Dr William Huber

Centre Director - Head of Centre of Excellence

School School of Design and Informatics

Department Division of Games and Arts

Contact info

+44 (0)1382 30 8107

Biography

Education

PhD, in Art History, Theory and Criticism, University of California, San Diego. Dissertation title: Foundations of Videogame Authorship. Committee chair: Professor Lev Manovich. 2013

BA in Cognitive Science, University of California, Berkeley. 1998.

Academic experience

University of Southern California

Assistant Professor of Cinema Practice, School of Cinematic Arts, 2013-2014
Adjunct Lecturer, School of Cinematic Arts, 2007-2013

University of California, San Diego

Associate Instructor, Department of Communication 2009-2011
Teaching Assistant, Visual Art Department, 2004-2007

I have also taught courses at the American University of Dubai, the Southern California Institute of Architecture, and CSU Fullerton.

Professional experience

I have been: a research assistant, a technical consultant, an IT engineer, a systems technician, a database administrator, a library assistant, a record store (sic) shop clerk, a dishwasher, a canvasser, a fence painter, a filmhouse ticket clerk, a bassist, a rhythm guitarist, an activist, a zine editor, a and a bicycle assembler. My first paid job involved teaching people how to play Dungeons and Dragons.

Teaches on the history, theory, criticism and contexts of games, software and contemporary art.

Research Statement

My research interests focus on the nature of games (and related computational artifacts) as systems of representation and aesthetic experience. My dissertation applied a modal Peircean semiotics to game analysis as an alternative to those models which, implicitly or explicitly, make sharp distinctions between the referential and mechanical aspects of digital games. Other work has focused on aspects of authored meaning and designed experience, with some focus on games from Japan and their relationship to its historical and cultural contexts.

Projects

I have three active research projects at the current time. They share an interest in questions of the interpretation of games as meaningful play-systems, and in an interdisciplinary approach to methods.

Political ontologies / games as epistemic systems

Games and simulations of society, history and politics involve models which posit certain entities: e.g., the citizen, the nation, wealth, the dynasty, territory, the polis. Often these models also evoke the political by defining other entities at its edges: the migrant, the indigenous, the climate.  These entities, as well as the processes predicated of them, constitute political ontologies. While the Westphalian nation-state is the most widely deployed entity in games (consider the ethno-national unit at the center of the Civilization series), designers such as Volko Ruhnke and Alfred Twu, and the creators of many “Eurogames”, have built upon different ontologies.

This project analyses the ontological assumptions and design decisions in extant games, and maps Adams and Dormans’ catalog of game design patterns[1] onto those historical, social and political processes, as a toolkit for serious game design for policy, pedagogy and activism. While previous attempts to apply game design patterns to serious games exist[2] these are often focused on conventional pedagogical settings, and have focused on the function of the mechanics to deliver didactic content. In contrast, my approach understands the mechanics described by the design patterns as knowledge-claims, not simply vehicles of delivery.

Empirical/historical game aesthetics

In the past five years, there has been some attempt at aligning game studies with aesthetic theory. Most attempts to isolate a native aesthetics for digital games are based on claims about general features posited to be universal to digital games. My approach is both empirical—looking for terms of distinction and labels of experience drawn from player discourse—and historical, with new categories coming into existence with the appearance of new games and genres. This project consists of a series of studies which describe and analyze experience identified within the reception of games “in the wild,” among players. Terms such as “twitch” and “grind” designate forms of player experience which should be understood as aesthetic, forms which emerge historically as genres develop, which produce player discourses distinguishing between better and worse design implementations for these categories.

Augmenting traditional historical and theoretical approaches to the study of these experiences, I use methods developed as a member of the software studies initiative at UC San Diego[3]. Computer-vision tools locate the elements which abet different modes of player experience within transcriptions of gameplay.

Intellectual history of play

The study of games takes place under a range of disciplines: HCI, anthropology, film and media studies, psychology, computer science, literary studies, and more. From these, game studies and games research have cohered into a somewhat stable meta-discipline since the 1990s, hand in hand with the emergence of degree programs meant to educate designers, programmers and artists to create digital games for a growing industry. Notwithstanding, there have been earlier iterations of scholarship and serious thought about games and play, and little work in locating contemporary games research and thinking with them. The project would consist of a series of collaborations with cultural historians and other game scholars with expertise on specific languages and historical epochs to produce an intellectual history for games and play. The texts would be those in which games and other play-forms are described, contextualized and interpreted:

Along with the translation and explication of historical texts on games (the first work on this, a collaboration with Riccardo Fassone, examined the games played in the salons of northern Italy in the 16th century[4] as described and reflected upon by noted Italian essayists of that time), we are reenacting the games, trying to reproduce the social and environmental contexts in which they were originally played. The first of these was a reenactment/play of “the game of Ridiculous Blasphemies” described in a 1581 text by Girolamo Bargagli[5]. The game was played at Svilupparty 2017, a public games festival in Bologna, Italy, and subsequently at the 2017 Games and Transgressive Aesthetics workshop. We mean to use these reenactments to help us understand the social, cultural, rhetorical and aesthetic functions of the games as played in their original contexts.

References

Adams, Ernest, and Joris Dormans. Game Mechanics: Advanced Game Design. Berkeley: New Riders, 2012.

Arnab, Sylvester, Theodore Lim, Maira B. Carvalho, Francesco Bellotti, Sara de Freitas, Sandy Louchart, Neil Suttie, Riccardo Berta, and Alessandro De Gloria. “Mapping Learning and Game Mechanics for Serious Games Analysis.” British Journal of Educational Technology 46, no. 2 (March 1, 2015): 391–411. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12113.

Douglass, Jeremy, William Humberto Huber, and Lev Manovich. “Understanding Scanlation: How to Read One Million Fan-Translated Manga Pages.” Image and Narrative 12, no. 1 (2011): 190–227.

Girolamo Bargagli. Dialogo de’ giuochi che nelle vegghie sanesi si usano di fare. Venice: Alessandro Gardane, 1581.

Huber, William, and Riccardo Fassone. “Game Studies in the Cinquecento. Prolegomena to a Historical Analysis of the Rhetorics of Play.” Ludica. Annali Di Storia e Civiltà Del Gioco, no. 21–22 (2016).

Huber, William Humberto. “Catch and Release: Ludological Dynamics in Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly.” Loading... Journal of the Canadian Gaming Studies Organization 4, no. 6 (2010). http://journals.sfu.ca/loading/index.php/loading/article/viewArticle/91.

Lim, Theodore, Sandy Louchart, Neil Suttie, Jannicke Baalsrud Hauge, Ioana A. Stanescu, Francesco Bellotti, Maira B. Carvalho, et al. “Serious Game Mechanics, Workshop on the Ludo-Pedagogical Mechanism.” In Games for Training, Education, Health and Sports, 186–89. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer, Cham, 2014. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-05972-3_19.

Suttie, Neil, Sandy Louchart, Theodore Lim, Andrew Macvean, Wim Westera, Damian Brown, and Damien Djaouti. “Introducing the ‘Serious Games Mechanics’ A Theoretical Framework to Analyse Relationships Between ‘Game’ and‘Pedagogical Aspects’ of Serious Games.” Procedia Computer Science, 4th International Conference on Games and Virtual Worlds for Serious Applications(VS-GAMES’12), 15, no. Supplement C (January 1, 2012): 314–15. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.procs.2012.10.091.

 



[1] Ernest Adams and Joris Dormans, Game Mechanics: Advanced Game Design (Berkeley: New Riders, 2012).

[2] Sylvester Arnab et al., “Mapping Learning and Game Mechanics for Serious Games Analysis,” British Journal of Educational Technology 46, no. 2 (March 1, 2015): 391–411, https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12113; Theodore Lim et al., “Serious Game Mechanics, Workshop on the Ludo-Pedagogical Mechanism,” in Games for Training, Education, Health and Sports, Lecture Notes in Computer Science (International Conference on Serious Games, Springer, Cham, 2014), 186–89, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-05972-3_19; Neil Suttie et al., “Introducing the ‘Serious Games Mechanics’ A Theoretical Framework to Analyse Relationships Between ‘Game’ and‘Pedagogical Aspects’ of Serious Games,” Procedia Computer Science, 4th International Conference on Games and Virtual Worlds for Serious Applications(VS-GAMES’12), 15, no. Supplement C (January 1, 2012): 314–15, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.procs.2012.10.091.

[3] Methods described in Jeremy Douglass, William Humberto Huber, and Lev Manovich, “Understanding Scanlation: How to Read One Million Fan-Translated Manga Pages,” Image and Narrative 12, no. 1 (2011): 190–227; William Humberto Huber, “Catch and Release: Ludological Dynamics in Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly,” Loading... Journal of the Canadian Gaming Studies Organization 4, no. 6 (2010), http://journals.sfu.ca/loading/index.php/loading/article/viewArticle/91.

[4] William Huber and Riccardo Fassone, “Game Studies in the Cinquecento. Prolegomena to a Historical Analysis of the Rhetorics of Play,” Ludica. Annali Di Storia e Civiltà Del Gioco, no. 21–22 (2016).

[5] “Giuoco delle bestemmie ridiculose” in Girolamo Bargagli, Dialogo de’ giuochi che nelle vegghie sanesi si usano di fare (Venice: Alessandro Gardane, 1581).

 

Douglass, Jeremy, William H. Huber, and Lev Manovich. “Understanding Scanlation: How to Read One Million Fan-Translated Manga Pages.” Image and Narrative 12, no. 1 (2011): 190–227.

Hoeger, Laura, and William H. Huber. “Ghastly Multiplication: Fatal Frame II and the Videogame Uncanny.” In Situated Play, 152–156. Tokyo: DiGRA, 2007. http://www.digra.org/dl/db/07313.12302.pdf.

Huber, William H. “Catch and Release: Ludological Dynamics in Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly.” Loading... Journal of the Canadian Gaming Studies Organization 4, no. 6 (2010). http://journals.sfu.ca/loading/index.php/loading/article/viewArticle/91.

———. “Epic Spatialities: The Production of Space in Final Fantasy Games.” In Third Person: Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives, 373–384. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009.

———. “Fictive Affinities in Final Fantasy XI: Complicit and Critical Play in Fantastic Nations.” In DiGRA 2005: Changing Views: Worlds in Play. Vancouver, BC: Simon Fraser University, 2005.

———. “Ka as Shomin-Geki: Problematizing Videogame Studies.” In Level Up. Digital Games Research Conference, 4–6. Utrecht, 2003.

———. “Notes on Aesthetics in Japanese Videogames.” In Videogames and Art, edited by Andy Clarke and Grethe Mitchell, 211. Bristol UK: Intellect Books, 2008.

———. “The Semiotic Conditions of Videogame Authorship.” Dissertation, University of California, San Diego, 2013.

Huber, William H., and Stephen Mandiberg. “Kingdom Hearts, Territoriality and Flow.” In Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory. London: Brunel University, 2009. http://digra.org:8080/Plone/dl/db/09287.47134.pdf.

More Information

Esteem

President, Digital Games Research Association (2016 - )

Outreach

EXHIBITIONS

Curator, Small Worlds & CD-ROMs.  Dundee Contemporary Arts. Dundee, UK 2016

Prints and video installations, “Mapping Time” exhibit. Calit2 gallery, UC San Diego. 2010

"Video Game Traversal: Kingdom Hearts II" in "SHAPING TIME" exhibition. Graphic Design Museum, Breda Netherlands 2010

"Game traversals" in Text Fields exhibition, as part of Future of Digital Studies 2010. University of Florida, Gainesville 2010

"Shape of Science" in Here, not There, at Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla 2010

Meet the rest of the team

Dr Christos Michalakos

Dr Christos Michalakos

Division of Games and Arts | Lecturer

View profile

Dr Sonia Fizek

Dr Sonia Fizek

Division of Games and Arts | Lecturer

View profile