I kept a napkin in my room for a long time. The Department of Computer and Systems Sciences conducts activities in many areas, and the napkin reminded me of how one of these first saw the light of day. It was the napkin upon which Stockholm University’s study programme in computer game development was born.

The place of birth, or at least its embryonic development, was a lunch restaurant where I and Professor Love Ekenberg had a series of lunches that gradually turned into planning meetings without us really noticing. I had been writing video game reviews for the one of the big Swedish daily newspapers for years, and Love was later to become probably Sweden's first professor to achieve the highest level in the legendary online role-playing game World of Warcraft. The discussions became more and more academic, from pure amusement they turned into a philosophical sounding board where we discussed whether events in online worlds with thousands of concurrent players should be viewed as less real than what happens in the “real world”.
It was here that the napkin came into the picture. We agreed that the game worlds in which people can fall in love, get frustrated or get in a good mood, organise memorial services for those who have died (in the physical world), be enticed by advertisements, learn things, and keep in touch with friends can hardly be dismissed as "not real”. The napkin became filled with more and more messy illustrations of game developers’ motifs for design choices, the pros and cons of different types of players, together with the technical, social and societal consequences.
It was not a huge step to turn this area into the focus for a study course, and in the autumn of 2003, the first course in game development was given at Stockholm University.
I have lost the napkin now, but I still teach a few modules on what eventually became a degree programme in computer game development. My research area is now computer games and learning, so it feels like it was some sort of turning point that happened that time in the restaurant: a choice that could be made – because the breaking of new ground fortunately fits into what a university is.
Narrator: Mats Wiklund