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Critical Hit Speaker Series: Doris Rusch

Posted by Jess

This Thursday, join us for the third talk of Critical Hit’s Distinguished Speaker Series, with guest speaker Doris Rusch. Taking the place of the slow jam playtests now that phase 2 of the incubator has begun, the speaker series will feature game creators and researchers of all stripes who will share their experiences in the field and in the community. It’s our way of bringing GDC to Montreal!


Doris C. Rusch is a game designer, researcher, play aficionado and holds a position as assistant professor for game design at DePaul University in Chicago where she founded the “Play for Change” lab. Before that she did post doctoral work at GAMBIT Game Lab, MIT, and Vienna University of Technology (Austria).

Rusch’s work is focused on the theory and practice of game design, particularly in regard to games that model the “human experience” and aim at mental health activism. She was the lead designer and vision holder of award winning and featured projects such as “Zombie Yoga” for Kinect, “Elude”, a metaphorical game on depression, and “Akrasia”, a game that models addiction. Having completed studies in Literature, Philosophy, Comparative Media Studies and English at Vienna University, she received her Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics and Interactive Systems in 2004.

This week, Doris will be talking about designing games about mental health:

“For the Records” – Designing Games about Mental Health

For the Records is an interactive transmedia documentary project about the lived experience of mental illness conceived by game designer Doris C. Rusch and documentary filmmaker Anuradha Rana. It includes short films, interviews, photo romans, animation and games which revolve around four mental health issues – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Bipolar Disorder and Eating Disorder (anorexia nervosa). The project was produced at DePaul University with students and recent alumni. All pieces complement and provide context to each other and are embedded into the website In her talk, Rusch discusses the design of the four games, including a description of the collaborations with people who have lived experience with the portrayed disorders, how the metaphors to capture what these disorders “feel like” were identified, as well as an account of playtesters’ gameplay experiences, particularly in regard to cognitive and emotional game comprehension. This ties up to Rusch’s bigger interest in making games about the human experience and using metaphors to making these experiences tangible through moment-to-moment gameplay.

All talks will be in the District 3 Innovation Centre (EV 7.105).

Don’t know where that is? No worries, we’ll take you there!
Meet us in the Hexagram Game Lab (EV 11.425, 1515 St. Catherine O.) a few minutes early and we’ll head down together.

Stay tuned for more news about upcoming speakers in the series!

WHO: Doris C. Rusch of DePaul University
WHAT: A talk about designing games about mental health
WHEN: Thursday, July 24th, 5PM
WHERE: D3 Innovation Center (EV 7.105)