Foundations of Digital Games 2024 Tutorial on Playable Citations

We are pleased to announce that the first interactive playable citation workshop will take place at the Foundations of Digital Games Conference in Worcester, Massachusetts on May 21st, 2024


The playable citation workshop will bring together a diverse group of game scholars to work through activities aimed at exploring the potential of playable citations (e.g. GISST and Playable Quotes) for scholarly games research. The event will occupy of full-day of the conference and hopefully lead to continuing collaborations among a growing community of users.


This tutorial will kickstart scholarship and pedagogical applications built on the latest prototypes of the Game and Interactive Scholarship Support Toolkit (GISST), funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. GISST is a database of game metadata and a web-based workbench for building up citations in the form of snapshots of system state and replays of input sequences. GISST s built on the RetroArch project, so it supports several dozen platforms for interactive, in-browser play, and dozens more in a companion desktop app. Besides RetroArch emulator cores, it also supports the v86 emulator for a number of 32-bit x86 operating systems ranging from DOS through Windows XP. The workshop will familiarize participants with the tool and scholarly workflow during the morning; in the afternoon, participants will conduct novel scholarship with GISST, possibly even exporting citations in the form of self-contained playable quotes suitable for public release.

We do not expect to directly publish participants’ work from this tutorial, but we will establish an ongoing discussion group to support participants after the day is over. We also intend to run similar tutorials at other conferences outside of the game design/game studies community, including digital humanities and software preservation venues. Our main objective is that after this tutorial, future iterations of FDG (and other conferences including DiGRA, AIIDE, and IEEE CoG) will begin to receive papers with comprehensive playable citations. We hope to organize or support workshops at other game conferences focused around papers using playable citations, or propose game design or game studies journal special issues leveraging playable citations.

Activities and Schedule

This tutorial will run for a full day, with the first half used for training and brainstorming and the second half for composing new scholarship or imagining new applications for playable citations. In the first hour we will briefly present the overarching idea of playable citations and quotes, show examples of GISST in use, and give participants a chance to explore an online game design syllabus module with embedded playable citations. After a coffee break, participants will group together to collect citations towards or against a given argument: e.g., that Capcom reused design or code of the same jumping subroutine across their NES platformer games, or that the first enemy in a role-playing game is on average defeated in no more than three rounds if the player only attacks, or that the first stage of Super Mario Bros. contains an interactive tutorial of its key mechanics, or some other claim drawn from game design or game studies examples. The remainder of the time before lunch will be used for feedback and brainstorming of ideas and applications in advance of the afternoon.

During the afternoon, we will spend most of the time in small groups outlining research papers, collecting citations in support of an argument, or designing new applications for embedded playable citations. We will conclude by sharing out ideas and conducting a final wrap-up session to set directions in game citation for the coming months and establish a shared discussion group.


Eric Kaltman

Eric Kaltman is an Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta. He has published on game citation practices, co-organized a workshop on game citation practices at DIGRA 2023, and was a co-coordinator of both the Software Preservation Network (2021-2023) and its Technological Infrastructure Working Group (2019-present). Kaltman runs the Software History Futures and Technologies (SHFT) Group that focuses on the creation of new systems for the management, description, and reproduction of historical software and games. He also managed the IMLS-funded Game Metadata and Citation Project (GAMECIP) from 2014-2018 that formed the genesis for GISST and this workshop.

Joseph C. Osborn

Joseph C. Osborn is an Assistant Professor at Pomona College. He has co-organized several workshops at FDG, AAAI, and AIIDE including the Game Pedagogy Workshop, Knowledge Extraction from Games, and Programming Languages and Interactive Entertainment, and served as Workshop and Tutorials Chair at AIIDE 2020. Osborn’s work is primarily in the connections between programming languages, artificial intelligence, and game design, with recent work in automated mapping of game worlds and domain-specific languages for game engine development.

Adam Smith

Adam Smith is an Assistant Professor of Computational Media at UC Santa Cruz. He has co-organized workshops and tutorials at FDG and AIIDE. His lab’s recent development of technology for producing playable quotes may soon allow the distribution of data needed to read playable citation in a formation that could enjoy Fair Use protections. Playable quotes and citations are a key enabling technology for the next phase of his technical research in information retrieval (i.e. search engines) for moments in interactive media.