[-empyre-] Welcome to the March discussion of -empyre and moderator Sandra Danilovic.

Sandra Danilovic s.danilovic at mail.utoronto.ca
Tue Mar 4 09:09:40 EST 2014

Thank you Renate for the introduction! Please stay tuned for my introductory statement and subtopics and questions of the week to follow in another email. 

Warm wishes,
Sandra Danilovic

Welcome to March on –empyre soft-skinned space: 

The playsthetics of experimental digital games  

Guest moderated by Sandra Danilovic (CA) with invited discussants 
March 3 to 9th           Week 1: Bart Simon (CA), mrghosty (aka skot deeming) (CA), Felan Parker (CA)
March 10th to 16th     Week 2: Lynn Hughes (CA), Matthew Wells (CA), Sebastian Deterding (DE) 
March 17th to 23rd     Week 3:  Emma Westecott (CA), Alison Harvey (UK), Peter Coppin (CA)
March 24th to 31st     Week 4: Kara Stone (CA), Christine Kim (CA), Christopher Young (CA), Mark Chen (US)

Welcome to the March discussion on  –empyre- soft-skinned space:
Guest moderated by Sandra Danilovic (CA) with invited discussants Bart Simon (CA), Lynn Hughes (CA), Emma Westecott (CA), Peter Coppin (CA), Alison Harvey (UK), Mark Chen (US), mrghosty (aka skot deeming) (CA), Kara Stone (CA), Christopher Young (CA), Christine Kim (CA), Matt Wells (CA), Felan Parker (CA) and Sebastian Deterding (DE). 

Welcome to the March discussion, “The playsthetics of experimental digital games”. This month I invite special discussants whose interests dynamically engage with the study of games and gaming in contemporary art and digital media contexts. This discussion explores the aesthetic traction and impact of 'experimental' games on the theory of computer games and game design practice set within broader interdisciplinary frameworks. I imagine experimental digital games as games that creatively and/or computationally push boundaries in a variety of ways and contexts, including: creative play-design practices, degrees of abstraction/experimentation in relation to game aesthetics, mechanics and dynamics, nonconventional game narratives and genres, and experimental games as politico-personal strategic tools and platforms of authorship. We debate experimental digital games in DIY contexts including game design as a form of creative play. We explore how these forms of creative experimentation with/through digital games put pressure on theories of representation/simulation. We also investigate experimental games as forms that traverse a variety of assumed or perceived ontological boundaries and media platforms. Finally, we explore the embodied and personal dimensions of experimentation in game design practice through the following games and interventions: art games, indie games, text-based games/interactive digital fiction, notgames, autobiographical and personal games, queer games, and popular indie games. 

Guest moderator: 

Sandra Danilovic (CA) is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellow at the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto. Her doctoral research explores illness and trauma narratives in autobiographical digital games as vehicles for creative self-expression embedded in broader social justice goals. She has an extensive background in film production, fine arts and digital design practice. Her semi-autobiographical machinima documentary, Second Bodies, won Best Documentary at the New Media Film Festival in San Francisco (2010) and has screened at Vector: Game + Art Convergence Festival (2013), San Francisco Indie Film Festival (2011) and The Female Eye Film Festival (2011). Her previous one-hour independent documentaries explored immigrant narratives set within archival and contemporary contexts; Portrait of a Street: The Soul and Spirit of College (2001) and Just Arrived (2004) were respectively broadcast on American PBS and Rogers OMNI Television. She is a member of The Semaphore Lab at University of Toronto and Toronto's DIY community, Dames Making Games.  

Weekly Guests: 

Bart Simon (CA) is the current director of the Centre for Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) and Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University in Montreal. His areas of expertise include game studies, science and technology studies and cultural sociology. His game studies research crosses a variety of genres, platforms and modalities looking at the relation of game cultures, socio-materiality and everyday life. Some of his work is represented in journals such as Games and Culture, Game Studies and Loading. His current research on social imagination and gameplay and cultural economies of the indie game scene are funded by the Social Science and Humanities Council of Canada and the Canadian network on New Media, Animation and Games (GRAND NCE).

Lynn Hughes (CA) is a digital media researcher, artist and teacher who holds the Chair of Interaction Design and Games Innovation at Concordia University in Montreal. She was instrumental in the founding and financing of Hexagram, the Montreal based Institute for Media Art and Technology and the largest new media hub in Canada. More recently she co-founded (with Bart Simon) the Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) Research Centre -a radically interdisciplinary centre that fosters game research and design. Lynn’s own design interests currently focus on the space between games, interactive art and community activism and on the design of full body, sensor based games. Propinquity, her current production with Bart Simon and the Modern Nomads, was featured on the opening night of the Joue le jeu / Play Along (Gaîté lyrique, Paris) at the Boston Festival of Independent Games, the Brussels Electronic Arts Festival, and Indiecade (Los Angeles). 

Emma Westecott (CA) is Assistant Professor in Game Design and Director of the game:play lab at the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) University in Toronto, Canada (http://www.ocadu.ca). She has worked in the game industry for over 20 years: in development, research and the academy. She achieved international recognition for working closely with Douglas Adams as producer for the best-selling CD-ROM Adventure Game, Starship Titanic (1998, Simon & Schuster). Since then, Emma has built up a worldwide reputation for developing original as well as popular game projects. Emma has been invited to present her work at many prestigious venues including BAFTA, the Tate, the Banff Centre and DIGRA (http://www.digra.org). Between 2001-4, Emma directed the zerogame studio for The Interactive Institute (http://www.tii.se) in Sweden, where an impressive body of applied research was created under her leadership. More recently she has been Games Research Fellow at NSAMD, UWN where she organized 2007’s Women in Games conference (http://www.womeningames.com).

Alison Harvey, PhD (UK) is a Lecturer in the Department of Media and Communication at the University of Leicester. Her research considers questions of inclusivity, equity, democratization, and social justice in digital games development, modification, and play.

P. Coppin (CA) is an Assistant Professor of Design at Ontario College of Art and Design University where he is a Program Faculty member in the Inclusive Design graduate program and Inclusive Design Institute. Coppin’s research seeks to improve access to information displays through a better understanding of how graphic design conventions (i.e., pictures, diagrams, and text) make use of perceptual capabilities. This research applies cognitive science to inform design decisions, and is informed by a career that cuts across science, engineering, and design. Most recently he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Toronto. His doctoral research responded to real-world design challenges encountered during the eight years he served as Principal Investigator of the NASA and foundation funded EventScope Project, a joint laboratory between Carnegie Mellon’s STUDIO for Creative Inquiry and Robotics Institute. His work on EventScope was inspired by new interaction paradigms he developed as an internationally exhibiting electronic media artist and designer, with exhibitions such as the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria; MIR: Art in Space in Bolzono, Italy; and the SIGGRAPH Touchware Exhibition in Orlando, Florida. http://petercoppin.org/academic/bio/

mrghosty (aka skot deeming) (CA) is an artist, curator, researcher and doctoral student in Concordia University's Individualized Program in the Humanities. As a key figure in the Canadian video game art scene, and a researcher at Concordia's Amplab, andTAGlab, skot draws upon a wealth of practical experience and theoretical knowledge while investigating the intersections between gamer cultures, hacker cultures and new media art practices.

Felan Parker (CA) is a PhD candidate (ABD) in Communication & Culture at York University in Toronto, specializing in digital game studies and cinema and media studies. He holds an MA and BA Hon. in Film Studies from Carleton University. His dissertation examines the cultural legitimation of digital games as art in a variety of different contexts, and other research interests include transmedia franchises, genre, authorship, paratexts, and canon formation.

Sebastian Deterding (DE) is a researcher and designer working on gameful and playful experiences. He is currently a visiting assistant professor at the RIT Laboratory for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction and Creativity (MAGIC) at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He is organizer of the Gamification Research Network, and co-editor of "The Gameful World", a book exporing the societal ramification of the ludification of culture, to appear with MIT Press in 2014. As independent game and user experience designer and associate with the international design studio Hubbub, he has been building applications touching millions of people for the BBC, BMW, Deutsche Telekom, Greenpeace, the German Federal Agency for Civic Education. He lives online at http://codingconduct.cc.

Mark Chen (US) is an independent researcher of gaming culture and spare-time game designer. He is the author of Leet Noobs: The Life and Death of an Expert Player Group in World of Warcraft. Currently, he is looking into experimental and artistic games to promote exploration of moral dilemmas and human nature, researching DIY subcultures of Board Game Geek users, and generally investigating esoteric gaming practices. Mark also holds appointments at Pepperdine University, University of Washington, and University of Ontario Institute of Technology, teaching a variety of online and offline courses on game studies, game design, and games for learning. He earned a PhD in Learning Sciences/Educational Technology from the University of Washington and a BA in Studio Art from Reed College. You can read more about Mark on his blog at http://markdangerchen.net

Christine Kim (CA) is an independent curator and video game artist. She is a founding member of the curatorial team behind Vector Game + Art Convergence Festival and is the founder of the international game collective called Parallel Play. Her curatorial philosophy aims to create awareness of, and appreciation for, experimental video game art and independently made games. Her video game "Bitmap," was made through the Dames Making Games incubator and has since been shown at Digifest, Toronto Global Game Jam and was featured in the Globe and Mail.

Kara Stone (CA) is a student at York University, achieving an MA in Communication and Culture. She previously completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production. Her work consists of feminist art with a focus on gendered perspectives of affect, mental illness and emotion. Coming from a theatre background, she transitioned into film and video making, working as a picture editor on dramatic and documentary features, shorts, music videos and activist videos. Now, she is expanding her media of focus and experimenting primarily in alternative modes of video interactions, traditional crafting, and videogames. Her videogames include Medication Meditation, Hand to Heart, and Cyborg Goddess, and her work has been featured in NOW Magazine, Toronto Star, Marketplace NPR, and The Atlantic. 

Matt Wells (CA) is a PhD Student at the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto.  The focus of his research is on the history of technology from a gaming perspective.  Matt explores the ways in which gaming has informed the evolution of computing technologies, as well as alternate forms of game design and play that emerged at various points over the course of the history of computing.  He is particularly interested in the hobbyist programming communities that emerged with the development of the personal computer, and the ways in which programming was both a form of game design and game play. Matt's background is varied.  Following his own interest in programming, he pursued a Computer Science degree at the undergraduate level upon finishing high school.  He then realized that he needed a long break from computers, and eventually re-enrolled in university as a History student.  He followed his interest in medieval history into grad school, before deciding to make another sea change.  At the Faculty of Information he reconnected with computers and games, and expects the relationship to stick this time. Outside of academics, Matt is an avid gamer and retro game enthusiast.  He has lately been working on several retro game projects, emulating 8 and 16-bit graphics over the web using HTML5 and Javascript. He is also interested in experimental and toy programming languages, as well as programming language design.  Matt is married and has a two-year old daughter that is already intrigued by the flashing lights and sounds emanating from his laptop computers.

Chris Young (CA) is a doctoral student at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information researching the information practices of game and play cultures under the supervision of Sara Grimes. Chris’s research interests include games and play cultures, information seeking and use practices, and cultural industries and labour. Over his career, Chris will be researching how the information practices of hobbyist games and play cultures affect the information practices of the “professional” cultural industry of games, particularly how hobbyist grassroots cultures and movements affect the wider economy and culture of the games industry. As well as researching hobbyist games and play cultures, Chris is a new hobbyist game developer working on narrative-based games that incorporate book history and print culture with fictional storylines. Chris is currently working on a small multi-part game, tentatively titled “Typoe” that narrates the development of the printing press by Johann Gutenberg through the protagonist Typoe: a fragment of an illuminated manuscript that assists Gutenberg in illuminating the knowledge he needs in manuscripts to develop a wooden printing press, as well its necessary, auxiliary components, such as ink, paper, type matrixes, and moveable type. Chris’s current hobby of developing book history and print culture related games is driven through his work as a part-time librarian at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library.


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