By M.K. Bryant, News editor
University of Montevallo game studies and design program coordinator Dr. Cathlena Martin and students Seth Bittle, Asa Costa, Drew Hames and Andrew Wilson participated in Jefferson State Community College’s Pioneer Con on Oct. 26, presenting a panel titled “Lore and Gaming.”
This was Jefferson State’s eighth annual Pioneer Con at their Shelby County campus. According to Jefferson State’s website, Pioneer Con is a combination of a Comic-Con and an academic conference, allowing participants to engage in academic discussions based on science fiction and fantasy.
Martin explained that UM has had many partnerships with Jefferson State in the past, specifically through the ContinuUM program. This program, according to UM’s website, “is a premier University of Montevallo Transfer Pathway Program in partnership with Jefferson State Community College, Lawson State Community College, Shelton State Community College, Snead State Community College, Wallace State Community College (Hanceville), and Trenholm State Community College.”
“Since there’s been recruiting at Jeff State before, I wanted to partner with them in an aspect that I thought fit game studies really well,” Martin said.
Last year, Martin presented a panel at the conference with professor of mathematics Dr. Benton Tyler. This was her first year bringing students to the conference.
“They worked on the panel on their own. I gave them a broad topic, and then they narrowed it down themselves,” Martin said.
Each student participant chose an individual focus for the presentation.
“I chose to discuss the works of From Software, the creators of ‘Dark Souls,’ ‘Elden Ring,’ ‘Bloodborne,’ et cetera. I specifically discussed how the company, who are notable for having a cryptic, show-don’t-tell approach to their lore, used real-world imagery and literature to inform their player,” Costa said.
Costa explained that, although this was his first time speaking at a panel like this, preparations were made less difficult by the fact that he was presenting a topic that he was personally interested in.
Hames focused on the aspect of worldbuilding in tabletop roleplaying games, using the game “Blades in the Dark” as an example. He explained that, with tabletop roleplaying games, worldbuilding can be left more open to interpretation than with video games.
Wilson’s focus was on the work of game designer Suda 51.
“Despite not being influenced by several modern pieces of postmodern literature, since he only knows Japanese and they aren’t translated to Japanese, he ended up with similar results. His work is similar to David Foster Wallace’s ‘Infinite Jest,’ even though ‘Infinite Jest’ is not in Japanese. This is most likely because they took from the same inspiration, that being Franz Kafka, so the lore of modern literature and his games connect in that way,” Wilson explained.
Bittle expanded on the usability of Dungeons and Dragons lore in his presentation.
“The old D&D lore is based on Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson parties, and it gives a perfect example of how the D&D lore should be handled by giving the players options to choose from and ignore as well as systems in place to make your own lore if you want to,” Bittle said.
The theme for next year’s Pioneer Con, “Exploration and Discovery,” has already been announced.
“Pioneer Con is every year, open to the public and a lot of fun. Consider attending next year, especially if we have a panel again,” Wilson said.
Each student that participated is a member of UM’s game studies and design minor.
“Dr. Martin frequently talks about the GSD minor working well with any major,” Costa said.
He encouraged that UM students try GSD classes that interest them, even if they’re not part of the minor.
Wilson commented on seeing a lot of overlap between game studies and design and political science.
“If you think about it, both of them are about designing systems for people to interact in,” Wilson said.
M.K. Bryant is a contributing journalist for The Alabamian. She’s majoring in mass communication with a concentration in multimedia journalism, and she’s double-minoring in theatre and creative writing. When she’s not busy watering her plants or writing, M.K. can probably be found wandering around an art museum or a library.