On March 31, Milieux Institute celebrated its one year anniversary and we have been busy! In celebration, we’ve taken a look back at some of the research clusters’ most memorable talks, workshops, projects, symposiums, and exhibitions.

As Milieux Direct and Technoculture, Arts and Culture (TAG) co-founder, Bart Simon described, the research cluster attempts to approach this “funny thing” called games, a mindlessly trivial pivotal form of culture, “from any which way and gain vantage on it by bringing multiple perspectives to bear.” Over the last year, that is exactly what we have done.

TAG featured events Global Game Jam, Arcade 11 and Gamerella returned.

Back in January, we hosted Global Game Jam, the world’s largest game-making event. For three days in March, Arcade 11 invited people of all ages to discover indie and experimental games. The Milieux space was packed with kids and adults alike moving from one game to another. Both events had as their themes sustainability and the natural environment. Game makers were encouraged to relate their final products to sustainability; Arcade 11‘s “natural environment” games included Thomas Street’s Terra Farma, which takes place in an extra-planetary farming facility, and  Campo Santo’s Firewatch, set in the Wyoming wilderness.

A two-day game jam and workshop series, Gamerella offered a fun and comfortable environment for anyone who feels they are misrepresented or are often marginalized to learn, share, and be mentored.

In October, PhD candidate Will Robinson and associate professor David Waddington, launched the card game Cabinet Shuffle. Inspired by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to ensure a gender-equal cabinet, the card came focuses on governmental representation; players compete to create the most diverse and inclusive cabinet. Criteria includes gender disparity, experience and regional representation. Fellow member, Pippin Barr has also been busy creating games, like Snakisms and Eveline.

In June 2016, a group of TAG members travelled to London to work with ZU-UK, a theatre and digital arts company. We were trying to find out what makes a perfect lab by combining two different labs with different interests; we shared practices and perspectives in an attempt to create new interactive media art experiences.

Gina Hara, award winning filmmaker and TAG’s Creative Director, launched Your Place or Minecraft? Following the virtual lives of a handful academics playing Minecraft together, it is the first Minecraft documentary web series ever made. As described in a recent Pause Button article, “Your Place or Minecraft? brings up critical conversations about gender, politics, ethics, and space, but it never provides just one truth. It is up to the viewer to break apart the different perspectives and construct their own narrative—to become an active player in the story.”

The 5a7 Members Showcase series allowed for TAG and Milieux members to share their research with peers. From topics on game weavings (literally, game-inspired weavings), to digital humanities, haptic games and motion capture, the 5a7s allowed student and faculty members to present and discuss their research.

Ongoing TAG research projects include Streaming @ The Margins of Play and Speculative Play. The Streaming project is a joint effort by professor Mia Consalvo and MA students, Rebecca Waldie and Marilyn Sugiarto. With the emergence and popularity of videogame live-streaming experiences (like those offered by twitch.tv), the group asks “who is streaming their gameplay, and how do they make sense of this experience?” The Speculative Play project is combining concepts of speculative design with experiences of play to imagine alternative futures that break free from our current and, at times, invisible cultural assumptions.

Text by Elise Cotter, Gina Hara and Rainforest Scully-Blaker, William Robinson and Eileen Mary Holowka