Issue date: 07 June 2001

Computer games will come under scrutiny from academics for the first time in the UK at a conference to be held in Bristol. According to the organisers, there are compelling reasons for analysing the impact that computer games have on today's culture.

"The games industry is now worth more than the Hollywood film industry," said organiser Jon Dovey, from the University of the West of England's School of Cultural studies. "It is a huge leisure activity for people all over the world, and will be as important to the twenty-first century as film was to the twentieth century."

Entitled Game Cultures, the weekend conference is being organised by the University of the West of England (UWE) together with Cheltenham and Gloucester Higher Education College. It will take place at the Watershed from the 29 June to 1 July and covers three main themes. Firstly, it will look at who are the gamers and how do they use games, with a special focus on the growing phenomenon of online gamers. Then, the game will be considered as text, with a debate on what kind of an experience a computer game is, part movie, part story, and part action - the terms to describe it do not yet exist. Finally the computer games industry itself will come under scrutiny, together with the new opportunities for education and training that are opening up.

International contributions are expected on subjects as varied as The Video Game Industry in Latin America: From the Banana Republic to Donkey Kong and Druids Come in all Shapes: Women and Massive Multiplayer Games.

In contrast, technical issues covered will include The Emergence of Computer Games Law and Emerging Business Models for Computer Game Development.

The next generation of computer games could combine interactive play and the cinema, forecasts Jon Dovey. He puts forward the view that games may have to be renamed in the light of these developments.

"Calling them games makes them sound trivial. In fact, they could be termed interactive entertainment, or leisure software. Games have become the medium through which most of us first experience the potential of digital media. It is very likely that the future of entertainment and culture in the digital age will develop out of the games industry."

The conference, which has been supported by a British Academy grant, is part of a series of digital media events being held at the Watershed between 8 June and 1 July. For further information including booking details, visit the conference website at http://humanities.uwe.ac.uk/Gamesculture/index.htm, or email jonathan.dovey@uwe.ac.uk

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