Game Innovation Lab
Collaboration is our game.
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Playthink

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

November 2015 Playthink - Identity

Please join us 6:00pm on Monday, November 9th, in SCI 201 at the USC School of Cinematic Arts for a discussion about games and play as art and culture. In this meeting we will explore the complex ways games can construct and inform us about identity.

Features speakers include:

Aaron Trammell is a PhD Candidate at the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information. He is also a blogger, board game designer, and musician. He is the multimedia editor of the Sound Studies blog Sounding Out! For his dissertation he is investigating the ways that fan subcultures in the 1960s created the game Dungeons and Dragons. In particular, the importance of affective bonds to their work, and the influence of Cold War motifs on their writing.

Bonnie Ruberg is a postdoctoral scholar in the Interactive Media and Games Division at the University of Southern California. She received her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in New Media and Gender & Women’s Studies. Bonnie researches, teaches, and organizes community events around issues of gender and sexuality in video games. She is the co-founder and lead organizer of the annual Queerness and Games Conference, a one-of-a-kind event where industry members and academics meet to explore the intersection of LGBTQ issues and games. Along with Adrienne Shaw, she is also the co-editor of the forthcoming book Queer Game Studies: Gender, Sexuality, and a Queer Approach to Game Studies. From 2005 – 2010, Bonnie worked as a games journalist for publications like The Village VoiceForbesThe EconomistWired, Gamasutra, and Joystiq.

Steve Cha, MFA candidate in USC’s Interactive Media and Games Division, aspires to create compelling interactive narrative experiences. His interests include vignette games, political narratives, and revisionist works. His thesis work centers on a semi-autobiographical series of vignettes, which explore aspects of life regarding coming out, immigration, family, and the pursuit of happiness.

N.B. There will be one last Playthink on Monday, November 30th!

Tracy Fullerton
April 2015 Playthink - Celebration

Please join us at 6:00pm on Tuesday, April 21st, in SCI 201 at the USC School of Cinematic Arts for a discussion about games and play as art and culture. On this, the occasion of the *final* Playthink of the 2014-2015 school year, we will discuss games through the lens of celebration: games as celebration, games for celebration, the celebration of games, and more.

Featured guests include:

  • Eric Gradman – CTO and Mad Inventor at Two Bit Circus, Eric is an inventor and entertainer who makes others see technology as magic. He has a colorful history as a circus performer, professional whistler, roboticist, and inventor.
  • Mike Stein – Mike Stein likes to come up with ideas for mobile applications, and then go and build them. He’s particularly interested in mobile apps and games that help you experience the real world in an interesting way.
  • Funkster Scerbak – Funkster Scerbak is a freshman majoring in Interactive Entertainment. They will try to make you laugh, and sincerely hope they succeed. Funkster enjoys playing games and is getting better at it. Slowly. Most of their energy and passion is drawn from their hair, which has a long history of snapping combs. Should it achieve sentience, it will probably design games as a platform to take over the world.

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
March 2015 Playthink - Sports and eSports

Please join us at 6:00pm on Tuesday, March 24th, in SCI 201 at the USC School of Cinematic Arts for a discussion about games and play as art and culture. This installment of the Playthink will discuss some of the oldest and most culturally-significant games we play: sports. The discussion will explore traditional sports, esports, and their attendant cultures from the perspectives of players and critics.

Featured guests include:

  • Sam Brown – USC graduate Sam Brown is an eSports organizer and enthusiast. A well-known voice in the world of eSports, Sam is the eSports Coordinator for AzubuTV, and is a former President of USC eSports and Community Liaison for Collegiate StarLeague.
  • Dan Durbin – USC professor Daniel Durbin teaches courses across a broad variety of subjects, including sports, sports media, the social and cultural impact of sports, social movements, classical and contemporary theories of rhetoric, and fashion and media. Dr. Durbin has published articles in sports, popular culture, and sports media studies.
  • Jeff Watson – Jeff Watson is an award winning artist, designer, and Assistant Professor of Interactive Media and Games at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. His work investigates how game design, pervasive computing, and social media can enable new forms of storytelling, participation, and learning.

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
December 2014 Playthink - Pervasive Games, LARPs, and Street Games

Please join us at 6:30pm this Tuesday, December 2nd at the USC School of Cinematic Arts for a discussion about the intersections of play, narrative, and space. This installment of the Playthink discussion salon will explore the exciting possibility space of multi-context and multi-platform game design, drawing on a range of voices from ARG, LARP, and street game design practice.

Featured guests include:

  • Elan Lee (ARG and transmedia designer – Microsoft/Xbox Entertainment Studios, Fourth Wall Studios, 42 Entertainment)
  • Aaron Vanek (LARP designer – Seekers Unlimited, HP Lovecraft Film Festival)
  • Trey Alsup (LARP and board game designer)
  • The Wise Guys (Street game/Big Game designers – Wise Guys Events)

When: Tuesday, December 2nd from 6:30pm to 9:30pm
Where: SCI 201 on the second floor of the School of Cinematic Arts SCI building (3470 McClintock Ave, Los Angeles CA 90089)

Presented by the School of Cinematic Arts’ Game Innovation Lab, Playthink has become a lively nexus of community for USC Games. With the banner line 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.

Special thanks to Lucas Peterson for the awesome poster design!

Tracy Fullerton
October 2014 Playthink - Games and the Museum

Hi folks,

We’re continuing this semester’s roll-call of great ‘playthink’ salon events next Tuesday, with a special edition of playthink subtitled ‘Games and the Museum’.

When: Tuesday, October 14th from 6pm to 9pm
Where: SCI 201 on the second floor of the School of Cinematic Arts SCI building

Former USC Games professor William Huber (now teaching at Abertay in Scotland) is in town – he and I are part of an effort to organize a huge, first-of-its kind exhibition at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum in 2017, about video game design. The V&A was the world’s first (and is arguably the best) design museum. William and I are very excited to be taking part – and we’d like you to, too!

So please join us at next Tuesday, the 14th of October, from 6pm to 9pm, for lively discussion about how best to represent the history of game design to the public through a museum exhibit. As well as discussing ‘Games and the Museum’ we’ll also have some surprise topics for your delectation!

The salon will take place in USC’s School of Cinematic Arts complex, in SCI 201, on the second floor of the SCI building. Everyone in the USC community is welcome – we hope to see you there!

Very best wishes,

Richard Lemarchand & the playthink team

Presented by the School of Cinematic Arts’ Game Innovation Lab, playthink has become a lively nexus of community for USC Games. With the banner line 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
September 2014 Playthink@USC

The USC School of Cinematic Arts’ Game Innovation Lab would like to invite you to the first Playthink of the Fall semester!

When: Tuesday, September 9th from 6pm to 9pm
Where: SCI 201 on the second floor of the School of Cinematic Arts SCI building

Playthink has become a lively nexus of community for USC Games. With the banner line 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.

Everyone in the USC community is welcome – we hope to see you there!

Tracy Fullerton
April 2014 Playthink@USC

USC’s Interactive Media and Games Division would like to invite you to playthink@USC: April 2014 on Tuesday, April 15 from 6pm to 9pm in SCI 201. Topics will include…

What playthink@USC April 2014
Where SCI 201
When April 15, 6 – 9pm

Tracy Fullerton
March 2014 Playthink@USC

The Game Innovation Lab is hosting the next playthink salon on Tuesday, March 11 from 6pm-9pm. The meeting will focus on discussion, and topics will include:

  • William Novak, talking about the Power Glove
  • Steve Anderson, discussing televisual depictions of games and gamers
  • Alan Wagner, discussing Flappy Bird

The salon will be held in the SCI 201 thinktank space and is open to all (but seats are limited, so come early!)!

Tracy Fullerton