User at Work is a multidisciplinary hybrid conference organized by FRAG collective within the new yearly cycle Beyond the Gaming Principle. The main aim of these events is to bring together artists and gamers, theorists and developers, professionals and enthusiasts to reflect upon or develop new, inclusive and diffractive ways of creating, playing and reflecting upon games.

The introductory lecture of the conference will be presented by Alfie Bown, a British game theorist known for his book Playstation Dreamworld. Two conference panels will follow the keynote lecture. First panel is dedicated to the intertwining of gaming and work (guests: Filip Hauer, Václav Janoščík, Vít Bohal, Dustin Breitling, John Hill, Dita Malečková). The second panel will open with keynote by Peggy Schoenege and will address the theme of the game and space, whether physical, gallery or virtual (Viktor Takáč, Lucia Mendelová, Ondřej Buddeus, Jesper Alvaer, Ondřej Trhoň, Tereza Krobová, Kateřina Kovandová).

First of all, we will discuss the notion that games are of course not just fun, but often, by collecting experience and in-game currencies, they force us to perform repetitive and profit-oriented activities, or directly involve various work activities. In this sense, the games normalize various forms of work, including its intimate connection with entertainment and capitalism. Of course, the gaming medium does not only have to reproduce dominant economic, cultural, political or aesthetic patterns, it can invert, reject or reshape them.

We will try to set the games in a space that is again not just a simple (private) environment of a home computer, but is gaining interest in the sphere of art, galleries or museums. But games do not only enter our spaces directly, by placing them in context, but also through how they transform our ideas about it. It’s not just about general VR technology, but about the more subtle nuances of how games teach us to move, navigate, and share.

Relaxed, non-academic conference that, in addition to the introductory lecture, will offer various theses, observations and perspectives in the form of short 10-minute papers, on the basis of which we will discuss the key problems of gaming and game development. The whole program will be in English and its important part will be the actual live gaming. We will be playing both indie and mainstream titles. The conference will be loosely followed by an exhibition at the GAVU Gallery where playing in a triad of three fundamental human activities will be put into the context of work and rest, and among many other things it will still be possible to play and discuss with the FRAG collective.


1st panel: Ideology of work and gaming

Intersection of operative logic of both games and work is the key for understanding today’s political essence of gaming. Moderation: Václav Janoščík, Filip Hauer
Keynote speaker: Alfie Bown(GB)
Position papers: Filip Hauer, Václav Janoščík, Vít Bohal, Dustin Breitling (EN), Dita Malečková

2nd panel: VR, gallery, spaces of gaming and art

We take the concept of space and VR to frame our first AVU based gaming conference, since the work with space, locality or proximity is what connects current gaming with contemporary art.
Moderation: Viktor Takáč, Ondřej Trhoň
Keynote speaker: Peggy Schoenegge(DE)
Position papers: Lucia Mendelová (online), Ondřej Buddeus (online), Viktor Takáč (online),  Jesper Alvaer (online), John Hill(online), Ondřej Trhoň, Tereza Fousek Krobová

* conference will be in English and will be streamed to Twitch and Youtube AVU Stream.

Time schedule

1st panel

10:00 keynote (Alfie Bown 45min, 30min discussion, 15min break)

11:30 panelists of 1st panel (60min papers, 30min discussion)

13:00 lunch and gameplay

2nd panel

14:30 keynote (Peggy Schoenegge 45min, 30min discussion, 15min break)

16:00 panelists of 2nd panel  (60 min papers, 30min discussion)

cca 17:30-22:00 afterparty – structured gameplaying (commented gameplay with Argam Alaverdyan)

Multiplayer: No Fun kolektiv, LoL

1st panel

Alfie Bown (GB) - Keynote speaker

Alfie Bown is Lecturer in Digital Media Culture and Technology. He joined Royal Holloway after being Assistiant Professor at the Hang Seng University of Hong Kong and Lecturer at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He has also taught at The University of Manchester and Liverpool John Moores University. He is author of The Playstation Dreamworld (Polity, 2017) and In the Event of Laughter (Bloomsbury, 2018) among other things.

The Corporate Cyborg Gamers

- are we now a generation of gamers whose minds and movements are controlled by corporations and tech giants, lemmings who think, feel and move only how and when Google tells us to? Or can games and game communities be a means to strike back against these corporate overlords and take back control of our desires? We are in the middle of what Lyotard once called a 'desirevolution' - but the winners of this battle are yet to be decided.


Dustin Breitling

Surveying the emergence and further bleeding of Virtual Economies into the fabric of everyday life, what are the affordances and remaining challenges that DAOs pose as well as possibilities that impact the economic and social nature of gaming that may provide us a new toolset to think how gaming contributes to discussion of modular politics.


Filip Hauer

I will argue that games, despite being advocates of neoliberal work, bring subversive potential thanks to their allegories and procedural realism. I will illustrate this on two strategic games which can be interpreted as supplement allegories of control. Finally, I will try to propose a strategy for the new avant-garde of procedural simulation.


Vít Bohal

What is xeno-gaming today? If the xeno is predicated on the disclosure of unconscious infrastructures and its attendant alienation, what might we consider Alfie Bown’s call for “subversive gaming?” How to play against the apparatus when the game is your life, and what role might the recent rise of blockchain gaming and the NFT economy play in fostering a future where the affluent continue to play for the lulz, while the disenfranchised play for their life?


Dita Malečková

What if we describe the relationship between human and machine on the basis of subjective and objective: What if subjectivity does not represent a simple and naturally grown up self, but it is by its very nature something constructed; cultural - and the objective is the projection, translation of subjectivity into objective, external, shared world. This sharing requires some kind of technology: from language (gesture, word, image) to digital technology… and AI is the current peak of this cultural development; it is the crystallization of collective behavior. In that case, what can we expect? Who will be the active agent in the future Game of Life?


Václav Jánoščík

THrough the 60s and 70s visual art reinvented itself through the encounter and appropriation with its “other”. It moved from focus to its inside (aesthetic quality) to look into its outside (ecology of materials and societies). Modernist art became contemporary art. Rosalind Krauss explains it with the help of semiotic square as movement from what sculpture is to what it is not (architecture, landscape). Can we actually develop similar liberation against the backdrop of the “other” in respect to gaming? Can or do we even have to move creation, dissemination and consumption of games shift to what they are not (yet)?


2nd panel

Peggy Schoenegge (DE) - Keynote speaker

Curator, writer, speaker, project manager at Peer to space and chairwoman of the media art association in Berlin. In her work, she deals with the conditions and challenges of the digital age and its effects on our everyday life, society and culture. The focus is primarily on digital art, internet art and art with new media such as VR or AR. Within this framework, she also explores and uses the virtual as an alternative exhibition space.

(Im)Material Matter - Curating in Virtual Spaces In the post-digital age

Digital space becomes a place for experiencing art. In these transformations, the conditions and challenges of both art and curatorial work are changing. Digital art curator - Peggy Schoenegge - will present online exhibitions and use these examples to introduce the changing paradigms that come with a new potential of the contemporary art space within the virtual realm.


Lucia Mendelová

Virtual Materialism Manifesto - Revisited

Looking back after five years.
It is already five years, since I called for inquiries concerning digital materiality of VR and AR. In the seven thesis of manifesto I asked about complex relationship between embodiment and information, about potential of data surveillance; about corporate work, free and open source software and playbor - all in the context of immersive tech; it was meant to be a search for post-work imaginings and an inquiry into conditions of the Immersive Capitalism we will be living in.

Virtual Materialism - A Manifesto


Ondřej Buddeus

What is (not) there

Playing various games of make-believe and creating fictive realms can be understood as an anthropological constant. Fiction is a safe mode for gaining real experience and advancing our sensitivity and understanding. Any medium used for sharing information and/or emotion regardless of its materiality, form or genre, is a possible playground for sharing such fictive contents. Fictional worlds are perceived as complex realms, yet this complexity is limited: The gaps and blind spots are an inevitable component and as such they play a vivid role in how we make our experience during the mental journeys through the fictional worlds. I`ll briefly discuss what does fiction theory reveal about the phenomena of “missing content” in prose and poetry and open the question how does this apply for virtual worlds of videogames and related forms.


Viktor Takáč

I will continue and speak about a transformation of filmic language in interactive storytelling situation. What is the connection between missing information (cinematographic shortcut) and our mental participation? How the formal aspects of cinematographic experience changes when the spectator is allowed to look and act freely? In the undertaken study of storytelling in VR I will demonstrate the close relation between immersion and interactivity. The role of director and camera changes into a stage-design dramaturgy, role-playing, agency. Under those circumstances I am trying to answer how interactive aspects can harm or even support our immersion. The way how gaming mechanics incorporates our moves and motion, supports the way how we are embodying the other entities or even emphasize non-human perspectives of looking.


Jesper James Alvaer

Jesper was invited to speak about two exhibitions where principles of rules are applied into the gallery spatial context. The shape of the exhibition is curved by coridors which are separating voyers of the exhibition from for members of the gallery – which controlls and sets the rules and interaction of the spectators. In exhibition Competence we can see the parallels to the RPG (role playing games genre) where the user is immersed into the scene, following some gamificational principles - observation, basic interaction, orientation in the designed scene, making some direction based decisions. He/she is completing, with ease or difficulties, some task based quests to elevate his avatar to a next levels of gameplay – in exhibiton context to the next room. In the narration based or linearly based games we deal with the fact of free will and or wide open space - which is from practical and technological principles regulated. Jesper was invited to demonstrate sort of gamificational aspekts applied in the context of gallery installation.


John Hill

James Hans proposed, in his 1981 book The Play of the World, that play was a fundamental process of interaction with and within the world. Play allows us to create structures but also, importantly, remake them, with the acknowledgement that rules are always a temporary imposition on a complex world. Rather than making the structure of play simply illusory, this is in fact what makes play productive, allowing it to have material effects in and on the world. Playing together and, as I will suggest, making art together, allows for shared understanding to be developed, which might act as the basis for a more playful politics.


Ondřej Trhoň

The paper presents the current line of research on the relationship between the player and the virtual body (avatar), which represents on the one hand a phenomenological and on the other hand a psychoanalytic approach. Although current theories provide a fairly plastic picture of the avatar happening, which takes place not only in video games but also in art game worlds, it lacks a synthetic perspective. Based on my own research with the help of the poststructuralist theory of Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze, I will try to sketch this out in an early form. Digital afordance as deleuzo-guattarian machines are digging their way through the limitations of hardware and the procedural limits of game / virtual simulation.


Tereza Fousek Krobová

From playing gender to playing with gender

This paper tries to examine the boundaries between social reality and virtual space of video games. I believe that the virtual space of every video game is virtual in a similar way as gender itself. To rearticulate the definition of virtuality, I use the different “shades” of relationship with the avatar. I argue that this relationship reveals the constructed nature of gender identities and characteristics and is in principle always queer. I am using the concept of the performativity of gender (J. Butler) and doing gender (West and Zimmerman) to prove the disruptive potential of the playing games. The basic premise is the fact that as part of building a relationship with an avatar, the player (even implicitly and unconsciously) "plays gender" – he/she performs it similar as in social reality. However, this performance is not just a reconstruction and confirmation of real or ideal gender identities, but on the contrary their deconstruction ("playing with gender"). This statement supported by the findings from my recent research aims to emphasize the uniqueness of the playing experience, which is limited and "framed" by a basic and often homogeneous and stereotypical text, but otherwise is significantly complex, heterogeneous, and subversive. The discursive shift from “playing gender” to “playing WITH gender” leads to the understanding of ANY game as a potential virtual arena open for deconstruction and negotiation of the seemingly stable gender identities and identifications.