[The Hand Eye Society has received multi-year funding to expand our Game Curious game literacy program with partner support provided by Art Starts and the Ontario Trillium Foundation. We are currently researching neighbourhood site options for our next cycle, which will be in the fall, and welcome any suggestions. Below is program facilitator Sagan Yee's recap of our first iteration of the program. For more details see the project page.]
Game Curious had a successful 6-week run at the Academy of the Impossible in the Junction Triangle, from Oct. 5 – Nov. 9 2013. It was an outreach program that aimed to “explore the untapped art of video games, for people who don’t necessarily identify as gamers”. The purpose of the program was to offer a wide variety of people the opportunity to learn more about the medium and/or the local gaming community, and to provide a space where participants could explore the medium on their own terms, through hands-on playing and discussion.
Each 2-hour session consisted of an open-play segment, in which participants played a variety of computer, console and arcade games based on a simple theme, followed by a group discussion period. The average attendance rate for the sessions was around 22, with a record 40+ people coming out to the last session!
The participants’ interests in and experience with video games varied widely (one could even say they were all on a personal gaming “Journey”, as in the above photo). Some people had played many games in their childhood, and were revisiting the medium after a long absence. Some did not play games very often, but were still interested in the cultural, educational or academic possibilities of the medium. Some played a wide variety of games, but were unfamiliar with the existing video game community or felt uncomfortable with the lack of inclusiveness in certain gaming groups. I tried to facilitate this variety of backgrounds through the combination of play and discussion.
Some of the themes included: Games set in Toronto (City Council Chaos, Stay Mayor, Snow, Psychlepath), education in games (Minecraft in the Classroom, Oregon Trail), making games using programs like Stencyl and RPG Maker (one of our most popular sessions), and games with a social justice focus (another very popular topic). The final session was loosely themed “Community” and was basically just a big party with a ton of different games, most of which were made in Toronto!
There were games involving cooperation and teamwork…
(Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime)
…and games of competition and physical movement.
(Johann Sebastian Joust)
From retro consoles and classic SNES games…
(Thanks, Ken C!)
…to homegrown indie games inside an arcade cabinet…
(Torontron: Twin Stick edition)
…to the latest in virtual reality headgear!
(Double Blind for the Oculus Rift)
I even got a thank-you card signed by some of the participants! You can also tell by the sticker on my shirt that there was another video game event earlier that day, run by the excellent Toronto organization Dames Making Games (which you should definitely check out if you are interested in programs similar to Game Curious).
The Game Curious after-hours crew! Such dedication!
Finally, if any of the participants are reading this, I want to say that it was an absolute pleasure to meet you all, and I am so grateful for your enthusiasm, your ideas, and your curiosity. I hope Game Curious was as fruitful an experience for you as it was for me, or at least entertained you in some small way during those rainy Saturday evenings. I hope that you will continue to explore and find things about videogames that interest you, and if I can continue to be of any help in helping you along that journey, please get in touch. Whether it’s playing games, making them, critiquing them, or simply using them to expand your social horizons, there are an infinite number of ways to engage with this medium, and still more yet to be discovered.
Videogames are for everyone. Especially you!
I’D LIKE TO THANK THE ACADEMY:
Yasin Farzanali was my program assistant, and was invaluable in helping me run tech and troubleshoot. He also sourced food, games, equipment, and even people depending on the requirements of each session, which took an enormous amount of stress off me. Additional thanks to Michael Janzen, Kim Koronya, Randal Ball, Ken Cho, Daniel Case, Krystle Mckenzie, Matt Hammill, Dave Murphy, the fine folks at Bento Miso, and everyone else who volunteered their time or donated equipment to the cause! Whether it was getting snacks, lending games and controllers, handing out flyers or cleaning up afterward, every action of support was greatly appreciated, and the program would not have been the same without you guys!
Finally, special thanks to Jim Munroe (Hand Eye Society), Emily Pohl-Weary (Academy of the Impossible), Diaspora Dialogues and the Ontario Trillium Foundation for allowing me to put together this program and for providing resources and support. You can find the original page and callout poster for this program here on the Impossible Arts website.
GAMES PLAYED DURING THE FINAL SESSION:
- Double Blind for Oculus Rift (Tanya Kan, Rob Richard)
- Johann Sebastian Joust (Die Gute Fabrik)
- Cat Quest (Nadine Lessio)
- Long Time Coming (Sagan Yee and Nadine Lessio)
- Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime (Asteroid Base)
- The Yawgh (Damien Sommer and Emily Carroll)
- Torontron: Twin Stick
- One of the Halo games, I don’t remember which one