Student's Conference Presentation Draws from FYS Work
By Christopher Ravosa '21
My First Year Seminar was the catalyst to my participation in the first-ever Supernatural Studies Association Conference. The FYS class, which I took this past fall with Dr. Patricia Tarantello, revolved around Gothic literature, something I’ve always been interested in. Throughout the semester, I read and studied authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Washington Irving, which increased my knowledge of popular Gothic elements which I had already been passionate about. I absolutely loved the class, and what I learned from it has spilled into almost all the academic work I’ve done since.
A product of the class was a paper I wrote for my Introduction to Games course about drawing from philosophical perspectives and Gothic elements in order to write compelling video game stories and characters. Because of my FYS, I was really able to go into detail about how certain elements like zombies and demons can relay underlying moral messages to players in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to describe before taking the class. Time and time again, I find myself incorporating what I learned in FYS into stories and essays for other classes.
Professor Tarantello was the one who reached out to me with the opportunity to present at the conference. There was a panel on “Human Moral Codes and Imagined Universes," and Professor Tarantello thought of me because, as a game designer, imagined universes are kind of my thing. She asked me if I had any papers that met the panel criteria, and my Introduction to Games paper seemed the perfect fit.
In the couple of months leading up to the conference, held on March 23rd, Professor Tarantello and I set a schedule for me to work on my paper and make edits. I was anxiously working on my paper up until the night before I left for the conference in the Bronx. As a freshman and the youngest presenter at the conference, I had no idea what to expect. I knew that I would be presenting my paper to an interested audience, but I wasn’t entirely certain myself what a conference actually was.
I arrived around noon at Bronx Community College and got my bearings. Essentially, professors, graduate students, and some undergraduates gathered to share their ideas and have deep conversation about different effects of the Gothic and supernatural on media and social experiences. My presentation went well, and the people who came to watch me were really interested in what I had to say. The discussion period was engaging—like a really good in-class discussion where everyone wants to participate and has lots to say. I talked about topics like whether games contribute to aggressive behavior, the future of virtual reality and storytelling, and isolationism associated with video game culture.
Conferences like this one bring together scholars from various perspectives to compare work and opinions. It’s a great way to learn from others and to express one’s own thoughts, and the networking opportunities at conferences are very beneficial. I had a great experience and got some business cards from a few people in my field who were interested in my work. It was a relatively small event, but any chance to get my name out and get some publicity is an opportunity that I’ll never pass up. I really hope that my presentation at this conference will lead to similar experiences in the future where I get to be a part of advancing discussions revolving around game design.
I definitely learned a lot from my first conference presentation. I put a lot of work into my paper, so it was helpful to get feedback about it and to be able to discuss it with others. I didn’t know what to expect going into the conference, but going forward I’ll be able to use what I learned there to better prepare myself for public presentations in the future—whether in class or in a more public venue such as another conference.