#WebinarWednesday - Exploring Worlds of Thought and Play
"In the last few decades, games, and the virtual worlds that make up their reality, have been a fertile playground for imagination and storytelling, allowing players to participate in the shoes of heroes and heroines, living out countless adventures through hours of interactive entertainment. What is less talked about, however, is how games, through their power to immerse and engage, can help us to learn about ourselves and the society we live in through story and play. This series of talks on "Exploring Worlds of Thought and Play" discusses how some of today's most intriguing and provocative titles are doing just that, whether by allowing us to experience the richness of other cultures and other eyes, letting us see the realities of mental health firsthand, or bringing the worlds of literature to life as living, breathing worlds."
Register now: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8686816238279220994
Time: Wednesday 9 November, 1700 Pacific / 2000 Eastern / 0000 UTC
Use the Show in My Time Zone option on the GoToWebinar registration site to confirm the date and time in your location.
More About the Topics and Presenters
To Play, Perchance to Change - Exploring Agency and Tragedy in Shakespeare's Hamlet
Kristin Siu, Developer, Golden Glitch Studios
For centuries, William Shakespeare's Hamlet has enthralled audiences, scholars, and students alike with the tragic tale of its titular Danish prince. Set in that rotten state of Denmark, Elsinore is an adventure game which explores themes of agency and tragedy. Players adopt the role of Ophelia, trapped in a Groundhog Day style time loop and condemned to relive the tragic events of Shakespeare's play. What might happen if Ophelia could inform the other characters of their fates? How might those inherently-flawed characters respond to that information?
In this talk, Elsinore developer Kristin Siu discusses the design and gameplay of the upcoming game. She will discuss how games rarely explore tragedy, the rationale behind the choice of Ophelia as the player character and how the game's systems – part hand-authored scenes and part narrative simulation – support themes of agency and tragedy.
Kristin Siu is a Ph.D. candidate in computer science at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a developer from Golden Glitch Studios working on Elsinore, a time-looping Shakespearean adventure game. Her dissertation research involves using artificial intelligence make human computation and scientific discovery games more engaging and effective. Her other research interests include procedural content generation and computational narrative – and she has helped to put her love of the latter into the narrative tech and design tools for Elsinore. In addition to working on games, she's spent time working at Microsoft, Google, and Disney Research.
Games and cultural heritage: what have they got to offer to one another?
Jakub Majewski, Bond University
The games industry and cultural heritage studies are two very separate entities that pursue uncannily similar interests, frequently collaborate, and yet rarely sit down to have a real conversation. Every time a games developer researches and designs the setting for a narrative game, they must inevitably explore history and culture. Game design textbooks regularly call on designers to look beyond the most generic cultural settings, to find inspiration in other parts of the world and other times in history. Meanwhile, cultural heritage scholars and practitioners searching for new and better ways to transmit their content to the public inevitably look to the video game, especially serious games, as a possible model. Both sides often solicit the other side for support on their projects, but neither seems to actually listen to the other's opinion. The result are games that exploit fascinating settings in thoroughly unoriginal ways.
Though it might seem counter-intuitive, there is much to be gained from game designers working on commercial games by listening to cultural experts not only on questions of culture, but also questions of gameplay. There is equally much to be gained for cultural experts working on serious games by listening to game designers not only on questions of gameplay, but also of culture. For both sides, there is also a huge benefit to talking directly to the players, who often devote copious amounts of time to modding games, and therefore can offer a lot of valuable help to cash-strapped small studio or indie developers, and equally cash-strapped cultural heritage practitioners.
Jakub is a veteran games designer who, after a ten year career decided to take time out in order to teach new game designers, and to pursue PhD research on the convergence of role-playing games and cultural heritage. Based at Bond University in Australia, Jakub has taught on interactive experience design, game culture, and the games industry, while publishing papers on the value of applying games for the transmission and preservation of cultural heritage. In his previous life as a game developer, Jakub had worked on approximately forty games in multiple genres for multiple platforms, most developed for the "budget" Polish games developer City Interactive/CI Games, with a stint at the mobile games developer Vivid Games. Budget games being what they are, Jakub does not much brag about particular titles he worked on, but remains very proud of being able to get things done within short timeframes, small budgets, and sometimes insane working conditions.
Exploring Mental Health in Games
Erin Reynolds, CEO/Creative Director of Flying Mollusk
Video games have the incredible power to invite players to virtually walk in the shoes of others - to live a story; to have a unique experience. With this capability, we as game creators have the opportunity to inspire, nurture understanding, and to evoke and sustain positive change in players and communities. The opportunities are especially promising when it comes to addressing topics of mental health via games - either by contributing to the player's own mental wellness or via experiences that help promote awareness and understanding about mental health - or both!
Erin Reynolds, the Creative Director of Nevermind - the biofeedback-enhanced game designed to help players become more mindful of their stress reactions while also addressing themes of PTSD and psychological trauma - will speak to Nevermind's approach to crafting a game intended to both promote mental wellness and discuss topics about mental health at the same time. This talk will touch upon the approach and philosophy of designing a game intended to address mental wellness issues head-on, the challenges of creating a game intended to benefit and to entertain, and the team's learnings throughout the process that can serve as actionable take-aways for other developers considering to make games with similar goals.
Erin Reynolds is the Founder, President, and Creative Director of Flying Mollusk. She has a diverse background spanning the past 10 years in game development within a variety of different environments, including as a developer (handheld, social, and mobile), publisher, academic, and now indie. Erin is passionate about the potential games have to empower, educate, and inspire players of all kinds and to make the world a better, more playful place.
To this end, she took a sabbatical from her career in Game Development in 2009 to pursue her MFA through the prestigious Interactive Media & Games Division of the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. There, Erin led projects such as Trainer, (winning the two top awards for Michelle Obama's Apps for Healthy Kids competition at the White House) and the critically acclaimed academic version of Nevermind. Nevermind has since gone on to be re-developed at Flying Mollusk for multiple platforms and is available on major digital markets worldwide.
As Chief Mollusk of Flying Mollusk, Erin is dedicated to continuing to create edgy games and interactive art that leave a lasting positive impact on the user and world.
Matthew Lee has been exploring the collision of game design, psychology, and network culture for over a decade. In the long and tangled path that brought him to Australia as a Fulbright Scholar, he's been an Aerospace Engineer, Drama Therapist, Community Manager, Registered Nurse and a Game Designer. One of the pioneers of research into network culture and an early, early explorer of Virtual Reality (in the days when that meant Second Life and OpenSim, not Google Cardboard and the Oculus Rift), Matthew has crafted powerful interactive learning experiences on a staggering number of platforms, for clients such as the American Nurses Foundation, the US State Department, the UN and a few clients he's not allowed to talk about. Today, he serves as chair of the International Game Developers Association's (IGDA) Serious Games SIG, where his work involves promoting inter-disciplinary collaboration, research into online communities and investigating the potential of integrating therapeutic and elements into existing mainstream media.