Including non-Finnish-speaking researchers in the activities of the Finnish Society for Game Research

Working to increase the inclusivity of the Finnish Society for Game Research

Last year, the board of the Finnish Society for Game Research initiated discussions on how to better include and represent the variety of people working in game research in Finland. In addition to considerations regarding multidisciplinarity, special focus was placed on the question of language, specifically, how to better include those who do not speak Finnish. Since the Society was founded in 2016, the Finnish game research community has seen significant growth and been strengthened by a great number of scholars arriving to Finland to complete their PhD or to work here as a researcher. As Finland is a multilingual country to begin with, and we host an increasing number of researchers working in game research in languages other than Finnish, it was clear to us that as the Finnish chapter of DiGRA, the Society should serve the whole multilingual game research community in the country. This goal was included in the Society’s Plan of Operations for 2024: ‘The Society will improve the accessibility of its activities for a greater number of game researchers in Finland by focusing on e.g. activities organised in English.’

In late 2023, the board began this work on various fronts: we created a social media campaign and a letter of invitation to participate in the society’s activities, distributed widely in Finnish and English. In November, we organised a meeting for non-Finnish-speaking game researchers in Finland (9 participants in addition to our representatives), where we introduced the society’s activities and discussed how we could better include and support those who belong in this group of researchers. We also launched a survey to gather more input on this topic (11 respondents). In the beginning of this year, the board nominated a working group (Usva Friman, Mikko Meriläinen, Johan Kalmanlehto, and Henry Korkeila) to process the feedback we had received and to create an action plan to increase the Society’s linguistic inclusivity. Next, we will describe the results of this working group: the feedback received from non-Finnish-speaking game researchers in Finland and the action plan created based on it.

Feedback from non-Finnish-speaking game researchers in Finland

A central message communicated through the discussion and the survey responses was that researchers arriving to Finland from abroad and/or not speaking Finnish may experience challenges in integrating or even feeling welcome in the Finnish game research community. Accordingly, discussion participants and survey respondents hoped for events and activities that would enable meeting other game researchers, create opportunities for collaboration, and support the feeling of belonging in the Finnish game research community. Many were interested in participating in different types of events focused on social interactions and learning about different game research groups in Finland.

Another central aspect in the feedback was the importance of accessible communication regarding news, events, and activities related to the Society and game research in Finland in general. Discussion participants and survey respondents expressed their wishes to receive more information in English regarding the Society, game research groups and education in Finnish universities, and game research related news and events in Finland.

One overarching point across the discussion and the survey was that language was experienced as a central element enabling or preventing participation. However, most non-Finnish-speakers participating in the discussion or responding to the survey did not wish that the Society would change its language to English exclusively. For example, of the ten non-Finnish-speaking respondents of the survey, only one wished for all the Society’s events to be organised in English, whereas four wished for some events in Finnish, some in English, and five wished for bilingual events. Some also expressed their wish to learn or improve their (academic) Finnish through the Society’s activities, for example through academic seminars organised and news written in plain Finnish. There was also one Finnish-speaking survey respondent who wished that the Society would stop using Finnish entirely. However, the Society is also committed to promoting Finnish as an academic language, while at the same time being inclusive to those not using the language.

Action plan for increased linguistic inclusivity

Based on the feedback received from non-Finnish-speaking game researchers in Finland, our working group has created a five-point action plan for increasing linguistic inclusivity in the society’s activities in a way that responds to the needs and wishes of the community.

1) Inclusion and Safety Policy

The Society has introduced a new Inclusion and Safety Policy, including a section on language policy:

‘All the Society’s main events and communications should be accessible to participants who do not understand Finnish. While there is occasionally a need for language-specific activities (e.g. publishing activities of Pelitutkimuksen vuosikirja), most activities should be organised in the most widely accessible language available.’

2) Bilingual communication

The Society will improve our bilingual communication. We have already introduced an English version of our monthly newsletter and will continue to send that out alongside the Finnish version on our mailing list every month. On our website and social media channels, we will post either in both Finnish and English, or in the language that is relevant, according to the Society’s language policy.

3) English content on the Society’s website

In addition to sharing news in English, we will include English translations and sections on the Society’s website to provide relevant information about the Society as well as the Finnish game research community in an accessible manner. We will also include posts in English on the Society’s blog, to make the blog more accessible to readers who do not know Finnish and to promote the work of Finnish game researchers who do not write in Finnish.

4) New social events

To create more opportunities for social inclusion and networking opportunities in the Finnish game research community, we are introducing two new low-threshold event types. First is an online event called ‘Game research coffees’, organised as a short afternoon event focusing on introducing different game research groups and educational programmes in Finland. These events will be organised in English and start in the autumn. The second event is ‘Game research afterworks’, organised as casual, in-person hangout events in different cities in Finland, providing an opportunity to meet other local game researchers. The afterworks will be organised in accessible venues taking various dietary limitations (e.g. non-alcoholic and vegan) into consideration, and the language used will be whatever is the most inclusive considering the participants of each event. First afterwork event will be organised in June.

5) Discord server

We have introduced a Discord server, open for all game researchers in Finland, focused on sharing and discussing news, events, CFPs, and everything else related to game research. The main language of the server will be English. Please join the server here:

Commitment to fostering multidisciplinary and multilingual game research community in Finland

With these actions, we are aiming to develop the Finnish Society for Game Research towards a more welcoming environment for all game researchers in Finland regardless of their academic, national, cultural, or linguistic background. Further, we wish to continue the dialogue on how to do this in the most effective way, especially by listening to those who are currently not feeling included for any reason. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with your wishes, ideas, and suggestions on how we could do better in this area!

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