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16 Jan 2011

TBG goes back to school

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2011 started unusually auspiciously. We were invited to give a short lecture at the Political Geography Research Group's workshop at Newcastle University on a subject relating to: 'Why does political geography matter?'.

First thing we had to do was come up with a smart-ass title.Good question. Rather than get bogged down with the actual answer to this question (and we all have enough experience with university to recognise there are no real questions in academia - and if you do have the misfortune to come across a genuine, non-rhetorical question, it's generally considered bad form to answer it without using another question or without rephrasing the original question into a form more suited to your area of study/research/revision) - we first hit up Wikipedia for the answer to a more important question: what is "political geography"? Mountains signing peace treaties? Spoiling your ballot in an ox-bow lake?

It seems that - very basically - political geography examines how space impacts political structures and processes. We still weren't sure at this point how relevant we were to a discussion about how relevant this was, but we always like talking about games as political objects and there seemed to be some crossover, so we jumped at the chance.

First thing we had to do was come up with a smart-ass title. All good talks and papers contain some sort of play-on-words. This is what we got: "Space Invading: Are Games Becoming Part of the Political Landscape?". All we had to do then was bend what we wanted to talk about to fit our title and the workshop as a whole. Plus we'd added a question of our own and we had a killer pun. This was going well ...

Despite the good start, we were actually pretty nervous. 15 minutes isn't a lot and I originally had planned a thorough history lesson about the socio-political history of traditional games.

On top of that, I was imagining stepping into a room full of eminent professors, lecturers and PHD students and basically giving an ill-positioned, extended advert. "And now a word from TerrorBull Games ..."

Still, as you can see for yourselves in the video below, it all went pretty well. Even got some laughs. And the feedback was genuinely enthusiastic - turns out that what we had to say was uncannily relevant to many peoples' areas of study and - if nothing else - most people seemed grateful for the rest from incessant meta-theories.

Full transcript here, if you're trying to get extra credits.

A couple of apologies: First, my mumbling and enunciation. I was rather nervous and knew I had a tight time limit, so I just put my head down and tried to race through it. Also, the sound quality isn't brilliant. On both these fronts, we will endeavour to improve our output. There was also (in my head) a fairly neat and clear thread linking the 3 "case study" games - Wargames, Train and War on Terror - in that, to learn the lesson of these games, you didn't necessarily have to play them. But that got a bit lost in the mix.

We enjoyed hanging out with academics and were made to feel very welcome. One of the delegates, Alan Ingram, had even name-checked us in the introduction to his book: Spaces of Security and Insecurity: Geographies of the War on Terror. It brought us full-circle back to why we designed War on Terror in the first place - and that was with educational and political goals in mind.

Many thanks to Nick Megoran for inviting us to submit in the first place. And thanks to everyone present for being so friendly and enthusiastic.

Posted by Andy S on 16 January 2011 - 2 comments

Comments so far:

  1. Very good, but I don't think you should have used canned laughter.Mark Sheerin from Brighton - 24 January 2011
  2. But, Mark, it worked on The Two Ronnies ...TerrorBull Games - 26 January 2011

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