26th Board Game Studies Colloquium

Tampere (Finland)

23-26 APRIL 2024

Im/Material Cultures
Board games exist in continuous interaction between tangible and intangible elements. They are grounded in material play instruments. From crudely shaped animal bones to detailed resin miniatures, the materials being used to craft them shape the games we play and their relations with other cultural artefacts. Materiality has a central role in board game enjoyment. Enthusiastic players appreciate the tangible and visual aesthetics of board games, customise and look after the components and game boxes, even furnishing and decorating their homes to fit the hobby. Material culture — the material manifestations of societies and cultures — is a key entry point in the study of board games and allows us to look at them with historical depth, and it lets us imagine how people played even when we have no written sources.
Simultaneously, board games are far from static objects: they invite and require playful interactions, whose performances, rituals, and even rules are immaterial and ephemeral. While materiality can help us speculate about the practices, performances, communications, social status, and cultural values that surround board games, ancient board games often remain a fascinating mystery, incomplete despite our reconstructions and the creative efforts to bring them back to life. Contemporary games are similarly incomplete if we do not consider the practices that surround them, the house rules that shape them, the discourses that frame them. Material aspects acquire their meaning also from the transient act of playing that may not leave a material trace, as well as the cultural, societal, and personal values attached to game play.
The close relationship between material culture and ephemeral play in board games assume a new dimension with digital technologies. It evokes patterns of hybrid play in the space between physical and digital, affecting how board games are created, used, and valued. Practices such as digital and VR adaptations of board games, 3D printing of game tokens, “shelfies” (pictures of one’s game shelves), AR features in board games, and crowdfunding as a key economic logic of board game production, show that board games are being dematerialized, digitised, but also re-materialized. The hybridization is further highlighted, when immaterial rights connect board games to wider transmedia brands, or when the gameplay becomes content for streaming, emphasising the performative value of material play.


For this edition of the Board Game Studies Colloquium, we invite a discussion on the complex relations between the material and the immaterial in play. How do material culture and ephemeral play relate to each other? How is contemporary in/tangible game heritage documented and understood? How do different im/material cultures coexist? Can we reconstruct the immaterial aspect of historical games? How does the dematerialisation and digitisation of board games affect the ways we play and make sense of them? Let's discuss these and more in the capital of Finnish game culture: Tampere.

Important Links

The Call for Papers has been published. You can download it now from the link below.

To propose a talk at BGSC 25 please submit a title and short abstract until the December 15th, 2023. You can submit your proposals from the link below

You can apply for a Travel Grant by using the form below:

Registration is open now!