[-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 112, Issue 21

Kara Stone kara.littlestone at gmail.com
Tue Mar 25 15:52:39 EST 2014

Hi all,

I want to thank Sandra for asking me to be a part of this and the other
participants for their insights.

To respond to Christine's question:
I approached making my first game, Medication Meditation, as making an art
piece. Not in the way of "proving" games can be art, but in that I saw
games as just another medium for art practice. Though it sounds very grand
to go into something with the intention of making Art - a label that is
meant to scare certain oppressed groups away - I had little knowledge/care
about the "are games art" debate so to me I was continuing what I was doing
with "interactive video" but with different software. Now after having made
a few games, I think about the game/art relationship more because people
have called them 'not videogames' -- an assertion solely based on my gender.
Women who have made Twine games are a particular target. It's an easy way
to dismiss women from the collective "gaming culture" to say that our work
isn't aren't ~real~ games. Thus, my pieces aren't included in the medium of
video games because I am a women, but aren't necessarily art because they
are too game-y. I imagine that this distinction would not happen with this
group of people though! so I will move on to the term "experimental games."
I like experimental as a descriptor but not as a category. The added
qualifier of "experimental" onto "games" strikes me as a way to not only
distinguish a certain kind of game/making but to forcefully separate it
"normal" video games, games that do not require a qualifier, the "pure"
form that we "experimental" game makers are subverting, queering, and
possibly perverting. As "experimental games" is the realm in which women,
POC, trans, queer, + disabled are allowed to exist (at least in the tiny
bubble many of us are in), it seems too easy a jump from "experimental" to
"not real" videogames.
I'm not sure what I would suggest to use instead, if anything. I like Felan
or Sandra's suggestion from a bit ago of "honest games." I like it in
particular as opposed to "personal games," a common descriptor used by
people around me making games, taking it from Anna Anthropy I believe. I
find it places way too much emphasis on authorship and promotes
individualism even where there might not be any. Like Christine said, the
lone wolf is a pervasive understanding of art-makers, yet I would (and
have) argued that community plays a much bigger role in forming the games.
For me, I would never have made games if it weren't for the DMG community.
They did not just enable me to make the game I had in my head, but formed
it alongside me.
The previous discussions have dealt with experimental as a design element,
and to a lesser extent, process element, and that made me curious about
experimental elements in the content. To echo Lynn Hughes concerns or
fatigue with the "self-referential," - something I find can be a pitfall of
any "experimental" medium. There is the danger of constantly referencing
non-experimental games, subverting or even reproducing dominant tropes, to
such an extent that the games just become about games and gaming
themselves. As Hughes said, the ""the tired reuse of tried and true genre,
mechanics, aesthetics etc is really disappointing - and surprisingly
prevalent in a community that thinks of itself as making alternatives to
big industry games." This is something I have felt - and definitely done -
in the very established experimental film genre. I don't know if I consider
something that just subverts the mainstream or common expectations as
"experimental" - the maker is not testing out things, exploring never
traversed territory (though not to suggest experimental necessarily means
"new") Maybe there are ways in which we should include experimental not
only in design but in content.
I'm currently viewing my games as research creations, especially as one is
specifically my MA "research creation." But this term does allow an
inclusion of "experimental" in that it is exploratory, a method of figuring
something out. I'm about to publicly put out a game I made about an article
by Jasbir Puar on Donna Haraway's statement that she would rather be a
cyborg than a goddess. It's a dense, hardcore affective reading of the
differences between intersectionality and Puar's idea of assemblage. Making
the game (aptly named Cyborg Goddess) was an effective method of getting
into these highly/overly academic ideas and exploring them from the inside.
And through making it, I find I have a much better understanding of Puar
and Haraway, as well as my own opinions on it.

I'll stop there for now as I have a million more thoughts but the whole
week to fill up :)
-Kara Stone

On Mon, Mar 24, 2014 at 9:00 PM, <empyre-request at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>wrote:

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> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Today's Topics:
>    1. Week 4: The Playsthetics of Experimental Digital Games:
>       digital game design praxis (Sandra Danilovic)
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Mon, 24 Mar 2014 18:20:57 +0000
> From: Sandra Danilovic <s.danilovic at mail.utoronto.ca>
> To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Subject: [-empyre-] Week 4: The Playsthetics of Experimental Digital
>         Games: digital game design praxis
> Message-ID:
>         <
> 321672a2d83f47308470d4f461727cfc at BY2PR03MB505.namprd03.prod.outlook.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="windows-1252"
> Dear All,
> I want to thank Emma Westecott, Alison Harvey and Peter Coppin for their
> wonderfully insightful posts this past week.
> It is my pleasure to introduce to you Week 4's fabulous featured guests,
> Kara Stone, Christine Kim, Chris Young, and Mark Chen.
> We will be discussing game design praxis in more detail and I hope that we
> can incorporate Alison's, Emma's and Peter's excellent points into this
> week's conversation. I will post the starter questions later this evening.
> 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.
> 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
> 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.
> Warm wishes,
> Sandra
> ?
> Sandra Danilovic, BFA, MA, SSHRC Doctoral Fellow
> Faculty of Information, University of Toronto
> http://current.ischool.utoronto.ca/students/sandra-danilovic
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