Cultural Studies of RSUH and Moscow Game Center (an informal game studies community of researchers from RSUH and MSU). It will take place in Moscow on May 12-13.

It is generally known that death is abundant in games as they explore not only the processes of sheer killing and dying, but also resurrecting, being an undead, living in the afterlife, or fighting those who refuse to stay there. The act of dying and death in general can become so commonplace and trivialized in games that developers resort to more violent, gorier, and grotesque depictions of death – sometimes, perhaps, not even to emphasize death, but simply to make it more visible and noticeable.

The mere ubiquity of death in games is not on its own unique to the medium, as narratives and aesthetics, gothic or otherwise macabre imageries are abundant in comics, literature and film as well. What makes games – particularly videogames – special is that the absolute majority of them can be described as evading some symbolic "death", be it a demise of an FPS-character or a collapse of a nation state in an RTS. If we pick a videogame at random, more often than not the gameplay will largely consist of being destroyed and gradually learning how not to be destroyed. Consequently, there are also games which ironize or subvert these design conventions, such as Undertale, or embrace it on every level, such as Dark Souls.

All that seems even more noteworthy if put into the larger context of the modern-day Western culture: for centuries death and related topics had been appropriated by the religious discourse, and subsequent secularization (even within such odious anti-religious projects as that of Soviet Union) failed to expropriate them and develop a new language to speak about such matters. Instead, they resorted to being mostly silent about them. Thus, ceding this topic to the entertainment industry can be interpreted as an escapist gesture, a part of a larger project of displacement death from the "real-life" discourse, or even as an attempt to "domesticate" death, turn it into a mere plaything not worth being afraid of. On the other hand, games can also be considered the future birthplace of the secular way of speaking about death or, perhaps, even the way itself.

Topics of interest include but are not limited to:

  • Narratives, aesthetics and mechanics of injury, illness, mutation and death in games
  • Narratives, aesthetics and mechanics of mental issues, insanity and demonic possession in games
  • The intersections between the previous two, i.e. mind/body dichotomy in games observed from the perspective of how corruption/disease of one affects the other
  • Faith, religion and afterlife in games
  • The construction of charnel visuality and sound
  • The Undead and their roles/functions in gameworlds
  • Zombies (this topic is isolated from the undead, first, because of its own significance and scale, and second, because modern zombies are mostly alive but "infected")
  • Horror games
  • In-depth analyses of specific game titles related to the overarching topic
  • Open category: any topic within the field of game studies can fit, but the total amount of papers we can accept into this panel is limited to 6

We welcome submissions from both experienced and novice researchers.
Guidelines for authors
A submission should contain two documents:

№1 – An abstract (400 words minimum and 700 words maximum) accompanied with a list of up to 10 keywords and a list of references (bibliography and ludography). This document cannot contain any personal data including author's name, affiliation and indicative references to any previous publications of the same author. Please note that papers which fail to adhere to these requirements will be rejected.

№2 – ID. This document should contain author's first name, last name, affiliation and contact information

Please note that the maximal length of a presentation will be limited to 25 minutes. Visual (as well as audial) accompaniment is encouraged but optional. The deadline to submit abstracts is March 20 March 31, 2018. All abstracts will undergo a process of blind peer review.

Submission address:
Visa information
These brief instructions are to provide the basic information about acquisition of Russian visas. For more detailed information regarding issuance of Russian visas, please check the website of Russian embassy in your country.

Visa exemption

Participants from the following countries are not required to obtain a visa in order to enter Russia:

Abkhazia, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia (holders of an alien passport), Fiji, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia (holders of a non-citizen passport), Macao, Macedonia, Mauritius, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nauru, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Samoa, Serbia, Seychelles, South Africa, South Korea, Tajikistan, Thailand, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela.

Please note that the visa waiver limit varies depending on a specific country.

Simplified visa requirements

According to the existing visa facilitation agreements, Russia has a simplified visa policy with a number of countries – for example, with all EU member-states MINUS Denmark and Ireland, some of EU associated countries, such as Norway, and also with Japan, China, etc. – note that this list is incomplete; you may contact your local Russian visa center if you are in doubt about whether or not your country is on the list.

Participants from such countries are eligible to apply for a visa support letter which will be issued by RSUH (application forms and further instructions are sent upon request). Issuance of a visa support letter usually takes 4-6 business days. Holders of visa support letters can apply for a humanitarian Russian visa; visa fee is most likely to be waived. In EU, visas of that type are usually obtained within 4-7 business days.

Please note that the visa support letter for our conference CANNOT be issued for dates earlier than May 10th or later than May 14th, i.e. the maximal duration of your staying that can be requested in a visa support letter is 5 days (10.05.18 to 14.05.18). If you wish to enter Russia earlier or depart later you should consider the next option.

Regular visa requirements

Nationals of all other countries and those who could but have decided not to apply for a visa support letter are required to obtain Russian visas via tour agencies. Please, visit the website of your local Russian visa center for more information.

Note that in this case Division of Socio-Cultural Studies of RSUH can issue a letter of invitation which, unlike a visa support letter, won't have any legal power but can provide a small chance of waiving visa fee.
Important dates
Deadline for submission: March 20 March 31, 2018
Notification of acceptance/rejection: April 8, 2018
Deadline for registration: April 14, 2018
Schedule: April 20, 2018
Conference: May 12-13, 2018
Organizing committee

Tatyana Kononenko
Olga Morozova, Russian Academy of Sciences
Leonid Moyzhes, Russian State University for the Humanities
Maksim Podvalniy, Russian State University for the Humanities
Alexey Salin, Moscow State University
Margarita Skomorokh, Saint-Petersburg State University
Jaroslav Švelch, University of Bergen
Alexander Vetushinskiy, Moscow State University
Conference Fee: 15 €
For any enquiries, please contact:
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