SUBOTRON arcademy: Exit, Exodus, Out: Migration in Games

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A talk with Sonja Prlic, Georg Hobmeier, Abdullah Karam & Eugen Pfister 
Series on the Theory of Digital Games 2017

(Text by Subotron:) Since several years a phantom known as the “refugee crisis” has become a focal point of Western media outlets. On a daily basis we are confronted with shocking imagery on TV and the internet, social media is buzzing with posts addressing the “crisis” from all possible ideological angles. And yet, migrational movements aren’t a novelty, rather a constant in human history. They have been at the center of ancient myths, the old and the new testament, the brutal history of the 20th century and can be found all over literature and film. Migration, displacement and flight has become part of our identity, it has been engraved in us over all those centuries and millennia, and so it’s not a surprise that those themes also appear in digital games. Even people without personal experience can navigate such narrations, be it serious games with a clear political message or entertainment product.
Both positive and negative interpretation of borders can be found in various forms of digital games, reminding us that both have a widespread acceptance. How we perceive them depends on the framing of narration and representation. Is there a danger from outside, we see them as protection, if borders exclude us from a protective element, they turn into a menace. This rather simple insight tends to get lost in the heated debate of the recent years.

Sonja Prlic, born in Salzburg, is a director, a dramaturge and a media artist. Walking over the path of literature and dramaturgy her studies led her to artistic video games. In 1998 she co-founded the artist group gold extra and has since then been working on projects shifting between theater, new media and games. Her interests lie in robot theater and the development of new artistic forms for documentary video games. Furthermore she is a tutor at the University of Music and Dramatic Arts Mozarteum Salzburg.
Abdullah Karam is a Syrian born graphic designer that currently resides near Salzburg, Austria. Abdullah gained his experience and some internet fame as a member of the deviantart community, where he was active under the handle De Oh Vi. After a chance encounter with Georg Hobmeier he became a co-author of his very own autobiographical game, “Path Out”, that is currently under development by Causa Creations. “Path Out” tells the story of Abdullah’s adventurous escape from the Syrian civil war and his journey to Europe in 2014/5.
Georg Hobmeier is a media artist and game designer. After a good decade in the performing arts, he transitioned over to technology driven means of artistic expression and design, in particular computer games and augmented reality applications. As a member of the artist collective gold extra he has been exhibiting and presenting game related art at numerous festivals, venues, museums and conferences. With his company Causa Creations, he works on social awareness games and trans media projects in close collaborations with NGOs and activists such as Amnesty International. Recent and ongoing works include games such as “Burn The Boards”, “Totem’s Sound”, “From Darkness”, “Path Out”, “Vox Populi” and “The Fallen”.
Eugen Pfister studied in History and Political Sciences at the University of Vienna and the Université Paris IV – Sorbonne. Pfister wrote his PhD Thesis at the Universita degli studi di Trento and at the Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main. Since 2010 he is lecturer at the University of Vienna and since 2016 researcher at the Institute of Cultural Studies and Theatre History at the Austrian Academy of Science. He is Founding Member of the research group “Geschichtswissenschaft und Digitale Spiele”. Since 2015 he operates a research blog on cultural studies and video games called “Spiel-Kultur-Wissenschaft. Mythen im Digitalen Spiel”.
Die Veranstaltungsreihe wird durch die Kulturabteilung der Stadt Wien und die Bundesstelle für die Positivprädikarisierung von Computer- und Konsolenspielen (BUPP) gefördert.