Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) is an interdisciplinary centre for research/ creation in game studies and design, digital culture and interactive art


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Game Designer in Residenced

Posted by Pippin

It’s coming to the end of my tenure as the game designer in residence at Concordia – I won’t be around TAG from Thursday the 27th –  so I thought I’d write a brief post about what’s happened while I’ve been around. One thing that has not happened is that I haven’t been updating my own blog, so this can serve as at least a minor atonement for that as well.

I arrived in Montréal at the end of April and got going as the game designer and residence as of the 1st of May by teaching the first session of my class: Curious Games Studio (CART498I). The class has been the core structuring principle of my time here and has gone extremely well in my opinion (you’d have to ask the students theirs!). Essentially I spent time talking about  my own philosophy of game design and introducing the students to influences I find important, but otherwise tried to give them as much time to work on the course-long project of making their own “curious game”. They have responded to this very well, many of them even learning new tools (such as Inform 7, GameMaker, and Stencyl) in order to express their ideas.

The games themselves are quite terrific and well worth seeing. In fact, next week on Wednesday the 26th of June, we’ll have a demo/play session (possibly in conjunction with the Critical Hit playtesting on that day) in the afternoon. More information on that soon. You’ll see games about living the experience of being a action film-style hacker, suffering from nitrogen narcosis while playing tic-tac-toe, and walking through a dark forest while drunk. Excellent.

Along with teaching the class I’ve been working on various games of my own. I essentially made and released my first iPhone game, Snek., while at Concordia. It’s a physical game that leverages the accelerometer and gyroscope to have players perform ridiculous and inconvenient gestures in order to play a traditional game of Snake. With procedural music thrown in for fun. It met with a muted response, to be honest, but it’s a direction I’m keen to push forward with further.

I’ve also been working on a game called Jostle Bastard (the image for this post is from a prototype scene of that game), which has made slow but reasonable progress since finishing Snek. It’s a game I’m making as part of Unwinnable‘s excellent Playable project. The game is an attempt to play around with ideas of violence, though we’ll just have to see how that actually goes in practice.

Finally, I’ve been working on a mysterious collaboration with performance artist Marina Abramovic in conjunction with her institute (the Marina Abramovic Institute) for long-durational art. Marina emailed me out of the blue while I was sitting at my desk in the TAG lab, freaking me out entirely. We ended up talking over Skype (the artist is telepresent!) and then my wife Rilla and I went down to Toronto recently to meet in person, see her stunning opera The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic, and to get a feeling for the goals and nature of the institute. As such, I strongly associate this bizarre and very fun experience with my time at Concordia. Thanks, Concordia! (Also, yes, she has played my game The Artist Is Present, and, yes, she waited in line to sit with her digital self and, yes, she was kicked out of the line when she went to get some lunch.)

Of course one of the absolute best things about being at Concordia over this time has been all the people I’ve had a chance to meet and talk about games and many other things with. I’ve heard about PhDs on train games, games about the politics of prostitution in Canada, and board games that incorporate cigarettes and chains, and much else. It’s really been eye opening in terms of the strength and engagement of the community here – it’s a beautiful thing.

So in the end I’ll be very sorry to leave, and very keen to return. A huge thanks to everyone who has spent time with me and told me about their projects and contributed to my own, it’s been great!