Gamers Conquered the Mainstream... What's Next?

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Games. Everyone loves them - and pretty much everyone plays them, whether it's cutting-edge electronic games, or traditional games like chess and bridge, or anything in between. And when you look at our history, starting with the very first work of written history in the Western canon, it's clear we always have.

With strong evidence linking play to learning, intelligence, creativity, community connectedness, physical AND mental health, problem-solving, systems literacy, psychological literacy, optimism, and a host of other benefits, this is a good thing!

But given that play is so profoundly linked to and good for humanity, where is the public institutional support for it?

This presentation attempts to (very briefly!) outline the case for games and play, describe how we could be covering and supporting them a whole lot better, and then plot a course for how to get there from here. First presented at PAX Aus, it's now being shared online.

If you like the ideas contained in this presentation, check out http://apili.org and http://australianplayalliance.org!

Or you can read more by the author at http://philipminchin.com - or contact him via http://philipminchin.com/contact if you have questions or would like to consult him on a matter related to games and play.

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Gamers Conquered the Mainstream... What's Next?

  1. 1. GAMERS CONQUERED THE MAINSTREAM… WHAT’S NEXT? PHILIP MINCHIN (philipminchin.com, APILI?) ANDREW EKIN-SMYTH (Arts Victoria) ANDREW HISKENS (State Library of Victoria) SUE MCKERRACHER (Australian Library & Information Association) NICK RAPPO (Good Games) ANTONY REED (Game Developers’ Association of Australia)
  2. 2. Games are HUGE
  3. 3. Gamers are EVERYWHERE
  4. 4. This has been true FOREVER
  5. 5. Because PLAYFULNESS = INTELLIGENCE
  6. 6. EVOLUTION OF PLAY •Mammalian biologists: “Play is training for the unexpected”. •Playful: dogs, dolphins, monkeys. Not playful: jellyfish, beetles, worms.
  7. 7. EVOLUTION OF PLAY •Mammalian biologists: “Play is training for the unexpected”. •Smart: dogs, dolphins, monkeys. Not smart: jellyfish, beetles, worms.
  8. 8. Ταύτα εφευρόντες, διεσκέδαζον ως ακολούθως κατά της πείνης· την μεν μίαν ημέραν όλην έπαιζον, διά να μη σκέπτωνται περί τροφής, την δε άλλην διέκοπτον τα παιγνίδια και έτρωγον. Χάρις δε εις το μέσον τούτο, δεκαοκτώ έτη παρήλθον· - Ηροδοτου, Ιστοριαι, Τομος 1, 94 HISTORY OF PLAY
  9. 9. HISTORY OF PLAY These games they invented as a resource against the famine, and thus they used to do:—on one of the days they would play games all the time in order that they might not feel the want of food, and on the next they ceased from their games and had food: and thus they went on for eighteen years. - Herodotus, History, Book 1, 94
  10. 10. HISTORY OF PLAY These games they invented as a resource against the famine, and thus they used to do:—on one of the days they would play games all the time in order that they might not feel the want of food, and on the next they ceased from their games and had food: and thus they went on for EIGHTEENYEARS. - Herodotus, History, Book 1, 94
  11. 11. JOHAN HUIZINGA • Linguist • Cultural historian Founding figure of cultural history • Anti-fascist • LEGEND
  12. 12. JOHAN HUIZINGA • Linguist • Cultural historian Founding figure of cultural history • Anti-fascist • LEGEND
  13. 13. JOHAN HUIZINGA • Linguist • Cultural historian Founding figure of cultural history • Anti-fascist • LEGEND
  14. 14. JOHAN HUIZINGA • Linguist • Cultural historian Founding figure of cultural history • Anti-fascist • LEGEND
  15. 15. JOHAN HUIZINGA •Author of Homo ludens: a study of the play element in culture •Argues that play is in everything we do
  16. 16. BIOLOGY OF PLAY •Children who don’t play don’t learn or develop normally. •Adults who don’t play lose mental faculties faster in old age. •Rat pups forcibly prevented from playing DIE.
  17. 17. Games are HUGE
  18. 18. Gamers are EVERYWHERE
  19. 19. This has been true FOREVER
  20. 20. So naturally we regard play and games as IMPORTANT
  21. 21. …right?
  22. 22. SCHOOLS • Some educators use play in learning: “show, don’t tell” < “play with, don’t just watch” (see also several panels right here at PAX!) • Some also engage with games as subject matter • Quest 2 Learn schools in the US using play to structure assessment not just in teaching • Games for education more common, better
  23. 23. SCHOOLS • Games rarely seen as valid subject matter themselves • Structurally and administratively, play considered a “necessary pressure valve” and a break in learning • Understanding of play itself (and game design skills) rarely taught in education degrees • Systems literacy, psychological literacy/theory of mind neither assessed nor taught towards
  24. 24. LIBRARIES • Most public libraries now lend console games (librarians: PC games e-lending is coming – see me!) • Most have tabletop games somewhere • State Libraries are starting to offer some facilities, collections • Library folks get it more than most, hence… • International Games Day @ your library (igd.ala.org/about)
  25. 25. LIBRARIES • Not considered part of core “culture” business by managers & funding bodies – little budget or reporting • Metadata is terrible (no mechanics – try searching for “first-person” or “platformer” in a catalogue!) • PC games not well-supported yet (but again – see me!) • Tabletop games not even catalogued! (or loaned) • Where are TRPGs? Books that generate stories?
  26. 26. HEALTH •Research starting to be done into effects of play on physical & mental health, aging, pain management, positive psychology, motivation •Child’s Play!
  27. 27. HEALTH •Health bodies rarely have games collections •Research is only useful if read and enacted! •Even Child’s Play assumes (or at least reinforces) that play is for children. Need to keep pushing on play for adults!
  28. 28. (MAINSTREAM) MEDIA •Games ARE mainstream media now (though rarely metamedia, media about media) •Most other (meta)media’s cultural coverage now somewhat includes videogames •Beginning to see more openness about play from public figures
  29. 29. (MAINSTREAM) MEDIA • Not considered part of “culture”– videogames are usually included in “tech” coverage (which is OK, but…) • Tabletop games not covered (except maybe bridge/chess notes next to crosswords) • Games still generally assumed to be “for kids” or “for kicks”; artistic value (and freedom) less assumed • Discussion about big-picture stuff largely absent
  30. 30. ARTS •Games ARE art (They are also Art, and platforms for many other arts) •Artists in other media mostly see this (though are naturally focused on their own) •Most artists & many public servants grok that play = creativity, games matter
  31. 31. ARTS •Art bureaucracies (government, philanthropy) structurally have little to no dedicated funding, specialist staff… or interest •Pilot federal funding for videogames cut •Eligible for “emerging & experimental” funding (um, games go back decades/millennia!)
  32. 32. WE NEED TO RECOGNISE: •Games ARE art (They are also Art, and platforms for many other arts) •Games teach life skills and analytical thinking (with a strong link to action) •Games build community with lower barriers to participation than sport
  33. 33. WE NEED TO RECOGNISE: • Play is important to physical and mental health, learning, creativity & innovation… • Fun is no more (nor less) trivial than beauty. (Which is to say: it can be trivial, or distract us from more important things, or disguise deeper ugliness/unfun. It can also be sublime, and research indicates there are good reasons it matters to us. It’s a key part of human nature, something we should aspire both to achieve and to understand.)
  34. 34. SO WHAT DO OUR PANELLISTS THINK? • Nick Rappo and Antony Reed will talk about the industry perspective • Sue McKerracher, Andrew Hiskens and Andrew Ekin- Smyth will talk about shifting perceptions of – and support for – games in the library and arts sectors • And then it’s open to the floor for a while.
  35. 35. Part 2: Proposal
  36. 36. WHAT AM I PROPOSING? • Cultural change in our culture culture Specifically, recognising that games and play are culture… …and as such they deserve to be treated on a comparable footing to other kinds. (We also need to talk about this from the games side.)
  37. 37. WHAT AM I PROPOSING? • A national home for play We have homes for written arts, visual arts, performing arts, and screen arts (which, to be fair, does include videogames at times) – and of course sport. Why not games and play? (See also: Strong Museum of Play, NY; National Videogame Arcade, Nottingham)
  38. 38. WHAT AM I PROPOSING? • Australian Play, Imagination & Learning Institute (apili.org) Part archive, part library, part exhibition space, part workshop, part playspace
  39. 39. WHAT AM I PROPOSING? • APILI Remit (what kinds of play?) Everything that doesn’t have a home elsewhere (such as sport, music, drama) Games and game tech obviously a major focus Also toys, play equipment/furniture, unstructured play, rules-only games, play in other media…
  40. 40. WHAT AM I PROPOSING? • APILI Vision APILI works towards a world where play and games are as respected, studied, recorded and archived as other forms of creativity, and their full potential to bring out the best in humanity is recognised, explored and developed throughout the culture, education, health, and self-directed learning sectors.
  41. 41. WHAT AM I PROPOSING? • APILI Functions: Collections of games, toys & tech Spaces for hands-on play Exhibitions (on-site & toured) Academic & creative research Creator fellowships Materials for local libraries & schools eSports/competitive play Organised play support Creative workshops Clearinghouse & collaboration centre Conferences, festivals & events Industry support
  42. 42. YOUR THOUGHTS? •What’s missing? •What’s realistic? •What’s essential? •What’s awesome?
  43. 43. Part 3: Plans
  44. 44. WHAT’S THE PLAN? •Change the conversation •Build, map and expand networks •Crowdsource
  45. 45. •Already happening (this PAX is incredible!) •This panel, obviously! •APILI Seminar •I’m offering consulting & training to schools & libraries (also game designers/publishers) •International Games Day @ your library CHANGING THE CONVERSATION
  46. 46. CHANGING THE CONVERSATION • More sharing games and play! • More talking about games in a cultural context – including from the games side • More coverage of games and play in other media, and in their own terms! (e.g. Ebert…) • More discussion of the benefits of games and play
  47. 47. •This panel, obviously! •APILI Seminar •Australian Play Alliance (australianplayalliance.org) A mailing list where you register your support for play/games and your connections, skills and particular interests BUILDING NETWORKS
  48. 48. BUILDING NETWORKS •Spread the word! •Gamer pride! Be confident about your interest in games and play (if you aren’t already) •Use games to network – they’re a great way to connect after all! •Be successful/skilled/connected yourself :D
  49. 49. •This panel = early market research (need to find out if there’s support!) •Australian Play Alliance obviously a start on assembling the crowd (australianplayalliance.org) CROWDSOURCING
  50. 50. CROWDSOURCING • What we need: - Funding & in-kind support - Connections & political support - Spaces/venues (I have leads) - Word-of-mouth & popular support - Skills: Legal advice, Accounting, Event management, Architecture, UX design, Community management, Grant-writing, Graphic design, Web design, Coding, Hardware, Teaching, Prototyping, Psychology, Economics… And of course – game design 
  51. 51. Questions? Comments? Thanks!

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