Call for paper
Lost in a game / Lost in a book
Université de Montreal, Canada, 20-22 october 2017
Conference chairs: Carl Therrien and Marcello Vitali-Rosati
In August 2015, Time magazine declared that virtual reality is about to change the world. Its infamous cover featured Palmer Luckey floating on a beach wearing the Oculus Rift headset. In March 2016, the respected Kill Screen magazine launched a side project dedicated entirely to VR coverage: Versions. In a lengthy article entitled “The Purpose of Pokémon Go”, Gareth Damian Martin proposes a different reading of the current VR situation. According to him, Niantic and Nintendo’s application – one of the most popular ever created – can be seen as the “the most significant piece of virtual reality software we have ever seen”. As Martin points out, “1:1 is the ultimate goal of any virtual reality experience. Whether that means matching the movements of a player’s head and body to their corresponding digital avatar in headset VR, or matching a world map to the map of our own world as in Pokémon Go.” From this perspective, VR has already taken over the world. While the original vision invited us to get lost perceptually in fabricated worlds by obfuscating the encompassing reality, augmented reality entertainment promises to engulf us in a fictional map that completely takes over the territory.
As Oliver Grau has demonstrated in Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion (2003), the ideal of an illusion that completely encapsulates the perceptual field – from landscape rooms to panoramas and contemporary VR devices – is a common obsession in the history of visual arts. Scholars such as David Howes (2003), Mark Paterson (2006) and Constance Classen (2012) have contributed to the idea of a “sensual turn” in humanities, highlighting the tactile qualities that are typically left out in the appreciation of art. The quest for “immediacy”, which Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin defined as one of the major forces driving the evolution of media (1998), is also very apparent in the “inner life” of what is seen as a singular media practice. In recent years, the movie-going experience has been supplemented with refinements to stereoscopic technology and experiments with higher frame rates. Paradoxically, as Julie Turnock pointed out (2013), these developments don’t always function as intended. Daniel Engber even declared in Slate that Ang Lee’s 120 fps movie Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is unwatchable and doesn’t look like a movie, but rather “like a theater sketch acted out in virtual reality”. As Kristine Jørgensen points out in Gameworld Interfaces (2013), the idea that our interaction with games should evolve towards immediacy is still commonplace in video game culture in spite of all the evidence that points towards the limits of such a conception.
While part of the audience appears unwilling or unable to become lost in these refined illusions, the idea of being “lost in a book” is still commonplace in popular and theoretical discourse about literature. The expression has been used as a title for Victor Neil’s psychological account of reading (1988), and Jean-Marie Schaeffer has discussed engagement with various literary forms extensively in terms of immersion (1999). Scholars and critics have bought into the fascination for illusionistic techniques long before the advent of interactive or even audiovisual media. The principle of a better mimesis animates Gotthold Lessing and Percy Lubock’s discussions about literary art. Contemporary scholars such as Marie-Laure Ryan have discussed how specific literary devices can act as better props in order to immerse readers in a sort of “virtual reality” (2001). The novel is often seen as an ideal vehicle to relocate consciousness into a fictional universe. The idea of being transported to a secondary world echoes the desire to encapsulate users with VR gear, but literature has also explored strategies that seek to integrate the encompassing physical or social context more directly in the experience; one might readily think of literary traditions such as the epistolary novel and alleged found manuscript.
It appears that the desire to engulf users, the potential collisions between the real and the fictional and the fear of deviant usage have been around a long time before the advent of VR. In this fifth edition of the Games and Literary Theory international conference, we seek contributions that explore the ways we engage with fictional worlds in a variety of media practices, but also how scholarly, critical and journalistic discourse portray and discuss such engagement. We invite submissions that seek to question the lineages that emerge between the various forms of fictional immersion and the social appreciation of this practice. Interesting topics may include (but are not limited to):
– Illusion-making and the quest for immediacy
– Critiques of immersion and related concepts
– Gamification of space
– Immersive strategies in literature
– AR / VR as a new horizon for film-making
– Verbal representations of the senses
– Narrative affordances and limitations of AR / VR games
– Possible worlds theory, in practice
– The paradox of illusion vs. attraction in special FX
– Being lost in the gameworld’s literature
– The struggle between immediacy/hypermediacy in the evolution of media
– Ludo-narrative dissonances affecting immersion
– The role of textual elements in AR / VR games
– The concept of immersion in media historiography
– Being immersed in the history of media
Abstracts of at least 300 and no more than 700 words (excluding the bibliography), may be submitted via Easychair until March 31st 2017. Abstracts will undergo a double-blind review, so submissions must not contain any personal identity information (e.g. references to your own publications). Abstracts will NOT be considered for review if they contain such personal identity information.
Letters of acceptance or rejection may be expected in April 2017.
Travel fellowships may be available for international students and distributed based on the peer-review process.
Please send your questions or comments to:
More info and updates to be found on the conference website and on Facebook
Bolter, Jay David and Richard Grusin (1998). Remediation, Cambridge: The MIT Press.
Classen, Constance (2012). The Deepest Sense : A Cultural History of Touch, Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Engber, Daniel (2016). “It looked great. It was unwatchable”, Slate, online:
Grau, Oliver (2003). Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion, Cambridge: The MIT Press
Howes, David (2003). Sensual Relations : Engaging the Senses in Culture and Social Theory, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Jørgensen, Kristine (2013). Gameworld Interfaces, Cambridge: The MIT Press.
Martin, Gareth Damian (2016), “The purpose of Pokémon Go”, Versions, online:
Neil, Victor (1988). Lost in a Book. The Psychology of Reading for Pleasure, New Haven: Yale University Press.
Paterson, Mark (2007). The Senses of Touch. Haptics, Affects and Technologies, Bloomsbury.
Ryan, Marie-Laure (2001). Narrative as Virtual Reality, Johns Hopkins University Press.
Schaeffer, Jean-Marie (1999). Pourquoi la fiction?, Paris : Seuil.
Turnock, Julie (2013). “Removing the Pane of Glass: The Hobbit, 3D High Frame Rate Filmmaking, and the Rhetoric of Digital Convergence”, Film Criticism Vol. 37/38, No 3/1 (Spring-Fall), p. 30-59.