GAP '22

Conference and Special Issue of Game Studies

Call for Papers: Game Analysis Perspectives (GAP)

by GAP '22

Conference and Special Issue of Game Studies
Copenhagen, April 20-23rd, 2022

The Game Studies journal and the Making Sense of Games (MSG) project invite research contributions to a double-blind peer-review, single-track conference on the theories, methods and practices of game analysis. The conference is hosted by the Center for Computer Games Research at the IT University of Copenhagen in April, 2022. We invite full papers and extended abstracts.

The ten best peer-rated full papers will be published in the journal and will have one presenting author’s travel expenses each covered by the conference.

What is game analysis?

Game analysis is the backbone of the field of game studies. Despite this, game analysis is seldom articulated as an actual skill that should be practiced with thought and care. While most researchers indeed analyze games, and there is no shortage of analytical frameworks, there are few good actual methodologies on the subject. The result of this lack is, at best, that game analysis becomes tacit knowledge that researchers can practice but not describe, therefore making it difficult for students and newcomers to enter the field, and at worst, that game analysis becomes an inadvertent and unreflected practice leading to poor research.

Developing good practices for game analysis faces ontological, epistemological, and methodological challenges. First, games are complex phenomena that can be approached in numerous ways, as Lankoski and Björk’s (2015) collection of game research methods makes evident. Indeed, while the field of game studies may share a common object of study on a colloquial level, upon closer look, existing game analyses frame their object of study as differently as formal structures (Zagal et al., 2007), media (Babecki, 2018), culturally encoded objects (Consalvo & Dutton, 2006; Flanagan, 2009), texts (Fernández-Vara, 2019; Carr, 2019), social artifacts (Malaby, 2007), and playable artifacts (Leino, 2012) to name only a few examples. These various framings not only focus on different aspects of games but carry with them distinct epistemological assumptions. Second, game analysis is further complicated by the active role of the analyst who often, but not always, takes part, not only as an interpreting participant, but also more concretely as an operator of the game whose choices make a material difference on the object of analysis. Third, games have proved to lend themselves well to multi-disciplinary research, and as Aarseth (2015) points out, game studies is a field with no common set of methods. Beyond the usual divide between quantitative and qualitative research, scholars have applied different methodologies such as grounded-theory inspired inquiries onto games (e.g., Zagal et al., 2007), as well as more hermeneutics-oriented ‘playing research’ (Aarseth, 2003; Leino, 2012). Deterding (2017) has called on scholars to genuinely embrace this interdisciplinarity of games studies by exploring novel couplings between theory and method. How this translates into game analysis remains to be seen.

While the lack of common methods may be a premise and a productive force to the analysis of games, it calls for methodological transparency and asks game scholars to consider and explore the presumptions, purpose, and limitations of their analytical approaches. Beyond this, game analysis also raises more practical concerns: What data from the game should be gathered and how? How do we account for the researcher’s choices of manipulation and interpretive horizon? How do we make sense of game data and arrive at sound analyses and interpretations? Given that our access to a game is partial, when have we gathered and analyzed sufficient parts of the game?

To explore these issues and more, the organizing committee invites submissions on topics including, but not limited to:

  • The role of analysis in game research. 
  • The function of theory in game analysis.
  • Examples and discussions of successful analyses.
  • Meta-methodologies for game analysis.
  • The relation between analysis and criticism. 
  • The framings of games in analysis models.
  • The limits of game analysis.
  • Practical as well as theoretical considerations in game analysis.
  • Harnessing analysis methods from other fields.
  • The role of game genre in analysis.

Submissions will be selected based on their quality and relevance to the topic of game analysis. As full-paper submissions will also be considered for publication in Game Studies, we encourage authors to check past issues of the journal to have a clearer idea about what we are looking for. 

About the conference and venue

The conference will be held in Copenhagen. It is funded by the European Research Council through the ERC AdG project Making Sense of Games (MSG) and supported by the IT University of Copenhagen. Attendance will be free of charge for the public and authors. Lunches and the conference dinner will be free for presenters and up to two co-authors. One author from each of the accepted full-paper submissions will have their traveling expenses -- including transportation and accommodation -- covered by the organizers.

Conference website -- nothing to see there yet -- more information to follow.

Submission guidelines

Full paper submissions should be max. 8000 words (excluding references) and adhere to the submission guidelines of Game Studies - The international journal for computer games research

Extended abstracts should be between 800-1500 words (excluding references).

Both full papers and extended abstracts will undergo double-blind peer-review and should be fully anonymized (no reference to the personal information of the authors or their previous works). Submissions that are not anonymized will not be considered for review.

Authors cannot submit more than one paper or extended abstract as main author and presenter, but may co-author as many full papers and extended abstracts as they please.

If an author has submitted more than one full paper/extended abstract, only the first submission will be reviewed.

Only full papers will be considered for publication in Game Studies. Full papers that are not selected for the special issue could still be accepted for presentation, if there is room in the conference schedule. Only the abstracts will be published on the conference website.

Important dates

Submission opens: January 5th.

Submission deadline: January 15th.

Accepts/rejects sent: March 1st.

Journal publication:To coincide with the conference starting date. Both extended abstracts and full paper abstracts will be published on the conference website.

Deadlines are based on the Anywhere on Earth (AoE) timezone.


This conference is made possible by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s H2020 ERC-ADG program (grant agreement No 695528).

Organizing committee and contact details

Conference Chair: Espen Aarseth, IT University of Copenhagen

Program Chair: Ida K.H. Jørgensen, IT University of Copenhagen

Special issue editors: Aarseth and Jørgensen

Conference Logistics Chair and Special Issue Editorial Assistant: Frederik Bakkerud, IT University of Copenhagen

For inquiries about the conference and the special issue, please contact Bakkerud at


Aarseth, E. (2003). Playing Research: Methodological approaches to game analysis. Proceedings of the Digital Arts and Culture Conference (pp. 28-29).

Aarseth, E. (2015). Meta-Game Studies. Game Studies, 15(1).

Babecki, M. (2018). Digital games as a research subject in the discipline of media science. Media Studies, 72(1).

Carr, D. (2019). Methodology, Representation, and Games. Games and Culture, 14(7-8).

Consalvo, M., & Dutton, N. (2006). Game analysis: Developing a methodological toolkit for the qualitative study of games. Game Studies, 6(1).

Deterding, S. (2017). The Pyrrhic Victory of Game Studies: Assessing the Past, Present, and Future of Interdisciplinary Game Research. Games and Culture, 12(6), 521-543.

Fernández-Vara, C. (2019). Introduction to Game Analysis. Routledge.

Flanagan, M. (2009). Critical Play: Radical Game Design. MIT press.

‪Lankoski, P., & Björk, S. (Eds.). (2015). Game Research Methods: An Overview. ETC Press.

Leino, O.T. (2012). Death Loop as a Feature. Game Studies, 12(2).

Malaby, T.M. (2007). Beyond Play: A New Approach to Games. Games and Culture, 2(2).

Zagal, J.P., Mateas, M., Fernández-Vara, C., Hochhalter, B., & Lichti, N. (2007). Towards an Ontological Language for Game Analysis. In S. de Castell, & J. Jenson (Eds.), Worlds in Play: International Perspectives on Digital Games Research (pp. 21-36).

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