CH-Ludens Kick off. How the Sinergia came into being.

by Eugen Pfister

How it all began

Our SNSF-Sinergia project unites a dynamic team of 20 researchers across four university locations in Switzerland: The Bern Academy Of the Arts, the University of Bern, the University of Lausanne and the Zurich University of the Arts. We come from different cantons and countries as well as from different research directions and – not but – we are united by a common research interest: The study of the history of digital games in Switzerland.

It is a huge privilege that we can – and in fact are supposed to – do in our project exactly what has driven us in our individual research for years, but now as a collaborative team. Our goal is, therefore, on the one hand, to learn as much as possible from each other and find fruitful ways to synergise with our different methods and research questions. On the other hand, we are considering digital games as a cultural technique that will contribute to a better understanding of the digitalization of Swiss society throughout the past century. Our project will run from February 2023 to January 2027.

On February 2, 2023 we (that is almost all of us) met in the rooms of the HKB for the kick-off of our project. Some of us had known each other for a long time by then. These personal and professional networks proved to be essential in the genesis of the project. I had known Yannick Rochat for five years at that point and among other things we had written an essay highlighting the need for this research in Austria and Switzerland in January 2021. Together with him, we first came up with the idea of submitting a proposal for the SNSF Sinergia funding scheme. In turn, I already knew René Bauer, Mela Kocher and Beat Suter from the internationally renowned gameZ & ruleZ conference, to which they had invited me to give a talk in 2019. Our colleagues from the ZHDK probably have the most comprehensive knowledge of the history of digital games in Switzerland. René and Beat accordingly wrote a three-part essay on the topic for my blog as early as 2021. Finally, I met Tobias Hodel and Addrich Mauch at a Game Studies Community meeting at the University of Bern in February 2021. Shortly after the event, I asked them to join us. I also had the enormous luck to have Arno Görgen at my side as a colleague and partner for more than six years. Inside this constellation, we have been working on the preparations for the application since 2020.

I believe one of the great strengths of our project is the extremely strong dynamic of mutual curiosity and openness in our team, which we also emphasized in the cover letter for our application. In our regular preparation meetings, it became apparent again and again how organically our group worked together. Our research complemented each other perfectly and in doing so we were united by a common interest.

Shortly before the Apéro on the Schanze. From left to right, in the back: Johan Cuda, Pierre-Yves Hurel, Sophie Bémelmans, Yannick Rochat, Addrich Mauch, me, Beat Suter, René Bauer, Arno Görgen, David Krummenacher. Front: Aurelia Brandenburg, Laura Strub, Adrian Demleitner, Larissa Wild, Gleb Alberts, Noemi Chow.

Our Kick Off Meeting in February: Speed Dating and Zotero

Many of our colleagues, namely Sophie Bémelmans, Aurelia Brandenburg, Noemi Chow, Johan Cuda, Adrian Demleitner, Pierre-Yves Hurel, Hiloko Kato, David Krummenacher, Laura Strub, Gilles Sulzberger (since May 2023) and Larissa Wild joined the team after the project was approved. Many of us met in person for the first time on February 2, 2023. We therefore used the moment of the first meeting above all to celebrate the efforts already invested – i.e. the preparations for the application. It was important not to start the project with a classic workshop but to take our heterogeneity into account. That is why I am extremely grateful to Mela Kocher for kick starting our team with a perfectly organized academic speed dating event, where almost everyone got to know each other in short 2-minute sprints.

Speed Dating

Before that, all team members already had the opportunity to introduce themselves and their own research interests with only two slides during 4 minutes each. From the beginning, the goal was to give all team members the feeling of belonging as well as reduce any fear of contacting other team members. Because we, as academics, couldn’t quite get out of our skins, we closed the day after a plenary session with a Zotero workshop.

Yannick’s Zotero Workshop <3

As already mentioned, we are a team of researchers with extremely different academic and private backgrounds: anthropology, German literature, history, game design & game studies, digital humanities, graphic design, linguistics, media studies and many more. Even though we already worked closely together in the run-up to the project – first when the application was written, then during the preparations – our cooperation has intensified considerably over the past five months.

In the following months, we will have more details to report here on our block. But for now, I would just like to briefly share a little of the enthusiasm that this project fortunately always inspires in many of us. Of course, this is partly due to the fact that we can now all concentrate on our respective objects of research. But in my perception, it is also those moments when the collaboration becomes briefly challenging because different methods collide and rub up against each other, because these are genuine moments of learning from each other. 

René gives Eugen Instructions for programming the ZX81 at ZHdK’s GameLab

What will happen next

Of course, I realise that we probably won’t be able to maintain the same dynamic momentum over four years, but I am confident that it will never be lost. So much has already happened. Our list of games from Switzerland and developed with Swiss participation up to 2000 has grown from 73 to already 121 in four months. We have played and analysed the historical games together in small teams and written our first joint case studies. Others have practised coding on historical platforms. Still others got to explore the inner workings of the Smaky. We were able to present our project at conferences in Montreal and Warsaw and network with international colleagues. And very soon, we will be presenting our first results at the annual conference in game studies, DiGRA 2023, in Sevilla.

Sophie and Pierre-Yves working on the Smaky

In the future, we will report here on the individual research interests and projects of our team members. We will also publish initial research results. For example, a detailed study by Pierre-Yves Hurel on the Lausanne “Computer” fair happening between 1978 and 2002 will soon appear here. A collaborative case study (using the HGP method) on Necronom is planned for autumn.


Recommended citation: Eugen Pfister, “CH-Ludens Kick off. How the Sinergia came into being.”, in: Confoederatio Ludens, https://chludens.hypotheses.org/260, 16.06.2023



Cite this blog post
Eugen Pfister (2023, June 16). CH-Ludens Kick off. How the Sinergia came into being. Confoederatio Ludens. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/mr8t

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Eugen Pfister

Eugen Pfister leitet das SNF-Sinergia-Forschungsprojekt "Confoederatio Ludens" an der Hochschule der Künste Bern - HKB. Er forscht zur Ideengeschichte und politischen Geschichte digitaler Spiele (spielkult.hypotheses.org).

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