“Playing the Field” is a collaborative interdisciplinary research initiative started by German American Studies scholars in 2018. Its objective is to create a welcoming and informal environment that fosters academic conversations about video games in our field and beyond. Broadly speaking, we are interested in how the theories and methods of American Studies may be fruitfully brought to bear on video games as objects of research, and how in turn video games change these theories and methods. We pursue these questions together with other international scholars, scientists, and artists from various disciplines.

To create a forum for these conversations, “Playing the Field” began its life in 2018 as an international conference, and it has now grown into a conference series that regularly brings together researchers from around the globe.

Upcoming Conference

The third installment of “Playing the Field,” an international conference where scholars consider video games from an American Studies perspective, focuses on a signature characteristic of video games that invites considerations that reach far beyond their immediate context: immersion. To be immersed means inhabiting fully a space where the rules of behavior and modes of being are completely apparent. Compared to navigating the social world, being immersed in mediated environments—digital or otherwise—affords an intensified, optimal experience. Yet immersion also constitutes an ambivalent state of being, simultaneously connoting the intensification and narrowing of cognitive abilities. Immersive experiences promise authenticity but may also engender addiction. Considering immersion from an American Studies perspective means contemplating questions about the political and aesthetic significance of immersive experiences in the context of contemporary American life and its media history and forms.

“Playing the Field III: American Studies, Video Games, Immersion” will be hosted at the Obama Institute for Transnational American Studies, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, Germany, from 21-23, May 2020 (organizer Damien Schlarb).

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