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Innovation explosion in contemporary game culture

Concordia research chair brings the latest in the world of digital games to Paris exhibition
June 26, 2012
By Liz Crompton

A new exhibition in Paris that celebrates the current international explosion of creativity in games may go a long way to introducing the cultural phenomenon to a wider audience, says the Concordia professor who is co-curating it.

“Digital technology is effecting change extremely rapidly, and the culture associated with these new technologies is really exciting,” says Lynn Hughes, the Concordia University Research Chair in Interactive Design and Games Innovation and an associate professor in the Department of Studio Arts.

“Just as the culture of cinema is the culture of the movie camera, the culture of games is the culture of the computer. Games are the central cultural form that structures interactivity.”

Propinquity pits two players against each other using proximity sensors at the opening on June 21. | Photo by Lynn Hughes
Propinquity pits two players against each other using proximity sensors at the opening on June 21. | Photo by Lynn Hughes

Play Along/Joue le jeu opened at La Gaîté lyrique in Paris on June 21 and runs until August 12. It showcases the extraordinarily broad diversity of games now available – from innovative approaches in more traditional videogame formats to blended physical/digital games and even board games – and highlights the explosion of new narrative forms, aesthetics and game play that is now happening within contemporary game culture.

Visitors are encouraged to actively participate in order to fully experience and understand what the exhibition is about. In other words, they’re invited to play along.

Also a co-founder of the interdisciplinary Technoculture, Art and Games (TAG) research centre at Concordia, Hughes notes another goal of Play Along is to dispel the stereotype that games appeal only to a niche audience of young men sitting in front of computer screens. Technology is reaching beyond screens and into physical play, resulting in full-body games that can be played by many people at once. In other words, they are often eminently social activities.

Hughes and her co-curators were commissioned just last November to produce Play Along/Joue le jeu at the Gaîté lyrique, a major exhibition space dedicated to digital culture. In seven short months, they tapped some of the world’s best-known game designers to fill the space with creations, from conventional one-on-one videogames and five-minute experimental multi-player games, to architectural-scale playable sculptures, and digital games that occupy whole rooms. There is even one that activates the entire building.

The traditional board game – re-interpreted for modern times – also has a place here. The board section of the exhibition is being curated by William Robinson, a Concordia doctoral candidate in the TAG lab.

Hughes’ own collaborative research/creation, Propinquity, was demonstrated on opening night. A full-body game for two, players gain points by staying as close as possible to the active sensors on the other participant’s body but lose points if they touch.

The exhibition was co-curated by Heather Kelley and Cindy Poremba, both of whom have a Concordia connection: Kelley has been an independent consultant on the TAG lab and Poremba earned her PhD from the university in 2011 with a dissertation on the documentary videogame. 

Watch the Propinquity Playtest:

Related links:
•    Play Along/Joue le jeu
•    Lynn Hughes
•    Concordia’s Faculty of Fine Arts
•    TAG research lab


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