Game Innovation Lab
Collaboration is our game.


Game salon

Playthink is a USC-based salon about games, interactivity, art and culture. Since 2013, we have held a regular series of discussions at the USC Game Innovation Lab that are dedicated to drawing out provocative ideas around play, games, art and interactivity. This year, in 2018, we have added a podcast component to our salon. Now you can listen to Playthink episodes on this page, below, or by subscribing to our feed on iTunes or Google Play.

Organizers Emeritus

  • Steve Anderson

  • Raghav Bashyal

  • Lucas Peterson

  • Bonnie Ruberg

  • Elizabeth Swensen

  • Akira Thompson

  • Simon Wiscombe

  • Kevin Wong

Upcoming and past salons

January 2016 Playthink - Something New

Please join us 6:00pm on Monday, January 25th in SCI 201 at the USC School of Cinematic Arts for a discussion about games and play as art and culture. Inspired by the start of the new year, the theme for this Playthink salon is “Something New.” Speakers will be presenting new ideas and new work.

Featured guests include:

Joshua Tanenbaum is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Informatics at UC Irvine. He is a member of the UCI Institute for Virtual Environments and Computer Games, the Laboratory for Ubiquitous Computing and Interaction, the EVOKE Lab, and a founding member of the Transformative Play Lab. His research includes studies of agency and identity transformation in games and digital narratives, maker and DIY subcultures, design fictions and future oriented human computer interaction, and tangible, wearable, and ubiquitous computing. In his (theoretical) spare time he creates steampunk artwork and costumes, makes games and occasionally writes music.

Karen Tanenbaum is a Project Scientist at UC-Irvine in the Department of Informatics and is co-founder of the Transformative Play Lab  and director of the Evoke Lab.  Her research explores tangible and ubiquitous computing paradigms and the application of artificial intelligence techniques to interactive storytelling and game design. She also studies Maker/DIY and Steampunk cultures, with a particular emphasis on their role in STEM education and the way they function as design fictions for possible alternative relationships to technology.

Braxton Soderman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Film & Media Studies at UC Irvine. He researches digital media, video games, generative and algorithmic art, the history of technology, and critical theory. Among other places he has published articles in The Journal of Visual Culturedifferences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural StudiesDichtung-Digital: A Journal of Art and Culture in Digital Media, and Transformative Works and Cultures. He is currently working on a manuscript that approaches video games from a variety of critical perspectives.

Brian Upton is a 20-year-veteran of the game industry.  He currently is a senior game designer at Sony’s Santa Monica Studio where he has collaborated with third-party teams on titles such as Fat PrincessWarhawkSorcery, and Everybody Has Gone to the Rapture.  Prior to joining Sony, he was the creative director at Red Storm Entertainment where he pioneered the tactical shooter genre as the lead designer of Rainbow Six andGhost Recon.  He is a member of the advisory boards of the NYU Game Center and the UC Santa Cruz Games and Playable Media program.  He is also the author of The Aesthetic of Play, a book about the epistemology and semiotics of play (MIT Press 2015).  He’ll be talking about how interactivity can interfere with play, and the dangers of interactive essentialism.

Presented by the School of Cinematic Arts’ Game Innovation Lab, Playthink has become a lively nexus of community for USC Games. Under the banner of “games and play as art and culture,” we meet a few times a semester to host wide-ranging, audience-participatory discussions of the history, present and futures of games and interactive media.

Tracy Fullerton