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Workshops & seminars

Gaming and Oral History

Date & time
Wednesday, April 17, 2024
1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Registration is closed


Carl Therrien, Jonathan Lessard, Dany Guay-Bélanger


This event is free


J.W. McConnell Building
1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.
Room LB 1019

Wheel chair accessible


Video games are a fairly young medium. Emerging as a commercial good in the early 1960s, they have slowly made their way into the mainstream. What was once seen as toys for young boys has become so widespread that many of us have them in our living rooms or basements, and even close to us at all times in our very pockets.

There has been interest in the history of the medium for quite some time, as can be seen with the many publications by fans and journalists and the recent resurgence of retrogaming. But academia lagged behind in investigating video-game history and it is only around 2010, about a decade after the emergence of game studies as a discipline, that this area of research truly gained momentum.

Since then, scholars from across disciplinary boundaries have endeavoured to analyse the complex and fascinating history of a medium that is at once art form, culture, and technology. Still, oral history remains underutilised in the study of videogaming even though many scholars have argued for its potential.

This event will give a brief overview of the history of video games and of historical research on this topic. It will then bring in conversation two approaches to oral history as it relates to video games. The first, presented by Carl Therrien and Jonathan Lessard, is to interview game developers, and in this case early practitioners of what would become known as the independent game development scene. The second, presented by Dany Guay-Bélanger, is to interview players to preserve their memories and experiences of playing and appropriating games.

About the speakers

Jonathan Lessard is a game designer, professor, and researcher at Concordia University. For the past ten years as leader of the LabLabLab, he has been exploring the playful affordances of various technologies and concepts such as natural language processing and possible worlds theory. His main research interests include emergent narratives, complex simulations, and game design history.

Carl Therrien is full professor in games and film studies at the Université de Montréal. In The Media Snatcher (Platform studies, MIT Press, 2019), he proposed a critical view of video-game historiography through a comparative study of the PC Engine platform, confronting American and Japanese perspectives of this technology. He has written numerous papers on immersion and on the history of popular genres (such as adventure games and first-person shooters). His research projects seek to integrate more video games into the canon, hoping to assist archivists and historians in their efforts to engage with the diversity and complexity of this culture.

Dany Guay-Bélanger is a FRQ-funded PhD candidate in Film Studies at the Université de Montréal. By combining his training as a public historian and a game scholar, his research aims to develop a methodology favouring a holistic approach for the preservation and study of video games as cultural heritage artefacts that allows players and researchers, present and future, to access video games from every era of this medium’s history. Dany is currently the Francophone Representative of the Canadian Game Studies Association and scholar in residence at the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling (COHDS) of Concordia University.

Dany Guay-Bélanger est candidat au doctorat en études cinématographiques à l’Université de Montréal et est financé par le Fonds de recherche du Québec. Combinant sa formation d’historien public et de chercheur en étude du jeu, sa recherche vise à développer une méthodologie favorisant une approche holistique pour la préservation et l’étude des jeux vidéo en tant qu’artéfacts d’héritage culturel. Cette méthodologie a pour but de permettre aux joueu·euse·s et aux chercheur·euse·s, présent·e·s et futur·e·s, d’accéder aux jeux vidéo de toutes les époques de l’histoire de ce médium. Dany est actuellement le représentant francophone de l’Association canadienne des études des jeux et chercheur en résidence au Centre d’histoire orale et de récits numériques (CHORN) de l’Université Concordia.


Please note that all of our events are free and open to all, but you need to register! To register, contact us at:

In-person in LB-1019 (Sunroom), COHDS

COHDS/ALLAB is located on unceded Kanien’kehá:ka territory, in Tiohtiá:ke/Montreal.

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