Susana Tosca (Roskilde University, DK)

From Choosing to Watching: Uncomfortable Reception in Game to Anime Adaptations

Abstract & CV

In the transmedial logic of the media mix, we are used to manga and anime being adapted into video games, but the opposite movement is less common. Using otome games as its main case, this talk will explore the narrative and aesthetic challenges of game-to-film adaptations, as well as the shifting positions of audiences, who lose their power to interact with the fictions and must submit to someone else’s version of the story. Are the pleasures of playing and watching incompatible? I will build on my previous work on transmediality, particularly on the concept of palimpsestous reception.

SUSANA TOSCA is Associate Professor of Digital Media at the Department of Communication and Arts at Roskilde University. Her objects of study are hypertext, digital literature, digital art, computer games and transmedial worlds, lately with a special interest in Japanese popular culture products. She is co-head of the research group Audiences and Mediated Life which is committed to investigating the everyday life of people by researching both media specificity and hybridization processes. She is the author of Transmedial Worlds in Everyday Life: Networked Reception, Social Media, and Fictional Worlds (with L. Klastrup, 2019) and Understanding Video Games (with S. Egenfelt-Nielsen and J. Heide Smith, J., 4. ed., 2019). More info:


Juergen Hagler (University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, AUT)

Animation & Digital Games in Theory and Practice: Studying ‚Digital Arts‘

Abstract & CV

Animated films, digital effects, and computer games are all around us. Designing these interactive and time-based media is of vital importance and opens up a wide range of career opportunities in the industry. The bachelor´s degree programme ‚Digital Arts‘ at the University of Applied Sciences, Hagenberg Campus provides the relevant know-how, specializing in the design, conceptualization, theory, and production of animation, games, and their manifold facets (audio, video, mixed reality, etc.). In addition to teaching basic design and conceptual content, the focus is on practical implementation in an interdisciplinary and applied field of activity at a professional level. The consecutive master´s programme offers the opportunity to deepen and specialize in animation and digital games and is supplemented by a wide range of in-depth subjects on special topics. Furthermore, the master´s programme tackles various areas of research, including media art, animation & game studies, and HCI for games. This keynote will give an insight into the curriculum’s current development and contribute first empirical values.

JUERGEN HAGLER is an academic researcher and curator working at the interface of animation, game, and media art. He studied art education, experimental visual design and cultural studies at the University for Art and Design Linz, Austria. Currently, he is a Professor for Computer Animation and Media Studies and the head of studies of the degree programme ‚Digital Arts‘ at the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, Hagenberg Campus. Since 2014 he is the co-head of the research group Playful Interactive Environments with a focus on the investigation of new and natural forms of interaction and the use of playful mechanisms to encourage specific behavioral patterns. He has been involved in the activities of Ars Electronica since 1997 in a series of different functions. Since 2017 he is the director of the Ars Electronica Animation Festival and initiator and organizer of the Expanded Animation Symposium.


Raz Greenberg (Tel Aviv University, ISR)

The Animation of Gamers and the Gamers as Animators in Sierra On-Line’s Adventure Games

Abstract & CV

The presentation examines the role of the digital adventure games produced throughout the 1980s by American software developer Sierra On-Line. The contribution of the company’s games to the history of digital gaming has largely been marginalized, with the decline in the popularity of the adventure genre. However, genre-focused criticism misses the true historical contribution of Sierra On-Line’s titles. Not only these games presented an advancement in onscreen animation in digital games, they also re-defined the relationship between the designers, the gamers and the animators. The presentation explores this re-definition, and argues that it is relevant to the field of digital gaming, regardless of genre, to this very day.

RAZ GREENBERG is an animation researcher, who teaches at the Tel Aviv University. His research interests include the definition of animation within the media, animation and culture and animation and gaming. He is the author of the book „Hayao Miyazaki: Exploring the Early Work of Japan’s Greatest Animator“, published by Bloomsbury Academic./p>

PANEL I | Life & Matter

Michael Nitsche (Georgia Institute of Technology, USA)

Bits of Material Performance 

Abstract & CV

This argument connects two questions: what is the role of puppetry in the digital age, when it has to deal with digitization and virtual performance? And how does material performance affect digital design and expression? It combines them through four main steps that first focus on theory and then turn to practical examples:
1) Puppets are liminal. They sit between the animate and inanimate worlds. Animation, here, is on the brink of dead and alive, cognizant and purely mechanical. Wherein the mechanical, “dead” nature of the puppet is seen as a benefit (von Kleist 1811 (1982)) and their material calculus is praised as the nature of their art (Craig 1908). Yet, at the same time, puppets have a presence, what Proschnan called “material image” (in (Kaplin 1999)). This cultural image carries elements of life – and even death (Williams 2015) – through their manipulation.
2) Manipulation = animation = becoming. The “coming into being” of puppet objects “capable of existence” (Jurkowski 1990) is encapsulated in their performative moment. Precisely because this moment is a material “becoming,” it can “reveal[s] to us that the results of those negotiations are not at all preordained and that human superiority over the material world is not something to count on” (Bell 2014, p 50). Through performance, the material world corrects human-centric worldviews. Puppets are indeed, by definition, forms of a posthuman performativity as discussed by Barad (2003). Their performed animation is a realization of new materialist conditions in their purest sense. Notably, this material turn is a defining moment in current HCI (Rosner 2018), STS (Haraway 2016), and media design (Fuller 2005). As scholars struggle to capture the implications of a not-human-centered design, puppets offer thousands of years of tradition in precisely that problem field.
3) Provide hybrid examples. The argument will draw on work from our research group to present some examples for how puppet design shapes interaction design. They will show (and open for discussion) the value of traditional puppet manipulation and animation for HCI and – at in return – help us to apply a materialist perspective toward digital media development.
4) Conclude. Puppetry and its forms of animation should be reconsidered in the critical debate as a practice central to combining material agency and human identity construction through a shared (animated) becoming. This is facilitated by digital media and interaction design and in this combination both initial questions might resolve each other.

MICHAEL NITSCHE works as Associate Professor in Digital Media at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he directs the Digital World and Image Group. His research combines elements of craft and performance to develop novel media and interaction designs. Nitsche’s publications include the books Video Game Spaces (2009), The Machinima Reader (2011) (co-edited with Henry Lowood), and the forthcoming Vital Media (2022, all with MIT Press). He is co-editor of the Taylor&Francis journal Digital Creativity.

Jan-Hendrik Bakels (FU Berlin, GER)

It’s alive – The Video Game In Between Animation, Animism, and Subjectivity 

Abstract & CV

This talk is going to take a look at video gaming as an act of mediated inter-subjectivity and inter-affectivity. Drawing on phenomenology as well as (developmental) psychology, it will try to root the aesthetic qualia of playing video games in the act of engaging with something that is perceived to be ‘alive’ on different levels – and respective experiences of vitality. The talk will take these experiences of vitality and inter-subjectivity as a starting point for a theory on the (inter-)affective qualia of video gaming, postulating that the act of making sense while playing certain video games is rooted in perceptions and expressions of vitality which, in turn, render specific, mediated experiences of self, other, and commonality. Or to put it simple: A certain experiential quality of video games demands for the ,illusion’ of organic life. This raises the question to what extend and in what particular way theoretical concepts like animation, animism, and subjectivity relate to the act of video gaming.

JAN-HENDRICK BAKELS is Juniorprofessor for Audio-Visual Poetics at Freie Universität Berlin’s Cinepoetics – Center for Advanced Film Studies. His main areas of research include popular cultures, film theory on emotion and affectivity, phenomenological perspectives on audio-visual media, digital tools for media analysis, and the aesthetics of rhythm and kinaesthesia in spatio-temporal media.

PANEL II | Phenomenology & Aesthetics

Christopher Lukman (FU Berlin, GER)

The Skating Body. Towards a Phenomenology of Playthings 

Abstract & CV

In the current interest in playthings as well as the materiality of play, Dutch philosopher Frederik Buytendijk’s (1933) phenomenological theory of bodily play has largely gone unnoticed. In my talk, I want to talk about how an update of his concept of playthings can inform a contemporary phenomenology of the plaything that builds on animation as a central concept. Following Buytendijk, we can understand play through three moments: (1) play depends on a plaything, (2) play is characterized by to-and-fro movements, and (3) play assumes formedness, the development and variation of movement figures in time (p. 114–146). Exemplified by the relatively complex plaything of the skateboard, I understand play as the transaction of kinetic energies that bring forth a special relationality, an animation between living and non-living things.

CHRISTOPHER LUKMAN is a PhD candidate at the Free University in Berlin, Department for Film and Theatre Studies. His research interests include phenomenology, aesthetic theory, and theories of the popular. His PhD thesis, entitled “Cuteness and the Popular Aesthetics of Videogames”, is supported by the German National Scholarship Foundation. He holds an M.A. in Cultural Poetics of Literature and Media from the WWU Münster and a B.A. in Musicology from the Eberhard Karls University Tübingen. More info:

Alesha Serada (University of Vaasa, FIN)

Crudely, a Machine. The Dream Machine Through the Lens of Russian Formalism

Abstract & CV

This paper explains how specific aesthetic decisions work in the game The Dream Machine. I analyze it through the lens of Russian Formalism: particular techniques of making a video game are judged through Shklovsky’s Art as a Technique, and the problem of the game genre is presented through Tynianov’s The Literary Fact. Theoretically, I aspire to reclaim the original context for these ideas, which is surprisingly relevant to contemporary horror media. Digital games as an artistic form re-introduce the effect of estrangement into the ongoing experiments with their medium; in The Dream Machine, this effect is created by replacing a digital simulacrum of computer generated imagery with high resolution scans of real life objects, made of modelling clay, cardboard and found objects. I label this technique “scary matter”, and it can be found both in games, animation films and pop music videos, such as Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer. The medium of a digital game suggests it is timeless and infinitely replayable, which intensifies the effect of estrangement in the case of always-already dead ‘scary matter’.

ALESHA SERADA is a PhD student and a researcher at the University of Vaasa, Finland. Their dissertation, supported by the Nissi Foundation, discusses construction of value in games and art on blockchain. Inspired by their Belarusian origin, their research interests revolve around exploitation, violence, horror, deception and other banal and non-banal evils in visual media. In their spare time, Alesha writes about late Soviet and post-Soviet visual culture to make it more accessible to the English-speaking audience.

PANEL III | Transmedia & Transfer

Christopher Totten (Kent State University, USA)

Art, Play, and Winsor McCay: The Critical Art of Little Nemo and the Nightmare Fiends

Abstract & CV

Numerous games adopt an art style from other, and frequently older, media to achieve a distinctive look. Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace (both 1983) brought Don Bluth’s Disney-educated animation style to games; ClayFighter (1993) used the ‘claymation’ style made famous by Gumby and the California Raisins; and Cuphead (2017) resuscitated the “rubber hose” style from Fleischer Studios and Ub Iwerks’ early cartoons. Beyond standing out in a crowded marketplace, however, these processes have the potential to exist more meaningfully than as mere homage.
Little Nemo and the Nightmare Fiends is an independent game created within the established art practice of recreating and remixing a public domain work as a means of critical reinterpretation. Based on Winsor McCay’s pioneering 1905 comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland and McCay’s later works in animation, the art production of Nightmare Fiends:
1. explores the McCay’s intertextuality with his influences and contemporaries,
2. examines the connections between McCay’s foundational work and later works inspired by it, and
3. challenges problematic attitudes in the original work by intentionally subverting them through the work of artists from underrepresented groups.
The developers of Nightmare Fiends are repurposing the process of game animation to argue that game art creation can be used as a means of scholarly inquiry. This article will showcase the art of the game at various stages of development and describe the goals of recreating and remixing McCay’s comics and animated art for new audiences. It will also explore how close inspection and reinterpretation of the originals led to new insights about not only McCay’s work, but about ways in which the processes of filmic animation and games might compromise to create a meaningful whole. The article concludes with a framework for how designers might approach other public domain art for similar analysis and critical reinterpretation.

CHRISTOPHER TOTTEN is the Program Coordinator of the Animation Game Design program at Kent State University and an award-winning independent game designer, artist, and animator. He holds a master’s degree in architecture (M.Arch) with a concentration in digital media from the Catholic University of America. Chris is a co-founder of the Smithsonian American Art Museum Indie Arcade and lifetime member of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA). He is the author of An Architectural Approach to Level Design and Game Character Creation in Blender and Unity and the editor of the collected volume Level Design: Processes and Experiences.

Andreas Rauscher (University of Freiburg, GER)

Transmedia Tableaus – Building Bridges between Animation and Games

Abstract & CV

Animation in games creates an important connection between the spatial art of graphic illustrations and the moving image of cinematic configurations. It provides an interface breathing life into the static tableau of single frames moving the transmedia associations away from comics to animated films. The range of challenges to the player vary from cartoon mayhem to individual aesthetic responsibility. The presentation will outline a few possible intersections between animation and games from a transmedia perspective.

ANDREAS RAUSCHER (Dr. habil.) – Visiting Professor for media culture studies at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau. Formerly Senior Lecturer at the department for media studies at the University of Siegen. Visiting professor of media studies at Kiel and Mainz. Scientific curator for the German Film Museum at Frankfurt am Main (Exhibition Film & Games – Interactions. International catalogue available from Bertz Verlag, Berlin 2015). His research deals with film, game, comic, and cultural studies, transmedia aesthetics and genre theory. Among his book publications as author and co-editor are volumes on game genres, comics and games, David Lynch, John Carpenter, Star Wars, the Simpsons and the Czechoslovakian Nová Vlna as well as introductions to game studies and to comic studies. More info:

PANEL IV | Images & Interactivity    

Julia Eckel (Paderborn University, GER)

Documenting Games | Documenting Animation

Abstract & CV

The presentation will focus on the connection between animation, digital games and documentation by looking at concrete documentary practices within and around games – e.g. (in-)game cinematography, machinima, and tech demos. The aim is to understand the transition from game to document as a transition between interactive and non-interactive animation and thus to approach the theoretical question of documentation and documentary practices from an Animation and Game Studies perspective.

JULIA ECKEL (Jun.-Prof. Dr.) is Junior Professor for Film Studies at the Department of Media Studies at Paderborn University. She is currently working on a research project on the nexus of animation, documentation, and demonstration. Other research interests are: anthropocentrism and media (theory), selfies, temporality and complexity of film, tech-demos, animation and AI. Recent publications include Das Audioviduum – Eine Theoriegeschichte des Menschenmotivs in audiovisuellen Medien (2021), Exploring the Selfie – Historical, Theoretical, and Analytical Approaches to Digital Self-Photography (ed. with J. Ruchatz and S. Wirth, 2018), and Ästhetik des Gemachten. Interdisziplinäre Beiträge zur Animations- und Comicforschung (ed. with H.-J. Backe, E. Feyersinger, V. Sina, and J.-N. Thon, 2018); and she recently guest curated the animationstudies 2.0 blog theme Animation and AI together with Nea Ehrlich. More info:

Undine Remmes (Universität Freiburg, GER)

The Influence of Rembrandt’s Light and Shadow on Video Games

Abstract & CV

Illusionistic painting and immersive experiences existed many centuries before „virtual reality“ applications. The potential for immersive experiences inherent in paintings can be explored particularly well through reception-aesthetic approaches. The way in which a particular artwork unfolds its influence on recipients has, of course, unique aspects that depend on the work itself, but the paper explores cross-media strategies that have been used in historical paintings and are similarly applied in contemporary media to facilitate access to immersion.
Following on from studies by Daniel Ilger, Benjamin Beil and others, this lecture uses examples from early modern painting and today’s digital media to examine the extent to which repoussoir figures and dark areas in paintings can function as reception-aesthetic aspects in digital space and generate options for action.
Entering the image in video games and AR applications serves as a medial link. The classical understanding of reception, the viewer’s „being in the picture“, is expanded in the virtual space and the pictorial space is made almost tangible. This is reinforced by the dark surfaces that function as empty spaces, for they leave room for the eye and the imagination in the picture itself, so that the viewer can locate him:herself. In AR applications and video games, they serve to enable the user to find his:her location in precisely these areas. In this way, early modern paintings have parallels with video games such as Dishonored, Thief, Skyrim, Nox, Diablo and many others, in which, for example, darkness is used as a staging device to influence the options for action.
The paper will discuss the following questions: How can the multi-layered approaches to image content be transferred to virtual space? Which medial strategies from the genre of the video game are used for the transformation of the painting into an AR application?

UNDINE REMMES studied art history and history at the Albert Ludwigs University in Freiburg. Since 2019, she has been a research assistant at the Institute for Media Cultural Studies at Albert Ludwigs University and a doctoral candidate under Prof. Dr. Evi Zemanek with the dissertation project „Rembrandt in Virtual Space“. Her current research focuses on virtual reception of painting, aesthetic boundaries, intermediality, (Dutch) painting and art theory in the early modern period.

PANEL V | Production & Play

Alexander Kreische (Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg, GER)

The Camera Player: Game Images in Virtual Production

Abstract & CV

Videogame images have increasingly become a major component outside of what is commonly considered under the “game” tag. Over recent years, film productions have employed videogame images as digital backdrops as one tool among others in what today is described as the toolset of “virtual production”. Film productions are in the process of partially shifting from producing digital backgrounds via classical blue or green screen methods to large-scale LED wall setups in studios. Using e.g. EPIC Games Unreal Engine, digital images are rendered live behind the actors and set elements on these LED walls. To avoid problems with parallax, motion capture systems track the position of the film camera in the studio setting and adapt the three-dimensional images accordingly – allowing on-scene decisions by the production team, recording of final images on-set and thus moving the production of digital images from post- to pre-production and on-location production.
The above-mentioned introduction of adaptability of pre-rendered videogame images to the camera’s position in the studio and resulting so-called image frustums leads to a major shift in how we can look at the “animatable image” as image to be played. In this specific case, it is not the eye of a human player that the image interacts with, but the eye of the camera. It is not to the human actors in the studio that the image lends itself, but to the camera as one actant amongst many in the studio’s network. Considering this relationship opens up a field of potential topics – from a historical perspective towards optical effects and their role in creating intermediality to the current technical limitations of these production methods and the stylistic consequences to the role of non-human actants as performers in film production.

ALEXANDER KREISCHE (Ph.D.) studied Media Studies at Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg. He obtained his Ph.D. with his thesis Zwischen Präsenz und Lesbarkeit: Der Diskurs zu Buster Keaton im Spannungsfeld von Sinn und Sinnlichkeit in 2020. He works at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg’s Animationsinstitut as project manager for event and media production as well as for special projects with the Animationsinstitut’s Department for Research and Development.

Werner Fleischmann (Media Akademie Hochschule Stuttgart, GER)

Freedom of Virtual Camerawork in Story Driven 3D Animations and 3D Video Games

Abstract & CV

Animations and video games that are built on stories, virtual characters and the three-dimensional space as central elements have many similarities in terms of their possibilities of influence. As far as the mediums are concerned, often only the state during the CG production or the one after the release is used for research. Both video games and animated
films have a lot in common during the production phase, and afterwards as well, but the separation is much more consistent after release, probably also due to the media theoretical classification and usability. The production of animated films as well as that of video games is in large parts like the possibilities of the later game regarding the use of the virtual camera, in the production phase it is freely positionable, in the later game with restrictions and in the animated film it is fixed. So, while designers in the production phase are the only ones who can make decisions in this regard, since access is reserved for these developers, in gameplay the player also makes decisions regarding the field of view. Questions to be discussed here are: How freely can the camera be directed at what point in time, and how does this freedom affect storytelling? Apart from cutscenes, are there efforts to force certain image sections to convey the story? Is framing relevant as an influencing factor for storytelling in animated films and/or games? Comparisons between cutscenes and gameplay should provide insights into this, as well as a deeper look into the decisions possible during production.

WERNER FLEISCHMANN (Prof.) is a 2002 graduate of the GSO University of Applied Sciences in Nuremberg with a diploma degree in communication design with focus on animation/video. Since 2000 he has been working in different areas of animation production, in motion graphics, on shortfilms, character animation and development, in CG mainly on product visualizations. In 2009 he started teaching creative subjects as a lecturer at different universities. Since October 2015 he is professor and course director at the media Akademie Hochschule Stuttgart in the course Animation Design. His research focus is on storytelling, character development/animation.


Hanns Christian Schmidt (University of Cologne / Macromedia University for Applied Sciences Cologne


HANNS CHRISTIAN SCHMIDT , Ph.D., Professor for Game Design at the Macromedia University (Cologne) and research assistant at the Institute of Media Culture and Theater of the University of Cologne. His research interests include Game Studies, Game Literacy, Transmediality and Intermediality, Film and TV Studies, zombies, aliens and Lego bricks. Selected publications: Transmediale Topoi. Medienübergreifende Erzählwelten in seriellen Narrativen (Marburg: Büchner 2020); Paratextualizing Games: Investigations on the Paraphernalia and Peripheries of Play (co-ed., Bielefeld: transcript 2021); Playing Utopia. Futures in Digital Games (co-ed., Bielefeld: transcript 2019). Website: